Money And Politics: The Heart Of The Motherfucking Monster

A brief digression on politics.

No, no, I know, I don’t want to talk about politics either. Politics is an ebola tornado: it’s just shit and blood whirling about in a toxic funnel. It’s all gone Biff and George McFly — we don’t like Biff the bully because he’s a bully, but we at least respect him for having the strength of his cinderblock convictions. McFly we can’t respect because he just cringes and needs his son to travel back in time to teach him how to throw a punch. And so we vote to let Biff lead us for a while because at least he gets shit done, even if that means he drives us full speed into a manure truck.

Or something. It’s a tenuous metaphor, but there’s something to it.

Anyway.

Let’s say that you want to actually make some hay with politics.

Let’s say you want to get shit done.

And I don’t mean the current Republican mode of “get shit done,” which is really just to run around at top-speed with a pair of scissors trying to cut up every piece of legislation that they don’t agree with. “NO OBAMACARE. NO NET NEUTRALITY. CLIMATE CHANGE? WHATEVER, CANADA WILL LOOK BETTER AS A BEACH ANYWAY. IMPEACH THE TERRORIST FISTBUMPER. EBOLAGHAZI 2016.” Their only original idea is a Dalek-like bark of EXTERMINATE. It’s a wonder most Republican voters haven’t yet cottoned to the hypocrisy in play within their party’s leadership — they claim to be about small business, but continually enact legislation that supports big business, and actively fight net neutrality and healthcare marketplaces (both of which can reward smaller businesses). They claim to be about small government — “Get out of my healthcare!” — until it’s about a woman and her uterus, at which point every GOP politician grabs a speculum and hastily scribbles an impromptu OB/GYN degree on a Bounty paper towel with crayon. They say government should get out of marriage, but what they mean is that government should be all up in your marriage, particularly if your marriage does not fit the Big Man / Little Lady religious definition, and oh hey aren’t we supposed to be a country free of legislation born of religious definitions no I guess not okay then. (The GOP should always have been the ones leading the charge for net neutrality and for gay marriage. Their opposition is indicative of their divergence from their reported mission — the sting even sharper when you realize that, apparently, conservatives overwhelmingly favor net neutrality.)

And no, I don’t mean the current Democrat mode of “not in the face, not in the face.” Where every success they earn — or is earned by another of their party — is looked on as a shameful gain, as if you just earned money by masturbating for an old clown as he threw crumpled-up hundreds at your bare chest. “DANCE FOR ME, DONKEY BOY.” *fling fling fling*

No, I mean, let’s say you actually want to start moving the needle.

Whether you love or hate regulation by the government, there’s one kind of regulation we all desperately need. That regulation is how money enters politics. That means lobbying. That means campaign contributions. That means SuperPACs. All the things you hate in politics are the top of the weed — but money? Money is the taproot. You wanna kill a weed, you gotta kill the root.

This is all obvious, and I’m ultimately naive for even bringing this up — but I’m nothing if not someone who will bang a hammer on a sheet of tin to hear the noise it makes, and so here we go:

Money imbalances democracy.

I’m not suggestion the presence of capitalism is a problem — I’m suggesting the bleedover of commercial and corporate interests into our political system is the problem.

What I mean is this:

What lines the pockets of a giant company or industry is not routinely the same thing that is in our best interests as individuals or as communities. Climate change is a pretty good example of this: the global heat death of the world is probably going to be, mmm, I’ll say “bad” for all of us. Even if you embrace a far lesser and more drastic version, the upheaval and chaos of the geopolitical system due to even subtle climate shifts is worth addressing for the way that the whip will come back to bloody our own chins.

But, of course, enacting change costs money. And may actively harm existing industries — like, say, Big Oil (which was my nickname in high school, by the way — PASS ME THE ROCK, BIG OIL, someone would cry, and then I’d hit them with a rock and they’d wail and say NO WE MEANT THE BALL WHY ARE YOU SO WEIRD). Big Oil contributes tens of millions of dollars to candidates across both political parties (though with about 3/4 of that going to Republicans, at least in 2010).

You might say, well, okay, but solar and other alternate industries can come in and spend money to gain traction, too — except of course they don’t have as much money which is why Big Oil outspends alternative energy by 10-30 times (in terms of both lobbying and campaign contributions). And, further, if they can’t get the traction, they won’t make more money, and they’ll always be behind the eight ball when it comes to being able to influence the political machine. It in effect creates a kind of entrenched corporate caste system, where industries become calcified — broken only by truly dramatic circumstances.

ISPs are profoundly powerful, and contribute lots to politicians, which is why you see this fight against net neutrality — despite the fact we should probably start looking at the Internet the way we look at our roads, which is to say, they are the intellectual transport by which we arrive at new ideas and new friends and, further, businesses big and small.

The FDA has almost no actual power because most of the power has been taken away by… well, the gigantic food industry who doesn’t want to be punished if they accidentally kill a bunch of kids by getting salmonella-infected chickenshit into a bunch of Capri Sun packets.

Healthcare and insurance are entrenched and embedded and so healthcare for folks is not optimal because it undercuts their ability to make profits on the backs of the unwell. (This is one of the greatest mysteries to me as a citizen — why we are willing to let our government protect us from harm by foreign invaders, but not by harm from invaders to our health and wellness. Of course, there we’re being sold another lie: we deny government intervention in healthcare because we believe the government is inept. Which is proven time and again by politicians who actively seek to prove government’s inherent shittiness by dismantling its functions which thus ensures its shittiness. Welcome to the self-fulfilling prophecy of tea party extremism. Our own governor in PA, Corbett, did this by gutting education and then saying, “Look, look! Education isn’t working! WEIRD, HUH.” Here’s a wacky idea: let’s improve the government services we have instead of hamstringing them and then mocking them for their slowness. Anyway, I digress yet again.)

All of this is because money has weight in politics. It’s not weight you or I have — but it is weight that corporate personages have (and more and more, remember, companies are becoming like people — which I suspect will one day translate into corporate-sponsored VOLTRON).

