We Can’t Afford That Anymore.

Whenever someone proposes rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, improving schools, funding research for chronic diseases, helping the unemployed, treating the mentally ill, paying pension obligations to public employees, etc., our politicians are quick to say that we can’t afford those things anymore.

Say what? The richest nation on Earth can’t afford to meet the needs of its own citizens?

In reality, it’s not that the US lacks the money to do these things. The federal budget for FY 2014 is $6.3 trillion and, for most Americans, our tax rates as a percentage of income are near all-time lows! So it’s not a lack of money. It’s a matter of priorities. We always seem to have money for military hardware and military interventions around the globe. It’s estimated that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost $6 trillion. It costs us $2.1 million per year to maintain just one soldier in Afghanistan, and current plans call for leaving up to 20,000 troops in Afghanistan after our “withdrawal.” Yet, some of the biggest budget hawks in Congress are calling for a larger presence in Afghanistan, military intervention in Syria, as well as confrontation in Crimea and the Ukraine. Some even hint at war with Iran.

Is it any wonder that we can’t afford to maintain our own nation?

These same budget hawks voted to dramatically expand funding for the F-35 jet fighter which is years behind schedule and hopelessly over budget. They even added funding to build more Abrams tanks, despite the fact that neither the Army nor the Marine Corps want them. As a result of such decisions, we will spend $820.2 billion on defense in FY 2014, not including Homeland Security. This money is not needed to defend our nation. It’s needed to maintain the American corporate empire; to maintain US control of resources in remote corners of the world; to maintain US access to Middle Eastern oil deposits; to maintain corporate access to global markets and to open new ones; to maintain massive profits and executive compensation.

Yet studies show that most Americans would rather bring our troops home. They would rather rebuild our own nation than one we bombed into submission. So why don’t our Congressional representatives listen? Why do so many continue to vote against the will of the people?

The answer, in a word, is money.

Large corporate interests take money from ordinary, hard-working people through various forms of scams and corporate subsidies. (You’ll find a great example detailed in a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi linked here.) This leads to increased profits. The corporations then give a portion of that money to the election campaigns of politicians in order to buy access and influence. In return, those politicians pass laws to benefit the corporations. And the cycle starts all over again.

On the rare occasions when the politicians take their hands out of the pockets of their corporate sponsors, they pass laws to deregulate industries; to render the EPA and other regulatory agencies impotent; to increase welfare for large corporations while cutting their taxes; to privatize prisons, schools and public pension funds; to cut funding for parks, mental health facilities, public universities and public schools; to redirect taxpayer money to Wall Street hedge funds. All the while, they blame the nation’s resulting economic problems on labor unions, the unemployed and the working poor. To distract the public from their crimes, these fraudster politicians tell us that their actions are necessary to cut debt and create jobs.

What they don’t say is that the only jobs they’re concerned with are their own.

A Nation Of Crises.

Every day I receive dozens of emails and letters asking me to help save the oceans, save the environment, save children, save wildlife, save food stamps, increase the minimum wage, stop voter suppression, stop global warming, stop the pipeline, stop racism, stop the attacks on women’s rights, stop the attacks on education, stop the attacks on science, demand gun control, end hunger, end poverty, etc., etc., etc…

It’s all very depressing.

Of course, these are all very real and serious issues, and the organizations asking for help are well-run and well-intentioned. They deserve our support. But I finally realized that all of the issues are related. They are all the result of corporate greed and ideological candidates supported by billionaires and big business.

Our oceans are being destroyed by greedy oil companies and by large, commercial fishing operations. Our air and water are being polluted by corporations who would rather dump toxins into the environment than sacrifice a portion of their profits to clean up after themselves. Poverty and hunger are the result of corporations who are more intent on rewarding investors and executives with large bonuses than paying workers a livable wage. Global warming is the result of corporate-backed congressmen who prioritize subsidies for oil companies over subsidies for alternative energy sources.

Many chronic health issues and diseases are the result of corporate farming practices and food processing companies that intentionally poison our food in order to increase profits. The attacks on science, education and voter rights are designed and paid for by large corporations in order to maintain control of our government. The lack of funding for social safety nets such as food stamps, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are the result of corporate fraud and abuse, as well as tax loopholes that allow corporations and the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Almost every one of our problems is the result of large, multinational corporations and the billionaires who run them treating the Earth as a source of commercial resources and people as commodities.

