Saturday, September 16, 2023

Too Big To Fail? How Big Business Supplanted the American Voter

We've often talked about the rise of corporatocracy and the fall of our Republic. We have transformed from representative democracy, responsible to the citizens of this country, into one in which government, led by an elite oligarchy, serves the needs and interests of Big Business.

Members of Congress are nowadays dependent on corporations to finance their elections, to underwrite both political parties (as of the 2022, Big Business had given both parties $8.9 billion dollars with roughly 45% going to Democrats and 55% going to the GOP), and not only write  legislation, but to review existing bills and make "recommendations" on which ones to vote "yay" on and which ones to say "nay"on.

Perhaps that's not surprising when you consider that just over 50% of  Congressional members or individuals on their staff go on to become lobbyists, political consultants or advisors. They typically bring the expertise, connections, and, of course, the cash.  

In 2022, corporate lobbyists "donated" $4.1 billion dollars to members of Congress, and as of the first quarter of 2023, they had already given over $1 billion dollars.  As an aside, did you know that there are approximately 20 registered lobbyists for every member of Congress? Given that they can make over five times what they made in government, it's not a bad gig.  

Thanks to a politically naive (some would say incompetent) Supreme Court and pressure from Wall Street and Congress, the Citizens United ruling in 2010 by a 5 to 4 margin all but ensured that Big Business would dominate politics henceforth. It declared that corporations, while nothing more than legal fictions, were suddenly granted "personhood" and entitled to all the rights you and I have...with one essential exception.

The ruling declared that money (somehow magically it seems) was now the equivalent of free speech! Thus if you have $20 dollars and I have $100, under the Supreme Court's decision, my opinion is more important or valuable than yours. However, while mere mortals remained capped as to how much they can donate to political campaigns, these legal fictions were free to give what they want.

Obviously there's no way ordinary citizens can compete financially to what Big Business can give. Even unions are outspent more than $5 to $1. The result is that the 2010 Citizens United blunder removed you and I from politics. It made running for high office basically a sport for millionaires.

Coupled with partisan gerrymandering, the absence of term limits, unequal ballot access, lack of voter referendums, and unfair voter access, not to mention the control of a biased media by just five big corporations and "shadow blocking" online,  we're left on the sidelines as spectators watching a rigged horse race using a biased handicapping form  and leaving us with the illusion of having a chance to cash a winning ticket.

How bad is it? Pretty bad. Congress has made it clear on numerous occasions that it doesn't care one wit about what we think. Remember the bank bailouts of 2007/08? Despite the public's loud and very vocal disapproval, Congress did it anyway at a cost of $700 billion dollars of our money, with most going for executive incentivizes, bonuses, and vacations.

 In 2020, at the outset of the COVID pandemic, Congress spent $25 billion of our tax dollars to bailout the airline industry. Instead of using the money to save jobs, it was used for executive bonuses and salaries, not to mention tax breaks, low interest/forgiven loans, and other perks Congress gives its "business partners"   

Congress routinely uses our tax dollars for projects aimed to make them or their corporate friends millions (if not billions) in profits without either party having any fear of voter repercussions.   Despite having decades long disapproval ratings below 20%, Congress still has a reelection rate of 98%! That's higher than the reelection rate of the old Soviet Union's Politburo. We have to look to countries like North Korea or China to see similar reelection percentages.

In case you're wondering by the way, the Soviet Era Politburo had an average turnover rate of about 35% compared to our 2% and no member could serve more than three terms. Here, members of Congress can serve indefinitely. Also, the average age of a member of the Politburo was about 40. The average age of a member of Congress in 2023 is 46, down from a previous 52 years of age. And to think that we used to make fun of the Politburo as a "bunch of tired old men"! 

All this research led me to a informative and entertaining video by a guy who goes by the name of "Mr. Beat" (his real name is Matt Alan Beat. He's a high school history teacher, podcaster, video producer, and musician living in Kansas). Mr. Beat publishes quite a catalog of videos covering a variety of topics, although most appear to be historical or political (non-partisan).

This one, "The One Political Issue That Unites All of Us" is one I especially recommend. The video is 15:52 minutes long. As I said, it's informative as well as entertaining with some rather wry sense of humor. I'm providing a link below and urge you to check it out. I've also included some other links about our political situation that I think you'll find interesting.


Video: The One Political Issue That Unites Allof Us

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Open Secrets: Federal lobbying spending reaches $4.1 billionin 2022---the highest since 2010

Open Secrets: Federal lobbyist spending tops $1 billion infirst quarter of 2023

Timeline: Notable government bailout, relief programs in U.S. history's bailout tracker

Bailout Lists: Banks, Auto Companies, and More

Which Party Receives More Corporate Donations?


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