Sunday, September 09, 2018

A Snapshot of US Politics: Where We Are and What We Can Do About It

As most of you know, America is no longer the democratic republic established by our Founding Fathers. Over the decades, but especially since the end of World War II in 1945, the US has morphed into an Oligarchy; a plutocracy with a near permanent political class comprised of politicians, professional staffers, bureaucrats who manage agencies with little oversight except by their fellow insiders (and certainly with little to no public accountability), and the ever present corporate lobbyists, which nearly every politician aspires to become, and in the background, the corporate and financial elites.

Corporations nowadays essentially run Washington via their messenger boys and girls, the lobbyists, which means they run America, especially with the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" fiasco in 2010 which defined corporations as "people", or "Frankensteins" as I prefer to call them. It also declared money to be "free speech", except that these Frankensteins have unlimited "free speech" while you and I are still capped in how much say we have when it comes to elections. It's often been said that money is the life blood or mother's milk of politics. Personally, I think it's more the "crack" of politics; everyone always wants more and more is never enough. For example, in 2017, lobbyists gave Congress, government officials (including congressional staffers, the DNC and RNC, agency heads, etc ) $3.37 billion dollars not including perks like golf outings, hotels, use of private jets or cost of airfare, dinners, or help writing or summarizing legislation (along with their recommendations on how to vote), and so on.

Nevertheless, the mind boggling amounts of money and perks provided to Congress (and indirectly to the Judicial branch as well, not to mention the presidency) by lobbyists far outstrips what ordinary Americans can donate. In fact, it's practically made it impossible for the average American, who is often just as well educated and experienced as their multi-million dollar counterpart to run for office. As a result, we are forced to cast our votes for who may be the least qualified candidate, but certainly the richest.

Of course, primaries are all about the two corporate owned political parties choosing which puppet they'll put up for election. I liken it to a beauty contest among prostitutes (you can take it from there). General elections aren't much better. We're stuck with mostly one dimensional cardboard cutouts posing, glad handing, and pretending they're having a good time. It really comes down to whose meaningless populist platitudes we dislike the least. As far as their corporate paymasters are concerned, it doesn't really matter. They own them both. We're just picking figureheads while the media tries to make it into political reality show.

Think of the two corporate political parties this way. Corporations own it all. Money trumps everything. The two parties are both literally owned by the same corporate elites, but in slightly different configurations. Basically, it's one corporate syndicate comprising certain special interest groups versus another corporate syndicate with its special interest groups. Their agendas are similar, but ranked slightly different, but regardless, they work together to get did what their key players want done. The hubbub we see on TV or read about is usually over the crumbs and details.

For instance, both needed to weaken labor unions in order to make it harder for workers to fight back and to reduce costs, and so they did! Unions bosses went along in order to avoid seeing whole sectors either closed or moved overseas rather than a few plants or hundreds of jobs. Legislation was written, mostly in conjunction with the lobbyists, to provide tax breaks to underwrite the cost of jobs being sent overseas and return finished products sans import tariffs, all at taxpayer expense naturally. Want another example? Both politicians and their corporate overseers needed to artificially keep down unemployment numbers and boost the economy, and so now we have the eternal "War on Terror" to drain off "excess" job seekers while making a killing off of military contracts which affects a whole host of peripheral industries. Thus the economy grows, employment remains artificially high as we continue to operate at near wartime production rates.

Seriously, do you think that if they weren't working hand in glove? Why hasn't a tax code favoring working class Americans been written by now? That there hadn't been serious campaign finance reform and an end to corporate donations, as well as an end to gerrymandering and establishing term limits? With all those lawyers in Washington, do you really think those loopholes are accidents---legal "boo-boos"? Nah, those people are a lot of things, but stupid isn't one of them. How do you think they can pass laws which apply to us but not them? Why is it that out of a ten hour work day, the average Congressman spends only two hours working on bills and other issues and the other eight raising money?

