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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Best damned election money can buy

As we ignore the robocalls and cringe over the final round of nasty ads, it's time to consider exactly how the greatest democracy has deteriorated -- thanks to the unprecedented and corrupting influence of cash at the state and national levels.

While liberals and conservatives can agree on the fact there is too much money flooding our government and political system, we disagree on what the problem is. Liberals target campaign spending, which has hit truly obscene levels thanks to the horrid Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

Conservatives target "entitlements," even those they benefit from key programs like Medicare and Social Security.

But the real problem is the spending triggered by those contributions: Upwards of $1 trillion on defense to fight two wars and maintain a nuclear bomb and missile defense system against a country no longer considered our enemy == and six time larger than that of a country which could.

Of that total, at least $80 billion in spent on intelligence, at least as far as we know. The Washington Post spelled out what we get for that spending in earlier this year: a system that involves more than 1,200 government organizations and nearly 2,000 private contractors, employing more than 850,000 people and occupying space larger than three Pentagons. A system the Post describes as:
"...so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work."
A deep dive into the campaign contributions we can examine -- as opposed to the ones hiding behind Citizens United -- would show vast contributions from what Dwight Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago, a military-industrial complex of organizations who profit from the $1 trillion, not to mention the massive waste.

Yet listen to the right and you would think waste, fraud and abuses exist only in social programs. That narrow-focused look at government waste is what unlimited campaign spending can buy.

And I haven't even begun to raise the problems caused by the lack of government oversight of the financial industry that wrecked our economy aided in large part by the same shameful flow of cash into political influence peddling.

So let's focus on he one thing right and left can agree on: our system is rotten. But unless or until we can get our heads around where the true rot lies -- and allow our elections to be bought and sold to by the highest bidder -- our national discourse will continue to wallow in the nasty finger pointing and partisan warfare is slowly destroying our nation.

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Blogger Readwriteblue said...

Those who are committed to the left side of the political spectrum love to quote the “military industrial complex” speech and put great belief that only in Defense spending is there fraud and abuse. If only they were perceptive enough to see the “educational industrial complex” and the “entitlement industrial complex” and the “regulatory industrial complex” then we might have a hope of corralling the run away spending that is bankrupting our nation.

I, speaking as a right winger and a Tea Party Member, believe that there is not enough money in politics.

Why do you feel that our democracy has deteriorated? Is it because your political philosophy is not as popular as it once was? I meet more and more Americans taking interest in politics and civics everyday. The Tea Party Movement has energized Americans, those that formed it as well as those that oppose it. We could be seeing a sea change in our politics. At the very least we are seeing a shake up of our calcified system. I can’t wait for Tuesday.

November 01, 2010 5:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though not a tea-partier (I don't like to join groups) I agree that recent events have energized the electorate. The average Joe has been getting screwed by government for years now and we're fed up. Term limits are the way to go, I bet in the beginning even Dianne Wilkerson was honest, then the pervasive attitude of "our leaders" led her to beleive she was deserving of extra. And if term limits are only attainable by voting out every incumbent, then so be it.

November 01, 2010 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liberal - for decades, public employee unions in Mass. (teachers, police, SEIU, NAGE, etc.) have spent this kind of money supporting Democrats with predictable results - a virtual one-party state. What the CU decision did was to allow business money in, and to allow unions to hide their involvement behind 'names', along with their usual involvement as well.

The newly discovered outrage over Citizens United was dormant as long as it was only liberals being supported by third party groups. So don't expect conservatives to worry that you aren't enjoying your monopoly any more.

November 01, 2010 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Readwriteblue, The "Military Industrial Complex" had nothing to do with waste, but the increase in the military to fuel industry. Thus starting wars to justify the need for more military spending. As for your other comments, the US ranks last in education spending in 1st world countries per capita, has far fewer regulations for banking and environmental controls and ranks near the bottom for social program spending per capita.

Before Social Security was enacted 70% of the elderly lived in poverty and around 45% of the general public. There were such things as "Poor Houses" where people lived in the same room for a few cents a week. Even entire families lived in a small room together. Stagnant wages. Your employer could charge your family if you died on the job. And the lovely mass pits they buried people that could not afford a regular burial. This was also the age of the Robber Barons, which Teddy Roosevelt (R) rallied against.

Addressing the other comments about businesses, businesses are not groups of people, like a special interest group or unions. Businesses, by their very definition, do not have morals and do not care about anything except profit. Again, go back to the 1880s when there was laissez faire policies in place. There was a very small upper class that controlled everything, a small middle class and a very large lower class.

And finally, the comment about the unions spending all kinds of money for years is completely false. There were federal laws and stricter State laws that forbid many of the activities that are allowed under the Citizens United ruling. Since the CU ruling businesses have outspent the unions 7 to 1.

The tax cuts that went in during Pres Bush failed to stimulate the economy. We have had the worst period of growth since the Great Depression. Does anyone really think repealing Social Security and Medicare are really going to help? If Social Security was privatized, like Pres Bush wanted, how many people, especially older people, would be without any money since the Stock Market crashed?

If we really want to get America back on track, then we need manufacturing. We need to close the loopholes and charge tariffs on imported goods.

Do we want to have a society where everyone chips in what they can to better the community and everyone in it? Or do we want a society that does not care about each other, which leads to societal decay?

November 02, 2010 12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least when organizations like your hated unions came out for candidates, you knew it. Today, after Citizens United, you don't know. BTW, it isn't newly discovered rage, Citizens United happened very recently, and the results have shown to be exactly as bad as they were expected to be. That's the difference. As for me personally, I think campaign donations should be restricted to whomever can register to cast a vote, meaning no companies, no unions, no organizations of any kind.

November 02, 2010 12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm tired of chipping in more than my share.

November 02, 2010 4:57 AM  

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