How many real and serious national problems can you list? And how many obvious solutions can you come up with literally off the top of your head? Now an experiment: list how many of them are being worked on by our DC elites or even discussed my our elite media? The answer is none. Why is this? And what can you do about it?
Our politicians are doing and saying increasingly incomprehensible things. The separation from regular people is unbelievable. But in politics you “dance with the one that brung ya,” and these things become comprehensible and believable when you look at who is bringing them to the dance.
The Supreme Court, in its conservative-movement-created wisdom, has ruled that billionaires and corporations — even subsidiaries of foreign corporations — can spend unlimited amounts in our elections. This has led to the super Pacs, where just a few billionaires and companies now dominate the elections and the things the candidates say and the policies they promote. And it is most of that money is used to run negative ads that run down candidates and destroy the public’s faith in government and democracy.
Serving The Billionaires Not The People
This new election-funding system has our candidates trolling for billionaire and corporate dollars instead of coming up with policies and positions that serve the people. Did you think Republicans were talking about billionaires as “job creators” because it would get them votes? No, it is because vain, wealthy, greedy billionaires like to be described that way, and those politicians are trying to get them to loosen their wallets. Even if they lose the election they are looking for rewards — lucrative jobs — later.
Even if they aren’t trolling for billionaire bucks, they still dare not offend. These super PACs are in the business of running nasty, negative ads, and lots of them. Politicians want them on their side and not on the other side. So they are much, much less likely to oppose policies that favor the billionaires and their big corporations.
Did you think the country needs an oil pipeline that runs from our northern border all the way across the country to Gulf Coast ports, to help Canadian oil companies sell to China? No, this is about politicians getting big checks from oil companies.
President Obama OK’d a super PAC. A week later he comes out with a proposal to cut corporate taxes from 35% to 25%. Coincidence? And Obama’s tax-reform plans pale in comparison to what billionaire-and-corporate-backed Republicans are proposing. Both parties are proposing rewriting the tax codes to favor the billionaires and their giant corporations.
When you hear about anything being done for the giant corporations, look at this chart to see who we are really talking about. Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:
The top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%.
Some recent stories:
Nat Journal: One-Fourth of All Super PAC Donations Last Month Came From Just Five People,
An analysis of January’s campaign-disclosure filings reveals that 25 percent of all the money raised for the presidential race that month came from just five donors.
WaPo: “Overall, 23 people have directed about $54 million to super PACs this cycle.”
Just 23 people… brung ’em to the dance.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
It’s not personal, it’s business.
The Supreme Court recently ruled 5-4 that
George Bush will be President corporations can spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose candidates. Corporations! Since there are no restrictions on the citizenship of the owners of corporations foreign companies and governments now have a direct way to manipulate our laws and regulations.
Outside interests have been influencing American opinion for decades, but have not before this been able to directly support or oppose candidates. The Washington Times, Fox News, and other corporations with significant foreign ownership already work full-time to turn American public opinion against our own government. “Free trade” advocacy groups with funding from outside our borders work to get us to open our markets to imports that close our factories, outsource our jobs, lower our standard of living and drive us into ever-increasing debt. We have seen this with “grassroots” lobbying on important issues like climate change, trying to make people think that the science is a “hoax”: see Grassroots’ Opposition to Clean Energy Reform Bankrolled by Foreign Oil, Petro-Governments.
But this new ability to directly support or oppose candidates offers a vastly more effective and immediate way for America’s competitors to achieve their goals. What will they go after first? Of course a top goal of our competitors is to take down our manufacturing capacity — the foundation of a country’s economic power.
And, of course, this is exactly what is happening. Oil countries are already planning strategies to use this ruling to block our alternative energy and green jobs efforts. According to Think Progress:
For instance, Saudi Arabia has already signaled that the progressive effort to build a clean energy American economy is its “biggest threat”:
Saudi Arabia’s economy depends on oil exports so stands to be one of the biggest losers in any pact that curbs oil demand by penalizing carbon emissions. “It’s one of the biggest threats that we are facing,” said Muhammed al-Sabban, head of the Saudi delegation to U.N. talks on climate change and a senior economic adviser to the Saudi oil ministry. […] Climate talks posed a bigger threat, Sabban said, and subsidies for the development of renewable energy were distorting market economics in the sector, he said.”
Presumably because of the Citizens United ruling, Saudi Arabian-owned subsidiaries operating in the United States can now spend unlimited amounts advocating the defeat of candidates who support clean energy legislation. According to a ThinkProgress investigation, foreign-oil backed lobbyists in America are already instigating efforts to kill clean energy legislation.
What are we doing about it? What is our plan? Every other country has economic/industrial policies, but for one reason or another the American public has been persuaded that America should not have an economic/industrial policy of our own. We’re bombarded with propaganda that says having a plan would be government – that We, the People thing – “interfering” with “the market.” This ideology is like an anchor on our country, holding us back from progress.
We must rally and take back control of our democracy and our future. This Supreme Court decision must be countered with immediate legislation or it means the loss of so many things that we value. And we must develop an economic/manufacturing policy for our country’s future. This time it’s personal.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The Supreme Court could say as soon as Monday that corporate executives are free to use huge amounts of corporate resources to directly influence elections. The vote will probably be 5-4 and we know which 5 and which 4 and why.
