I should preface this with saying that I don’t know if there is a true democracy anywhere in the world, but I’m focusing on America here because it’s my home country, and they are known to launch offensive wars in the pursuit of ‘spreading democracy,’ So I’m going to try and take a serious look at weather or not ordinary American citizens have any say in the trajectory of the largest economic and military force in the world. Then I will give my opinion on what we should do differently in the future.
Democracy is defined as ‘a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state,’so the functionality of a country’s democracy can be measured by its governments responsiveness to the will of its citizens. Since 1976, the Supreme Court has been slowly chopping away at our country’s already very weak anti-corruption and campaign finance laws. In ‘Buckley v. Valeo’ that year they ruled that, at least in the case of campaign finance, money equals speech and, therefor, is subject to first amendment protection. Of course that logic doesn’t apply in any other scenario. It’s still illegal to pay a prostitute or a him man, but bribery is just an expression of free speech. “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” of 2010 upheld and expanded upon this previous ruling, saying corporations can give unlimited amounts of money to any politician or political organization they choose. Now you must also understand that election campaigns in America are completely privately funded and often last more than a year.
The average winning senate campaign in 2016 cost $10.4 million and $1.3 million for the House. They have to come up with that amount of money every 6 and 2 years respectively. The base salary for congressmen is only $174,000/ year. Do you think that all adds up? Do you think they work for you or the corporations and lobbyists who sign their paychecks? I’m guessing those donations come with strings attached. Corruption is built in to the system, and that’s not just my opinion. Fortunately, we don’t have to speculate. There are facts in the world.
There was a Princeton University study in 2014 by Martin Giles and Benjamin Page called Testing Theories of American Politics in which they studied 1,799 policy initiatives between 1981 and 2002 (so all before Citizens United). They “compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United States public, comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred as well as the opinions of major lobbying and business groups,” What they found is that there was virtually no correlation between what the common people wanted and what policies were legislated but a strong correlation between policy and what economic elites and lobbying interest preferred. The natural conclusion is that America can more accurately be classified as an ‘oligarchy.’
So why should corporations and other special interest groups be allowed to bribe (I mean donate to) our politicians? Anyone who understands what a corporation is knows it is by its nature apolitical. They are profit-generating machines. CEOs and boards of directors cannot just go around giving handouts. They have an obligation to their shareholders. I want to draw your attention to the worst offenders, providing examples of legislation for which, as far as I can see, corruption is the only explanation. I will mostly focus on congress here, although, it should be obvious that the executive branch has its own form of corruption, including but not not limited to appointing cabinet members directly from businesses with conflicting interests.
Here is a look at the top lobbying groups. The biggest spender according to this site is the pharmaceutical industry, with about $3.6 billion spent on lobbying in the past 20 years. Keeping in mind, this is only registered, over-the-table transactions. I can’t imagine all the wining and dining and behind the scenes deals that go on. The important fact you need to understand is that there are 2 pharmaceutical lobbyists for every one congressman. This may seem like overkill, but they are definitely getting their money’s worth in legislation. America can’t import any drugs if the same drug is made by an American company, so there is no competition. It is very easy to patent and monopolize drugs, so there are very little ‘generic’ versions. It is illegal for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, they are forced by law to pay whatever the drug companies ask. For all those reasons, Americans pay on average about twice as much as the rest of the world for their medication. $3.6 billion well spent I would say.
Perhaps the most obvious example of an industry that really gets a return on their investment is the military industrial complex. Dwight Eisenhower was truly prophetic when he gave his farewell address . The military maintains more than 800 bases worldwide. Take a look at how much the US military is spending compared to the rest of the world. That’s more than the next 13 countries combined (most of whom are our allies). That all comes from the US taxpayer. Now take a look at how much we spend proportional to the budget.
We spent more than $7 trillion on the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2001, Donald Rumsfeld admitted that the pentagon ‘lost’ 2.3 trillion. But it’s poor people on food stamps who are driving the country into debt, right? With the money wasted in the Middle East, we could have paid for everyone’s in-state college tuition for the next century. “How the hell are we going to pay for that?” the propagandists ask Bernie Sanders. But the military gets a blank check. I guess college students haven’t been paying their bribes (I mean donations). General Dynamics (a tank manufacturer) bribed congress to the tune of $84 million, and in 2011 and again in 2012 they made a fat contract for them. Some honest people in the pentagon said, “We don’t need these. We have more than enough tanks already.” So now they are sitting unused in the Nevada desert.
Another big-paying industry is oil. The standard corporate tax rate is 35%, yet oil companies pay on average only 24% , and despite being some of the most profitable companies in the world, they get billions of dollars in subsidies every year.
You can’t talk corruption without mentioning the so called ‘big banks’ on Wall Street. There is hardly one person in Washington that doesn’t take bribes in one form or another from this industry. One of the preferential treatments these private companies enjoy are receiving interest-free loans from the Fed and turning around and loaning out that exact same money with interests. They’ve also socialized risk and privatized profit, meaning they can freely engage in risky practices, and if it pays off, they get to keep all the profit, but if they lose, the tax payers bail them out. One of the easiest business models money can buy.
