Here is what he explained to me: our government policies are driven by, and for, special moneyed interest through lobbyists; in fact much of the legislation is written outside of Congress by the very same special interests the proposed laws are designed to regulate. Elections, he went on to explain, is just “theater” to give people the illusion of representation in governance. Voting trends are completely manipulated by very complex, expensive and professionally managed campaign marketing machines.
The professor has since moved to a university president position; I’ve lost touch with him over the years. Still, at that time I found it very difficult to accept what he told me. Somehow, I still held onto the belief that the democratic process was working the way it was supposed to. But events over recent years have caused me to no longer believe we live in a democratically run country.
Some of you may already be familiar with this monologue by the late George Carlin. If you’ve already seen it, watch it again. Carlin is not joking, he is deadly serious – and I fear is he is also right.
Carlin has been accused of being a “conspiracy theorist”; but as he pointed out during an appearance on the Bill Maher show, the ultra wealthy do not need to meet in secret chambers, they need no secret plan or to plot devious strategies -- the wealthy and powerful already know what is in their best interest and their enormous resources are employed to further those interests.
Even newly elected governor Jerry Brown in a recent interview, "We the People? Jerry Brown on Money, Politics,and Who Really Runs America" even concedes the democratic process is skewed to the advantage of wealthy special interests. Exerpt: "The fact of the matter is that if... you take special interest money, you do what they want. Now on any given bill, if there’s heat, if there’s public scrutiny, you’re not going to be obvious about having been bought off. You have to keep that covered. But in fact you are bought off. The entire system is bought off by the institutional bias created by special interest campaign spending."
I understand that some people want to hold onto hope. The Obama campaign was selling hope by the bushel basket; and I bought into it as well. But one needs to ask themselves; why is it we are debating cutting benefits for the most needy in our society while the wealthiest 2% sacrafice nothing? Why have the two longest wars in our history been waged without a tax increase as ALL our other wars have?
Even our "free press", is sustained by huge private media corporations. Fox news is, at least, blatant about their conservative bias. The stories which air are intentionally crafted to manipulate the public; be it “gay marriage”, abortion, immigration, the growing deficit. These hot-button issues are intentionally thrust into the public consciousness to divert our attention from the corruption of our democratic process. In a country where a vast majority base their decisions regarding candidates and issues primarily based on 30-second TV advertisement, this is where the propaganda turns directly into votes.
I do not discount that there are men and woman of principles and conscience within our government. For example, Vermont's Bernie Sanders or our own Peter DeFazio here in Oregon. But they still are limited by the rules and the harsh realities of government strongly influenced by unseen moneyed and special interests.
As sad as I am to accept what Carlin is saying, I find substantiation of his views on an almost daily basis. We are dancing to the tune being played by the wealthiest 2% who own 24% (and growing) of the nation's wealth. The system is working for them quite well.
Below are just a few bits of evidence supporting Carlin's view; you can likely find many more on your own.
~ Court rulings ~
January 2010 - The US Supreme Court has struck down a major portion of a 2002 campaign-finance reform law, saying it violates the free-speech right of corporations to engage in public debate of political issues. The result is that all campaign finance laws are thrown out opening the door for any anonymous moneyed interests to support candidates or causes.
~ Documentaries ~
Frontline: The Warning (2009)
A detailed look at the roots of America's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, this "Frontline" documentary exposes why government officials refused to regulate emerging derivatives markets that later ruined global financial systems.
Frontline: Breaking the Bank (2009)
With an eye on the financial crisis that sent Wall Street reeling in the midst of the 2008 presidential election, this penetrating edition of "Frontline" investigates what went wrong, who's to blame and how long it will take to repair the damage. Specifically, the program looks at the role of so-called "superbanks" and other players in the housing market's soaring fortunes -- and its ultimately devastating decline.
Frontline: Obama's Deal (2010)
Witness how American politics operates in the Obama era with this revealing documentary, which grants viewers incredible access to private meetings from the White House to Capitol Hill throughout the lengthy and arduous health care reform debate. Through interviews with key officials, senators and lobbyists, this program exposes how quiet negotiations and special interest groups drastically reshaped the landmark health care legislation.
~ Journalists ~
Big American companies are sitting on almost $2 trillion of cash because there aren't enough customers to buy additional goods and services. The only people with money are the richest 10 percent whose stock portfolios have been roaring back to life, but their spending isn't enough to spur much additional hiring.
Republicans, for their part, worry that if they tell it like it is Americans will want government to do more rather than less. They'd rather not talk about jobs and wages, and put the focus instead on deficit reduction (or spread the lie that by reducing the deficit we'll get more jobs and higher wages).
To the extent non-financial companies are doing well, they're making most of their money abroad. Since 1992, for example, G.E.'s offshore profits have risen $92 billion, from $15 billion (which is one reason it pays no U.S. taxes). In fact, the only group that's optimistic about the future are CEOs of big American companies.
[FYI: GE paid NO corporate income taxes last year.]
Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don't think government should help its citizens. That is, they don't think citizens should help each other. The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have 174 bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people.
~ News ~
Regarding President Obama's chairman of his "Jobs council", GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt - former senator Russ Feingold says: "How can someone like Immelt be given the responsibility of heading a jobs creation task force when his company has been creating more jobs overseas while reducing its American workforce? And under Immelt's direction, GE spends hundreds of millions of dollars hiring lawyers and lobbyists to evade taxes." Read the full article here.
Update: There apparently is some misinformation regarding GE and it's tax liability. For a more detailed explanation, check out this article: Setting The Record Straight on GE’s Taxes, by Allan Sloan, Fortune, and Jeff Gerth, Pro-Publica.