Why Don’t Republicans Want You To Know Where Their Money Is Coming From?

October 14, 2010

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I don’t hide the fact that I find the Republican party disgusting for giving massive gifts to corporate America, but I find the Democratic party at least as culpable for having no spine and allowing it to happen. With the Citizen’s United ruling on January 21st of this year, the floodgates opened completely in terms of buying elections. At this point in time political ads can now be paid for by any corporation and the ad itself does not have to disclose where that money came from. That doesn’t seem so bad, does it? Picture this: Imagine a television ad that shows police brutalizing people, or overbearing and threatening border guards harassing people. The ad says to vote for candidate X who will reign in police and border guard power, and slash spending on those things. Now picture that same ad paid for by North Korean or Chinese corporations, or even holding companies with terrorist sponsors. How about ads secretly paid for by the Westboro Baptist Church that wants guarantees of free speech rights at funerals regardless of state or local laws? (my simple solution for Fred Phelps is to have local laws that allow privacy in an certain radius for military funerals, as if the funeral were private property for that specific event only).

Those are just extreme examples, don’t worry, I’m not advocating those things.

The Republican butt-kissing of corporate power is so ingrained at this point that they actually have voted down The DISCLOSE Act, which would require the source of any money spent on all on political ads to be known and public. That’s corporate dollars, union dollars, and private dollars – DISCLOSE doesn’t discriminate. Seems like a no-brainer, right? I wonder what republicans have to hide – shady corporate money, maybe?

Ahh yes, those Republicans. The champions of small business. Small business like Bechtel and Koch Industries.

… wait, what?

That’s right, thanks to government business classifications, those companies and many more are called “S Corporations“. This means that they may have revenues well into the billions, but because that money is passed directly on to owners who then pay taxes, they are considered small business. What is a big business, then? One that takes in profits that are taxed and then passes those profits on to shareholders. John Boehner recently claimed that under the current Democrat tax proposal “about half of all small business income will be taxed [at a higher rate]. ” Well, if you take the actual number of businesses only 3% of REAL small business will be taxed at a higher rate. Boehner can only claim that 50% of small business income would be taxed at a higher rate when he includes multibillion dollar companies like Bechtel and Koch. These companies fit Boehner’s definition of a small business – being non-shareholder (private) companies – but have very little in common with the small business that used to line main street in your home town.

In other words, he’s holding up continuing tax breaks for Mom-and-Pop businesses because he wants to pass off Bechtel and Koch as small business without the average person knowing about it.  This is the same John Boehner who blamed the current financial crisis on “3 things – Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, and subprime lending” without saying that it was de-regulation and laws pushed through by Republican majority congresses that allowed those things to happen. They call it freedom for business, I call it corporate power screwing people over because government allowed it.

What are the Democrats doing about it? Well, once again they’re looking for their spine. At least they have their heart in the right place; the current administration wants the George W. Bush tax cuts to be extended only for the first $200,000 of a person’s income, or $250,000 for families. While Republicans claim those tax breaks would affect us all because they keep pushing the trickle-down economy lie, the real numbers tell a different story: fewer than 750,000 people, less than .25% would be affected by the top tax rate under the Democrat proposal.  Trickle-down does not work. It is simply an expression created to hide the fact that big business is allowed to feed on the average Joe and legal loopholes and laws are created every year to favor corporations and the rich. Data simply does not support any claim that trickle-down does work.

With massive evidence that the disparity between income classes only continues to grow bigger, the Republican Party of No is just pushing for more laws to make the rich richer at everyone else’s expense. Hooray for the Corporate States of America – would you trust BP, Dow Chemical, or Toyota with unchecked power?

Time To Reign In Corporations

September 9, 2010

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Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility.

-Ambrose Bierce

When I hear the phrase “we the people” I think of your average Joe Citizen. I think of people down on their luck in the inner city, struggling to make ends meet. I think of a guy living in Westchester county with an acre of land and a beautifully manicured lawn. I don’t think of Exxon. Or Pfizer. Or Halliburton. Strangely enough, though, the Supreme Court of the United States thinks of those corporations – all corporations, really – in the same category as “we the people.”

Earlier this year in January with the ruling of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, when the John Roberts led supreme court ruled that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts could not be limited under the First Amendment. This ruling was absolutely unprecedented, but was yet another small step in giving corporations power at the expense of the people. This was an absolutely partisan ruling that struck down the previous bi-partisan McCain-Feingold act that prohibited all corporations from broadcasting “electioneering communications.” In very simple terms the Supreme Court ruled that anyone is essentially “an individual” in terms of campaign donations and political broadcasts. The First Amendment, one of the few things that still separated people from corporations, was now declared by the majority opinion (5-4 almost strictly along party lines) to apply to corporations too.