Further, it means that money can be spent to open the door to allow more money in politics. And every political cycle, that gap gets wider because money can be spent to — again, self-fulfilling prophecy — ensure that more money can be spent to influence politics. This adds more weight to their side of the scales. More power in the political process to them, and a smaller serving to the rest of us. To them, it’s just an investment. To us, the people, it’s a dismantling of our power and the meaning of our influence. We are increasingly a nation of Big Business held up by government which is big, but increasingly ineffectual. Whittled away like a stick by folks like the Koch Brothers, who are the not-quite-invisible oligarchs (or should I say, LOLigarchs! LOL!) of this corporate-sponsored company in which we are allowed to dwell.

And the politicians are married to this system. Money and business first.

We the People second. Maybe third. Or so far down the list we’re like ants underfoot.

And the gap, then, grows.

The rich get richer, and the rest of us have to swim harder. Which is probably a good lesson since we’re probably gonna melt all the fucking ice caps anyway. THANKS, JERKS.

Maybe the politicians love this system. Maybe they feel shackled to it.

No idea.

What matters, though, is that very little else is easy to change until you stick the stake in the vampire’s heart — the heart of how money enters politics. Lobbying, campaign contributions, SuperPACs, etc. If you were to regulate nothing else ever, then regulate that.

It won’t fix everything, not by a long shot.

But my god, the dent it would make.

P.S. read this: “Postmodern Conservatism in 36 Tweets.”

73 comments

  • Dear god, yes to all of this. I have no idea how to change it of course (except the obvious: vote! Vote! Vote! Vote!) but man I want a constitutional amendment to limit the money in the worst way.

    Let’s do this.

  • There will never be an amendment to ever limit the money funneling into them. They’re the ones who have to vote for it. Just like they’re not going to vote for term limitations because they’d be voting themselves out of a job. The only way we’ll be able to control the money is to attack the corporations who fund them. And as long as people need gas more than they need to breathe that AIN’T going to happen either.
    If there were some way to put these issues on the ballot and allow the American people to demand the change we’d have a hope of doing it. But only if the President made it a Presidential decree. If he’s even allowed to do that.
    We recently had the opportunity to overthrow one of the WORST members in Congress Mitch McConnell and we missed it. He’s the 10th richest Senator, his net worth 22.5 million. He’s had 30 years to collect that wealth from every lobbyist and special interest group he can suck in. He’s the trouble maker, the one who leads the charge to shut down the government every time the vote isn’t going his way. He thrives on the power he has being the majority leader and uses blackmail to get what he wants and it has nothing to do with what’s best for the American people. Get rid of him and we might have a chance. Or find a way to send the bill for the shut down to each and every Congressman. You don’t do your job, you don’t get paid. You continue to not do your job you get fired. Can you impeach a Congressman. I need to go look that up.

  • Wolf PAC is doing yeoman work to undo the damage of the Citizens United and fight the stranglehold money has over our political system. They are working at the states level to get a Free and Fair Elections amendment to the constitution via a convention of the states. Dylan Ratigan, Dr. Lawrence Lessig, Cenk Uyger are The PAC’s primary drivers. They are making interesting and progress with a radical idea and anyone disgusting with the level of corruption in our politics and the undue influence a very small minority holds over our political progress should check it out at the very least. http://www.wolf-pac.com/ Corporations are not citizens and spending billions to subvert free and fair elections is not speech.

  • Good rant. The thing is, everybody should be interested in politics because, like it or not, politics affects everybody.

    Money has to go, no doubt. Congress is bought and paid for, and they certainly aren’t doing the will of the majority of people.

    Republicans aren’t trying to ‘conserve’ anything, rather they are trying to go backwards almost across the board, therefore they are Regressives in my book.

    The media – owned by people who help buy the government – is equally problematic.

    Capitalism naturally leads to monopolies, which is where everything is headed right now. And there is no such thing as a ‘free market’, not with the existence of Wall Street, bail-outs, speculation, billionaires, etc.

  • Money is the root of all evil after all..

    I feel like I have to post at least a quick comment on this, but I want to post a massive wall of text.

    First- The Supreme Court decided to change the interpretation of a law which made a major contribution to the current problem. Like the law said “puppies are cute” and the Supreme Court ruled that it meant that “corporations are people”. So now it’s legal for corporations to do all sorts of nonsense… including pelvic-thrusting millions into political campaigns.

    Second- The healthcare industry hates the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka Obamacare) which really has no link to Obama other than him signing it into law. The system was first introduced by Mitt Romney.. we should be calling it Romneycare.. Anyway.. they hate it so much because it reduces their profit margins from 40% down to 30%. Don’t feel bad for them… they’re still making a crapton.

    Third- The Republicans and Democrats aren’t going to change anything. They like the system the way it is. A politician today only has 1 job… get elected. The lobbyists tell them how to vote. Lawyers write the bills for them. Speachwriters write what they say. All the politicians have to do is put their pants on in the morning and not piss off the voters in their state. Until we as a people get tired of their shenanigans, nothing will change.

    • Actually, the real quote is that it’s the LOVE of money that’s the root of all evil, which is accurate here. Money itself is inert — we invented it, and should ostensibly control it.

    • Mostly agree, with one correction: Lawyers don’t write the bills, lobbyists do. Yes, the people who are paid to promote a single point of view actually write the text of many/most of the bills. The politicians don’t need to be bought under the table, because the people writing the laws are already paid for above the table. Theoretically, staffers are supposed to be the ones writing the bills, but lobbyists do the work to write most of the language and give it to overworked staffers who are more than happy to not have to do the work.

      • True! I knew I made a mistake somewhere. Posted this from work, so I didn’t have a chance to go back and reread it. It makes me wonder what politicians actually do all day… I know they act like they are important, but do they actually serve any interests other than their own?