Of course, the smartest thing they can do is to keep us divided, and they seem to be pretty good at that. They promote, albeit quietly, animosity between Left and Right, between races, between genders, between white collar and blue collar, and in every other way they can think of. Various groups are formed (and paid) to foment chaos in the form of inflammatory speeches or interviews, inciting riots and trying to silence anyone who disagrees with whatever their position happens to be. Meanwhile, there are arguments interjected to curtail this or that law or Constitutional Amendment which they claim will solve everything. The political center, where the majority of Americans live, is virtually ignored or even ridiculed by both political extremes and the media, even during general elections; once they gravitated toward the center during the general election and spun back to their respective extremes. Not anymore! Now they barely bother. It seems both camps have lost their fear of the electorate thanks in large part to Citizens United.

Meanwhile, the police are militarized and increasingly taught, even if unofficially, to view the public as the enemy, and to respond as such. The result is often excessive violence when a little patience would do. The courts, almost as a matter of course, find the police officers "innocent" and that ends the matter. That in turn results in individuals not trusting the police and either fighting back, running, or ignoring the police, and so the cycle repeats. At the same time, the corporate puppet masters use their influence to expand the monitoring of groups and individuals through social media and national intelligence agencies; to build not just individualized consumer buying profiles, manipulate and control content, but also to build profiles on potential resisters and independent thinkers who are not buying into the whole scam.

The media, of course, plays along and why not? As I previously reported, over 90% of all media--- TV, radio, social, newspaper, etc---is controlled by just six corporations. They decide what is and isn't news, manipulate the facts, decide how it will be spun, and above all, create public opinion. And if that isn't enough, they decide how we'll be entertained, be it sports, video games, game shows, movies, TV shows and so forth; much of which also containing subtle political content designed to influence our opinions on various subjects. More recently, some corporations like Nike and Levi Strauss have stepped directly into the political arena by promoting various issues or agendas so that sporting a certain look or product will now express or imply a particular political outlook. Perhaps the hope is to shame those who don't adhere to the same look through peer pressure.

Elections are controlled by keeping Independents, who are the nation's largest political bloc, as well as third parties off ballots. Why? Because they won't play the game. They can't and won't be controlled by corporate handlers. They also had a high degree of uncertainty to election outcomes, that means they can't count on either of their political puppets winning; someone with a different agenda or who will think independently might "accidentally" get elected and that must never be allowed to happen. That's because after Ross Perot ran for President in 1992 (and again in 1996) and did so well that he embarrassed both corporate candidates (Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush) the DNC and RNC came together to amend the Commission for Presidential Debates to make it virtually impossible for Independents and third parties to qualify to participate (and many states followed suit).

Requirements to get any non-Democrat or GOPer on ballots were also set so high as to be nearly impossible, even though both parties know it would likely fail any Constitutional challenge. However, the problem of course is the costs to do so in court. Both parties are banking that no one will spend that kind of money to take the matter to court. In addition, the media, which is owned by the same corporate interests, have stopped treating Indies and third parties as "legitimate" candidates and also stopped covering their campaigns; treating them as sideshow entertainment and someone not to be taken seriously. Naturally, the big donors, who also happen to be these same corporations, ensure that their money keeps flowing to the two pre-approved candidates. The same goes for endorsements, which are valued for their cash and in-kind donations as well as for volunteers. Doesn't sound very much like a "free" country do it?

Lastly, I want to discuss something which, frankly, irks to no end, but I also think it's important for you to understand. As I mentioned before, there's a lot of effort being put into dividing us by the ruling Oligarchy. They don't want us to come together and peek behind the curtain so to speak. one of the ways they are trying to divide is by name calling. Specifically, by one side or the other being called "socialists", "Nazis", "Communists", "social democrats" or "fascists" as if the names and terms are interchangeable. They're not.

Socialism is the common ownership of the means of production by the workers. Think of it in terms of worker co-ops, ESOPs, credit unions, etc. Workers/employees come together to decide on how the business will be run, how much everyone will be paid and so on. In terms of government, committees are formed from these groups to decide how to manage the town, city, or community. Participation is not mandatory, but then you also don't get a voice if you don't Each committee elects someone to a larger committee to manage the larger state. Of course, there are other variations, but that's the general idea. Basically then, the workers/employees control the state through direct democracy.

