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“Electioneering Committees”: Buying A President For 30 Bucks And Change

For today’s report, I have a bunch of statistics for you. Wait — don’t run away! Where are you going? Come back here and sit still while I drill these stats into your head! It’ll be fun, and you’ll learn something.

I realize that numbers can numb the brain, but this is a good story, and I promise that these statistics are easy to absorb. In fact, the number 400 pretty much sums up this story of political intrigue and corruption involving some of America’s wealthiest families and corporations.

Let’s start with the “Billionaire 400,” a clique of the elite organized by the conniving Koch brothers. These ultra-rich right wingers gather each winter in some warm-weather resort for a secretive, invitation-only retreat. There, they plot strategies and pledge money to elect politicos who’ll support their vision of corporate rule in America. For the 2016 elections, they’ve already committed nearly a billion dollars to impose their vision of plutocracy over our democratic ideals — double the combined amount that the Republican and Democratic parties will spend. I wonder: What do they think they’re getting for that price?

Then there are the secretive SuperPACs that are sacking up tens of millions of dollars to back various presidential candidates. Again, a few hundred corporations and rich families — each writing checks for hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars — have put up nearly half of all the money in these electioneering committees.

Keep that 400 number in mind when I offer my sincerest congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Middle-Class America, since they are all the rage in this present presidential contest, for Jeb, Hillary, and all the rest — even The Donald — say their campaigns are all about the hurting middle class that hasn’t yet recovered from the Great Recession. Well, don’t look now, but after each one promises that they’ll do the most for the Great Mass of the Middle Class, they disappear into the shadows and scurry off to schmooze with the little group of Americans they truly love: The exclusive club of multimillionaires and billionaires, who are shoveling those big bucks into those campaign pockets.

Now, back to our statistics: Jeb Bush got a million dollars each from 26 of his SuperPAC backers; Hillary Clinton took a million each from nine funders; of the $16 million in Marco Rubio’s PAC, 78 percent came from only four donors; and Ted Cruz got the most from the fewest, taking practically all of his $37 million from just three fat-cat families.

So while candidates for the highest office in our land are soaking up applause for the grand rhetoric they’re giving to the middle class, they’re also quietly collecting millions of dollars by pledging their steadfast fealty to the ruling class. Donating millions is not an innocent or noble political transaction. Written on the back of each of their checks is their own corporate agenda, trumping the people’s agenda.

Ironically, it’s Donnie Trump, the bombastic billionaire, who candidly admits that these so-called “gifts” amount to the outright, plutocratic purchase of politicians. He’s long been a campaign donor in order to secure political favors, he confesses, and it works: “When I need something from them … they are there for me.” There’s a word for that: Corruption.

But now, here comes the antidote to this corruption of our politics by fat cats. Instead of being financed by 400 special interests, Bernie Sanders’ campaign has raised its $15 million (as of July) from over 400,000 ordinary Americans. In fact, the average donation to Bernie is a heartwarming, soul-saving $31.30!

You can’t buy a president for just over 30 bucks — but you can help elect one who isn’t owned by Big Money. And isn’t that the way democracy ought to be?

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, September 9, 2015

September 10, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Campaign Financing, Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our Irresponsible American Ruling Class Is Failing

The American ruling class is failing us — and itself.

At other moments in our history, the informal networks of the wealthy and powerful who often wield at least as much influence as our elected politicians accepted that their good fortune imposed an obligation: to reform and thus preserve the system that allowed them to do so well. They advocated social decency out of self-interest (reasonably fair societies are more stable) but also from an old-fashioned sense of civic duty. “Noblesse oblige” sounds bad until it doesn’t exist anymore.

An enlightened ruling class understands that it can get richer and its riches will be more secure if prosperity is broadly shared, if government is investing in productive projects that lift the whole society and if social mobility allows some circulation of the elites. A ruling class closed to new talent doesn’t remain a ruling class for long.

But a funny thing happened to the American ruling class: It stopped being concerned with the health of society as a whole and became almost entirely obsessed with money.

Oh yes, there are bighearted rich people when it comes to private charity. Heck, David Koch, the now famous libertarian-conservative donor, has been extremely generous to the arts, notably to New York’s Lincoln Center.

Yet when it comes to governing, the ruling class now devotes itself in large part to utterly self-involved lobbying. Its main passion has been to slash taxation on the wealthy, particularly on the financial class that has gained the most over the past 20 years. By winning much lower tax rates on capital gains and dividends, it’s done a heck of a job.

Listen to David Cay Johnston, the author of “Free Lunch” and a columnist for Tax Notes. “The effective rate for the top 400 taxpayers has gone from 30 cents on the dollar in 1993 to 22 cents at the end of the Clinton years to 16.6 cents under Bush,” he said in a telephone interview. “So their effective rate has gone down more than 40 percent.”

He added: “The overarching drive right now is to push the burden of government, of taxes, down the income ladder.”

And you wonder where the deficit came from.

If the ruling class were as worried about the deficit as it claims to be, it would accept that the wealthiest people in society have a duty to pony up more for the very government whose police power and military protect them, their property and their wealth.

The influence of the ruling class comes from its position in the economy and its ability to pay for the politicians’ campaigns. There are not a lot of working-class people at those fundraisers President Obama has been attending lately. And I’d underscore that I am not using the term to argue for a Marxist economy. We need the market. We need incentives. We don’t need our current levels of inequality.

Those at the top of the heap are falling far short of the standards set by American ruling classes of the past. As John Judis, a senior editor at the New Republic, put it in his indispensable 2000 book, “The Paradox of American Democracy,” the American establishment has at crucial moments had “an understanding that individual happiness is inextricably linked to social well-being.” What’s most striking now, by contrast, is “the irresponsibility of the nation’s elites.”

Those elites will have no moral standing to argue for higher taxes on middle-income people or cuts in government programs until they acknowledge how much wealthier they have become than the rest of us and how much pressure they have brought over the years to cut their own taxes. Resolving the deficit problem requires the very rich to recognize their obligation to contribute more to a government that, measured against other wealthy nations, is neither investing enough in the future nor doing a very good job of improving the lives and opportunities of the less affluent.

“A blind and ignorant resistance to every effort for the reform of abuses and for the readjustment of society to modern industrial conditions represents not true conservatism, but an incitement to the wildest radicalism.” With those words in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt showed he understood what a responsible ruling class needed to do. Where are those who would now take up his banner?

By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 17, 2011

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Class Warfare, Corporations, Deficits, Democracy, Economy, Education, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Koch Brothers, Middle Class, Minimum Wage, Politics, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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