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Friday, October 8, 2010

The best Democracy money can buy

At this point in the mid term elections in 2006 special interest groups had spent $16 million, over 90% of which the source was identified. In 2010 at the same point $80 million has been spent of which only 50% is identifiable. The difference is the Supreme Court's "Citizen's United" decision to allow unlimited and anonymous corporate money to swamp elections. Yes, the decision gave Trade Unions the same rights but in the real world Trade Unions cannot begin to compete with corporations or billionaires who are more concerned with how much taxes they pay rather than the welfare of the economy as a whole or of its citizens.

Ironically the issue before the court was one of free speech. The decision was not about free speech, but about bought speech, paid for by the richest and the most powerful to shout so loud and so frequently that they drown out the voices of those whose interests they don't serve.

Of that $80 million, well over 80% of it comes from these monied interests to support the Republicans. Their investment will, in all likelihood dwarf any return they will make on anywhere else. It always does. The Chamber of Commerce alone is sitting on a war chest of about $75 million, most of which has yet to be spent. That some of the Chamber's money is derived from foreign sources is, in all likelihood illegal is of little importance overall. Karl rpve's American Crossroads raised 44.7 million between March 1 and June 30. 97% of that came from four billionaires, three of them from Texas. No doubt that sum has been far exceeded since then. Almost all of it is going into ads in close races, and all of the ads are, as is Rove's style, nefative ads directed at Democrats.

There is no functioning democracy anywhere in the world where secretly sourced and unlimited amounts of money is allowed to be raised and spent so freely. If the shoe were on the other foot it would be no better but it isn't.

The power of these interests is unequaled since the Gilded Age at the end of the last century yet this isn't enough for them. The gap between the richest Americans and the rest is as wide as it's ever been yet that isn't enough for them. They want to pay less taxes and despise even the sanest regulations that limit them. They want to do away with the minimum wage, spend less on education, whittle away the safety net, spend less on child nutrition and everything else that helps those who are struggling. That America is no longer statistically the nation with the highest level of social and economic mobility (in fact they are not even in the top 10) is of no concern to them.

They want to turn much of Social Security over to the very same financial institutions that caused the economy to come crashing down. Having learned less than nothing from it, they want to strip away any regulations and let the banks play with Social Security in the casino that is Wall Street.

They talk fiscal responsibility but when they have power they exhibit none of it. Prior to Obama assuming the Presidency, the past five Republican (2 Reagan and 3 Bush) administrations created over 85% of America's total debt since its founding.

The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court earlier this year has already realized the worst fears of those who were horrified at the decision. History will see it as one of the worst decisions ever made by the Supreme court on a par with the Dred Scott decision which endorsed slaveowners right or Plessy v Ferguson which ruled that separate but supposedly equal facilities for blacks was legal.

In the meantime we will have to deal with the consequences, which in this midterm election were looking bleak for Democrats without being outspent 7-1. It is in midterm elections that this rule will have more effect as people are paying less attention without a presidential race to drive people to the polls.

At worst it appears that the Democrats will lose the House but manage to hang on to the Senate. With Obama still in the White House the damage they can do will be limited but this doesn't lessen the inherent problems created by the Supreme Court decision. God help us if the economy continues to flounder or worsen before 2012, something that will be far more likely in what will be a gridlocked legislature for the next two years.

This Keith Olberman comment on the election spending is worth watching.

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