  • Yes. Exactly. Ugh…depressing. That last link (36 tweets) makes me want to cry…or just hide my head and go write more words about a world I can actually control. Other than keep voting and signing petitions…not quite sure what to do…

  • For years, I’ve been saying we’re turning into an Elitist country (a la Alpha Centauri), where Big Business is the government and the government IS Big Business. I hope I’m wrong, but with the latest elections it seems more and more plausible. The only way to stop it is to regulate funds during campaigns.

    Whomever shouts loudest usually gets the most votes, and it’s usually whomever has the most money can shout the loudest.

  • What you said, Chuck. Makes me want to write a book about the fundamentalist takeover of the GOP in the late 1980s and figure out how true conservatives let that happen. Oh, right. I did that. Now I just gotta get it published. Thanks for the great rant.

  • When the Supremes decided that monetary contributions to politicians were a form of speech, they spelled the doom of our democratic system. Electoral democracy is now just a hollow facade for the corporate plutocrats who own and run this country, Elections have devolved into a pathetic, expensive sham.

  • Never understood the argument against regulation … what is the alternative? Rely on the goodness of people? Yeah, that’s going to work.

    • Regulation cannot exist without people, so we’re still relying on “the goodness of people,” only from an elite few rather than the less elite masses. With regulation comes the need for finances to support the oversight to said regulation. The more constrictive the regulation, the more oversight is required to enforce adherence to the regulation. A regulation gives someone or a group of someones decision-making power over someone else or group of someones elses. That someone else is then powerless and is taxed to benefit the oversight of that powerlessness. In other words, someone surrenders a freedom in order for a regulation to exist.

      We can agree some regulations are more than justifiable for the benefit of a democratic society. Buildings constructed to a specific code so they don’t fall over in a stiff breeze and hurt people, for example. Other regulations, like what race can drink out of which public fountain, not so much. Remember, after slavery there was a small window of time when African-Americans had the unrestricted right to vote in this country, and some were even elected to state congresses before the “goodness of the people” allowed Jim Crow regulations to limit their ability to vote. I think most people today would argue against a Jim Crow law, yes?

      So yes, reforming the current regulations for the flow of the monies used to further political awarenesses and agendas would be a healthy thing for the citizens and corporations of this country. But playing devils advocate, who would we put in charge of the regulation? More politicians maybe? The Electoral College? The waitstaff of the Off-Street Cafe? What taxes are going to be raised for the payrolls of those on the regulatory committee? Who are we going to make Elite for this? What set of ethics are we going to bind them to? Who is going to audit their work? Are they going to be government employees or private company contractors? What security clearances are they going to have? What prosecution authority are they going to have? Do we give them badges? Guns? Are they going to be accountable to the IRS? The SEC? The President? Tom Cruise? What prison do we send violators to? Is it a felony to violate the regulation? A misdemeanor? An act of treason? Will we sanction all the corporation or just the people committing the crime?

      Unfortunately this isn’t a simple case of waving a magic wand and having everything become Utopia overnight. We should never be pantsers when it comes to lawmaking. Change for the SAKE of change is seldom constructive, and gives us things like the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Executive Order 9066, and the Homeland Security Act of 2002. If we’re going to make this work in a way that still benefits and serves the people we need to have a plan and a few fail safes. Because when we make these changes, we the people as individuals will be subject to the same rules, whether directly or indirectly, thereby potentially limiting our already diminished ability to lobby our Congress on behalf of causes we hold dear.

      Just saying.

  • I liked your blog until you called me, a Tea Party member, an extremist!! Have you ever been to a Tea Party rally or meeting? Didn’t think so! Our average age is 50 yrs old…we love our country, we believe in smaller government, the 2nd amendment.. less Regulations that are stifling small business….less taxes…less corruption..as in the IRS scandal, who used their power to go after the White House political opponents,
    and as for Global warming…climate change….whatever…its being debunked for what it is….just follow the money….Al Gore is filthy rich for “lying” about the climate, he’s the biggest hypocrite, flies everywhere in his private jet…so called scientist want their grant money to keep flowing…read some real research about the global climate, with REAL scientist……William Happer from Princeton University…John Coleman, co founder of the Weather Channel to name two.
    As for the Koch Brothers, they employ 60,000 people…they just donated 25 million dollars to the United Negro College Fund…they donate millions of their money to cancer research, universities, hospitals. I’d like to learn what organizations George Soros and Tom Steyer donate their millions to.
    As for Obamacare…look on You Tube..for John Gruber, one of the architects of the legislation, who admits they had to lie about the bill to get it passed because we STUPID Americans don’t know anything.
    We Tea Party people are just as tired of the corruption on both sides of the aisle. Harry Reid became rich in the Senate, gee….how does that happen??
    The Republicans won last week for a reason…not because people love the Republicans, the American people are tired of intrusive government, our borders unsecured, illegal immigrants coming across our border, with disease, and I’m sure some of them are terrorist.
    Look for Dennis Michael Lynch on line, he has made a few documentaries on the border crisis, no one in Congress, on either side want to see it or deal with it.
    I’m just as mad at Bush, when he didn’t secure the borders, like he was supposed to!
    We are weak in the eyes of the world, and that makes us vulnerable….and I don’t care if that sounds harsh! With strength there is power…
    As much money that the Unions, Steyer, Soros, Democrat’s spent trying to defeat Republicans, didn’t matter, because the American people are PISSED OFF!! We don’t like the change we are seeing and we want it stopped!!
    PROUD TEA PARTY MEMBER!!!

    • “The decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record, new surface temperature figures released Thursday by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration show.

      “The agency also found that 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when modern temperature measurement began. The warmest year was 2005. The other hottest recorded years have all occurred since 1998, NASA said.

      “James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that global temperatures varied because of changes in ocean heating and cooling cycles. ‘When we average temperature over 5 or 10 years to minimize that variability,’ said Dr. Hansen, one of the world’s leading climatologists, ‘we find global warming is continuing unabated.’”

      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/science/earth/22warming.html

      But, but . . . scientists, what do they know anyway, right?

    • Wow, you trotted out Al Gore? As if oil, coal and gas companies aren’t the richest corporations on the planet with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

      Beyond that, just more Tea Party drivel.

