Big Money to buy U.S. Congress

October 26, 2010 at 8:37 am | Posted in Politics | 1 Comment
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Our political system is in jeopardy. A couple of really nasty problems have reared their ugly heads, and the situation is extremely dangerous.  It’s not a partisan issue, although most of the beneficiaries at the moment are Republicans. What we are seeing amounts to the sale of the United States Congress to interest groups with deep pockets—including foreign governments.

Problem #1 is the recent Supreme Court decision that allows corporations (or anybody) to make unlimited donations to political campaigns.  Corporations don’t have the same agendas that ordinary people do.  Corporations exist to make a profit.  If they think they can maximize profits by clobbering the environment; taking short-sighted and  dangerous financial risks; screwing up the economy; screwing the customer; and driving the rest of us into the poorhouse—they will do it.  They do not want to be regulated because regulation prevents them from doing things that may benefit them but are bad for society.

The idea of a “free market” is fine: competition lowers prices and improves quality and variety. But an unregulated market is a war, and guess who gets clobbered by collateral damage.

(You and I don’t want to be regulated either, but we recognize that laws are necessary. The alternative is the Law of the Jungle, which is the ordinary citizen’s version of the free market.)

Corporations are, in the legal fiction, persons. They have most of the rights of citizenship—but few of the responsibilities.  That worked in the past, but it’s not valid any more.  Corporations’ freedom of speech, like their freedom of action, should be limited.  They should not be allowed to lobby Congress or contribute more than a token amount to political campaigns—because they are very powerful, and their interests conflict with the interests of society. I believe that the nation ought to belong (as our founders said) to the people.  I believe corporations ought to be strongly regulated to prevent them from screwing up the economy, the environment—and the rest of us.

Problem #2 derives from Problem #1.  PACs are spending obscene amounts of money to influence our elections. As a reader commented after my previous post, enter “600,000 in pac” (without the quotes) in any search engine and look at the results. You should be horrified.

Worse, the United States Chamber of Commerce is actively soliciting donations from foreign corporations, some of which are owned by their governments, as well as domestic corporations.  The money is not, it’s true, earmarked for political purposes; quite the reverse, in fact.  But a dollar is a dollar:  money contributed by foreign corporations and earmarked for nonpolitical purposes enables the chamber to spend equivalent amounts for political purposes.  Effectively, that foreign money is interfering in our internal affairs.  That’s a completely unacceptable situation, and a very scary one, because foreign corporations and governments are not part of this country; they have interests that conflict with our national interest as well as with our personal interests.

It doesn’t matter whether the huge corporate donations go to PACs that support Republicans or Democrats.  It doesn’t matter whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is using foreign money to support the Republicans or the Democrats.  It doesn’t matter who benefits: It is wrong, it is frightening, and it ought to be illegal because it is terribly dangerous to our country and to our form of government.

Trick or Treat 2010

October 24, 2010 at 10:59 am | Posted in Politics | 4 Comments
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It’s Halloween and the doorbell rings. You grab the candy and open the door but it’s not a group of kids. The smiling man on your doorstep is wearing a business suit that cost enough to pay off your mortgage. There are several big men with him, all with very short hair and dark suits. They talk softly into the radios they carry, and a couple of them have foreign accents. They shoulder their way into your home.

Their leader pulls out the ballot for your district. He gently but firmly shows you where to put the check marks. “It’s for your own good,” he says. He tells you his candidates will reduce the deficit by eliminating wasteful programs like Medicare. He says they’ll repeal healthcare reform—but doesn’t mention that the legislation they’d repeal makes it unlawful to deny you insurance because you have a preexisting condition, mandates that the insurer can’t cancel your policy when you get sick, and allows your kids to stay on your policy until they’re 26. He says his candidates will repeal financial regulatory legislation to restore the free market, but he doesn’t tell you that the legislation they’d repeal makes credit card processors treat card holders more fairly and restrains excessive risk-taking by financial institutions. He tells you a lot of things that sound good, but doesn’t tell you they’re trying to take us back to the policies that ruined our economy and made the very rich very much richer—at the expense of the middle class.

He’s not your friend; that smile is really a smirk, because your whole house would fit in his living room.

The Democratic candidates, he says, are terrible people who just want to spend your money on wasteful government programs. Like Social Security. Food safety. Veterans benefits. “Don’t worry,” he says. “Elect our candidates and everything will be just fine.” Yeah. If you make over $250,000 a year.

Is this just a scary fantasy? No. The United States Chamber of Commerce, financed by secret U.S. and foreign donors, has launched a $75 million campaign to attack Democratic candidates. Many of the donors are large corporations like Prudential Financial, Dow Chemical, Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon (a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands), and the parent company of the famously “fair and balanced” Fox News. Others are foreign corporations. They come from from China, India, and the Middle East, and some are owned by foreign governments. They are certainly not your friends.

Large corporations aren’t your friends because their charter is to make money for their stockholders, and, incidentally, for their top executives. They don’t care about you; they care only about their bottom lines. And they’re too short-sighted to see that by running our country into the ground they are destroying themselves in the long run. In the meantime, they’re spreading misery for the middle class.

Foreign governments are not in the least bit interested in the American middle class, or the American national interest. China wants what benefits China. India wants what benefits India. Dubai wants what benefits Dubai.

That’s very scary, and it’s no fantasy. The big money interests here and abroad are trying to buy this election, and they have the money to do it! This is the most serious threat to our democracy in the 234 years it has existed. They want to run our country in their interest, not ours. Don’t let them get away with it. For the very life of our country…vote Democratic!

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