2009 may loom as the year of the scandal

2008 was a great year for politics, and I bet 2009 is only going to get better – even as the economy gets worse and scandals start to unfold.

When it comes to banner moment the presidential election obviously tops the list for 2008 because of its historical significance, but the campaigns are what made them interesting and the national and global events that helped steer the outcome.

The economy had to be the deciding issue of the general election. The housing market crisis and banks on the brink of failure turned out to be just the tip of a much larger problem.

The remedy from Washington has been to throw more and more money at it. First, there was the stimulus package that proved to be little help to the economy.

Then there was the banking bail out that promised to make lines of credit available – but there is still little movement to shake things up there. Now, we’re going to pay GM and Chrysler $13.8 billion to give up their corporate jets. Something tells me this isn’t going to be enough to help out the auto industry.

That provision that requires these companies to do away with their private jets is a nice move, if only a symbolic one, but what is it going to accomplish. I remember the TV show “Life Styles of the Rich and Famous” and having access to a private jet has got to be a nice thing, but taking it away isn’t going to turn things around or make a significant change or saving to these companies. My bet, they will end up charting private flights that will still be costly. Worse case scenario, the top executives will now have to slum it up in the first class section of a commercial flight.

All of these moves would only be symbolic, but since they want the taxpayers’ money to keep private business afloat (after years of complaining about government regulation and intervention), here are some of my suggestions for 2009.

Instead of even the lowly first class flights – they should fly coach, or even better take a bus. To really experience the thrill of a road trip, auto executives should be required to use one of their late model cars that require yelling and praying to start it. One of those car where the paint is pealing off, the air conditioning doesn’t work, the radio speakers rattle, and has vinyl seats that are cracked and get 400 degrees in the summer time. We’ll even throw in one of those problems that will cost more to repair than the car is worth just for good measure.

If they really need the money, take away the other executive perks as well. Auto executives have no problem complaining about employee costs like health insurance and pensions. When sick, no hospitals or doctors unless they sell their homes in Kenilworth or wherever it is they live. Also make them empty out their savings. And when they retire, resign or are driven out by the board of directors, no more golden parachutes and stock. They should get nothing. If employees don’t have a little security, then nor should they.

News of the scandal involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is another event that is making things interesting that will likely unfold in 2009. This is something that sounds like it could have been a plot line for the “Godfather” or “The Soprano’s.”

If the accusations are true that he was trying to sell a U.S. Senate, then I hope he gets 25-years to life. Aside from doing physical or mental harm to someone, I don’t know what could be a greater crime in the United States than to undermine the integrity of our democratic institutions.

Then again, he hasn’t been convicted of anything yet and so for calls to impeach him or for his resignation, seems to me to be premature. He is entitled to his day in court and where things go from there should determine the course of action, not the other way around. After all, these are only charges and he is technically “innocent until proven guilty.” I hope that isn’t just a myth of the American judicial system.

Schuler my be reached at shoe@timesleaderonline.com