    • Dorothy,

      Democrats and Republicans are corrupt. Democrats and Republicans don’t respect privacy. Democrats and Republicans have bad views of intellectual property law. Democrats and Republicans take bribes. I grant all of those things.

      The Koch brothers support libertarian causes. Some libertarian causes that the Koch brothers support, I support too – an end to the War on Drugs, less military activity overseas, an end to ethanol subsidy programs. But other causes they support just don’t make sense to me, and I especially don’t like that they have chosen the Republican party as their weapon.

      Businesses are regulated less now, and wealthy people are taxed less now, than they were twenty years ago. Minimum wage is also lower, adjusted for inflation. So if those things were going to increase jobs and prosperity for most Americans, it would have happened already. Instead, by cutting regulation, keeping minimum wage low, and keeping taxes on the very richest Americans low, we are killing the middle class and the working poor. That’s the truth, and the Koch brothers want to make the problem worse, not better.

      From 2001 to 2012, the long term capital gains tax on investments was capped at 15%. If you were a billionaire shareholder like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Paris Hilton, or the Koch brothers and you sold $100,000,000 of your shares that year, you would pay a 15% tax. You wouldn’t pay Social Security tax or Medicare tax either. So your federal total tax liability for the year was 15%. Now for comparison, if you were a successful businessman making $1,000,000 per year in salary, you would pay around $340,000 in total taxes to the Federal government. That’s 34%. If you were a working person with a good job making $60,000 per year in salary, you would pay around $12,000 in income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax. That’s 20%. So the businessman pays more than you but the mega-rich pays less, as a percentage.

      In 2013+ due to the end of some of the tax cuts under President Bush and due to the Obamacare provisions, the mega-rich guy from my example sees his tax liability hit 24%. The executive making $1,000,000 per year sees his tax liability hit maybe 39%. The working person sees the same 20%.

      When President Reagan left office in 1988, the same mega-rich guy would have been paying 28%.

      The real reason the Republicans are screaming about Obamacare and socialism is that they don’t want the tax burden they carried from 1940 to 2001 to return. But the truth is, they have more money than they could ever use and they were paying more in taxes for over sixty years. They would rather see children starve, and kids get poor education – leading to a bigger need for welfare, a bigger need for food stamps, and a bigger need for police and prisons – than pay a fair share.

      Big government doesn’t always screw up. The US federal government regulates air traffic. How many plane crashes in the past fifty years came from government error? A lot of the reason “big government doesn’t work” is from what Chuck already described – the Republicans cut funding for a program, and then when the underfunded program can’t get a task finished they use that as a reason to condemn government programs.

      The insurance company, the pharmaceutical companies, and the medical industry want more profits, and they’re willing to let people die to get them. Obamacare is a small step in the right direction. We need you to help stop us from heading the wrong way.

    • Oh, and I don’t give a hoot about global warming. I really don’t. But I have a friend that spent three weeks in China, and came back with a cough that lasted six weeks. Please do a web search for air quality in Chinese cities. Is that the world we want for our kids?

      Asthma rates around the world are increasing. It’s not just genetics. Air quality is getting worse. If the libertarians get their way, their free market paradise will include a booming gas mask industry. That’s what I want to avoid.

      Also, renewable energy is renewable and domestic. Saudi Arabia can stop selling us oil, but they can’t stop our flow of wind, sunlight, or tides. We shouldn’t be doing business with nations that won’t let their daughters get educated and executes them for the crime of being rape victims. We get 40 million barrels of oil per month from that nation, and the fact that we’re paying money to such a backwards country is a crime, period.

  • Wow. Both for the rant and some of the comments. I think a couple of points are worth raising.

    1. “The American People” is not a homogeneous conglomerate. It’s made up of people with different ideas and beliefs and no, they don’t all agree with you.

    2. Climate change really is a thing. Scientists aren’t going to get rich for perpetrating this as a huge hoax (trust me on this; there’s no money in science – unless you own a pharmaceutical corporation). Two people saying it’s a myth doesn’t trump the hundreds who say it’s real. It’s hard for people who aren’t trained to understand, I guess. But that doesn’t put it up for debate.

    3. Whichever side of the political spectrum you land on, why would you feel that it’s okay that corporations get more say because they have more dollars? Chuck’s basic premise is sound. Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, corporations aren’t people, they don’t have morals, and they shouldn’t get access to free speech. That’s for US. The people.

  • Common sense people? Property owners only voting? So, if the tea baggers had their way, we’d still have plantations with slaves. There would be no women’s suffrage, no birth control options for women, no free lunch (or school for that matter). We, the plebes, would have no affordable medical care. Born in Hooverville, die in Hooverville–wait, there is that dim hope you’re brilliant enough to survive your birth, your uneducated barefoot childhood to become rich enough to afford an education so that you can do work to eventually afford to own property one day before you die?? How feasible is that? Especially not when your life expectancy is 38 and you’re busy pregnant again and taking care of three kids at 17. Christ.

    Wait? Why are all your Tea Partiers white?

    As for the original point, the right wingers aren’t going to want to change a system that gives them the edge. It isn’t about logic. It’s about what keeps them in power so they can make sure the rich keep every penny possible and the hungry can have a Bible jammed down their throats. And women can just stick a Bible where the sun don’t shine. Same goes for gays. Back to chemical castration for the crime of consensual gay sex?

    President Lincoln was a big flaming liberal of his day, yeah he was the first “Republican” but in those days the party values/platforms were reversed. The tea partiers today are the equivalent of the slave driving plantation owners and their supporters. In these days you hate undocumented immigrants.

    If I believed in a god, I’d pray for it to protect me, my kids and the whole planet from the tea baggers and all the other right wing sadists. You’d see us all starving with nothing, while you watch from your ivory towers gorging on cake and drinking tea with your alabaster pinkies stuck out.

    So glad Pres. Obama’s got his veto pen. It’s like the magic wand that will save us all.

