Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Restoring the American Dream - Part I

I remain just one thing, and one thing only – and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” – Charlie Chaplin

The “Occupy” Movement. This movement has been active since September 17, 2011 . It was formed to bring attention to the fact that there are strong financial ties and mutual support between Wall Street and Congress that have contributed to some gross inequality, inequity, and iniquity. They drew attention to their cause by establishing encampments in cities across the country. Support comes not just from New York, but from all over the country and all over the globe. These are the cries of the weak, the needy, the down-trodden, the unfortunate, the disenfranchised, and of people of principle who unite with them in their struggle, not just for equality, but for survival.

If you ask the government for permission to protest it, you deserve to be told no." – Jim Lesczynski, Manhattan Libertarian Party Chair

The Grievances. There are massive numbers of problems that beset our country and it people today, The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators outlined 21 major grievances, and even then noted that the list was not all-inclusive. With a little more thought, that list could easily have numbered 100 or more.

"Our tradition is one of protest and revolt, and it is stultifying to celebrate the rebels of the past, while we silence the rebels of the present." – Henry Steele Commager

"During the last bubble (from 2002 to 2006) the top 1% of Americans -- paid mainly from the Wall Street casino -- received two-thirds of the gain in national income, while the bottom 90% -- mainly dependent on Main Street's shrinking economy -- got only 12%. This growing wealth gap is not the market's fault. It's the decaying fruit of bad economic policy … “My G.O.P. destroyed the U.S. economy. " – David Stockman, (former Director of Ronald Reagan's Office of Management and Budget)

The Over-Riding Point. The most important sentence in this Occupy Wall Street document sums up all the frustration and suffering that the people of our country have been forced to endure. It states,

No true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic interests. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.” – Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

Four key words in this statement are “corporations ... run our governments.” This is especially true at the federal and state levels. The bottom line is: All of the other issues spring from this one root problem.

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Big Money Drives Politics. Politicians need huge amounts of money to campaign for public office. Corporations (and the financial elite) need strong support in our legislative branches to ensure that their wealth will be protected and will continue to grow. The money brokers thereby become power brokers, helping to finance the campaigns of candidates who will protect the power elite's interests in return.

"A relatively small number of deep-pocketed donors exerted an outsize influence on Tuesday's [election] results," – Michael Luo/Griff Palmer, New York Times (11/3/10). "The big corporations are going to try to get what they paid for. – Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President, New York Times (11/3/10).

Money can't buy you love . . . but it can frequently buy you an elective office. Typically, in federal elections the candidate that raises the most money wins about 90 percent of the time. Most of this money comes from wealthy donors who expect something in return. And, whenever politicians accept huge monetary donations from deep-pocket sources, they are likely to feel indebted to do something for them in return, to ensure that those same sources will contribute again in future elections. Because money plays an undue role in how politicians are elected, it also plays an undue role in how they act. Even Glenn Beck agrees.

Wall Street owns our government. Our government and these gigantic corporations have merged.” – Glenn Beck, New York Times (9/19/09)

How Many Millionaires Does It Take to Take Control of the Politics of a Whole State? In the October 10, 2011 issue of The New Yorker, Jane Mayer reported how one conservative millionaire did exactly that. In North Carolina, a swing state that is expected to be important in the 2012 elections, one millionaire bankrolled the campaigns of 22 conservative candidates for the state legislature. Eighteen of them were successful, giving majority status to the Republicans in both houses of the state legislature for the first time since 1870.

For an individual to have so much power is frightening. The government of North Carolina is for sale.” – Chris Heagarty, Democratic candidate for the North Carolina legislature in the New York Times (10/10/11)

Money talks, and politicians listen . . . and they respond in kind to the benefit of corporations and the wealthy.. Was it just a coincidence that three of the five top corporate donors to the candidacy of Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008 (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Citigroup Inc.) were all among the top ten financial firms to be bailed out, to the tune of $80 billion? That amount of money could have provided from $25,000 to $50,000 for 1.6 million to 3.2 million homeowners to escape foreclosure and potential family ruin. The big three donors were seen as being “too big to fail,” but 1.6 million to 3.2 million homeowners, individually or collectively, were apparently not “too big to fail.” Let's face it. Big money owns Big Business, and Big Business owns the government (at both the federal and state levels).

If you are a major contributor and go to Washington, you might have a chance to have lunch with a senator or representative; or if you are a really big contributor, you might even end up at the White House. The closest chance you or I have at having lunch at the White House is buying a hot dog from the vendor on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the building. – Marc A Triebwasser, How Corporations Influence the Government (1998 )

Congress Members' Loyalties Once elected, members of Congress frequently ignore the people whom they are elected to represent. Their first priority is to get reelected. Their second allegiance is to their political parties. Third comes their financial backers. Then come their supporters – the people who voted for them, followed as a distant fifth the people in their district who did not vote for them,. And, dead last, come the needs and welfare of our country and all of its people.

A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation.James Freeman Clarke (1810–1888), Unitarian clergyman, writer

So, when Congress members say that they are going to consult with their constituencies, it isn't necessarily the people in their representational district to whom they are referring. They are just as likely to be conferring with their financial backers and lobbyists. When they do meet with their true constituency, it is just as likely that they will be trying to convince them on his or her stand of an issue rather than soliciting their input on the subject. A Congress member's constituency should be all of the people in the country. Next, it is supposed to be the voters or residents in a district represented by an elective officer. However, it doesn't always turn out that way. Here is a more realistic way of how many Congress members view their constituencies

Wall Street's Views of the OWS Protest. With regard to the Occupy Wall Street movement, one Wall Street money manager recently expressed disappointment that their New York Congress members had not “come out swinging for an industry that donates heavily to their campaigns.” He stated, They need to understand who their constituency is.He is saying, in effect, “To hell with the people; we are the ones they really represent.” Unfortunately, there is a great deal of truth to that premise.

"We've got government to the highest bidder. We've got auction block democracy. It's not true that each voter counts for one and only one; that's the way it's supposed to be in a democracy. Money determines who gets to run for office, how people run for office, it determines what people do while in office and the fact of the matter is the vast majority of people are cut out of the loop." – Senator Paul Wellstone (1992)

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