Friday, June 08, 2012

Bargain Basement

(Click on image to enlarge, then return.)

No, I'm not actually re-visiting the Wisconsin re-call election, merely using it as an example, much the way David Horsey is in a recent column. It's clear that because of Citizen's United our elections are essentially being bought by those that have.

I was reminded of that again yesterday when reports came out that Romney and the GOP raised over $76 million in May and Obama and the Dems raised $60 million. Forget the disparity. What's important is that nearly $150 million dollars was raised in just one month for the November elections. This at a time when Congress is fussing over deficits but can't bring itself to raise taxes on the wealthy which might ease, perhaps even wipe out the deficit. This at a time when most of us are having trouble paying our bills and putting food on the table because so many of us are unemployed while employers sit on tons of cash because of "uncertainty." But the game goes on.

The Citizens United decision does not apply to big corporations alone; it also frees unions to give as much as they want. But the fact is unions do not have ready access to money on the scale of the billionaire boys club. When just one man, casino king Sheldon Adelson, can write a couple of checks and fund Newt Gingrich’s entire presidential campaign, you know the craps table of electioneering has been tilted in favor of candidates who look after the concerns of the mega-rich.

And guess what? Most of those candidates, just like most billionaires, are Republicans.

Occupy Wall Street enthusiasts can camp out on the sidewalk and conduct their exquisitely egalitarian group discussions. Anarchists can gleefully smash windows at Bank of America and Starbucks. Union members can set up phone banks and carry picket signs. But as long as elections are there to be bought, a handful of billionaires will have a far louder voice in who runs the country than all the activists on the left combined.

As evidence, I offer exhibits one and two: David and Charles Koch, the billionaires Democrats love to hate. These oil magnates are generous sugar daddies for the "tea party" and conservative candidates all over America. According to the Obama campaign, the Koch brothers have pledged $200 million to defeat the president in November. Others say the Kochs are only putting up $60 million. Either way, that is a big chunk of change from just two voters.

The vanity of rich men used to be stoked by buying yachts and racehorses and baseball teams. Now, the indulgence of choice seems to be the purchase of governors and congressmen and -- who knows? -- maybe even a president.
[Emphasis added]

While I admit to being discouraged, I haven't quite reached the depths that David Horsey implies in the post appended to his cartoon. I think there's still room for hope, but it will not blossom unless we start working now. Even then it may be decades before the first buds form, if only because it will take that long for a constitutional amendment to get through Congress and the states. And that assumes we'll manage to elect some actual liberals to Congress.

Still, I think we have a chance. I'm re-reading Charles Williams' novel War In Heaven and I am struck by the very banality of evil. Yes, that evil is a destructive force, drastically affecting the lives of other, but it is always, at root, exercised for really childish personal gain. That is what is happening to us (and the rest of the world) right now. And we don't have to let it prevail.

It's not only about what 'they' are, it's also about who we are. We can throw up our hands and admit defeat and accept our yokes, or we can stand up to it, fight it. I'm old and weak, but I still prefer the latter.

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