But it’s not only corporations who buy favors in Washington. One of the biggest lobbying entities in Washington is Israel. The country’s official lobbying arm is called AIPAC, which engages in traditional bribery tactics, but their influence on American politicians is not only financial. I know this will make me sound like a Nazi, but I’ll say it anyways because it is indisputably true. Most of the media in America is run by Jews who are loyal to Israel before America. No candidate can get media coverage unless they support Israel. You should really watch this video of former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney talking about how all candidates for congress have to sign an oath of support for Israel, and take a moment to ask yourself why the leader of an apartheid state, with a population of only 8 million, on the other side of the world should come and give a speech to the US congress and receive 26 standing ovations.
Now that I have demonstrated how corrupted our leaders are, I want to talk political parties. I think parties are inherently undemocratic. Outside of a parliamentary system, what is the point of these bureaucratic entities. This is social engineering that takes advantage of the tribal aspect of human nature. It’s fun to support a team. This is why most of us like spectator sports with teams. It feels good to attach your ego to something broader than yourself. But the world is not black and white. It is very complex and nuanced. If you think one side has everything all right and the other has it all wrong, you are intellectually immature. Take the issues of climate change, gun control and abortion. These are completely unrelated issues, but if you know an American’s view on one, you can more often than not correctly guess their views on the other two. This regimentation cannot occur naturally, but only through social engineering.
The Democrat-Republican paradigm is a false dichotomy. Cosmetic differences between the two parties are blown way out of proportion by the media, but on all the important issues, like the economy and foreign policy, they are mostly in agreement, because they are paid to serve the same corporations and special interest groups. To quote comedian Jimmy Dore, “Democrats are Republicans who are pro-abortion and don’t hate gay people.” For example, Republicans hate ‘Obama Care,’ right? Wrong. The Heritage Foundation came up with the individual mandate system, and it was pushed for by Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich, and first implemented by Mitt Romney. But when an administration led by a Democratic teleprompter reader decided to roll it out on the national level, Republicans had to pretend to oppose it, because that’s how a divide-and-conquer scheme works. The truth is, it’s just a giveaway to the parasitic middlemen known as the insurgence companies who both parties are paid by. ‘Trump Care,’ which is being negotiated in complete secrecy and has an approval rating of 17% (how democratic) will be an even bigger giveaway. George H. W. Bush signed NAFTA, but the Democrats blocked it in Congress. Then, during the next election cycle, the relevant corporations bribed the other side, so now the Democrats are the party of ‘free trade’ (outsourcing). It’s just a game for these people. None of them have any principals at all. The most compromised and blackmailable candidates are the ones who get the campaign donations and, therefore, get elected. They are the easiest to control.
All real progress comes from 3rd parties. The slaves were freed by the Republicans when they were a 3rd party. The Civil Rights Act and the EPA came about through 3rd party pressure on the duopoly. But honestly, I think if the Greens or the Libertarians somehow came to power, they would just become the new corrupt establishment in a few years. What we really need are independents, people who are not pressured to uphold party-line policies, but are free thinking individuals. But even that would just be a step in the right direction. Our ultimate goal should be direct democracy. Representative democracy is an archaic, pre-industrial system. I think direct democracy is possible with the internet. But obviously the scope of government would have to be seriously limited. People can’t be bothered to participate in multiple votes a day. We have to gain a lot of ground before we can get to that point.
No matter what you think of Bernie Sanders, if you are well informed and honest, you must admit he would be president today if we had a fair election system. If you don’t know that, you’re just wrong. He is by far the most popular politician in the country, with about a 57% approval rating. Hillary and Trump are sitting at around 35% each. Even on election day, Sanders was beating Trump by double digits. Besides corruption, the main obstacle to democracy in America is election fraud. This seems to be most problematic in the DNC. I don’t have time to list all the evidence of fraud in the Democratic primary because I’m writing a blog post not a book. Here is a Stanford University report. The leaked DNC emails make it pretty clear as well. There is a reason why Debbie Wosserman Schultz and Donna Brazile had to resign, despite the mainstream media’s refusal to mention it.
There are a couple seemingly well-intentioned organizations trying to get corporate money out of politics by crowd funding campaigns. These are Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats. I don’t know if they are controlled opposition or just ignorant, but they won’t address the problem of election fraud. Either way, we have to start somewhere, and what better place that here. I support their efforts to get clean-money candidates into office. These organizations are definitely a step in the right direction. Congressional elections are a bit more fair than presidential elections.
(By the way, if anyone Republicans in my home district in Arkansas are reading this, there is a clean-money candidate named Robb Ryerse who is primarying the corporate-funded Steve Womack in 2018)
Campaign finance is the issue that dominates all other issues in American politics. I’m getting sick of people just arguing over taxes, health care, rebuilding infrastructure and ending the wars. You may have the right policy, but if you aren’t talking about campaign finance reform, shut the fuck up about policy. And even if you’re talking about campaign finance reform but you’re not mentioning the other elephant in the room, election fraud, you can shut the fuck up too. It’s time to have a serious and honest discussion.