Jobs are on everyone’s mind right now. Spokespeople for every party and organization in the country are weighing in on the subject, whether they have any idea what they’re talking about or not.
So it is with newly-minted GOP National Committee Chair Michael Steele. On Sunday, Steele got into a confusing argument with George Stephanopoulos on This Week. He declared that people employed by the government don’t really have “jobs” per se:
“If you got a government contract that’s a fixed period of time it goes away. The work may go away. There’s no guarantee that there’s going to be more work when you’re done with that job.”
Watch a snippet of the interview here:
When Stephanopoulos noted that private sector jobs are not any more stable than government ones, Steele said cryptically that “they come back.”
Steele’s argument willfully ignored the existence of millions of teachers, police officers and other federal and state employees, who are by no means temporary workers. Steele also ignores the fact that much of the work that will come out of the stimulus bill will go to private companies in the form of government contracts.
Essentially, Steele would rather the government give private companies tax breaks than contracts, so he makes a nonsensical argument to try to bolster his party’s flawed line of reasoning on the stimulus package. He calls the work temporary, but tax cuts are an even more short-lived solution.
Steele’s lack of a coherent argument about employment goes back further than Sunday, however. He has been living off his party and the government for years, so it is ironic that he still denies that the government can produce jobs. Steele’s story is proof that his own argument about government jobs is wrong, with a hint of corruption thrown in for good measure.
Steele started out as a Republican Party regular in Maryland. When he was tapped to run for lieutenant governor in 2002, his private sector job wasn’t cutting it, so the GOP paid Steele $5,000 a month to run for the office. Though the arrangement was unusual, and called “obscene” by the opposition at the time, it is legal for a party to pay a candidate to run.
The real question is, if Steele truly thinks the private sector is the key to the success of this country, why did he close down his legal consulting firm and accept an allowance from the GOP to run for office?
It seems that the party stipend and the years of being on the state’s payroll as lieutenant governor weren’t enough for Steele. Contemplating a future run for governor as his term as lieutenant governor ran out in 2007, he instructed an aide to transfer more than $500,000 from his lieutenant governor campaign funds to another bank account so that the GOP could not distribute the funds to other candidates.
Such a transfer of funds is legal, but only because Steele planned to use it to run for state office, not spend it on his failed 2006 Senate race, which would have been a national office. The accusation of illegality, contained in a confidential court document accidentally mailed to The Washington Post, is based on the fact that the transfer was carried out by an aide and not Steele himself.
Steele contends that the transfer was legal. In fact, Steele insists that every accusation levied against him by his former finance chair for his 2006 Senate run is false. Alan Fabian was convicted on unrelated fraud charges and made several accusations against Steele in a failed effort to get a reduced sentence.
Fabian also accused Steele of making improper campaign fund payments, both to his own sister for more than $37,000 and to a law firm to the tune of $75,000. Fabian alleged the services for which the payments were made were never rendered. Furthermore, The Washington Post notes that Steele’s sister’s company had been dissolved for 11 months by the time the payment was made.
These payments may be, as Steele insists, perfectly legal. But the fact that Steele is being investigated by the FBI suggests that this is more than just a convicted felon naming names in order to get out of jail sooner.
Furthermore, Fabian’s story makes more sense in historical context. As part of a failed bid for state comptroller in 1998, Steele owed $35,000 in campaign debt, mostly to his sister. Also, he’s been fined twice for missing campaign reporting deadlines. The overall situation suggests a lack of good judgment, a worrisome pattern of ethical problems and sketchy motivation for Steele’s entire political career.
Steele’s brand new job is to get members of his party elected to Congress. His history of problems with campaign finance shouldn’t inspire much confidence. Moreover, he doesn’t seem to think the government provides real jobs. In keeping with his twisted logic, he axed a slew of jobs as one of his first acts as GOP chair. Steele seems to be saying that only he and his family should be allowed to live off of party and government money.
As we noted last week, Steele fits quite nicely into the characteristic GOP hypocrite frame. Not only is he duplicitous for promising change but delivering more of the same, but he’s hypocritical in his desire to live off the taxes and political contributions of others, at the same time that he criticizes the idea that the public sector could be a source of employment.
Steele is just one more contradiction showing that the GOP’s economic arguments fail to pass the common sense test. It looks to us like Steele is not in government to serve the public, but to enrich himself and his own friends and family, while working to reduce the government itself to drowning size.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS