ELDER MUSIC: What I Did On My Vacation
Grading Obama on Social Security

The Terrible Billionaire Effect

category_bug_politics.gif What Citizens United hath wrought:

The media, the pundits and the Republicans themselves say they expect a billion dollars to be spent to elect Mitt Romney president. Think of it: a billion dollars and what sane people could do with that amount of excess dough.

Although the limit on individual contributions to candidates remains $2500, the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision allows unlimited amounts of money to flow to organizations that openly campaign for candidates.

"'I have lots of money, and can give it legally now,' Texas billionaire and top GOP moneyman Harold Simmons recently bragged to The Wall Street Journal. 'Just never to Democrats.'"

That quotation is from a current story in Rolling Stone magazine by Tim Dickinson listing names and details of 16 right wing billionaires who have each given at least $1 million to organizations that want to elect Romney.

Dickinson has done some extraordinary work pulling together information about these 16 men, each one intending to spend more money than most individuals earn in a lifetime to buy influence with the White House. And if the purchase goes through, they expect to be rewarded, says Dickinson, in some specific ways.

One of them wants permission to bury radioactive waste from 36 states in Texas. Another wants to limit jury awards against home builders who do shoddy work. The Marriott brothers want two things: control of immigration reform to ensure a supply of legal workers for their hotels along with continued government subsidies for luxury travel for executives.

Oh, and get this one – Julian Robertson, Jr., writes Dickinson, wants to further lower taxes on rich people:

”Robertson has embraced tax avoidance as a lifestyle: in 2000, despite living and working in Manhattan, he logged 182 days outside the city – often racing to flee town by midnight – to avoid paing local income tax.

“Also admits to seeking direct access to the president: 'I would expect Mitt Romney to speak to me occasionally,' he has said.”

And so on. Who are these people? Well, they are a bunch of rich, old, white guys. In total, 69 percent (11 of them) are older than 60 including three octogenarians which doesn't speak well for old people in general.

There are no women, no blacks, no Asians, no Hispanics. And they believe their wealth entitles them to own the executive branch of government.

Who knows how much they are contributing to Senate and House races, but they expect to buy Congress too and these are only 16 billionaires – there are a whole lot more who generally roll in the same political direction.

In the context of this obscene amount of money, I know it sounds quaint but whatever happened to “one man, one vote”?

We the people are now stuck in a classic catch-22: even if there are any political candidates more concerned with the good of the country and its people than amassing their own wealth, they cannot compete effectively in an election without selling their souls to billionaires.

Of course, there is nothing to do but keep trying to push back against the money tsunami. In my own small way, I will do that but I have little hope and no useful ideas for removing the billionaire effect from American politics.

Can you tell I've been in a bad mood all weekend? Anyway, you should go read Tim Dickinson's list just to know some details of the people who believe their wealth entitles them to own the government and, thereby, the American people.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Hold the Mayo



I am not sure of where I read it, but the government is looking into PACs because if they are to be a tax write-off and most currently are, they have to do charitable work not just political. Now these guys may not want the tax deductions, given what they see as at stake, but for anyone who does, the PACs should not qualify as a charity as they do not do mostly charitable work. Why the feds are not pushing harder on this right now is your guess as good as mine. Money talks and it scares would be my guess. Not a good time.

I fear we may be the last generation to have enjoyed democracy in the U.S. The Supremes have put us on the brink of the death of our country. The abyss is so close.

If I were younger and liked snow I would be emigrating to Canada where some sanity still exists.

If Washington wasn't broken before Citizens United, it certainly is now. Irreparably, I fear. A constitutional amendment to limit the spending has been proposed, but Big Money will kill it. Term limits would help, but lawmakers won't do that to themselves.

Our government is broken and I can no longer imagine any way to fix it.

The United States is run by a commercial oligarchy; it always was. The rich planters and businessmen who spearheaded the
American Revolution were no different than the one percenters. The colonists opposed higher taxes;p what do the one percenters oppose? - higher taxes on their millions.
There are two classes in the US: The workers and the investors.

