Monday, August 02, 2010

Marie Antoinette (Rousseau) and Maxine Waters

The phrase "let them eat cake" is often attributed to the French royal who was executed in 1793 for her activities against the French republic.  Some historians actually suggest the phrase comes from the writings of Jean Jaques Rousseau.  Rousseau wrote several treatises which ultimately justified something called the General Will.  Rousseau's concept of General Will has been used to justify excesses like the extremes in the French Revolution. Ultimately, Waters extends the principle to the tyranny of one.  Her career has been marked by letting her buddies eat cake.

Waters has been a political fixtures of Los Angeles for several decades, first serving in the Assembly. Her district is in an area of LA where she has virtually no opponent - so elections are more like coronations.  That lack of political challenge has allowed her to become an extreme liberal without any real appreciation for any other point of view.

In her first year in the legislature, I opposed one of her bills and in the next to the last committee hearing got the committee to add what is called a committee amendment to solve our problem with the issue. Technically the author of a bill is required to add the amendment to the bill. Three days later when the issue was to be heard in front of the Appropriations Committee, I discovered that the committee amendment had not been included.  I went to her and said what happened, and she said "I changed my mind."  I rounded up the chair of the prior committee and brought him to the Appropriations Committee, and when her double-cross was explained, the chair of the Appropriations Committee said "Ms. Waters you bill is now dead."  Even then Waters thought the legislative process could be adjusted to her own predilections.   Waters' career has been marked by histrionics on issues she cares about and a willingness to grant favors to friends.

Waters is on the Financial Services Committee in the House.  Her husband SIdney WIlliams was a professional football player and associated with a series of business activities including Mercedes and OneUnited Bank.  At one point he held at least $250,000 in stock with the bank and also served on the board (although she claims he was no longer there when the lobbied the Treasury).  Waters is accused of setting up a meeting with officials from the Treasury Department to secure bailout funds for the bank.  The bank ended up with $12 million in funds. Waters defends herself by saying that she was really lobbying for the National Bankers Association who supports women and minority owned banks.  According to an Office of Congressional Ethics Report, Waters recognized the potential conflict and went ahead with the request to Treasury anyway.

The case, and indeed Waters' career, brings up two other political figures of note.  Edmund Burke, the Irish political philosopher who wrote Reflections on the Revolution in France.  Burke can be seen as an antagonist to Rousseau.  Burke decried the excesses of the French Revolution because its extreme rationality could be extended to ignore the complexities of society.  Burke argued subsuming individual rights to the general would eventually lead to tyranny.     Lord Acton who followed Burke by about a century summarized the thought in the pithy "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

While we should await the conclusion of the ethics investigation to discover whether Representative Waters actually violated House rules, the allegation is certainly within the patterns of her prior behavior.   If you give too much power to government, it does not take long for people like Waters to seize a piece of power to advance their personal interests.

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