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Change - We're All Mad Here
You can tell I'm mad because I have straw in my hair.
You're never going to be as cynical as the corporations and the harem of politicians they pay for. It's like trying to outchant a Buddhist monastery.

--Bill McKibben
Politics, goes the old joke, comes from two words: poly, meaning many, and ticks, meaning blood-sucking creatures. This observation causes people to smile wryly and shake their heads, because everyone knows it's true. Politicians are greedy: what are you gonna do? They broke their campaign promises: well, business as usual. They're unsavory, untrustworthy and generally unpleasant: politics, am I right?

Last month, Congress hit a historic low in unpopularity. According to a Gallup poll, only 11% of Americans believe Congress is doing a good job, while 86% believe Congress is screwing up. Eleven percent. This means that Americans are more likely to believe that Obama is not an American citizen than that Congress is doing a good job. More likely to believe that the moon landing was a hoax. And although I can't find a poll for it, probably more likely to believe in fairies.

This is not how politics is meant to work. We are being sold out by the people meant to represent us. And, as Bill McKibben points out in a recent article, it's our cynicism about the process that is letting it happen. Every time we shake our heads and say, "Well, what can you expect?" as we let another atrocity go by, we allow the system to become worse.

We have staffed our government with employees of corporations. They do not work for us; they work for those who pay them. Nearly half of our congresspeople are millionaires, and their net worth grows daily, even as they vote to worsen the economy. And yet people simply say, "Well, what can we do? The next crop will be just as bad."

We can change the rules. We can stop the billions of dollars of corporate bribes that flow into the system. We can quit pretending that the game is not crooked, and we can force it back into balance. It won't be easy, and it won't be a permanent fix -- nothing ever is. But it is preferable to sitting idly by.

Our system is broken. We can and must fix it.

Mood of the Moment: angry angry
Auditory Hallucination: The Timelords -- Doctorin' the Tardis

3 comments or Leave a comment
ellinoora From: ellinoora Date: January 11th, 2012 07:09 am (UTC) (Link)
So... How do we help?
baronmind From: baronmind Date: January 11th, 2012 01:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wish I knew! I'm not even entirely certain what Americans can do. I can see the broad strokes, but I'm unsure how to enact them. From outside the country, I think all you can do is provide moral support.
elmo_iscariot From: elmo_iscariot Date: January 11th, 2012 01:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Looking at the linked article, the solution is supposedly a Constitutional amendment (points for actually advocating a legally legitimate remedy, rather than just demanding more unconstitutional campaign finance laws) restricting the First Amendment:

I don't want to be hopelessly naïve. I want to be hopefully naïve. It would be relatively easy to change this: You could provide public financing for campaigns instead of letting corporations pay. It's the equivalent of having the National Football League hire referees instead of asking the teams to provide them.
To make this happen, however, we may have to change the Constitution, as we've done 27 times before. This time, we'd need to specify that corporations aren't people, that money isn't speech, and that it doesn't abridge the First Amendment to tell people they can't spend whatever they want getting elected...

I'm on board with the revocation of corporate personhood, but it's an extremely libertarian position that I doubt most of its advocates would like in reality. Corporate personhood is what allows large, efficient corporations that provide the services we've become accustomed to.

With regard to the rest, though, it would be shocking to see a supposedly liberal commentator advocating such restrictions on freedom of political speech, if it hadn't become so routine in modern political discourse. McKibben is suggesting that we ration the rights of citizens running for office to use the press to spread their messages. The restriction on campaign donations would require that we extend that rationing to groups of citizens as well, so that the evil corporations don't simply run their own ads independently. Apply the same press limit to each corporation? A corporation can be formed with three people. Are a hundred PACs spending $100,000 each better than one PAC spending $10,000,000? Is that better than the interested party just consolidating the press resources in the candidate himself?

Access to the press isn't free, and in a complex society, corporations are a useful way for people to work together for all kinds of goals.* In that context, "corporate dollars" are a necessary part of a functioning free society. What McKibben is asking for, really, is the suppression of political speech he disagrees with, framed in economic terms that would restrict access to the press.

As far as i'm concerned, anyway, this is unacceptable on its face and we need to look elsewhere for solutions.

* - The ACLU is a corporation. The NRA is a corporation. The NAACP is a corporation. I'd be very surprised if McKibben's 350.org isn't a corporation.]
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