WANTED: Honest Politicians (Mr. Smith, Please Go To Washington!)
In the last decade, the middle class and the upper-middle class have begun to disappear; they are a shadow of their former selves. And, in the last five years, people with investments in the stock market started to hurt. Wealthy Wall Street types started to see the walls crumble as bad investments came home to roost.
(Apologies for mixing my metaphors.)
Money talks, but lots of money screams loudly. So when the bad economy moved in like heavy dark storm clouds in 2008 – apparently all the meteorologists were on break – the wealthiest amongst us screamed loudly and stirred our government into a panic. And they, our faithful public servants, sprung into action, asking only how high they should jump.
What ever happened to true capitalism – an economic system guided through the operation of markets? The market purges itself as businesses succeed and fail; competition reigns, monopolies and oligopolies need not apply.
Remember Treasury Secretary Paulson under President Bush? He offered a three page bailout plan proposal to save us from economic collapse, insisting the end of the world was imminent and there was no time for Congress to discuss it or debate it or consider alternate options.
Or perhaps he didn’t want anyone to think about it too long, lest they see that it was really all about bailing out his friends in Wall Street.
If the Bailout Plan Proposal was truly all in the best interests of our country, why would he include the following clause in the proposal: ‘Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.’ And with no way to hold him accountable, he also includes in his bailout plan proposal the following: ‘The Secretary’s authority to purchase mortgage-related assets under this Act shall be limited to $700,000,000,000 outstanding at any one time‘ [Text of 2008 Bailout Plan Proposal]
So, let me understand this… one man wanted Congress to let him spend $700,000,000,000 of taxpayer money, at any one time, but he did not want to be held accountable to anyone, nor to have his decisions be subject to review by any court or administrative agency. Hmmm… last I checked, we still lived in a democracy, or, more accurately, a republic, a representative democracy. Right?
If you recall, the politicians were going to quickly pass Paulson’s proposal through, until we, the American people, bombarded our representatives with emails and phone calls and good old-fashion letters! We forced the politicians to take some time to think about it, consider other options, and in the end… they passed something very similar to the original proposal.
Imagine you majorly screw things up at your work, you and your company made tons of money, but, boy, you really screwed up by taking all kinds of risk and doing things borderline illegal and the chips are about to fall. But, no worries, because your former boss, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs (your pretend employer) is now Secretary of the Treasury and he’ll make sure you get bailed out… along with all those other politicians to whom you and your company contributed so heavily.
Heck, not only will you not lose your job, not only will your company not go under, not only will you get to keep the ridiculous amounts of money you got as a result of screwing things up, but you will make big bonuses as well, because, after all, it is in your contract!
Why is it that the same politicians who are against using taxpayer money to help individuals in need, people out of a job or out of a home, are okay with using taxpayer money to subsidize trillion-dollar-profit oil companies or to bail out the financial and banking industry? Well, for the same reason that the other politicians who claim to stand for helping the little guy also agree to subsidize corporations and bail out Wall Street, or promise healthcare reform and offer minor health insurance reform, or promise to protect the environment while accepting huge contributions and perks from companies like BP.
Whether the politician is from the left or the right, Democrat or Republican, they have more likely than not accepted contributions and allowed influence from powerful and wealthy corporations and individuals. Guess whose interests they will represent when those interests run up against your interests? I’ll give you one guess.
Whatever happened to one man one vote? Whatever happened to a government by the people, for the people? If you find out, please let me know.
As the middle class and the upper-middle class have begun to disappear, the lower middle class and poor have increased in numbers, joined by millions more formerly-middle-class families. We live in times when, for the first time, it is unlikely that children will do better financially than their parents. The chasm between wealthy and poor has widened. More than 90% of our wealth and resources belong to less than 1% of the population.
If you study history, you know those are the conditions that lend themselves to revolution. But we live in the United States of America, where our constitution makes revolution unnecessary, if we really pay attention to whom we elect into office. If we do our research on these politicians and check their past record and past writings, find out who their largest contributors have been, look at the people with whom they surround themselves, assess their intelligence and ability to comprehend complex issues, and determine if they are willing to do the hard work for the right reasons. Do they make and break promises to get themselves elected? Do they lie about their record or their opponents to get what they want? Character matters.
We need to demand transparency about who finances the campaigns of the candidates running for office, or, better yet, get rid of individual donations to candidates and politicians, and institute stringent campaign finance reform, which includes limited public financing of all campaigns and free television debates and air time. Institute legislation to ensure truth in advertising for campaign literature and commercials. And, the cherry on the cake, outlaw lobbyists strangle-hold on politicians – make it illegal for politicians to accept money, perks, or benefits from lobbyists and make it illegal for them to hire lobbyists – of any type.
Silly us, we allow the politicians, the left and the right, the Democrats and the Republicans, to play us off against each other. However, if you think about it, you have to wonder if they represent our best interests or their own. Perhaps, it is less about left versus right and more about us versus those politicians who abuse their power and wield their influence to protect the interests of the highest bidder.
We have no one to blame but ourselves. We give them that power when we vote them into office. We allow them to lie to us because too few of us take the time to find out if what they say is true. We fall in love with politicians who will tell us what we want to hear, even if it is not what they believe or what they plan to do once elected. We don’t hold them accountable to their campaign promises. We allow them to bicker and get nothing done on big issues that matter to us. And we allow them to vote themselves raises, and benefits, and perks. (They always agree on that!)
Where is Jimmy Stewart? We desperately need Mr. Smith to go to Washington. In fact, we need a lot of Smiths in Washington D.C., and in our state capitols, and in our city governments, and in our everyday lives.
Martie Hevia (c) 2010 – All Rights Reserved