Robber Barons Strike Again


    Well, the mega-buck loonies empowered by the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, coupled with oddly misplaced anger of people who hate the very government that provides them with the programs and protections they enjoy (i.e., slimy Scott Rigell and “cash for clunkers”), have returned political gridlock to Washington. (Actually, gridlock really never left, did it, given the absurdity of Senate rules that require 60 votes to even take a vote on a bill and that allow one senator to place a hold on appointments or legislation he/she dislikes.)

    We have endured yet another campaign season that highlighted all the wrong things and gave voters no possible solutions to the very serious problems we face as a nation. William Gross, the co-founder of Pacific Investment Management (PIMCO), wrote in his November newsletter to PIMCO investors,

    Was it relevant in 2004 that John Kerry was or was not an admirable “swift boat” commander? Will the absence of a mosque within several hundred yards of Ground Zero solve our deficit crisis? Is Christine O’Donnell really a witch? Did Meg Whitman employ an illegal maid? Who cares! We are being conned, folks; Democrats and Republicans alike. What have you really heard from either party that addresses America’s future instead of its prurient overnight fascination with scandal? Shame on them and, of course, shame on us.

    Year after year we seem to get suckered into soap operas loved so by the corporate media. Was President Obama really born in Hawaii? Will the new health reform law actually set up “death panels” for old people, etc.  Bread and circuses replace genuine proposals to solve the problems this nation must eventually face. For example, if the Republicans who have taken back the House of Representatives are actually serious about the deficit, then in order to keep the $70 billion annual tax cut for the wealthy, they should already know exactly what programs they intend to cut in order to save $70 billion every year – and they should be willing to tell the American people.

    If those same Republicans now despise cap-and-trade environmental regulation that was once the darling of those GOP free marketeers, what exactly are they going to replace it with? Nothing? Then, tell us that. Tell us that you people love profits more than clean air or clean water or a climate that isn’t in crisis because of human folly.

    Thomas Friedman, author of The World Is Flat, has become so disillusioned with our political system that he thinks breaking up “the two-party duopoly” by challenging it with a serious third party may the only way out of the political mess we are in.

    Last month, Friedman wrote in the New York Times:

    President Obama has not been a do-nothing failure. He has some real accomplishments…Obama probably did the best he could do, and that’s the point. The best our current two parties can produce today – in the wake of the worst existential crisis in our economy and environment in a century – is suboptimal, even when one party had a huge majority. Suboptimal is O.K. for ordinary times, but these are not ordinary times. We need to stop waiting for Superman and start building a superconsensus to do the superhard stuff we must do now. Pretty good is not even close to good enough today.


    Friedman also quotes Stanford University political scientist Larry Diamond, who has pointed out that our two-party system isn’t working right now. It doesn’t have the “integrity and creativity and…courage” to confront serious problems. Vested interests have purchased both parties, making our supposed representatives actually the handmaidens of those who buy politicians with campaign contributions. Lost in this system of legal bribery is the common good of the nation.

    Friedman predicts that a third party must arise, one that will:

    talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies.

    I don’t see the possibility of a third party actually coming into being and challenging the two parties, certainly not as long as we still have the present campaign finance system. I don’t think politicians want to be bought and sold for campaign contributions, but what choice do they have? What I believe we need is even more unlikely than a successful third party movement. We need a constitutional amendment that would bring public financing to campaigns. That won’t happen in my lifetime.  Even so, it may be the only way to salvage a representative democracy that right now only represents those with the money to get into the game…and it’s a very expensive game.  


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