    • For the record, “conservative” does not equal “reactionary”. I am a pro public-school, pro gay-marriage, anti-slavery conservative. I am also anti children-starvation, and (mostly due to articles I’ve read or been directed to by Chuck) a borderline feminist. So please don’t lump me in with pro-starvation, pro-slavery group you talk about here.

      • What are your views on birth control and abortion? If you have moderate to liberal views there then the far right won’t claim you as one of theirs. If you have what are considered “conservative” views there, then you are not a feminist not even borderline.

        You say “anti-starvation” — does that mean you are pro-food stamps? I am clearly talking about the right wing and the Tea Party subset as well as responding to a couple of Tea Partier posts above. If it doesn’t apply to you, I’m glad. Truly. I wish it were all fictitious people in a funny novel I wrote.

        • Birth control? All for it. My wife and I frequently use it. Do I think those privately-owned companies whose owners’ religion are against it *should* provide insurance that covers birth control? Fuck yes, I do. Do I think the government should compel them to do so? No more than I think they should be able to compel their employees to go to daily bible studies.

          Abortion? In many cases it is understandable (rape, child will have serious health problems), in some cases (danger to the mother among others) it is necessary. In these cases and similar cases I have no qualms. I do think that too many unnecessary abortions happen (then again, I also think too many reality TV shows happen). But in any case I certainly don’t think the government should be able to tell you whether you can or can’t have one.

          A lot of my conservatism comes from the fact that even if I don’t like something, I don’t think I (or anyone) have the right to compel you not to do it.

          But I am not here to debate politics. I think Chuck’s post was SPOT-fucking-ON, and that the amount of money flowing through lobbyists and the government is seriously detrimental to a majority of Americans.

          While I thought those posts you were responding to were ignorant as hell, I don’t like the way you lump together those those you disagree with and dehumanize them as a group. That was my point.

          Again, I am not here to fight about politics. If you would like to continue this discussion, my email is Kveldman13@gmail.com

          • I appreciate your respect in addressing me, not something I am used to when I throw out my political opinion (note to self: stay off Disqus). I actually did have a question for you, so I sent you an email. Take care

  • Amen brother. As a Canadian, when I started learning about American politics I was shocked to learn of the lobbying and influence-peddling of large corporations.

    • Yeah, I think Americans would be shocked to see how laughably misinformed they are by their own “media.” From the outside, the far right republican machinations are dead obvious. And the average Joe conservative won’t know it until their ‘betters’ close the gate on their ark and leave them for dead.

      • The funny thing is that some Americans are influenced more by their social circles than by the facts. A friend of mine told me that he “hates Obama”. I asked him why and we went back and forth about it. The truth was that most of the things he blamed Obama for were caused by the actions of the Republican party. I destroyed every one of his arguments with facts and links to news articles from conservative news sources so he couldn’t blame the “liberal media”. When all was said and done his final argument was “well I just don’t like Obama”. He’s not a racist and he doesn’t know Obama personally, so it only makes sense that he dislikes Obama simply because Obama is not a Republican.

        There are a lot more people like my friend here in America. Some of them you can talk to until you are blue in the face, but it won’t matter. They will go with what their social circle tells them to no matter what.

  • Spot. Freaking. On. Thank you for mentioning, even in passing, that the current corruption riddled, self-interest addled GOP does not speak for the majority of conservatives in at least one area. I have given up the title of conservative and taken on the mantle of the moderate. Not that it fits any better, but I can at least look myself in the mirror without breaking out in hives. Also, not that the Dems are any better with their naive (perhaps suspiciously so) world view and we’re sorry we’re rich, but may we have some more please, attitude. In plain fact, I am tired of the political carnival and wish all of them would just get off the ferris wheel and go home. Maybe stopping the corporate food fare would cause some of them to do that.

    • Respectfully, I think the picture painted by the Republicans that Democrats just want to suck the rich dry to benefit lazy and stupid people is a fantasy.

      The wealthy benefit most of all from the rule of law. They have the most property to be protected by police, firefighters, and the military. They have the most money invested in business deals governed by our court system. Their wealth draws upon commerce that uses regulated communications, and public-funded infrastructure for communications and shipping. They employ people educated by public education. They do business with people educated by public education.

      In turn, the tax that affects the wealthiest Americans the most is the capital gains tax. It is currently capped at 15%. Under Republican President Ronald Reagan it was lowered to 20% but he signed a law in 1986 that raised it back to 28%. That’s why a multi-millionaire that makes 10 million dollars from mutual funds in a year pays 15% tax on his income while I pay 20% on mine – and I’m no millionaire.

      We are the wealthiest nation in history. Providing good health care, food, shelter, and education to every US citizen is a tiny cost next to the total Gross Domestic Product. There is no legitimate moral objection to this. Note, for example, that countries like Denmark and Sweden with great social services program do not have an explosion of “welfare moms” or anything of the sort.

      I have no moral problem with shifting the tax burden further off the poor and the middle class and onto the rich.

  • Very true and very disturbing. Another thing that money should get out of (in terms of politicizing) is the media, actually, because while money as a definitive decision maker is the greatest detriment of the political system, the only ones who could change anything – those un(mis)informed, uninterested, (sometimes) uneducated sheeple-voters – will never experience the kind of influx of diverse and thoughtful discourse that is actually fit to tickle their intellect and change their mind. Because all the liberal and intelligent and discursive media that is still out there holding the fort against ‘bought news’ will only ever be consumed by the people that are already ‘in the know’. So long as there exist big media conglomerates who ARE Big Business and therefore follow the same line of covering their own asses and assets via the ‘democratic’ process, that will not ever change.
    I’m afraid to say it, but short of a good and proper global war or a continent breaking apart under their asses, I have no hope whatsoever that this downward spiral can be turned around. And that, frankly, scares the shit out of me.

  • Couldn’t agree more. Spent a number of years in the beltway working with lobbyists, members of Congress, and Congressional staffers. If you don’t have the money to play, your chances of being heard are extremely small – it happens, but it’s an up-cliff battle.

