Friday, June 18, 2021

A Lesson in Fractured Politics (and 10 Common Sense Solutions)

We've often discussed how America is no longer a Constitutional or democratic Republic over the years. America, as you know, is an Corporatocracy , run by an Oligarchy comprised small clique of very rich individuals who are pulling the political strings of this country.  As various academic studies have shown, the average taxpayer in this country has a statistically probably of zero percent of having any real influence on Congress. 

Compare this with corporations, who spend millions on lobbyists and millions more on financing campaigns and underwriting politicians, who have a near 100% likelihood of success in getting what they want from Congress (not to mention the fact that the same corporate lobbyists actually write the legislation they want passed). 

In 2020, 55 corporations alone spent $450 million dollars over three campaign cycles and sent 526 lobbyists to Washington to make sure they got what they wanted..and paid for..  So, is it any wonder that the majority of these same companies not only pay nothing in taxes, but often get back millions of taxpayer dollars?

Just so you don't think that only one party is to blame, remember that these lobbyists cater to both sides of aisle. The top two House and Senate Democrat committees received $1.45 million dollars while the same committees on the Republican side were given $1.3 million. In exchange for enabling them to avoid federal taxes, these same 55 corporations got back $3.5 billion dollars in paid taxes and avoided another $8.5 billion in potential taxes.

Who are these companies?  While you could just go down the list of major Wall Street companies, a few stand out. One is Archer Daniels Midland, the giant food conglomerate. They made $438 million dollars in pre-tax profit. Not only did they avoid paying any federal taxes, they actually got a tax rebate of $164  million dollars. Athletic apparel maker, Nike, made $2.9 billion dollars and paid nothing in federal taxes. Instead, they got a rebate of $109 million dollars.

FedEx earned a profit of $1.2 billion dollars and received a rebate of $230 million dollars. Of course, there are many more, and these don't even include companies like Exxon, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Chevron, General Motors  and others like them who either paid no federal taxes, or next to nothing.

Of course, each one will tell you that they paid what taxes they were obligated to paid. But what they won't tell you is how their lobbyists, either directly or through trade and professional associations, were able to lobby members of Congress into sponsoring bills they (the lobbyists) wrote or helped write and shepherded through the various committees and onto the House and/or Senate floor for a final vote.

I'll Take Two Congressmen and Hold the Mayo

According to OpenSecrets, in 2020, lobbyists paid out $14,869,908 to Democrats and $14,175,224 to Republicans (the average "donation" was about $30,000). Another $129,095 went to other individuals such as senior staffers. Of the money given, almost all of it went to incumbents. Now, do you want to know who was the beneficiaries in 2020? Well, I'll tell you.

In 2020, the top beneficiary of Corporate America's largess was none other than Joe Biden who received $776,590.  David Purdue (R-GA) got $712,710. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) took in $593,330. Next was Thom Tillis (R-NC) who was gifted $558,702. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) saw $537,229 in donations from lobbyists. Among other notables, Donald Trump (R) received only $269,112. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) got $153,936. Dick Durbin (D-IL) picked up $145,600 while Liz Cheney (R-WY) saw $123,170.  Chuck Schumer (D-NY) got $116,463.

Now, while this might not seem like a lot, remember this was just one election cycle and doesn't include any in-kind contributions, nor does it include any monies donated by corporate lobbyists to various partisan committees (such as the National Republican Senatorial Committee which received $2,771,454  or Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee which took in $1,111,816).

Often these committees redirect money to certain campaigns, "Leadership Committees", or political action committees (aka PACs) which are set up to avoid donation caps and, in many cases, are designed to give the false impression of widespread popular support for some issue or candidate.

I would be remiss not to point out that most members of Congress put in an average 10 -12 hour day, of which over half is typically used not on "the People's business" as Nancy Pelosi likes to say, but on fundraising either for themselves, the party, a committee or PAC. As for writing bills, that's all subbed out to corporate lobbyists.

There should be no question in your minds that are Republic is gone. We have no one in Washington, or our state capitols, or even City Hall writing legislation for us. We the People can't even remotely hope to raise the kind of money that Corporate America does. Even unions can't compete. The best they can do is raising one dollar for every five dollars Wall Street gives. Such was the folly of Citizens United and unbelievable ignorance and political naiveté of the Chief Justices.