"Hubris, greed and entitlement" are three of my least favorite words. Usually I say that these "qualities" bring people down but I fear these uber wealthy may be immune. Still, I would be delighted to see their million dollar contrbutions go for naught. Maybe that would sting just a little bit. Colbert needs to do a skit on the Rolling Stone article. He has been very good at exposing the Super PACs.

It's very hard for me to get my mind around the fact that we are watching the very fabric of our way of life flattened by this steamroller of money and power (and, of course greed). I guess the worst is coming to realize and KNOW that the ones responsible JUST DON'T CARE what happens to the 99% as well as the country. That is the hardest thing for me to take.

I know at this stage of my life I'll never leave this country and feel so sad that those thoughts would ever enter my mind at all.

How did this happen? And how does it continue to happen?
It makes me feel so small.

It is so depressing, but there is a tiny window of hope. I think about Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, whose heart was in the right place but was often in the minority. Eventually, long after his death, every one of his dissenting opinions became law. I like to think that eventually Citizens United and other bad/discriminatory/etc. laws (state and federal) will be seen for what they really are and eliminated.

Hope is hard to come by -- and maybe even just a fantasy -- but I commend to all this story that reports that retired Supreme Justice John Paul Stevens believes Citizens United, the decision that turned loose the deluge of money, won't last. He could be wrong; but he could also be right.

If it becomes clear to the oligarchs that they can't buy elections they will stop doing this. But will they ever be reined in? I don't know how thay can be stopped without proper government regulation of their activities. This would have to be an international effort, too, because wealth is so free to move around these days.

I think the Eduardo Savarin case illustrates what is wrong with our system. Marc is right on one point: rich planters and businessmen did spearhead the American Revolution. But they were American in orientation because British policies forced them to that orientation. They were rooted in America and they recognized that fact. They would rise or fall as America and all of its citizens rose or fell. There has always been an uneasy relationship between the rich and the rest but without the poor and middle classes the rich wouldn't have been rich. That link has been broken or rather it has been globalized. Though the rich still depend on the poor and middling classes it isn't necessarily the AMERICAN poor and middling classes. They can get even richer by abandoning us and taking the jobs and wealth elsewhere. As Eduardo Savarin did. As did the billionaire who worked in New York City but made sure he lived elsewhere 182 days each year to avoid taxes.

Don't you people ever read anything 'bad' about Democrats?
How much do you think Obama is spending? A billion plus! In fact I read he is ahead of Romney in the money department.
As a lifelong Democrat, I'm mighty disgusted with ALL POLITICIANS. WE NEED ETHICS AND INTEGRITY. We are not getting it.

16 of them, millions of the rest of us. Hard to smash the popular vote. The GOP can spend as much as it wants, but its extremist rhetoric is scary and off-putting, especially since they're attacking women now. These old white coots can spend all they want, and the GOP can advertise their smutty slams til the cows come home, but there are plenty of people who will never believe a speck of it. The rich coots should keep what they've got in their pants IN their pants.

I donated to the 2008 presidential election and I continue to do what I can. I am not alone. There are many giving small donations that add up. I hope it will be enough.
I worry for our democracy, and I pray a lot.

There are just as many rich Democrats that are giving lots and lots of money to try and buy the government of their choice. You really need to pay attention to information that goes against your biased beliefs if you want to persuade anyone of anything.

Yes, Rufus, of course there are wealthy Democrats with their own agendas, but speaking for myself, I don't think most of their agenda items are as destructive as some of those the right wing is pushing. I don't expect we agree on that, but in any event, until ordinary citizens start seriously advocating for REAL campaign finance reform, elected officials on both sides may well be bought and paid for--and that's NOT the definition of democracy I learned in school.

What would true campaign finance reform do? For starters it would establish a maximum dollar amount candidates have available for running their campaigns, more for national office and somewhat less for state and local. First-time candidates with no name familiarity could receive a one-time "newcomer's stipend". It would prohibit false representation (lies!) and "the politics of personal destruction". I don't know about you, but I'm thoroughly disgusted and turned off by the venom spewing forth from both major political parties, and it's only June.

Do I think I'll live to see the situation change? There's a better chance that the world will turn out to be flat after all!

It's just so hard to be optimistic about anything but it's unhealthy to always read depressing news. I would totally stop paying any attention but it's like watching a train wreck.....I can't turn away.

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