Since that ruling any group whatsoever can now spend any amount of money on political advertisements that they so wish and do so in a fashion that allows them to obfuscate where the money is coming from. Combine this with the Florida court ruling that says media agencies – even ones specifically devoted toward broadcasting “the news” – are allowed to lie under the first amendment, and you have an environment perfectly set to have corporate shills and puppets running our country.

Not that they don’t already.

One of my favorite authors, William Gibson, often writes about a dystopian future where corporations rule the world by propping up cardboard cutout governments that are technically legal but amount to nothing. In these books no one thinks twice about the fact that these corporations field standing armies, assassinate anyone they deem a threat, and produce products that are known to be harmful to humans simply because they make a profit. We’re not too far from that today. This country was originally set up to be run for the people by the people – a vote by the masses would ensure the brightest would lead this country and have only the best interests in mind for the people. There already are politicians associated with certain high-power corporate entities. Joe Lieberman is widely known for being the senator from Etna, not Connecticut. The Cheney administration seemed to have the best interests of Haliburton and the military-industrial complex in mind rather than those of the country. Now that donation money can flow even more freely you’re going to see a lot more political attack ads against people the corporations don’t want in power and the people they do want in power winning more offices.

What’s one of the biggest ways a corporation gains money and power? At your expense. When Major League Baseball’s Expos were shown to be floundering economically it was decided by a consortium of MLB owners to move the team. They already had the buyer picked out, and through tax breaks, outright grants, and local government donations the Lerner Group effectively purchased the team for no money. Based on the value of the Nationals compared to the Expos it can even be argued that they were paid to take the team. Taxpayers in DC were told a stadium would boost income and revenue for the local economy, they were repeatedly told a popular lie the money would “trickle down.” from the rich to the poor. Yet here we are years later and the income gap between the poor and rich has widened, even more so in Washington DC than other areas.  [Read David Cay Johnston’s book A Free Lunch for more background on the Nationals sale].

In the 1940’s, corporations typically paid around 33% of our government’s tax income. This had failed to 15 percent in the 1990s. On the flip side, the individual tax burden has risen from 44% to over 70% in that same time frame. Corporations feel no remorse, feel no pain, don’t age, don’t worry about the environment, don’t care about the quality of food, and have only one goal: to gain as much money as possible for the few that run it. Corporations are considered people and have all those advantages, yet they don’t have the built-in regulation that most people have: a conscience. A sense of what is right and wrong. How many times can you think of a corporate disaster that cost lives or greatly damaged lives where before any government interaction that corporation jumped to do the right thing and fixed their damage. I honestly can’t think of any. Now how many times can you think of where the reverse happened, where a corporation caused massage damage or death and then dragged their feet doing the right thing and in the end never did make things whole? The Deep Horizon oil spill, the Exxon Valdez, Toyota’s acceleration/brake problem, Union Carbide’s Bopa disaster. In each of those situations I clearly remember more effort and possibly more money going into telling us they were working on fixing the problem than actually fixing the problem.

Think of how scary a world we already live in, in terms of corporate power.

Now think that the vast majority of politicians get the vast majority of their money from corporations with the express intent that the money given is to sway political decisions in corporate favor.

William Gibson, we’re not far from the ethics of Neuromancer while still being pretty far away from the technology that makes that world a wonder. I’d call that a horror book.

State of the Union and Bad Nuts

January 28, 2010

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Welcome to the second edition of my rant that appears here once a month on The Soap Boxers. My first post was on Christmas Eve and now this my second is on my 32nd birthday. So Happy Birthday to me and let us move on to the main topic of this months rant, The State of the Union.

Now I am not one for taking too much out of speeches like this and would rather just see the results of what is said happen, but last night’s address was a quite telling and interesting one. For one if one were just to glance upon it and not have any knowledge that the President was a Democrat, the tone of most of the speech was more conservative in nature. Remorse for deficit spending, praising cutting taxes, planned cuts in further taxes, and freezes in spending. Wow this is that socialism all the teabaggers have been all up in arms about? Anyways, let’s break down a few components addressed on the night.

Bank Bailouts:

I think this was a big populist piece of the speech that needed to be said and in the end really made the Republican party look by their reaction on the surface what they really are loud mouthed, hypocritical corporate tools. Bailouts were bad, needed to be done, most of the money has been returned and the rest is in the works to be returned through charging the banks a fee is the topic from the speech in a nutshell. It was the last part I am referring to that appeared on the surface to paint the Party of No for what they really are and not the populist voice they are trying to use.

The right side of the aisle sat in silenced with grumbling faces and muttering to each other as the President stated that the rest of the money would be returned through charging the banks a fee. It was one of many points on the evening where the President put the opposite party on notice on the night.

SCOTUS Decision:

The one almost “You Lie” moment of tonight’s speech came as the President addressed last week’s decision in the Supreme Court that allows Corporations no restrictions upon advertising for or against or donation to candidates for office.

