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Forum Post: Money Talks in Many Ways: Election-Season Reflections on How the Ruling Class Rules By Paul Street

Posted 1 year ago on Oct. 25, 2012, 11:48 a.m. EST by flip (7025)
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A solid majority of Americans has long told pollsters that the wealthy few and their giant corporations and financial institutions exercise too much power in “the world’s most celebrated democracy”[1] the United States. The sentiment is understandable given the nation’s dollar-soaked political system, usefully described by left critics as “the best democracy money can buy” (Greg Palast) and (less humorously) subject to “an unelected dictatorship of money” (Edward S. Herman and David Peterson).[2]

That dictatorship is in fine form two weeks out from the next presidential election. It’s wrong and even childish to say that there’s no difference at all that matters between the nation’s two dominant political organizations and their standard-bearers Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Still, behind the official media story line of an epic contest between two “very different” and “sharply polarized” parties and candidates, the only two officially viable contenders bow to the wishes of capital and defy majority opinion by agreeing, in the words of the left activist Bruce Dixon, that:

•“The federal government should NOT enact any sort of WPA-style program to put millions of people back to work.” •“Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are ‘entitlements’ that need to be cut to relieve ‘the deficit.’” •“Climate change treaties and negotiations that might lead to them should be avoided at all costs.” •The corporatist investor-rights North American Free Trade Agreement is “such a great thing it really should be extended to Central and South America and the entire Pacific rim.” •“Banksters and Wall Street speculators deserve their bailouts and protection from criminal liability, but underwater and foreclosed homeowners deserve nothing.” •“Oil and energy companies, and other mega-polluters must be freed to drill offshore almost everywhere, and permitted to poison land and watersheds with fracking to achieve ‘energy independence.’” •“The FCC should not and must not regulate telecoms to ensure that poor and rural communities have access to internet, or to guarantee network neutrality.” •“There really ARE such things as ‘clean coal’ and ‘safe nuclear energy.’” •“Oil and energy companies, and other mega-polluters must be freed to drill offshore almost everywhere, and permitted to poison land and watersheds with fracking to achieve ‘energy independence.’”
•“No Medicare for All. Forget about it eliminating the Medicare age requirement so that all Americans would qualify.” •“No minimum wage increases for you, no right to form a union, no right to negotiate or strike if you already have a union, and no enforcement or reform of existing labor laws.”[3]

As if these and other areas of rich plutocratic consensus (i.e. - the notion that the U.S. should maintain a giant Pentagon system that accounts for half the world’s military spending and amounts to a giant public subsidy for high-tech corporations) aren’t disturbing enough, the president feels compelled in the great theatrical debates to repeat his timeworn paeans to “the free enterprise system” (capitalism, or what he calls “the greatest engine of prosperity the world has ever known”[4]) – this despite the profits system’s long and ongoing record of savage, mass-murderous inequality, epic crises, empire, corruption, militarism, and (of special and unmentionable importance within official U.S. election culture) ecocide.

Why is it like this? John and Joan Q. Public and their downscale neighbors Joe and Jane Six Pack deserve an ‘A’ for sensing the plutocratic reality behind the dollar-drenched charade that passes for democracy in the U.S. Ask most U.S. citizens how rich folks’ disproportionate power is exercised, however, and the grade starts to drop dramatically. They will tell you primarily if not exclusively about the role that big money plays in paying for candidates’ expensive campaigns – about the role of campaign funders in the purchase of politicians.

This is a very important point, to be sure. As the prolific campaign finance reform advocates John Bonifaz and Jamie Raskin noted 18 years ago in the Columbia Law Review, American “representative democracy” is subjected to “the wealth primary” – the requirement that viable candidates either personally possess great wealth or enjoy strong funding connections to those with the wealth to pay for ever-more expensive campaigns.[5] Of course, those with the financial resources required for serious contention and victory in America’s costly “winner-take-all” elections system are hardly in the business of paying for genuinely public-oriented office-seekers who sincerely wish to reflect majority populist and progressive sentiments in government.[6]

The wealth primary has long imposed deep plutocratic scars on America’s dollar-democracy, but the problem is worse now than ever. With the 2012 elections on track to cost an all-time record of more than $6 billion, a tiny and disproportionately wealthy slice of the populace (significantly smaller than just “the 1%”) will account for a wildly disproportionate share of the dollars required to feed the burgeoning “money and -media election complex” that has “effectively become the foundation of electoral politics in the United States.”[7]

The problem isn’t just money per se. As the liberal Sunlight Foundation noted in a major campaign finance study titled The Political One Percent of One Percent last year, “It's the 1 percent of the 1 percent who account for almost a quarter of all individual campaign contributions…. There are very few Americans who can afford to write the kind of big checks that candidates depend on” (emphasis added). Reflecting on Sunlight’s finding, University of Maryland political scientist Jim Gimpel told reporters to "Bear in mind that wealth is concentrated…this donation pattern… reflects the concentration of wealth in this country.”[8]

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[-] 0 points by shadz66 (19985) 1 year ago

Thanx for this flip & having an an idea that you live on the Jersey shore - here's hoping that you and yours are safe and well and wishing all the very best of luck mate.

pax, amor et lux ...