    I was shocked when the Supreme Court opened the door for corporate flushing of the political process with money. A travesty. Another commenter stated that the founding fathers wanted only property owners to be able to vote. Whatever your take on that (seems like a financial basis for racism and class injustice to me, but hey I’m just a Republican so what do I know), I’m pretty sure our founding mothers and fathers are rolling over in their graves about the fact that corporations can now massively influence the vote.

    One thing I will say is lobbying itself is not inherently evil. It’s a tool, and in it’s best form it allows people who don’t have regular and easy access to Congress members (because you have little knowledge of how to go about it or just can’t afford to spend months or years in D.C. making your case) to be heard. The problem with lobbying is that it takes money, and that means that entities with gobs more money than us poor individual slobs can hire more lobbyists and thus nearly drown out the rest of us. However there are many top notch lobbyists that do outstanding pro-bono work for good causes, and they get a lot of positive work done in spite of the gargantuan inflows of special interest money. Still, to say the lobbying process is in bad need of a complete do-over is a painfully massive understatement.

    Pen Monkey for President! Of course you’ll need a super-PAC to fund your campaign, but I’m sure you made enough friends with this post to endear you to some mega-corporation or uber-1%er.

  • Spreading well-researched information is the best way to get anything done. We used to give so much money to dems and Green Party candidates. We stopped these last couple years. There’s no end to the amounts needed for the next battle. It’s an endless cycle and, like you said, it’s no contest once people like the Koch bros throw their cash in the ring. I make sure I have my facts and I get in calm, long, face-to-face discussions with people who get “news” from misguided sources. Steady, calm release of factual info in the face of hysterical bullshit is the only way to combat the current climate of hate/ignorance/fear.

  • I agree with everything you’ve said–kind of a daily rant of mine, as a follower of Robert Reich.

    I work for a large corporation, no worse than most, better than some, but every time they talk about giving employees more “choices” for retirement or health, we inevitably know it means less of what we had before.

    The electorate isn’t helping itself, though, especially Democrats. I live in Republican Arizona where 44% of voters turned out for the election. One of the folks elected is woman who won the Superintendent of Schools by a sliver–her bio proclaims that she’s self educated in the ways of education, doesn’t need extra letters after her name; she actually writtes “education”, in quotes, as though it’s not a real thing. I’m going to guess that about 24% of Arizona’s population got her into office (as I said, she won by a sliver). She beat an ASU professor of education who is a Vet, a PhD, Hispanic, Arizona born and raised, and who was backed by The Chamber of Commerce, who didn’t want businesses to think we were morons.

    Big money Republicans outspent Dems almost 7 -1 in the governor’s race. It is Arizona, after all, but even for Arizona, the outcome proved that either we are stupid, lazy or both.

    The first thing we can do is freakin’ VOTE

  • Thanks, Chuck, as always. The greedy and powerful prey on the ignorance and fear of everyone else. I listen in utter disbelief to the flagrant lies that wealthy, influential people peddle to the detriment of the majority of their fellow citizens of this nation; I see the enthusiastic public response to these lies; and I despair. At these moments, I actually wish I believed in Hell and a vengeful God. For (as a historian) I know quite well that most of these people will not suffer in this life for the evil they do to others. But your posts, full of such insane sense, help me believe that the daily fight for right and justice in this present world is still worth it.

  • Great click-bait article, Chuck! You always impress me with your marketing skills.

    Yes, money affects politics and policies. It always has and always will. We’re screwed and all that. Everyone falls into nicely categories labels such as “conservative” or “liberal” and each person completely follows the ideology of one political party or another. Blah, blah, blah.

    We all know that isn’t true, but it comforts us to put labels on things.

    However, I want to open people’s eyes to the whole net-neutrality debate because it has become a fanatical shitstorm from both sides of the argument. There are financial consequences for every law or regulation passed by the government. People seem to forget that the government has no money – it receives money from the people. And by receives, I mean forcibly takes. Don’t think it’s by force? Don’t pay your taxes and see what happens.

    So, when the government steps in and tells a business it must do this or do that, who pays for it? That would be you, my friend. In one way or another, you are paying for it.

    So Comcast forces Netflix to pay extra. Why did this happen? Was it because the CEO of Comcast is sitting in his evil lair with his bald cat thinking of ways screw other companies out of money? I am sure many people see it that way and, surprisingly, those people probably have the generally opinion that there are people who just earn too much money.

    Let me pose another possible answer. Maybe it costs a bit more to send a movie through a network router than it does a 140 character text message. Perhaps there is a cost to maintaining the infrastructure that internet providers built. If the government steps in and says all internet traffic must be treated the same, what do you think will happen?

    This is simple. If Comcast is forcing Netflix to pay more to send their massive globs of data but the government says they can’t do that anymore, who do you think is going to pick up the cost? Again, that would be you.

    The alternative is also equally as simple. Everyone gets shitty internet service.

    Another alternative is everyone pays a per usage fee. Maybe they can have every pay per megabyte downloaded or uploaded. How does that sound? That is probably the most fair solution. If you want to download globs of data, then you should pay more than someone who only sends three text messages per month.

    Personally, I’d rather have companies pay for that. Yes, I know, Netflix passes that cost to their customers, but only their customers are paying for it, not everyone else.

    Keep the government out of it. Let the companies fight it out. If you let them fight it out allows them to innovate. Someone (maybe Netflix) will find a way to compress their data even further. This is how we get cool new things – people working on solving problems such as “how do we get Comcast to not charge us more to send huge globs of data over their network?”

    Government and regulations are never the answer.

    • “Great click-bait article, Chuck! You always impress me with your marketing skills.”

      This is not a real great way to get me to listen to your comment, Edward. My post is plainly not marketing, nor click-bait. Posts like this won’t sell books — it’s just me talking about something I think is important. It’s only click-bait if you define it as, “Someone posted a blog I didn’t agree with, and so therefore it is click-bait.”