Since I can’t afford to donate to every good cause, I’ve decided to donate to candidates who place people above corporations.

I will vote against candidates who support corporations that pay employees a minimum wage while paying CEOs millions; that damage our environment and our food supply. I will vote against those who accept large donations from such corporations regardless of which party they represent. I will not spend another dime to purchase products and services from corporations that harm our citizens, our nation and our environment.

If corporations only care about money, I will deny them the thing they want most. I hope you will consider doing the same.

How The People You Elect Are Turned Into Highly-Paid Puppets.

On Tuesday, Heritage Action, the even more political arm of the Heritage Foundation, sent a memo to Republican Congressmen telling them to vote against the bipartisan Senate bill that would re-open our government. As a none-too-subtle threat, the memo noted that the organization would be “scoring” Congressional votes.

In other words, do as we say or we will make sure you have a difficult, and expensive, primary fight!

This is really nothing new. Well-financed ideological groups have controlled our Congress for decades. The four-million-member NRA has long scored votes at the state and national level regarding gun safety and other issues of interest. The US Chamber of Commerce has spent billions to elect officials who are friendly to large corporations. The American Medical Association, Big Pharma and the Insurance Institute of America have spent billions to protect their out-of-control profits in health care. Large corporations peddle influence through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Even churches keep score, picking and choosing winners in elections.

What is new is the sheer amount of money and power now exerted by outside interests. Following the Supreme Court decision that equates money with free speech and the decision to equate corporations with people, the amount of money in politics has increased dramatically. In 1998, it’s estimated that $1.6 billion was spent on US elections. In 2012, that number exceeded $6.2 billion! And the Supreme Court is currently hearing a case that could further open the floodgates.

There are now dozens of highly-partisan “think tanks,” PACs, SuperPACs and lobbying groups that hold out the carrot of campaign financing and brandish a whip for any legislators who get out of line.

If an elected official wants to retain some semblance of independence from the big-money interests, he or she has to constantly beg constituents for money. Is it any wonder, then, that within a month of the 2012 election results, candidates were campaigning to raise funds for their re-election?

Most Americans can see the problem, but they continue to hold their noses and vote for candidates who are more interested in their re-election than the interests of our nation. There is only one way to stop it…stop it! Stop voting for candidates who put corporations ahead of people. Stop voting for candidates who put the interests of their party ahead of the interests of our nation.

Just stop it!

Demanding A 50 Year Cover-Up For Doing Your Job?

Our nation was built on representative government.  But our representatives are so concerned with re-election that many are now afraid to do what’s best for our nation. So much so, that they try to hide their actions from the very people they represent.

The on-going debate over the federal tax code is a case in point.

Before many senators were willing to venture opinions on the tax code, they needed to be assured by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that any suggestions would be kept secret for 50 years! Exactly what, or who, are they afraid of?

In a word, you.

Thanks to the Baucus-Hatch declaration, senators may now solicit favors from the K Street lobbyists without fear of repercussions. They are now free to recommend tax loopholes for their largest campaign contributors and special interests without fear of discovery by the people they are supposed to represent. By the time anyone finds out, they’ll be dead and forgotten.

Not exactly representative government, is it?

In one declaration, Baucus and Hatch have exposed everything that’s wrong with our government. And it’s not just a problem with the federal government. Such secrecy and tricks are used and abused by governments at all levels…city, county and state.

Those with money can buy access to those who make the laws. After all, it takes money to run for office these days…lots of it. So defense contractors, the American Medical Association, health insurance, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Wall Street, multinational corporations, billionaires, the NRA and others write our laws. They write the very regulations that will govern them, and because they write them, they feel free to break them.

No money.  No access.

Only a very few politicians have demonstrated through their actions that they are immune to such power.  Senators Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and a very small number of others have stood on priniciple. They seem willing to do the right thing and explain their decisions to those who elected them.

Far too many others say one thing in public and do something far different behind closed doors. The Baucus-Hatch declaration…along with Senators Baucus and Hatch…needs to go.