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.
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.
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.”