When the President stated that this decision was wrong and opened the gates to corporate interests both domestic and foreign to control our electoral process, Justice Alito was seen shaking his head and mouthing that is not true. With all do respect to Justice Alito it is entirely true. The decision allows corporations to no loner have restrictions on the amount of money they can spend for a candidate for office and they are also allowed to run their own ads for or against a candidate any time they wish. Thus turning our elected officials into nothing more than corporate prostitutes.

Now I am not naive, corporate interests have dominated Washington and local elected offices as well for many many years and that was not going to end regardless. However this decision basically means corporations can basically buy their own candidates to run for office that will run solely on putting their interests first and the actual interests of their constituents last. Welcome to the Corporate States of America in 2010. Now the President did state that he wanted to see Congress address this, but honestly without a change in the makeup of the court I don’t see anything being able to stick with the wording of the majority opinion in this case.

“Politics as Usual”:

One moment I really enjoyed was when the President talked about even in light of recent election of the 41st no vote on everything the Democrats still had one of their highest majorities in congress in decades and basically told them to grow a pair and get things done for the American people. Then on the other hand told the Republicans if they want to sit there and block and delay ever single thing that comes before Congress then they need to own up to it themselves and they are the sole reason that nothing is getting done.

Bipartisanship is a two way street, not where one party completely stands their ground while the other makes every concession they can just to continue to have the other side say, well that is not good enough still. Should be interesting to see how this unfolds by the midterm elections. Will the Democrats actually gain the muster to just bear down and things done on their own? Hopefully so. Will the Republicans decide that their actions of doing nothing be seen in that light finally and decide to actually do the job of elected office and actually doing something? Probably not, but I can always hope.

Job Creation:

I would have liked to seen a more laid out point of job creation. It was a nice start in what was laid out, but the approximate 30 million jobs to be created is just a minor repair to the damage that has been done, but then again it is only the forecast for the upcoming year.  [Editor’s note: I’m verifying the 30 million figure with Angry Squirrel]

Student Loans:

Being a person paying off student loans it was a nice thing to hear about increasing Pell Grants, creating further tax credits and also the provision to forgive student loan debt after a certain period of time.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:

I wish it would have been done as promised in the first year in office, but better late than never guess. I’ll believe it when I actually see it, but the repeal of this insane and useless policy will be a great day when it comes. A recent report from NPR stating that 1/3 of women in the U.S. Military are raped while in the military is just one of the many more things threatening to the morale and discipline of the armed forces then the sexual preference of your fellow officer.

Well those are just a few of the points I will touch on from the speech, all in all it was a nice speech with some actual meat to it in proposals. Might not be entirely memorable down the line but for his first State of the Union address it was done well.

Now for a monthly tradition to start for my posts, The “Bad Nuts of the Month”. Our trained squirrels are busy each month figuring out the good ones from the bad, and the worst three nuts will be placed on display here before they go where where all the bad nuts go, down the garbage chute.

Bad Nut #1: Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh on the Haiti Earthquake

The evangelical christians’ equivalent to the Pope and El Rushbo the Cracker Drug Addict were really off base on the disaster in Haiti. Robertson stated that the Haitians got what they deserved and this was some sort of wrath for a deal they supposedly made with the devil to gain their independence from France long ago. Rush on the other hand stated that people should not give a dime or a minute of their time to help the Haitian people as it would only be playing into Obama’s hands in garnering respect form the light and dark skinned blacks in this country.

Then again nothing out of either of these two guys mouths really shocks me, but they are a couple of the worst nuts of the month. Rush would also make the list for his comments about Obama attacking Jews because he is going after the banks comments, but there is no need to list the same person more than once on the list.

Bad Nut #2: James O’Keefe and Friends

I guess the joke’s on James O’Keefe, the officials in Mary Landrieu’s offices were not gullible to believe he was actually a phone repairman as the idiots at the ACORN offices were to fall for him actually being a pimp. Now after entering the offices on Federal property under false pretenses to perform a felony O’Keefe and his buddies are now going to be facing some mandatory federal prison time.

Bad Nut #3: South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer.

One of the frontrunners for the Republican nomination in the next gubernatorial race in the state as well, Bauer stated that aid to the needy should be cut for some very interesting reasons. Me paraphrasing it does not do the idiocy of the man justice so I’ll just put the quotes from him on this issue in full context.

“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better. You see, for the first time in the history of this country, we’ve got more people voting for a living than we do working for a living.”

He then goes on to rant about requiring parents to take drug tests and if they don’t pass then their children don’t deserve anything from the state at all because of that and that parents should be required to attend every PTO meeting or school event or you shouldn’t receive any benefits and that we should take away the huge monetary draw public assistance is (LMAO) by reducing benefits the more children you have.