rich

O’, The Irony!

Irony

Reading time – 111 seconds  .  .  .

In my Money, Politics & Democracy presentations I’m careful to avoid any of the demonizing of individuals that is sadly so common in our politics. Instead, I focus on the dysfunctional system that forces good people to compromise themselves. The engine of that is the insanely high cost to run a political campaign, driven primarily by the crazy high cost of television advertising.

Over $10 million was spent in the Illinois 10th Congressional District race of 2012. That was for one House seat for just two years and represents only the money spent by the campaigns. Between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown over $80 million was spent for that Massachusetts Senate seat. In 2012 over $2 billion was spent in the presidential race and over $10 billion was spent in total for all federal elections.

The message in that is that to get elected and stay elected, people have to do fundraising continuously. As much as 50% of politicians’ time in office is spent grubbing for dollars for the next election. Further, small contributions won’t get the job done, so they have to suck up to the big bucks donors. And that leaves them beholden to those big funders.

SuperPACs are funded by already crazy wealthy people and corporations. They spend their money primarily on negative television advertising and, generally speaking, it is pretty effective. The result is that our democracy is held hostage to the big funders of political campaigns and SuperPACs.

The only way to change that and reclaim democracy – rule by [all] the people – is to enact a 28th Amendment to the Constitution that will do two things: first, allow for the regulation of money in our politics; second, make it clear that corporations are not people, nor should they necessarily have all of the rights of people and that the rights of corporations may be outlined and limited by government. The only way that amendment will get passed is for us to elect legislators who will make that happen.

Senator Tom Udall (D – NM) has proposed such an amendment and expects that there will be a vote in the Senate. Of course, we don’t know whether it will pass with the necessary 2/3 majority – it might – but prospects for it to even be put up for a vote in the House seem dim, considering the obstacle mentality of House leadership. Clearly, it will require a bunch of reformer types to be in Congress to get this done. That is where Lawrence Lessig comes in.

Lessig is one of the clearest thinkers about the issue of big money stealing our democracy and I recommend any of his YouTube (here’s one) or TED (here’s one) videos. Now, though, he has identified that to make change it is necessary to play the political game and get a little dirty, to wallow in some of the same mud we want to eliminate in order to effect reform. O’, the irony of that!

To that end – to get big money out of our politics – he is organizing a SuperPAC to help to elect reformer types who will get that amendment to happen. Take a look at his video about this and watch all 5 minutes – see what you think of what he is doing.

I strongly recommend giving your full consideration to the dreadful state of our democracy – which is just this side of a full oligarchy (rule by the wealthy few) – and then take appropriate action. Just thinking about this issue isn’t enough. We – you and I – must take action.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Elephants

Reading time: 64 seconds  .  .  .

A guy is walking down the sidewalk when he spots his friend Ralph standing at the corner. He notices that Ralph is snapping his fingers.

“Hey, Ralph,” he says.  “What’s with the finger snapping?”

“I’m keeping the elephants away.”

“Ralph,” the guy says, “there aren’t any elephants around here.”

Ralph looks at him and calmly says, “See? It’s working.”

That, of course, was a knee-slapper back in 4th grade, but the behavior lives on, just as though there is always a direct cause and effect as well as good sense to our actions. But it ain’t necessarily so.

The Tea Party types think that threatening national default on America’s debt will reduce government spending.  There is absolutely no connectivity between the two, but they continue to snap their fingers for that.

President Reagan sold the nation “supply-side,” aka “trickle-down” economics. The idea was that enriching already rich people and corporations would create a “trickle-down” of wealth to all other Americans. That trickle has never even been a drip and that experiment in what President George H.W. Bush called “voodoo economics” has failed miserably. Nevertheless, there are self-labeled conservatives who continue to snap their fingers for that ongoing catastrophe as though it is good for everyone. Side note: There is nothing conservative either in that policy or in that behavior.

We have people telling us that Benghazi is a scandal and that the IRS doing its job of ensuring that not-for-profits play by the rules is a scandal. They tell us that killing the Jobs Bill was best for producing jobs. They say that additional sanctions are needed against Iran, even though the Iranians at last are playing by interim rules designed to lead to a non-nuclear Iran and additional sanctions would violate the agreement that led to the present negotiations. Finger snappers all.

Snap away, you guys living in Fantasy Land, where cause and effect are magically found in your vaporous thinking. Just get that there won’t be any elephants, regardless of what you do with your fingers.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Meals and Deals

You’re sitting at a window table of a delightful restaurant with a companion who is both interesting and interested and the conversation is engaging.  Your waiter brings your food and drink at just the right times and everything is delicious and so satisfying that you don’t even notice your growing sense of contentment.  Your belly is full and all is right in your world.

You glance to your right through the window and notice a man looking into the restaurant.  His clothes are in poor condition, he has a plastic bag slung over his shoulder and his back is hunched as he peers through the glass.  He looks hungry, but that is something that is difficult for you to understand, because you are anything but hungry.  Indeed, empathy – feeling what another person feels – is very difficult when you are feeling the opposite and it’s almost impossible to imagine a homeless person’s feeling of hunger in that moment when you have just completed your meal.

So it is for the 1%-ers and their political pawns.  Their lives are working quite well, they are more than content and, hard as some might try, there is not even a remote chance that they can feel what the members of a family feel as Mom and Dad lose their jobs, one because of a plant closure and the other to a layoff because business is depressed.  It’s impossible for the 1%-ers and their political pawns to have even a remote understanding of the powerful feelings of the members of that family as they lose their house to foreclosure.

And when Mom and Dad join the local Occupy march, it is so easy for the 1%-ers and their political pawns to dismiss them as rabble, as lazy people and to blame them for their circumstances.  According to Herman Cain, if Mom and Dad aren’t employed or rich it’s their own fault.

But here’s the thing: Mom and Dad played by the rules.  They stayed in school and got an education.  They got jobs and worked hard, paid their taxes, coached their kids’ soccer teams and went to their holiday pageants.  They followed the American playbook, page by page, doing the right things and doing things right.  And now they have lost everything and are wondering what happened to the dream they were promised.

The answer, of course, is that it was stolen from them by the big money interests who purchased their way into power and influence and who then rigged the game.  They changed the playbook and didn’t tell anyone that they were gambling with the welfare of the entire world.  They didn’t care about consequences because they would get their payday whether their bets paid off or lost, since all the rest of us would bail them out of their failed bets.  They were confident of that bailout because they had a gun to the head of every one of us.

So much has crashed and burned and so many millions of people are suffering that it is a wonder that their cries aren’t heard.  Yet what is happening instead is as predictable as the tides.  Those 1%-ers and their political pawns aren’t even able to hear the cries of hunger of the millions because the rich have always just finished that metaphorical meal.  Furthermore, they don’t want their world challenged or changed because it works so well for them, so they have their local muscle brutalize demonstrators, as though tear gas, nightsticks and rubber bullets might somehow make the challenge to the rich go away.

But they won’t.  Swatting at symptoms never makes the root cause disappear.

The root cause is an unanswered human need for fairness.  Until the game gets un-rigged and the promises kept there will be people in the streets and nearly everywhere else with the simmering anger of having played by the rules and in return gotten screwed.

There are consequences to treating people that way.  1%-ers and political pawns beware: You may not like what’s coming.  Just know that you set it up to happen this way, whether you’re simply unable or, worse, callously unwilling to understand the hunger of the people.

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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