      “People seem to forget that the government has no money – it receives money from the people. And by receives, I mean forcibly takes. Don’t think it’s by force? Don’t pay your taxes and see what happens.”

      This is very silly. We pay taxes as part of our contract — the one we agree to by living in this country. It’s like paying rent. My landlord isn’t “forcibly taking” my money, but “don’t pay your rent and see what happens” still results in me being booted out on my ass. Not paying for things you agreed to pay is problematic, and not paying for taxes — which you agree to pay as part of the whole CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES thing — is part of that. You may think taxes are too high or too low or too whatever, but they’re the fee. You can either seek to change that legislation or find another country that doesn’t make you pay taxes. Which I assume will be some island somewhere populated by you and nobody else where the roads are made of turtle bones and the Internet is actually just the clouds in the sky floating by.

      Far as Comcast and Netflix — uhh, the only person talking about Netflix here is you. Netflix and Comcast is a complicated issue, far more complicated than you paint it — and it does indeed have less to do with net neutrality than some folks think. (Though depending on who you talk to, it could still be a case of corporate abuse. And again who you talk to depends on whether the abuse lies with Comcast or with Netflix.)

      Net neutrality is about not ceding the internet to dominant corporate interests who tier access. The US is already way the fuck behind on broadband and internet, so let’s not pretend that somehow these companies are going to magically fix it. They won’t. There’s almost no competition in that space and many areas have one provider they can go to only. That’s not how you get innovation. We need the Internet like we need roads at this point: not physical transit but intellectual and commercial transit. So, it’s time to ensure the roads are open to all and that random companies (huge ones, at that) can’t start to set up toll booths or fast-lanes. (And yes, I recognize there that there’s a complicated issue with actual roads and actual toll booths but overall, I think the metaphor works without diving into the nuance of our transportation system.)

      — c.

    • With respect to Net Neutrality:

      Our internet service providers have an effective monopoly in most of the areas they cover and a duopoly in others. Up until this April, I had to pay whatever Comcast charged for internet access because my only other option was dialup or moving to another town.

      So where’s the financial incentive for Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable to innovate on pricing, on bandwidth, on services? There is none. They just do as little as possible to get rich, and an end to Net Neutrality gives them more opportunities to abuse their position. This is why Google thinks it’s profitable in the long term to offer 900 Mbps to customers for $70 per month in some cities while the previous ISPs were offering 2% of the bandwidth at 80% the price. Even in the cities where Comcast and Verizon compete with each other, the price of bandwidth hasn’t dropped by more than half in ten years.

      The real solution is more competition in ISPs. But now we have an entrenchment problem – even if regulation changes made it possible for any Internet Service Provider to put down fiber anywhere in the country, Upstart Service Provider X (USPX) looking to battle Comcast in Philadelphia (for example) has to charge customers enough to cover the costs of new infrastructure while Comcast does not. So Comcast can lower their Philadelphia prices just long enough to put USPX out of business, buy all of USPX’s physical infrastructure, and then put prices right back to today’s levels.

      That’s why we need Net Neutrality in the US. We wouldn’t need it if 90% of the homes in the country had five or more choices for hide speed internet connections, because then the market actually would solve the problem for us. But we don’t have that.

      Now with respect to the government, you’re right that men with guns will show up if you don’t pay your taxes. But if I show up on your property with a gun to take your stuff, those same men with guns will show up to stop me. Paying taxes is part of the social contract. You and I may disagree what’s on the social contract, but I’m pretty sure we agree that there should be some kind of publicly funded agency to prevent murder and theft. The nuance around everything after that is open to discussion, but if you don’t like paying your taxes, go somewhere without a government and leave the rest of us alone.

    • I’d like to add one more thing: ISP companies are already subject to government and regulation. The problem, to my mind, is that they’re being regulated as though “internet service” were a market. Since the ISP business doesn’t resemble a market in any meaningful way, these regulations are ill-suited to the purpose of regulating ISPs. It’s not a question of whether or not the business should be regulated; it’s a matter of applying the regulations which best fit the industry.

  • Can’t read this and not think of the much-missed Mr. Zappa:

    They just takes care
    Of Number One
    An’ Number One ain’t you
    You ain’t even Number Two

    The meek shall, in fact, inherit nothing.

  • Thanks, bookmarking this for when I get to the edit on the last novel I wrote. I think you just helped me clarify a large part of what the book is about.

  • Sadly all of this is just as true for our shower of public-school – I was going to say a very rude word here but I’ll rise above it for now – who call themselves politicians here in UK-Land, Chuck. The Conservative MPs who refuse to close the tax loopholes that allow companies like Google and Starbucks to get away with only paying 2% of the tax they owe – ‘cos those loopholes make it completely LEGAL to do that – are the same Conservative MP’s whose rich relatives, old school buddies and (of course) financial supporters are profiting from those loopholes. And that’s before you even get into the whole minefield of Murdoch owning half the British media (newspapers, tv channels, etc.) AND being a massive ‘supporter’ (for that, read ‘bankroller’) of the Conservative party…

    That’s why I wanted to slap Russell Brand across his arrogant face when he went on telly to tell everyone not to vote at the next election. Yeah, that’s the way to stick it to’em, isn’t it, Russell – ‘cos that whole Coalition thing has worked out just GREAT for us since 2011, hasn’t it? Not that YOU’D know of course, since you buggered off to Hollywood in that time… no it’s alright, we don’t want you back anytime soon…

    I personally feel that if you don’t vote, you forfeit the right to complain about anything done by the government that subsequently gets in – because you and the people like you could’ve stopped it by using the one thing a whole brunch of brave women died for and many people in other countries are STILL dying for. Although with the jokers we’ve got to choose from now, I can’t help wondering if just a straight-up revolution is the only answer. But of course I can’t say that out loud on the interweb in case the CIA are scanning this website *darts shifty looks from side to side*

    Woah, need to take my ranty head off now – it’s making me dizzy….

    • Murdoch, ugh. Remember that Bond film about Elliot Carver? A thinly disguised portrait of our Rupert.

