Posts Tagged ‘economy’

It used to make me crazy that votes cast by uninformed citizens carried as much weight as those cast by folks who at least cared enough to learn something about the candidates and issues on the ballot.  It seemed unfair that a person with no historical reference, someone who couldn’t be bothered to read – or even watch – the news had every bit as much influence in the voting booth as someone who could name one of his state’s senators, knew that the Gettysburg Address was not part of the Constitution and was pretty darned sure we did not fight North Vietnam during World War Two.

There oughta be a voting test, I thought.  Kinda like a DMV driving test—a short, maybe 10-question exam, that would separate the civic numbskulls from the not-numbskulls. Score 7 out of 10, and you get your ballot.  Simple.

But there was a problem. Who would design the test? The temptation to skew the test toward one ideological direction or other is too great to leave the job to some overzealous or corruptible employee of the Registrar of Voters.  In other words, we would have to select the proper test by public referendum—putting us right back where we started. Damn. Democracy is messy.

Eventually, I realized that it really didn’t matter anyway. All the votes based on criteria, like “Hey, this candidate has the same first name as my second cousin” and “Wow, this proposition’s number is my wife’s lucky lotto number!” would cancel each other out, leaving the more reasoned votes to battle for the direction of our glorious democracy.

Or so I thought.

Rebels Without a Clue

How was I to know that fear, anger, a wrecked economy and a rightwing TV network would one day marshal those once unconcerned voters into a potent “throw the bums out” voting bloc called “The Tea Party?”

Though it appears the Tea Party-ers’ new passion for politics has not compelled them to become any more informed than they were before joining the movement, don’t worry; Fox News tells them everything they need to know in short, easy-to-parrot catchphrases. So, instead of directing their anger toward the poodle politicians who continue to sell Americans’ health and standard of living to the highest corporate bidders, they blame Obama, a president who has at least shown some inclination–timid though it may be–to rein in the robber-barons of the insurance, energy, healthcare and banking industries.

Chumped

As the Tea Party screams about socialism and Big Government’s intrusion into the private sector, guess who sits back in their $15,000 ostrich leather recliners, gleefully rubbing their hands together like Snidely Whiplash, salivating in anticipation of the next Tea Party victory—the board members of the very corporations whose gambling, outsourcing and greed created the Great American Mess in the first place; that’s who. Bravely marching on, waving their “Obama is a Communist Nazi” signs, the Tea Party-ers have no idea that they’re actually being led down a Stars and Stripes-festooned chute to a fiscal slaughtering pen.

It’s not that Tea Party candidates or members are any smarter or dumber than your average extremist, war-happy, nativist, homophobic, rightwing Republican. It’s just that I would have hoped a sweet, home-grown candidate like the Tea Party’s newest champion, Christine O’Donnell, might at least see economic matters a bit differently than Establishment Republicans, whose ideas of personal adversity run toward catastrophes like late limo drivers and overcooked chateau briand.

Unlike the upper-crust Republicans who populate Capitol Hill, O’Donnell is a working gal who, like so many Americans, has personally felt the sharp pain of financial insolvency. You’d think that at some point while trying to dig herself out of  IRS liens and threatened home foreclosures, Ms. O’Donnell would have noticed how dramatically the deck has been stacked against working Americans by large  corporations and their handmaidens in Congress. That in her darkest moment of despair she would have been struck by a blinding flash of understanding that a gambled-away economy, stagnant wages, unaffordable healthcare and a disappearing middle class are not the results of over-sized government, but of corporate avarice and power run amok; that Big Government isn’t the problem…Owned Government is.

The Loopy Bunch

“Throw the bums out,” has been the rallying cry of a disgruntled electorate since the founding of our democracy. Members of the Tea Party movement, however, have added  their own unique codicil: “Throw the bums out and replace them with people who are as clueless as we are.”