If this happens it will fundamentally change the way our elections are decided, our leaders are chosen, and our laws are made. The ruling will complete the transition, already underway, from a one-person-one-vote ideal to a corrupt one-dollar-one-vote system run for the benefit of those with the most dollars to throw into elections. And of course those with access to the most corporate dollars will use their new influence to increase their own dollars – and influence – at the expense of those with fewer dollars. Monopoly capitalism will be the New World Order.
It is simple to imagine how unlimited direct use of corporate resources will change our lives. Just for example, suppose executives at a chemical company want to save money by dumping toxins into a nearby river. Suppose a county or state government is trying to block this. Imagine the effect unlimited direct corporate money can have in a county or even a state election. Of course those executives will be able put in place a local or state government that lets them dump into the river. They probably will be able to get laws passed preventing their company from being sued for the resulting cancers. I know that this sounds pretty darn close to the political system that we have today but with direct use of corporate resources to influence elections the corrupting influence will be much more direct and corrosive.
This is not what some call corporatism and is not about companies making decisions, because companies don’t think or make decisions. This is about executives — people — at the helm of huge, powerful companies using the company’s vast resources to benefit themselves. This is at the expense of people in other, smaller companies. It is so important to understand that it is done by people – executives using corporate resources because companies are not sentient entities, no matter what anyone says. They don’t think and they certainly don’t speak. And it isn’t everyone in these companies. The people in Sales or Accounts Receivable don’t make the decisions, a few people at the very top do. In order to address this problem we need to understand that the actions of corporations are really the actions of a few people. Corporations don’t act or “do” anything, people do.
This is about monopoly capitalism. Of course executives in control of the biggest companies will use their financial power to consolidate their control over our system, for their personal benefit. Smaller companies in the same industries and startups that threaten to compete won’t stand a chance because the rules will be bent against them. If you think the oil and coal companies are hampering efforts control CO2 emissions and foster new alternative energy sources now, then just wait until the resources of giant companies are allowed to directly control our elections and therefore our government. If you think giant pharmaceutical companies are getting favors like unlimited patent life now, just wait until the Supreme Court opens up direct use of corporate resources.
So how did we get here?
It is difficult if not impossible for individuals to raise sufficient capital to enable large-scale projects that can cost millions, even billions to get started. So we developed corporations which areprivate legal entities designed to pool individual resources and accumulate vast sums, far beyond the ability of individuals to gather. The corporate legal structure enables large numbers of people to contribute to an effort. This also spreads the risk. Even if someone could raise the kind of money it takes to design and build a 747, why put all the eggs into one basket?
This legal structure was developed and is supported by our laws to benefit all of us. In fact, we even grant “limited liability” to the investors in corporations to encourage their development so investors are not responsible for the debts of a corporation. This is just one of many benefits granted to corporations by we, the People. We set up this structure to benefit us – why else would we have done it?
These pooled resources are supposed to be used only for business purposes, and the businesses are supposed to operate on a regulatory playing field that is set up by us. Corporate executives are only supposed to use corporate resources to run the business for the benefit of the shareholders. Some argue that use of their company’s money to influence the political system brings benefits back to the companies thereby benefiting the shareholders. But in this example influence comes with an expectation of gain which is just bribery and is therefore illegal. On the other hand, some claim that these companies only have our best interest at heart, and expect nothing but good government in return for their largess. Of course without direct corporate gain this use of corporate funds by executives is a waste of shareholder’s resources, and is therefore theft. Bribery or theft, which is it? Either way it is wrong.
Democracy developed in reaction to corrupt rule by wealthy and powerful interests for their own benefit at the expense of the rest of us. So it was recognized from the beginning that such pooled resources are a danger to the democracy we fought so hard to develop, and rules were put in place to prevent this from happening. But like the smallest leak in a dam, any use of corporate money to gain influence of course turns into greater and greater influence. The first bribe led to greater resources to use for a larger second bribe, and so on. As each bribe increased the influence of a wealthy corporate few eventually we ended up with a political party entirely dedicated to furthering the control of that wealthy few, to the point of appointing Supreme Court justices dedicated to that end. And here we are.
What can we do about this?
First of all, if by some miracle the Supreme Court doesn’t open up direct use of corporate resources in elections we must recognize how close we have come to losing democracy, and stop all use of corporate resources to influence not just elections but public attitudes as well. Even without the Supreme Court opening things up, we have been heading down this path for some time. We have to stop corporate resources from leaking out of the companies and affecting corporate rulemaking. This includes lobbying, which is really just bribery. Company resources will always be used to bring advantages to that company — over other companies and the rest of us.
If the governmental systems come entirely under the control of a wealthy few with access to the resources of giant corporations we are in a heap of trouble. But we have been here before, a century or so ago. A strong progressive movement can turn things around. We will need to develop strong public outreach from progressive organizations to help the public understand what is happening,. We will need to support labor unions as they fight to restore the ability of people to make a living and have some power and control over the workplace. And we will need to help people learn to fight the propaganda that is and will be thrown at us 24 hours a day.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Governor Schwarzenegger has talked about the need to act responsibly and pass a budget.
So the legislature is trying to do just that. According to the Sacramento Bee,
“… the Legislature’s joint budget conference committee, on a party-line vote, adopted a plan that included about $2 billion in new oil production and cigarette taxes to help bridge a $24 billion budget gap.”
So what is the Governor’s response to a balanced approach to fixing the budget?
“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he wouldn’t sign a plan that was balanced with tax increases.”
He will shut down the state, close the schools, lay off thousands of workers, because the legislature balances the cuts with small tax increases on tobacco and oil companies.