Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Hijacked Political Process

To take back the ship, control the money

By: Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times

There has been a lot of commentary describing the U.S. government as “gridlocked,” or “frozen.” Typical was a recent cover story in Time Magazine by a professor of “political science and journalism” who sought to explain “Why Washington’s Tied Up in Knots” and what to do about it.

According to the good professor, the problem is that the federal government is held hostage by partisan and polarized political parties, incapable of the cooperation required to get results. His call for cooperation was echoed on the next page by former GOP congressional leader Newt Gingrich.

What rot. There’s lots of cooperation and plenty gets done in Washington.

Republican Gingrich worked side by side with Democrat Clinton to set up the Wall Street casino. When Wall Street crapped out, Presidents Bush and Obama and both parties in Congress joined forces to bail it out. And both parties are cooperating brilliantly to insure that no one responsible for the looting of America will ever be held accountable for their actions, let alone be prosecuted and sent to jail.

Democrats and Republicans together approved with almost complete unanimity a U.S. military budget that is now larger than all other nations combined.

For over thirty years, presidents and congressional leaders of both parties have labored shoulder to shoulder to defend corporate profit and the wealth of the wealthy from the threat of good wages, affordable health care and a rising standard of living for ordinary Americans.

And they get results:

Wall Street and America’s super wealthy have an ever larger share of America’s corporate profit and private wealth. It required taking the jobs, homes and savings of tens of millions of Americans, but Democrats and Republicans working together got the job done.

American manufacturing has been decimated and the good paying jobs sent abroad. The new health care legislation protects the profits of insurers, drug manufacturers and ambulance chasing lawyers. A gargantuan military is deployed mindlessly around the globe to feed the insatiable appetite of defense contractors while the public schools fail.

This is possible not because the two political parties are partisan, but because they are bought, and work in lock step to protect their buyers. In this they are abetted by much of the national media, now owned by corporate conglomerates whose profits are protected by the government they “report” on.

The teamwork is almost flawless.

Perhaps the best way to understand what has happened to the United States is to think of the nation as a ship, a modern luxury liner. The ship has been hijacked, The captain and crew have gone over to the hijackers.

For a while, the passengers didn’t notice. Meals still got served, the toilets worked and there was lots of entertainment for the entire family.

But suddenly, all the things the passengers thought they had paid for are available only for an additional cost; while the captain, crew and hijackers are living it up on the penthouse deck with the passengers’ money.

The passengers will have to fight to get the ship back. It is all about the money.

For example, the first remedy proposed for the mock-ill described in the Time essay was to hold open primary elections for candidates for president and Congress, no more caucuses, so that independent voters can moderate the extremes of right and left that now dominate those elections.

But the real problem is not Republican and Democratic candidates with starkly different views on the issues. Clear choices are not inherently evil. The problem is that these elections cost a fortune, and to raise the money the candidates of both parties must turn to the hijackers and take their orders with their money.

Open primary elections without lower election costs and an alternative source of funding is a half measure that will accomplish little.

The second remedy proposed in the Time essay was to create more issue focused media forums with civil debate and pointed discussion. I almost laughed when I read it. This is the sort of wishful thinking that perhaps only a professor of political science and journalism could propose with a straight face.

What is possible is equal access to the media, so that all candidates can get their message out. But again, it must be affordable and paid for.

Finally, the Time essay asked readers to imagine the many benefits if federal elections included lots of “latter day (Ross) Perots, cranky, independent candidates determined to punish both parties for not getting anything done.”

This bordered on the infantile. Ross Perot was a billionaire with lots of his own money to spend. And while crankiness has a certain charm, as a rule it is not an asset when dealing with a nation as complex as the U.S., world leaders as touchy as the Chinese and enemies as ruthlessly immoral as terrorists.

What is needed are seasoned leaders with the experience and political skills their jobs require. The United States has no shortage of such people. But the cost of elections and the source of funds either drives them from the political process or drives them into the waiting arms of the profiteers who have seized control of American government to protect their wealth.

To take back the ship, Americans must take control of the hijackers’ arsenal – the money now flooding the political process.

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