Case in point: Tea Party favorite and Republican nominee for the New York gubernatorial race, Carl Paladino.  Sure, he’s unbalanced and looks like he could spontaneously combust at any moment, but he also appears to be unbelievably stupid. Did he not see the cameras and lights when he threatened to “take out” New York Post reporter Fredric Dicker? Did he not realize that he would come off looking like a temperamental maître d’ doing a really bad Goodfellas routine? And of all the news organizations on the planet to go after, which does Paladino choose? Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post–trumpet of the Rabid Right, and friend to Paladino’s campaign…until Paladino went thug on them, that is.

In Kentucky there’s the Tea Party-approved,  tousle-haired Rand Paul, publicly voicing his opposition to both the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, while O’Donnell’s past dabblings in witchcraft, and rejection of evolution and masturbation continue to provide insight into the early development of a Tea Party great.

Good lord, I wouldn’t trust these people to park my car!

The Tea Party movement could be a blessing, though. It is already causing wide-spread panic throughout the Republican Party, which is always a good thing. GOP leaders are now forced to answer two difficult questions,  “Do we sign on with these loons and risk losing the few sane people we have left, or do we ignore them and pray that their amazing facility for self-destruction quickly slides them back under the rock?” The first strategy would surely strike terror in the hearts of many Independents, driving them back to the Democrats; but strategy #2 might cause the Crazed Right to stay home on election day — an interesting dilemma.

The Tea Party movement also serves as a kind of national bellwether. If my countrymen are crazy enough to put that crew into Congress, where their votes could actually influence what goes on in my country and my life, I’ll know that it’s time to move to Greenland.


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Have American taxpayers had enough yet? Are they tired of having to foot the bill for industry-government collusion? Have the double-whammy calamities of the Great Recession and the Gulf disaster finally whipped everyone into a white-hot lather of collective rage, bellowing loudly for campaign finance reform NOW?

Well, not quite everyone.

As Democrats in the House and Senate try to enact the Fair Elections Now Act in time for the bill to affect November’s election, Republicans and big business are doing everything in their power to scuttle it. The bill, and its companion legislation, the Disclosure Act, would simply make it more difficult for corporations and unions to continue unduly influencing America’s electoral process.

Fair Elections Now would give candidates the option of running for office on a blend of limited public funds and a four-to-one match on donations of $100 or less, thus making grassroots support—not moneyed special interests—the new mother’s milk of politics.

The Disclosure Act would remove the secrecy that now enshrouds many large political donations. Under the bill, voters would know if BP Oil or the SEIU happen to bankroll a political cause, organization or candidate.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which, in effect, made a donation of our democracy to wealthy special interests, these bills are the very least—repeat: “least”—Congress should do.

Yet, Republicans are continuing on their well-traveled path of obstructionism by offering only sketchy support for the bills in the House and none in the Senate. Oddly enough, one of the few Republican supporters of the Fair Elections Now Act is the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina.

Whether these bills survive or not, Democrats would be well advised to make political hay out of their opponents’ foot-dragging on clean elections. The next time Michael Steele claims that his party is the party of and for the people—not big business—Democrats should be ready to pounce, waving Republican voting records in front of the cameras.

Why No Contingency Plan, BP?

Why didn’t British Petroleum have a contingency plan, like the plan other countries insist upon as a precondition to offshore drilling? Because “We, the People” didn’t force them to. Why didn’t “We the People” force them to? Because our representatives were afraid to bite the hand that feeds their campaign war chests.  In the current swap meet known as the U.S. government, voting for tough, loophole-free, safety regulations on Big Oil would have been considered bad-faith dealing, and extremely ungrateful.

BP, AIG, Exxon, Lehman Brothers, oil spills and financial meltdowns—only the names of the companies and types of disasters change; the reasons for the disasters remain the same: Corporate greed and a government on the take.

The Fair Elections Now and Disclosure legislation may be tiny steps, but they are definitely steps in the right direction.

Why doesn’t the GOP think so?

[Update] Open Secrets tells us that as of September 1, “The Fair Elections Now Act has not made it out of committee. And while the House passed the DISCLOSE Act in June, Republican senators have so far blocked it in Congress’ upper chamber.”

These guys know where their bread is buttered, don’t they?