Communism as we know it isn't Marxism as Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels wrote it. Communism as we know it was based on Stalin's corruption of both Marx and Lenin ideas. Thus, Communism came to be State ownership and control of everything---corporations, jobs, houses---you name it. You may be employed at some job, but your employer was the State, and the State was the party. You participated whether you wanted to or not. The State controls your life from cradle to grave. Democratic Socialism is something of a mix between the two, and despite claims to the contrary, it has been very successful in Scandinavia. Under democratic socialism, the State exists exclusively to serve the people, with the people approving what the States does through referendums or voting. While Communism is very undemocratic, democratic socialism is highly democratic while socialism is more communal. All of these are on the Left side of the political spectrum (although the Left/Right spectrum is completely out of date and not very accurate).

Nazism, which is short for National Socialist German Workers Party, is generally considered a far Right ideology, although that's not entirely correct. First it's nationalist whereas Communism is internationalist; in this case Germany or Germanic countries. It socialist, but not the way we think of socialism. It founder, Adolf Hitler, said that "socialism" for Germany meant a community of Germans only. Here, Hitler means "Aryans" or pure Germanic People. It also means creating an community of mutual support for Germans. In this, Hitler promoted a classless society between the old nobles and Junkers (the elites) and everyone else as well as distinctions between regions or occupations.

It meant equality between Catholics and Protestants, equality in hiring and education, promotion of similar ideals such as proper health, hygiene, and fitness. German Worker meant just that. German society would be dedicated to ordinary workers, artisans, craftsmen, farmers the same way it was to the banker, business owners, or academia. He dissolved individual unions, and created a single State union, the DAF or German Labor Front, into which everyone would belong. Of course, Hitler also choose the specific wording to attract as many people as possible away from the other political parties (his biggest political competitors was the Communist and Democratic Socialist parties on the Left, the Catholic Center Party, and the German National Peoples Party on the Right). Thus on our political spectrum, the Nazis would be more center Right than anything.

Lastly, Fascism. Modern Fascism was created by Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. Essentially, it's a merger or partnership between the State and key corporate entities which cooperate for their mutual benefit. Individuals may work for a given company, but that company serves the State as its partner. The State operates along the lines of a corporate board of directors who elect their chairmen or President (in this case, Mussolini. In fact, in 1944, Mussolini was voted out of office by his Fascist board of directors). Like Nazism, Fascism borrows from the ideological Left and Right, but it varies depending on the history and tradition of that country. That's why the fascism of Italy was different from that of Bulgaria or Spain which was differed from that of Argentina or Hungary or Romania. Thus, Fascism can come from the Left or Right whereas Nazism is strictly conservative and socialism is strictly liberal.

The Oligarchy or plutocracy which controls our government now, and to a greater degree, much of world's economy, come closest to fitting the description of fascism than anything. It is very much the merger (or perhaps takeover is a better word) of the government for the sole purpose of controlling assets, resources, production, and yes, even us. They use our tax money as their own slush fund. They use our military as their own enforcers against nations who won't cooperate. We have been transformed from nationalist citizens to international consumers. Our loyalty is less to country and more to a product (ever notice how often commercials use words like "family", "trust", or "love"?). We are encouraged to buy the latest this or that and thus incur debt, which in turn becomes our shackles. We are their economic serfs or as some people prefer, "wage slaves".

The only way out of this is by not cooperating; not drinking the blue or red Kool-Aid they offer us during the election cycle. Supporting Indies and third parties, including demanding equal ballot access. By insisting that non-policy or lawmaking elected offices become non-partisan. By organizing employee associations or cooperatives. Changing your voter registration to Independent or third party. By finding common ground to bring diverse groups together. By demanding a voice when it comes to raising taxes, rate hikes, fees, or salaries for elected officials. By becoming more economically independent like shopping local, buying at farmer markets, growing your own garden, installing a rain barrow, solar panels, home schooling, and so on. By ignoring news media endorsements and doing your own research. Seeking out alternative media. They are beatable although they try to convince us otherwise. All we have to do is refuse to cooperate and to think and act for ourselves. But in a fascist state, even a benign one, that can be a dangerous thing.

Total lobbying spending in the United States from 1998 to 2017 (in billions U.S. dollars)

How Third Parties Are Kept Out of Presidential Debates

U.S. Presidential Debate Rules Out Third Party Candidates

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