Gadfly | October 16th, 2014
The most dysfunctional part of government is Congress, put in that position by two 5-4 Supreme Court decisions about “free” expensive speech named Citizens United and McCutcheon. A reader sent me a copy of Stephen Pastis’s “comic” strip called “Pearls Before Swine.” The subject of the strip is titled “The World According To The Supreme Court” with a statement from the McCutcheon decision: “Spending large suns of money in connection with elections … does not give rise to quid pro quo corruption.” The following dialogue takes place in the strip:
Billionaire: “I’m a billionaire. Here is a large sum of money for which I expect nothing in return.”
Congressman Rat: “I could not give you anything in return, as that would be quid pro quo corruption.”
Billionaire: “Of course. As an aside, sir, there is a bill before you now that I am very much against.”
Congressman Rat: “I see. I will consider your position without regard to the limitless sums you can hand out. Next!’
Joe Nobody: “Hello, sir. I’m Joe Nobody. I have no cash to give you, but I would really like you to vote for the bill that is before you now.”
Congressman Rat: “I see. Well, I will give your position the exact same consideration I will give the man who singlehandedly funded my entire campaign.”
Joe Nobody: “Thank you, honest Congressman.”
Congressman Rat: “Thank YOU, valued constituent.”
If you believe this exchange, vote for Sarah Palin for president, appoint Ann Coulter Secretary of State, the Koch brothers as Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor, and Fox News as head of the national government press.
Both parties are sucking up to billionaires like whores in Nevada’s Chicken Ranch. Political experts are saying that the 2016 presidential election will be a multibillion dollar battle for the future of America. Republican billionaires outnumber Democratic billionaires, so the Democrats have to figure out how to get a majority of mere millionaires to support them. With Citizens United and McCutcheon hovering over democracy like a Level Five tornado, the pros say the outcome of future elections depends upon whether conservative, liberal, libertarian, or some other crazies such as Senators Ted Cruz or Rand Paul give the final “democratic” address at the Inaugural in 2017.
David Simon’s essay in “The Wire: Truth Be Told” (a collection of essays) summarizes the US worker’s position in the world today: “The Wire” depicts a world in which capital has triumphed completely, labor has been marginalized and moneyed interests have purchased enough political infrastructure to prevent reform. It is a world in which the rules and values of the free market and maximized profit have been mistaken for a social framework, a world where institutions themselves are paramount and everyday human beings matter less.
Unemployed and under-employed, idle at a West Baltimore soup kitchen or dead-ended at some strip-mall cash register — these are the excess Americans. The economy staggers along without them, and without anyone in this society truly or sincerely regarding their desperation. Ex-steelworkers and ex-longshoremen, street dealers and addicts, whores and johns and men to run the whores and coerce the johns – and all of them unnecessary and apart from the new millennium economic model that long ago declared them irrelevant.”
Many young — and some old — people today have been forced to set aside the ideal of an “ownership society” for one where they rent, borrow or share. Buy a home? Buy a new car? Take a vacation? Marry your college sweetheart? Completely out of the economic question. About a third of young millennials, known as “boomerangs,” still live with their parents. More than half of the country’s adults are single, the highest number of singles ever recorded.
A national study by the hunger-relief agency Feeding America found that one in seven households experienced food insecurity in the last three years. A study conducted in Florida mirror the national results, except that one in five households experience food insecurity. Over 75% of those needing food are high school graduates, 27% have a postsecondary education, and in 60% of the homes at least one person has been employed in the last year. Often food pantry users are college educated, full or part-time workers, and military vets or children. Half are white and 12% are homeless. The president of Second Harvest Food Bank in Central Florida says” “I have been doing this work for 21 years across the country and it still boggles my mind how many people are struggling right now.”
Over 40 million Americans owe $1.1 trillion in student loan debt, more than auto or credit card debt. Of that immense total, people over 65 still owe $18.2 billion in student loans! It is not just a young people’s problem, although tuition for the average four-year college is now $21,872, up over 20% in just two years.
Seniors who receive an average $1,294 per month in Social Security benefits may have that check reduced to $750 a month by law if they have defaulted on student loans, thus falling deeper into poverty. Student loans do not fall under bankruptcy laws.
