The Corporate Takeover Of Political Funding.

Quick.  Tell me which political contributions are most scruitnized by our government:  Individual contributions of $20 or less to candidates?  Or multi-million dollar gifts from corporations to political action committees?

If you guessed the latter, you’re wrong.

Political parties, local clubs and individual candidates are required to account for every political donation to the penny.  On the other hand, political action committees such as those created by Karl Rove to attack Democratic candidates don’t even have to disclose the sources of tens of millions in contributions.

What’s wrong with that picture? 

In the Citizens United case, the Republican appointees to the Supreme Court of the United States overturned decades of legal precedent to rule that corporations have the same rights as individuals.  Yet, in the political arena, corporations now enjoy the privilege of spending as much as they want to influence elections without disclosing their contributions.  And how many large corporations are run by Democrat-leaning CEOs?

Unless you’re an executive of a large corporation or a Republican running for office, you have reason to be concerned.  Very concerned!

Arizona’s SB1070 7 Months Later.

In April of this year, Jan Brewer signed Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant bill into law.  It was hailed by conservatives far and wide as a great first step in closing our border to keep Mexicans from taking our jobs and using our services.  And at least 12 more states are considering similar legislation.

So how is 1070 actually working out?

In the 7 months since its signing, many of the most controversial parts of the law have not yet gone into effect, and the state has spent more than $10 million to defend the law in courts.  An estimated 100,000 undocumented workers have fled the state to find jobs elsewhere, taking with them the money they paid for rent, clothing, groceries, gasoline and more.  A very conservative estimate of the financial loss to the state would be somewhere in the vicinity of $4 million.  And their contributions as a workforce to the state could be estimated at more than 10 times that.  In addition, the law has led to boycotts from other states and cities which has already cost our tourism industry more than $141 million.  Add to that the jobs lost in the tourist industry and the cost rises to more than $250,000.  Based on the latest estimates, the new law has cost Arizona nearly $500 million!

“But certainly the state has seen some benefits from the law, too,” you say.

Not really.  It has served to create distrust between Arizona’s white population and Latino population.  The law has turned many other states and cities against us.  And the drug war still rages along the border, fueled by American guns and our insatiable appetite for illegal drugs.

The only ones who seem to have benefited from the law are Jan Brewer, John McCain, Russell Pearce, and other right-wing Arizona politicians who used scare tactics related to the law to get themselves re-elected.  Which is no doubt the over-riding reason for passing the law in the first place.

The War Within.

For many years, Republicans have accused Democrats of “class warfare” and “wealth redistribution.”  They’re correct, of course.  But they fail to mention that they are the ones responsible.  And that the wealth is being redistributed to the wealthiest 2% of our population.

Ever since Ronald Reagan began pushing economic policies based on the “trickle-down theory,” our government has “reformed” (eliminated) welfare for the poor and increased welfare for large corporations and the wealthy.

For example, under Republican leadership, Arizona has reduced corporate taxes 15 years in a row.  As a result, the percentage of state revenue from corporate taxes has dropped 35% to 9%.  Is there really any question why the state is facing a deficit of more than $1 billion in 2011?  Not even increased sales taxes and the already draconian cuts in education, state parks and health care for the poor can make up the deficit.  And Arizona is not alone.

For many years, federal, state and local governments have bowed at the altar of big business thanks to Republicans and their allies.

Due to their political leverage, large corporations are given many advantages over their smaller rivals and individuals.  The federal government has allowed multi-national corporations to avoid taxes by locating a post office box off-shore.  These same corporations have been rewarded for sending jobs off-shore, as well.  State governments provide large “loans” and tax incentives to encourage corporations to open facilities in their states.  And city governments provide Tax Increment Financing (another term for property tax avoidance) to encourage development within their cities.

Corporate farm operations have received $billions in subsidies while family farms have been allowed to go bankrupt.  Large oil companies and mining operations are given subsidies to deface our land and pollute our air and water.

And the best example of all is the recent melt-down and ensuing bailout of our largest financial institutions.  In the ’90s, Republicans stripped away most financial regulations allowing these institutions to gamble with our money.  When the institutions failed, taxpayers were forced to loan them $billions to avoid a devastating depression while the gamblers paid themselves $billions in bonuses.And how did Republicans address the situation?  Why, of course, they fought against any form of increased regulation by Democrats!

Now Republicans are determined to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, despite the fact that they’ll add more than $4 trillion to our national debt over the next 10 years!  They even want to permanently extend tax cuts for millionaires that will add more than $700 billion to our deficit over 10 years.  Out of the other side of their mouths, they continue to talk about reducing our growing deficit.

And how do they propose to reduce the deficit they created?  Do they want to eliminate tax loopholes that encourage large corporations to export jobs and avoid taxes?  Do they want to cut our bloated military budget?  Do they want to go after the abuses of military contractors?

