Monday, August 03, 2015

Bring on the American oligarchy: law makers get richer too ... by gimleteye

In "Lawmakers in Tallahassee continue to get richer", the Miami Herald's Michael Auslen reports, "In the wake of the Great Recession, which left the average Florida family struggling to make ends meet, at least one group of people continues to get richer: It pays to be elected to the state House or Senate. Of the 160 lawmakers elected to the state Legislature, 114 have increased their own personal wealth while in office, a Herald/Times analysis of officials’ financial statements found."

Crony capitalism is defined by the unrestricted ability of regulated industries and their top shareholders to manage legislative and governmental purposes that are nominally democratic to their own ends. One of the best examples is the domination of water management infrastructure in Florida by agricultural interests like Big Sugar. It is also a reciprocal relationship. Making sure that elected officials are financially well-off and "taken care of" is a key feature of crony capitalism: one hand washes the other.

U.S. flag flying over the Bridgeport ferry, "PT Barnum"
In a recent interview with Tom Hartmann, President Jimmy Carter pounced on the theme as he has, in the past: "Now it (the United States) is just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nomination for president or elected president. And the same thing applies to U.S. senators and congress members. We've seen a complete subverstion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election is over."

Along the same lines, the New York Times has investigated IRS filings and Federal Election records to analyze the shocking concentration of political giving by the nation's wealthiest families. In "Small Pool of Rich Donors Dominates Election Giving," the Times writes, "Fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era. The vast majority of the $388 million backing presidential candidates this year is being channeled to groups that can accept unlimited contributions in support of candidates from almost any source. The speed with which such “super PACs” can raise money — sometimes bringing in tens of millions of dollars from a few businesses or individuals in a matter of days — has allowed them to build enormous campaign war chests in a fraction of the time that it would take the candidates, who are restricted in how much they can accept from a single donor."

"A New York Times analysis of Federal Election Commission reports and Internal Revenue Service records shows that the fund-raising arms race has made most of the presidential hopefuls deeply dependent on a small pool of the richest Americans. The concentration of donors is greatest on the Republican side, according to the Times analysis, where consultants and lawyers have pushed more aggressively to exploit the looser fund-raising rules that have fueled the rise of super PACs. Just 130 or so families and their businesses provided more than half the money raised through June by Republican candidates and their super PACs."

While it is fair to say that wealth and power have always traveled hand-in-hand in the United States, the concentration of wealth and of power is having a massive, damaging effect on the majority of Americans who are outside the small circle of cronyism. The devastation is proceeding exactly along the lines of federal AND state control. Voters, largely asleep at the switch, seem hypnotized by message machinery and information delivery systems like Fox News, organized to dull the senses.

It is no simple arithmetic that, according to The Herald, "On average, lawmakers’ net worth has more than doubled from the year of their first campaign through 2014. Their incomes have generally risen, too, by 63 percent on average. For some legislators, years spent in elected office have accompanied multi-million-dollar increases to their net worth." It’s a stark contrast to the reality most Floridians face. The average worker’s pay is higher now than in 2010, but it still falls short of the paychecks Floridians brought home before the 2007 downturn, when adjusted for inflation. Many who saw their home values plummet and 401(k)s shredded have never recovered."

Senate President Andy Gardiner (Republican), one of the clear beneficiaries of crony capitalism, tells the Herald, "The best thing the Legislature and government in general can do is to provide an environment where the free market can thrive,” defining what, in former President Carter's words, "... violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system.

Pay attention in the first "debate" of the Republican presidential how many times the free market is invoked, because this is not your grandfather's "free market"; this is systematic looting of the public trust in an age of scarcity by insiders who take what they want because voters are too confused to tell the difference.


Chauncey said...

Thanks, Obama!

Anonymous said...

Really? AYFKM?

Anonymous said...

The media used to be the counterpoint to wealth and power in the political arena Ironically the advent and freedom of Internet is changing that dynamic of the fourth estate....Next week's republican debates are supposed to be based on the top polling candidates. Today we find out that that because that agreed upon metric included Donald Trump, the rich and powerful are now changing the polling formula at the 11th hour to push it's own agenda....
to paraphrase Patrick Henry
I'm no fan of the Donald but I defend his right to make an ass of himself on the public stage..

CATO said...

Trump and Sanders are reflections of a huge discontent on opposite sides of the political spectrum. I am no fan of either of these gentlemen (I use the term loosely), but I am also NO FAN of all the crap the establishment (Koch, Soros, Addelson et al ) rolls out Bush, Clinton, Walker, Rubio, Biden, Christie etc etc etc.

Let's be real the gene pool is drowning in crappy genetic material, Idiocracy is now. Instead of debate we should have some sort of UFC event were all these guys and gals just clobber each other until one is left standing, at least it will be more entertaining than 120 minutes plus of cliches, platitudes, bromides and just plain old horse shit.

cyndi said...

Totally agree with this,"'m no fan of the Donald but I defend his right to make an ass of himself on the public stage.. "
We're all discontented but can't find a way to find common ground. Jimmy Cater is right.