Democrats & Liberals Archives

Political Problem Number 1: Money

List the major political problems that we fight about: stimulating the economy, reforming healthcare, regulating financial behemoths, helping the jobless, reforming immigration, rebuilding our energy system, choosing justices… A simple analysis will show that MONEY is the major influence in how decisions are made.

Those with money are against stimulus spending because they are worried about the deficit; those without money favor stimulus spending to reboot the economy. In healthcare, the battle has been between the rich health insurance industry and the not-so-rich and suffering citizens. The battle is similar with regard to financial regulation, helping the jobless and reforming immigration: the rich are against and the not-so-rich are in favor.

When it comes to rebuilding our energy system, the battle is not between rich and poor, but between two moneyed interests: those invested in fossil fuels and those invested or trying to invest in alternative energy sources. We can't move to fight climate change because the super-rich - BP is a good example - are for the status quo.

OK. So the rich are for one side and the poor for the other side. Nothing wrong in that. However, the rich use their money to influence legislators and regulators and to get candidates they favor elected to office in the first place. The rich can buy candidates and policy and even justice. Yes, justice. They pick the senatorial candidates who will vote to confirm justices favoring the rich.

Back in the last century, we kept saying, "money talks." Now we may say that "money shouts" or "money screams." The U.S. Supreme Court goes so far as to say that "money IS free speech" and that corporations - conglomerations of money - have "free speech."

If corporations have "free speech," in effect, I have extremely little if any, "free speech." How effective is my dollar against the millions of dollars a corporation may spend? If this situation remains, corporations will control everything in our society. We will cease to be a democracy and become a corpocracy.

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent, I'm sure you don't want to live in a corpocracy where your "free speech" is a drowned-out whisper. What are you going to do about it?

The number one political problem, the problem behind all the other problems we face, is the power of money in politics. The single most important thing we must do to save our democracy is to reduce the importance of money in campaigns.

(More about this in a future post).

Posted by Paul Siegel at June 11, 2010 7:48 PM
Comments
Comment #302059

Yeah, you are right. Obama was the biggest recipient of BP funds and look what happened. And last year investment bankers gave more to Democrats last year. And then there are those billions poured into politics by rich fat-cats like George Soros, not to mention all those vapid celebrities who can raise millions in an evening’s fund raising. How do we stop all these guys? They don’t always give to candidates. They make “independent” expenditures.

Of course, I hear the unions poured millions into campaign against Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas. The Democrats complained that they has wasted the money rather than use it against Republicans. Of course, unions pointed out that they do not work for the Democrats. Interesting that everybody sort of assumed they did. I wonder why.

Posted by: C&J at June 11, 2010 9:03 PM
Comment #302070


The Democratic Party moved to the right to secure a large chunk the corporate ‘money’ that was mostly reserved for the Republicans. As C&J point out, many of the Democrats constituency is starting to figure out that they are the ones getting the shaft and are no longer being represented.

The Democratic Party has gotten itself stuck in a Catch 22 scenario. It has to have the corporate money. To get it, they have to support legislation that is favorable to corporations and detrimental to many of their constituents, and the constituents are starting to catch on.

Posted by: jlw at June 11, 2010 10:46 PM
Comment #302072

Paul,

I was taught a wonderful lesson in sixth grade. We held an election for class president.

There were more girls than boys in the class.

I ran the boys political campaign. I wrote the speeches for our candidate. I wrote one that the candidate could quite read, which made it obvious I was the author. The teacher required that the candidates write their own speeches.

I felt our candidate would lose, so, in secret I continued to write for him. I just dumbed down the speeches.

We did straw polls and us boys were losing. My brilliant (sarcasm) last campaign strategy was to give the electorate something concrete. I proposed making a suggestion box that would give the class a voice is choosing field trips. Our opposition continued with the vague political rhetoric. We won a squeaker.

After the election, our candidate didn’t really want to spend his recess doing his elected duties. The opposition candidate snidely commented I got him elected, and I should do the chores. I replied I wasn’t elected, but she was right. She would have been the better class president, but I was focused on winning. That was my only interest in the game.

The lesson I learned was, no matter the rules, the slickest will win. The only way to win is to give the slickest campaign, and sheep are easily led.

Posted by: gergle at June 11, 2010 11:16 PM
Comment #302077

Large successful democratically elected governments, and small ones alike, require mature, educated, and vested voters casting the ballots for leadership based on critical analysis and sound reasoning.

Failed democratically elected governments become authoritarian under the auspices of democratic elections, but, the voters are largely irrelevant to the process, as the rules of getting elected aren’t controlled by the voters, but, by the incumbents who rig them to insure their Party’s (Friends) participation in governing.

I think it is pretty obvious which we have been. To change the rules, the voters have to wrest control away from the incumbents controlling them, by voting ever increasing numbers of them out of office on the general principle that the status quo no longer serves the voters. There are, of course two other options in our history, Revolutionary War and Civil War. Voting is by far the least expensive way to get to the same results of forcing newly elected leaders to tend to the demands of the anti-incumbent voters, but, only if their numbers cannot be ignored.

Onward to November.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 12, 2010 1:00 AM
Comment #302109

I understand the constitutional arguments about contributing to political campaigns being “free speech” but it has really created a bunch a really disingenuous politicians who will stand up and say the most ridiculous and obviously wrong things because they get money from someone or another. We saw the B.S. from the GOP in the health care debate - blatant lies told over and over again because there were large checks attached. We have seen these idiotic claims that the oil spill isn’t that bad and not a reason to rethink offshore drilling, Barack Obama saying that we still need to explore off shore drilling. People standing up for these criminals by defending the cap on lawsuits for destroying a whole region and its economy. Then there’s Sarah Palin who makes herself sound like a complete moron (not that she needs help) defending interests that give her money. Until this is dealt with $$ will always equal influence.

Posted by: tcsned at June 13, 2010 9:23 AM
Comment #302123


This is why I think vote out incumbents would be more effective if it had one specific rallying call that people could support and that politicians can’t ignore, like end corporate money influence. Without this happening, it is less likely that the government will improve. I think we know it will probably take a Constitutional amendment to correct the problem and that means a 50 state vote out incumbents to end corporate money influence movement.

Posted by: jlw at June 13, 2010 1:52 PM
Comment #302150

jlw,

There is a problem with that. Many people draw there sustenance from corporate coffers. Walmart, alone, is the largest US (perhaps world?)employer with 2.1 million employees. These are sizeable political entities as well and monetary influences.

It seems to me we have a banana republic problem. When the corporate entities are larger than the political establishment, the larger entity runs the show.

How do we change that without becoming Venezuela, or Bolivia?

Posted by: gergle at June 13, 2010 9:50 PM
Comment #302153

gergle, the voters have to become the largest political or corporate establishment. That is the fundamentally, the definition of a democracy. Then, the problem becomes, how to organize voters to express consensus on any given policy issue. Choosing candidates based on Party has proven to be a failure at this objective. (E.g. Health Reform Public Option and the Democratic Party).

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 13, 2010 10:50 PM
Comment #302158


Gergle, fine, we can give Walmart workers two votes instead of one.

I wonder how many of those 2.1 million workers used to work in manufacturing before Walmart played a major role in sending their jobs to China?

I don’t think any corporation should have that kind of power.

The best thing we can do with Walmart is turn it in to A,B,C,and D Mart.

Posted by: jlw at June 13, 2010 11:51 PM
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