Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jumping elephants

Straight-ticket Republican voters who don’t happen to be wealthy may have jumped off a cliff on election day.

These middle-class Republican voters said yes to the corporate agenda of low wages, more hidden tax hikes on the middle class, more tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy, and the possibility of state-sanctioned theft of pensions earned by people who worked many long years hoping to safely retire.

Corporate CEOs give cash to selected politicians because it's such a savvy investment for them - these politicians pass laws to lift the tax burden off corporations and onto the middle class. Back in the 1940s, corporations paid about a third of all taxes collected. Today they pay 15 percent. Meanwhile, the share of taxes paid by everyone else grew from 44 percent to 73 percent.

The corporate agenda keeps worker pay low as CEO salaries soar.  The paychecks of chief execs zoomed upward by 434% during the 90s, and during that same period worker pay grew only 34 percent.

Like obedient serfs, voters keep following the corporate agenda, electing leaders backed by corporations. How can so many people be lured into voting against their own interests? About $3 billion rolled into the hands of commercial broadcasters for political ads in this election, with corporate-backed candidates outspending their rivals by a margin of 7 to 1.

The closest comparison I can find is the buffalo jump, when hunters of old cleverly killed buffalo by spooking them to run off a cliff. Today’s hunters spook elephants with broadcast ads funded by corporate money.

Even though corporations scored a big win, election-day brought some benefits.

To their great credit, jumping elephants helped pass the Fair Districts Amendments. Unless the Legislature concocts some way to sabotage it, politicians no longer get to cherry pick their voters. Instead, district lines must reflect reasonable, normal chunks of territory, such as city and county boundaries. Candidates can then focus on getting out and meeting people rather than spending so much on advertising. I think candidates from both parties will gain some relief there.

Jumping elephants also helped make sure Amendment 8, the Legislature’s attempt to undermine class-size limits, didn’t pass.

Backers of Amendment 8 touted it as a way to add some flexibility so that schools would not have to spend a fortune to accommodate a new student or two. Just before the election it was revealed that this argument was baseless. The costs can be trimmed back simply by adjusting the law. So all the scary talk – and the half a million of your money that the Legislature spent pushing Amendment 8 - was unnecessary.

Because Democrats took a savage beating, we know what's going to happen next. In two years they will be hot for revenge. Then we may see a donkey jump – hordes of straight-ticket voters blindly selecting anyone with a D by their name.

That could be equally self-destructive and equally disappointing.
Blindly jumping off a cliff makes no sense for anyone.

Republicans and Democrats alike need to settle down and ask themselves a question or two. They need to figure out who really benefits from all the fear, anger, and fighting that characterize elections today. Could it be that they have more in common than they think? Could the whole Republican-Democrat debate be nothing more than a smokescreen to hide massive crimes now being committed against all middle-class Americans?

The Wall Street criminals who stole Granny’s pension didn’t care how she voted. The corporate criminals who sent jobs overseas while sacking American workers didn’t look to see which party the workers belonged to. The banksters who grabbed the bailout and still won’t lend money to struggling families could care less about their victims’ political views. Predatory lenders kick Republican and Democrat families out of their homes with equal enthusiasm.

The leaders of both political parties share one common characteristic – they cannot stop corporate crime. Corporations now have more power than government. According to the Corporate Crime Reporter, "Corporate criminals are the only criminal class in the United States that have the power to define the laws under which they live."

Consider this quotation:

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. …corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

Now, can you identify the author?

a. Al Gore’s favorite philosophy professor
b. A protest leader speaking at his arraignment after being arrested at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle
c. A croissant-nibbling, latte-sipping Harvard economist 
d. The nation's most famous, most respected Republican

To find the answer, please go here. 

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