An important mid-election is going to be held in about three weeks. These are excerpts from various GOP political platforms. They may help to guide you in the voting booth.
1. Homosexuality is chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. But it can be cured! Texas Republicans recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle. We are opposed to same-sex marriage.
2. Corporal punishment is necessary for good health and discipline.
3. No level of government shall regulate either the ownership or possession of firearms.
4. No foreign aid shall be approved by Congress except in cases of national defense or catastrophic disasters
5. Since data is clear that additional money does not translate into educational achievement, and higher education costs are out of control, we support reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education institutions.
6. We support an immediate and orderly transition to a system of private pensions based on the concept of individual retirement accounts, and gradually phasing out the Social Security tax.
7. Roe vs. Wade must be overturned because we revere the sanctity of human life, with the exception of capital punishment because it is a legitimate, effective deterrent, and should be swift and unencumbered.
8. Climate change is a political agenda which attempts to control every aspect of our lives. We urge government at all levels to ignore any plea for money to fund global climate change or climate justice initiatives, even if the state of Texas is experiencing extreme drought.
9. We support the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations and the removal of United Nations headquarters from United States soil.
10. We support the repealing of the 17th Amendment, which in 1913 established the direct election of US senators by the voters, taking that power away from state legislatures.
11. County sheriffs will have the responsibility of supervising any actions of the FBI, DEA, ATF, Immigration Services, or any other federal enforcement activities by federal agencies.
12. We shall repeal all sections of the Voter Rights Act.
13. State legislatures shall have the right to ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify any federal mandated legislation which infringes upon the states’ 10th Amendment rights.
14. The minimum wage laws should be repealed because a favorable business climate and strong economy emerges when government is limited by low taxation, sensible regulation, and tort reform.
15 ObamaCare must be repealed immediately.
The last item on this list was supposed to be the leading campaign cry for Republicans in the 2014 elections. In recent polls only 3.5% of all Americans think Obamacare should be repealed, ranking behind every other major issue. Republican governors who refused to take Medicaid for the poor in their states are being chastised. Over seven million Americans have been added to health insurance rolls – and many Affordable Care Act provisions have not been implemented yet, particularly cost containment and the elimination of fraud. Health care is presently riddled by the greed of providers and insurers.
New Yorker Peter Drier, a bank manager, had a three-hour surgery on his neck to correct herniated discs. He knew that the hospital bill would be $56,000, that the anesthesiologist was charging $4,300, and the orthopedic surgeon was charging $133,000. But later on he received a $117,000 bill from a neurosurgeon he had never met. Evidently the “expert” was watching the operation.....in case? Medicare would have paid $800 to the doctor for watching the operation. Drier’s bill included charges for two surgical screws–one for $2,479 and the other for $3,990. In another back surgery case two plastic surgeons charged a patient $250,000 to sew up the incision. Is this why the rate of spinal surgery in the US is five times that of Great Britain?
A personal experience of mine over a hip replacement can be instructive about costs. I have a plastic sleeve device with two ropes attached to put socks on. A metal hip implant bends only so much. After reading about how much a hospital charged for this “complicated device,” I showed it to three people I play bridge with. Two are retired business executives and the other is a leading chemist. I asked them to bid on my plastic sock helper. The highest bid was $8. A hospital in New York charged $679 for the same thing.
It’s interesting that so many major issues affecting Americans are not even mentioned in what Republican politicians want to do for the country. Where is a solution for the greatest income inequality in the world? For closing down off-shore tax havens around the world? For tax reform that would close thousands of loopholes? Some U.S. corporations have not paid any income taxes for years. What about immigration reform which would resolve our cheap labor wounds which have been festering for three decades? Cheap labor policies have succeeded in destroying the middle class. It is sad that in a YouGov poll of 1,000 Americans who match the demographics of the country, 80% of Democrats say Jesus Christ would support universal healthcare while only 23% of Republicans think he would.
It is worse that the Republican Supreme Court majority, as E.J. Dionne writes in a recent Washington Post column, doesn’t know the difference between an oligarchy and a democratic republic. An oligarchy is a form of government in which the ruling power belongs to a few persons. In our case, 1,422 billionaires.
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