Who’s buying our democracy? Wall Street financiers, the Koch brothers, and casino magnates Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.
And they’re doing much of it in secret.
It’s a perfect storm:
The greatest concentration of wealth in more than a century — courtesy “trickle-down” economics, Reagan and Bush tax cuts, and the demise of organized labor.
Unlimited political contributions — courtesy of Republican-appointed Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy, in one of the dumbest decisions in Supreme Court history, “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission,” along with lower-court rulings that have expanded it.
Complete secrecy about who’s contributing how much to whom — courtesy of a loophole in the tax laws that allows so-called non-profit “social welfare” organizations to accept the unlimited contributions for hard-hitting political ads.
Put them all together and our democracy is being sold down the drain.
With a more equitable and traditional distribution of wealth, far more Americans would have a fair chance of influencing politics. As the great jurist Louis Brandeis once said, “we can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a comparative few, but we cannot have both.”
Alternatively, inequality wouldn’t be as much of a problem if we had strict laws limiting political spending or, at the very least, disclosing who was contributing what.
But we have an almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and unlimited political spending and secrecy.
I’m not letting Democrats off the hook. Democratic candidates are still too dependent on Wall Street casino moguls and real casino magnates (Steve Wynn has been a major contributor to Harry Reid, for example). George Soros and a few others have poured big bucks into Democratic coffers. So have a handful of trade unions.
But make no mistake. Compared to what the GOP is doing this year, Democrats are conducting a high-school bake sale. The mega-selling of American democracy is a Republican invention, and Romney and the GOP are its major beneficiaries.
And the losers aren’t just Democrats. They’re the American people.
You need to make a ruckus. Don’t fall into the seductive trap of cynicism. That’s what the sellers of American democracy are counting on. If you give up on our system of government, they win everything.
This coming Monday, for example, the Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on the DISCLOSE ACT, which would at least require that outfits like the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s “Crossroads GPS” disclose who’s contributing what. Contact your senators, and have your friends and relatives in other states — especially those with Republican senators (who have been united in their opposition to disclosure) — contact theirs. If the DISCLOSE ACT is voted down, hold accountable those senators (and, when and if it gets to the House, those House members) who are selling out our democracy for the sake of their own personal ambitions.
By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, July 13, 2012
One of the habits of political spinmeisters that I dislike the most is the tendency to claim that close contests are invariably about to break wide open into a complete debacle, a historic humiliation, a defeat of biblical proportions for their opponent. I don’t know what this sort of stupid, transparent, self-conscious lying is supposed to accomplish. Intimidation? Exciting “the base?” Discouraging the other “team’s” “base?” Working the refs? Beats me.
In any event, we’re getting a lot of this right now from the Romney campaign and its supporters. Here’s an item from The Hill:
A top Romney spokeswoman said the Obama campaign’s allegations that he misled the public over his tenure at Bain Capital are “reckless and wild,” and a sign that the president’s campaign is “unraveling.”
And here’s a post from Michael Walsh at The Corner:
The Obama campaign’s desperate “felony” charge against Mitt Romney ought to serve as a wake-up call for the Romney campaign and for the American public regarding the utter amorality of the president and his functionaries.
Neither of these excited people is offering any rationale for why the Obama campaign should be feeling “reckless and wild” or “desperate,” or should be “unraveling.” Well, actually, the Romney staffer in the Hill story, Gail Gitcho, offered this drooling bit of spin that wouldn’t fool a first grader:
[T]his attack from yesterday has frankly just jumped the shark and it shows that the Obama campaign, they are scared to death of having to run on their own record because they haven’t been able to create jobs and they have no plans in the future to be able to fix the economy, and that’s what the American people care about.”
That, BTW, is an excellent example of another spinmestier habit I absolutely hate, which is making generalizations about what “the American people” think or want.