With gerrymandering practically guaranteeing a particular candidate's reelection and unlimited terms for most seats, who in their right mind can call this a democracy; a government of, by, and for the People?  To make matters worse, the same corporations which own government also own the media.

 That means they control and dictate content, and unless you have access to other sources of media outside the mainstream, you're not going to know what's really going on (as an aside, even your entertainment, be it music, movies, television, video game, or sports is controlled by the same folks. How does that make you feel---warm and fuzzy?). 

The House Always Wins

We're living in a dystopian society better constructed than the best SciFi author. Not even the great Ray Bradbury, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, or George Orwell could have come up with this, although they came close! The question (indeed, the only real question which matters) is what, if anything, we can do about it?

I think that at some deep level, we already have a sense of what needs to be done. We know the system is broke beyond repair. "Reform" at this point would be like trying to duck tape the Titanic. I don't think even Flex Seal will work! First, we need to stop thinking like partisans. We're Americans first, last, and foremost. Second, we have to accept the fact that the Founding Fathers were right when it came to political parties---they're wrong for society. They serve an interest which isn't the American People.

Third, we need to register to vote and encourage others to vote. In fact, voter registration should be automatic when you turn 18. As an aside, yes, we need photo IDs to vote. It doesn't discriminate against anyone except those trying to rig elections. A picture ID is the only way to ensure the right people shows up to vote. We need to go back to paper ballots. They weren't always perfect, and they took a bit longer, but they were harder to manipulate.

Elections need to be held either on the weekend or it should be a federal holiday. Fourth, we need voter initiatives and referendums. It's our right as citizens to place issues on the ballot, which is why career politicians fear them. Fifth, we need term limits to end career politicians and the accompanying cronyism.

Next, we need to end gerrymandering. Politicians shouldn't be allowed to pick their voters. Seventh, we need Rank Choice Voting to ensure we get the best choices available. Eighth, we must have a level political field. That means that the same rules apply for Independent and third party candidates as it does for partisan ones.

If a Democrat or Republican need just three signatures to get on the ballot, then why should a Independent or third party candidate need a hundred or a thousand (or more, depending on the office)? It's discrimination and it's illegal. Additionally, the public deserves to hear all points of view. Therefore, all candidates on the ballot should be included in all debates.

 Ninth, no political office should be partisan. When you're elected, you are elected to serve everyone, not just those of your party. As it is now, if someone outside your party is elected for your district, you aren't represented for the length of that term.  You also get the privilege of still having to pay taxes despite not being represented. Let that sink in!  All incoming office holders should resign from their political party in order to represent everyone in their district and community or state as a whole.

Finally, we absolutely must get corporate money out of politics. Citizens United was wrong. It effectively removed the ordinary citizen from having any influence in politics. It made Congress a de facto Millionaire's Club. We need to create other ways of financing elections, including public financing, free (but limited) TV and air time for candidates, and restricting the length of "campaign season" as a number of other countries do (many limit it to 60 or 90 days).

As an aside, speaking of campaign finance reform and the "Millionaire's Club" Congress, I thought you'd find this interesting. Remember those financial beneficiaries of lobbyists I mentioned above? Did you know that Kelly Loeffler's net worth is $500 million? David Perdue's is $15.9 million. Dick Durbin's $3 million. Mitch McConnell's is over $22.5 million. Nancy Pelosi's net worth is $120 million, while Thom Tillis' is about $10.5 million. Finally, Joe Biden's net worth is over $9 million. Don't sound like "common folk" to me. Do they to you? Oh, and there some whose net worth is far greater.

None of this isn't about scare mongering. This is reality. You can research it yourself just as I've done over many years. It's a lot of work, but there's a lot of us too. Pick one or two from the list above and get busy, or maybe come up with one of your own. But know that we can do it. We've overcome greater obstacles in our nation's past. We have to do this if we want our country and our Republic back. The alternative is to prepare for the long dark night that is surely to come. if you want to know more, check out the links below. They're a great way to start.


Corporations That Paid Zero Federal Income Tax Spent $400million in Lobbying

55 Corporations Paid $0 in Federal Taxes on 2020 Profits

60 Top Corporations Paid $0 Federal Tax Dollars Under TrumpTax Law

OpenSecrets: Lobbyists

OpenSecrets: Top Recipients of Contributions from Lobbyists2020

Not A Single Person in Congress Actually Writes Legislation or Laws. It's All Subbed Out to K Street

When Lobbyists Literally Write the Bill

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