Of course not.

They want to end unemployment benefits, reduce Social Security, reduce Medicare, reduce the Veteran’s Administration, eliminate Medicaid (health care access for the poor) and create a national sales tax which will further increase the tax burden on the poor and the middle class.  They may succeed.

As long as Democrats remain dispirited, and independents vote against their own self-interest as they did this year, Republicans and their corporate masters will continue to extract money from working people.  To ensure that, they can rely on a conservative-controlled Supreme Court that equates corporations to people, and allows corporations to spend tens of millions of dollars on behalf of Republican candidates.

News Integrity (And Fox’s Lack Thereof)

Since Spiro Agnew, conservatives have railed against the so-called liberal news media.  Indeed, half-governor Palin is fond of referring to any media other than Fox News Channel as “lame stream media.”  And conservatives proudly point to Fox News as the only place to learn the “real truth” about politics.

At the same time, they deride one of the most liberal news outlets, MSNBC, as partisan and dishonest.  Really?

If Fox News is so “fair and balanced,” why then does the network blatantly promote Republican candidates on air?  Why does it sponsor conservative rallies?  Why does the network make contributions to Republican candidates?  Why do its “news” hosts also dole out political contributions to conservative candidates?

And why does MSNBC suspend its most popular host for making contributions to 3 Democratic candidates?

Could it be that MSNBC and other networks have integrity?  And Fixed News doesn’t?

Another WTF? Vote.

For some time, I’ve wondered why my Republican friends continue to vote against their own self-interest.  I do have a few wealthy friends who benefit from Republican policies.  But the majority are more often harmed by Republican initiatives.

For example, Republicans talk about tax cuts for the rich being good for small business owners who generate most of the jobs in this country.  That may sound reasonable.  However, you have to look at what Republican leaders consider small businesses.  By their definition of limited ownership, Cargill (the world’s largest privately-held corporation) and Koch Industries (the world’s second-largest privately-held corporation) are “small” businesses.  And, of course, extending the Bush-era tax cuts would be very good for them.

The reality is that eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would affect only 3% of small business owners.

Republicans have also been at the forefront of providing tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas.  They refuse to entertain penalties for large American corporations that move their “headquarters” off-shore to avoid U.S. taxes.  Republicans rail against common sense regulations that prevent greedy corporations from destroying our environment and robbing our citizens.  Indeed, Republicans actually apologized to BP when the Obama administration demanded it pay for damages to those affected by the massive Gulf oil spill.  And virtually all Republicans voted against reform of Wall Street after it collapsed our economy!

So what have Republicans done to earn my friends’ loyalty?  Social Security?  Nope.  That was passed by Democrats over the protests of many Republican.  Medicare?  Nope.  That was passed by Democrats with little to no help from Republicans.  Corporate-provided health care and profit-sharing?  Wrong again.  Employee benefits are the result of labor union fights (literally) against greedy company owners.

So what does the Republican Party do to deserve the undying loyalty of those who work for a living?  They lie.  And they are very good at it.

Okay, Republicans, now what?

You lied, cheated and spent your way into control of the House of Representatives.  You took control of more governors’ offices.  And you took control of 19 more state legislatures.

Much of your success was the result of massive corporate donations and your filibustering of legislation that could have helped turn this economy around – the economy that collapsed on your watch due to your lack of oversight and regulation.  Remember?

You blamed your mess on President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.  Then you talked about “taking your country back,” resorting to 2nd Amendment remedies, if necessary.

You won on promises of less government and lower taxes.  So what next?

Plan to cut the size of government?  Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the downsizing of state, county and local governments is one of the primary reasons our economy is so slow to recover.  We’re losing government jobs faster than private industry can add jobs.  Moreover, the lack of government oversight of Wall Street is one of the main reasons we’re in this predicament.

Plan to cut taxes by renewing the ill-conceived Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?  Then plan on adding $80 billion to our deficit over the next two years.  Want to repeal “Obamacare?”  Then plan on adding yet another $138 billion to our deficit over the next 10 years.  (Not to mention the fact that you’ll be denying health care access to more than 30 million Americans.)

Plan on cutting the deficit?  You could cut half of our bloated $663.7 billion defense budget (not including the Iraq and Afghan wars).  But what will you do about the defense contractor jobs you eliminate?

The most radical Republicans talk about eliminating or privatizing all “entitlements” such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  They want to get rid of the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Science Foundation, as well.  All of that combined would save $1.48 trillion a year, completely offsetting the deficit and leaving us with a surplus of more than $200 billion each year (not including tax cuts for the wealthy, rising health care costs, increased military spending and increased border security).

But we’d have a nation of uneducated, unheathy children and heavily-armed, destitute senior citizens.  Try running on that platform in future elections.  Or will you do as some Tea Party candidates suggest, and limit voting to landowners or those already in office?