But anyway, why would anyone actually think the Obama campaign is in extremis right now? Every time I turn around there’s another article about the incredible stability of the polls of this contest, and their utter imperviousness to the events of the campaign. The electorate is so polarized that Obama couldn’t drop to more than a few points behind Romney even if he suddenly came out and said his favorite writer was Frantz Fanon. The actual outcome is likely going to depend on GOTV efforts that aren’t even underway yet. So what, pray tell, is the point of the constant claims that Obama’s panicking or is going to lose as badly as Mondale or has been “rejected by the American people?” Will this change a single vote? I can’t imagine why.
What “the American people” really need are spinmeisters who are a little less shameless.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 13, 2012
Kevin Drum notes today that all the overheated Republican rhetoric about the president’s tax proposal, suggesting capitalism is on the very edge of disappearing, is a bout of hysteria over a relatively small amount of money for the wealthy:
I just want everyone to be absolutely clear on what this “narrative of aggrievement” is all about. It’s about Obama’s proposal that the marginal tax rate on income over $400,000 should rise from 35% to 39.6%.
That’s your aggrievement. That’s your entitlement. That’s your socialism. That’s your class warfare. An increase in the top marginal tax rate of 4.6 percentage points.
Four. Point. Six.
This is what America’s most prosperous citizens are up in arms about. This is why Barack Obama is an enemy of capitalism. These are the spiteful shackles he proposes to use to subjugate America’s engines of job creation. It’s the reason America’s wealthiest citizens are so frightened about the future of their country.
4.6 percentage points. Just let that sink in.
Add in the fact that Obama is simply trying to restore the top tax rate under which the most rapid accumulation of private wealth in human history–in the late 1990s–occurred, and the insanity of the “socialism” talk becomes especially apparent.
Look, folks, I’m not that old, and I can remember the time a Republican president unilaterally created a policy that was vastly more disruptive of the private-sector economy than anything Barack Obama has even dreamed of: Richard Nixon’s imposition of wage and price controls in 1971. Top tax rates were much higher then, too. Somehow or other, liberty survived.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 13, 2012
When the it comes to the contentious topic of Mitt Romney’s tax returns, the Romney campaign has invoked precedent, defending their decision to release just two years worth of returns as the standard set by the campaigns of John McCain and John Kerry. The Romney campaign renewed this argument on Sunday.
In fact. Sen. Kerry (D-MA) had released 20 years of tax returns when he ran for president in 2004.
On Sunday, Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie promised that Romney would release a total of two years worth of tax returns, following in the footsteps of McCain and Kerry.
“He is going to release them, Candy, we’ve made that clear,” Gillespie said to host Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And that’s the standard that Senator McCain, Republican nominee in the last election said was the relevant standard. It’s the standard that Senator John Kerry as the Democratic nominee said was the standard.”
In April, Romney himself held up Kerry as an example, telling CNBC that “John Kerry released two years of taxes.”
During the Republican primary, Romney released his 2010 tax returns and an estimate of his 2011 returns. Though Gillespie’s language was somewhat vague on Sunday, he seemed to be referring to fact that Romney would release his 2011 returns, bringing Romney’s total to two years of returns.
While McCain did release two years of returns, Kerry released more. As the Huffington Post and ThinkProgress previously reported, Kerry made it a habit to release his returns to the Massachusetts press during each of his Senate campaigns. The reason Kerry only released a few years worth of returns in 2004 is because his past returns had already been released.
Kerry spokesperson Jodi Seth chastised the Romney campaign for the false allegation.
“Months ago, the Romney team began making this false and convoluted excuse — the media investigated it and promptly reminded them that as a presidential candidate John Kerry had released twenty years of tax returns,” Seth said in a statement to TPM. “Still, months later they’re falling back on this same disproven excuse. In fact, if the Romney standard was the same as the Kerry standard for disclosure, the media would have the chance to review twenty years of Romney tax returns. Ed Gillespie should know better.”
By: Pema Levy, Talking Points Memo, July 15, 2012