      I agree on voting, too. I do it religiously, even if I end up voting for the monster raving looney party. Our right wing is going mad too. We have these nutters called ukip who are just nazis in disguise. They’re on and on about immigrants ‘taking’ ‘our’ jobs. I’ve worked for companies offering the kinds of jobs the immigrants are doing and the reason they import people from abroad is because nobody indigenous will do them. We’re all too busy getting degrees in hammering things and thinking ourselves above ‘real’ work. try recruiting someone to drive a bus or a delivery van here (for more than the minimum wage) and you’ll see what I mean.

      Cheers

      MTM

  • The problem seems to be that big business already has its hand up everyone’s arse, which means that to get endorsed by the party, which you have to do to get anywhere, you have to be one of big business’ own.

    I’m in Britain but I’m sometimes tempted to start the non wankers political party, for normal people rather than Ivory tower dwelling knovs, which is what we have both sides.

    Cheers

    MTM

  • They need to make a game show for clowns like Paul Ryan. We’ll call it “Pull Up That Ladder!” (that’ll be the catchphrase as well).

    The rules will be simple. Four people like Paul Ryan will stand on the balcony, ladder in hand. When a whistle blows four people who need health care or food or shelter or whatever will rush towards said ladders.

    If they can reach them in time their needs are met. If the plutocratic lackeys are faster they get to keep the money and use it on hookers and blow.

  • Wow… I’m only going to respond to a portion of your comment because I feel like I would have to drop to your level and toss insults around to get my point across.

    Recent science article on climate change here —> http://climate.nasa.gov/news/2180/

    If you can provide a source that debunks climate change with more credibility than NASA then I would love to see it. There really is no debate on climate change in the science community among those who study the field. The only debate that arises is when news organizations cover climate change, and those organizations have a financial interest in denying climate change.

  • “There hasn’t been any warming at all for nineteen straight years. It is, in fact, starting to get cooler.”

    “The decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record, new surface temperature figures released Thursday by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration show.

    “The agency also found that 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when modern temperature measurement began. The warmest year was 2005. The other hottest recorded years have all occurred since 1998, NASA said.

    “James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that global temperatures varied because of changes in ocean heating and cooling cycles. ‘When we average temperature over 5 or 10 years to minimize that variability,’ said Dr. Hansen, one of the world’s leading climatologists, ‘we find global warming is continuing unabated.’”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/science/earth/22warming.html

  • The tax that affects the wealthiest Americans the hardest is the capital gains tax. Since 2002, it’s been at 15%. From 1940 to 2002, the lowest it reached was 20% under President Ronald Reagan. He raised it to 28% in 1986. So if the modern Democrats are socialists trying to rob the rich to give to the lazy, then I guess Ronald Reagan was an even bigger socialist, and President George HW Bush and President Eisenhower were super socialists.

    From the creation of minimum wage until 2000, minimum wage had more earning power adjusted for inflation, than it does today.

    Last but not least, nations like Japan, Israel, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden, which have better social safety nets (welfare, financial assistance to parents, free college tuition) have greater social mobility than the United States. That means the odds of someone born in the lowest 20% of households by income level in those nations has a higher chance of reaching the highest 20% of households by income level in their lifetime than someone in the US. It also means the odds of someone born in the highest 20% of households by income level in those nations has a higher chance of reaching the lowest 20% of households by income level in their lifetime than someone in the US. Unless you believe all human achievement is governed by genetics, that means those nations are closer to a meritocracy than the US.

    A masterful propaganda campaign funded by the same people that got Citizens United a victory in the Supreme Court has convinced most of the public that American citizens are more whiney, more lazy, and more abusive of social service programs than ever before, and most of the people in poverty are victims of their own laziness and stupidity. But again, in the 1980s our government, with Republican presidents, was funding more assistance programs and using more income redistribution, and the only people screaming about it were fringe extremists.

  • Sorry my friend, but as someone who knows a hell of a lot about politics, having worked in the beltway for years, the pen monkey is right on target on this one and you’re letting your political ideologies cloud your emotions and thus your judgment.

    Our political process is driven by money. That’s not some random thing being pulled out of the sky, it’s something that all D.C. insiders know and acknowledge privately and even publicly. It has nothing to do with Republican or Democrat – both sides of the aisle are in the exact same game. Our revered pen monkey called out the ‘pubs because they’re the most egregarious of the lot, but it’s equal. In fact, you could even say the Republicans are better about it because in some sense they’re more honest about it.

    The problem with the whole “get off your ass and get it done” schtick is that, as soon as SCOTUS opened the door to unlimited money in politics, they whittled the ability of any non-billionaire citizen to be able to make much of a dent. Property owner or not, if you’re not in the top 1% of the top 1%, your ability to have real sway is very limited.

    BTW – I’m a Republican. So take your political glasses off for a minute and re-read the article in terms of what it says about how the system is corrupted – by both sides of the aisle. Denying that money is a problem just gives money that much more power, and you as an individual much less.

  • James:

    I haven’t enjoyed your presence here for quite some time, but at this point, you’ve gone over the edge into actually insulting people, myself included. As I am your host — though not a particularly gracious one — I am sending you off and asking you not comment here again. If you do, you will find your comments moderated into spam.

    As for “don’t you keep up with science,” well, yes, I do.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/20/2014-on-track-to-be-hottest-year-on-record-says-us-science-agency

    2014: hottest year on record. And it’s gonna get hotter still. So, when we all drown in boiling seawater, I hope some little voice — mine, preferably! — in the back of your mind reminds you that this is what ignorant and uninformed opinions like yours have wrought.

    — c.

  • Wow, just wow. I had to force myself to keep reading after the climate denial line. This is so ignorant and scientifically illiterate that it should be laughable. It’s not because it exemplifies the kind of irrational thinking that has taken over one of our political parties and cowed the other.

  • Goldangit, Jon, you got to make your own. For the time being you’ll have to pull yourself up by something else. Now, where’s my elbow grease and my grindstone?

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