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Citizens United and The Chamber of Congress
Our forefathers would be organizing a new revolution.
Our democracy is diseased. And unless we change something immediately, it will die.
Many people have mistaken a Capitalist country for a Democratic one. Unfortunately, the two are not interchangeable. In fact, if the peoples' voice is unprotected by fair democratic process, Capitalism easily becomes Corporatocracy (rule of corporations) or Plutocracy (rule of the wealthy). Or, even, Fascism (collective identity justifying Totalitarianism). If a Democracy does not have in place some way to monitor military, monetary, or criminal influences, then it will cease to be a Democracy at all. We will fade into something else, unnamed indeed, under the guise of democratic process, because people happen to vote.
In this country we vote, so we like to call ourselves a Democracy. Our government was designed with three branches to protect the power balance: the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. Technically we vote for two of the branches, and the third, the judicial branch, is appointed. However, due to monetary influence on the elected branches and challenges to the third, appointed branch, our Democracy has become a Corporatocracy.
What has happened since the Roberts Supreme Court has decided that Free Enterprise is more important than our individual and collective rights is that the Court has sided with the Chamber of Commerce (business network) two-thirds of the time. In the last term, the Roberts court sided with the Chamber of Commerce thirteen out of sixteen times.
Since the Court also passed a ruling this year (which is, ironically, called "Citizens United") overturning the McCain-Feingold campaign finance restrictions, the legislative branch can now receive unlimited and undisclosed funding from corporations.
Before the "Citizens United" ruling, there were limits to the money given by corporations, which also limited the control that corporations had on elected officials, and gave the people a voice. Corporations could not use "general treasury" money to support candidates. There had to be a fund allocated for this, and these donations were accessible to the public. At least then, we knew what corporations owned which candidates, and we could register our discontent by protest and by vote.
In January of 2010 the Supreme Court changed all that.
Now our judicial branch is protecting the Corporations' rights and, more so, their rights to funnel huge cash funding to members of the legislative branch in the name of freedom of speech. The legislative branch will vote even more often based on campaign contributions so as to maintain their positions in government (for example, Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Corbett was given huge contributions by the gas industry while he upholds gas drilling in the state, even though the environmental impact is not yet tested for safety), and 2012 presidential candidates will be thrown unheard of amounts of money for their campaigns from businesses.
The candidates are given to the people primarily via media and advertising paid for by corporations and wealthy individuals, so who might be looking out for the voice of the people? And which part of our government keeps a check on the corporations?
Democracy is the voice of the people.
The voice of corporations and wealthy businesses is a Corporatocracy.
Our "democracy" shall, this year, officially begin its reign as a Corporatocracy. Simply put, the corporations choose a candidate to support, and flood him or her with money. The candidate, when elected, is indebted to these corporations, and the candidate knows he or she will not have the financial backing to get elected in the next election without the support of these corporations.
If we don't think this affects policy, consider the fact that during the war in Iraq there were more contractors than troops. The same is true for the present war in Afghanistan.
Corporations are now protected under the First Amendment and can give money for or against candidates without limit and in secret. Even the IRS will not know from where some donations come. My problem is this: how does the anonymity of corporate donations make us safer as a country and strengthen our democracy? Don't people have a right to know whose voice is behind an advertisement or whose voice is influencing a candidate?
One would think, if not counter to the security of our democracy, this is counter to our national security against terrorism, would one not? Funny how national security is contingent upon who is making money from it. It will surely be easier for terrorists to filter money into political organizations in this country with the Supreme Court ruling. The same people who have supported the wars back this ruling.
The truth is that what our country has come to stand for more than Democracy and more than Freedom and all these words we use to promote "anti-terror" wars is Money. Financial gain. Greed.
Our forefathers would be organizing a new revolution.
The top one percent of the country controls forty-two percent of the country's wealth. They continue to profit while the median, middle and low-income families are suffering. And if people blame the Obama administration for his handling of the economy and the bailout, I remind you of two things.
1) The bailout came about because the financial industry had been deregulated in the 1980's – under Reagan. This caused peril and mayhem because there was not enough money to account for the risk laid on the investor. There was no insurance worth anything because none of the investments were being regulated. Obama did bail out the big banks, but he has tried to secure some sort of regulation. For our safety. Our economic stability. And our financial security.
Now the Chamber of Commerce- spearheaded by Goldman Sachs (one of the key players behind our near financial meltdown) and Dow Chemical, among other huge corporations- is funneling money into an anti-Obama campaign.
2) The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were begun nine years ago by the Bush administration. They have cost over a trillion dollars, thousands and thousands of lives, and an unnamed loss of good will in the Muslim world. Clearly these wars are one of the biggest reasons our economy is in trouble. These wars, ironically, were named "the war on terrorism," though now we have countless more enemies than when we began.
This would seem odd unless you knew the extent of the personal financial gain of the shareholders of the corporations profiting from the war. Halliburton, as one example, made $17.2 billion off the Iraq war just between 2003 and 2006...so imagine the total figure. Dick Cheney happens to be the ex-CEO of Halliburton. He received a $33 million severance package when he joined George W. Bush as Vice President. Of course there were no strings attached, just a very friendly parting.
The economic hardship our country is experiencing right now is primarily attributable to the ruinous financial exploits of big business and derivatives which are UNREGULATED, the bailout, and the trillions of dollars spent on the war...all byproducts of the spending and carelessness of the last administration.
And you can be further assured that the wealthy – those profiting from the corporate profits – had a big hand in the passage of the Republican-sponsored $801 billion tax break that fully extended the Bush-era tax cuts. This means the Republicans just spent another $801 billion on the wealthy.
And in October of last year, Goldman Sachs reported $23 billion in its annual bonus pool. What should be their gripe with Obama, who saved them and the financial institutions, as we know them? Goldman's profit was double its 2008 figure.
As the healthcare bill continues to get watered down, does no one wonder why? According to Health Care for America Now, "the companies WellPoint, CIGNA, UnitedHealth Group, Aetna Inc. and Humana posted cumulative profits of $12.2 billion. That marks a $4.4 billion, or 56 percent, increase over 2008." And they have a lobby: Blue Cross/Blue Shield alone spent over $6 million lobbying in the 2009–2010 fiscal year and have more than $1.4 million in political contributions.
If our Democracy was sick before, it is now diseased in epidemic proportions.
No other nation in the middle of this financial crisis had record profits for their corporations and losses in the job market. Meanwhile the same corporations that own your government continue to outsource our needed jobs overseas.
While we are bleeding.
Who might be looking out for the voice of the people?
The Chamber of Commerce has spent $140 million to combat the new healthcare legislation and overturn the financial regulations. In fascism there is a centralized political and economic system. Usually this has been the government taking over the banks. But what happens when the banks (and other financial institutions and insurance companies) take over the government?
We should all be afraid. Very afraid.