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It’s the Politics, Stupid.

Updated on November 24, 2012

Approaching the Fiscal Cliff

Whew! Now that the election is over, we all can breathe a collective sigh of relief, right? WRONG!! Next on the "to-do-list" is how to get a “do-nothing” Congress to stop their long-time bickering and end the stagnation of our economy. The last time Congress got anything done was before the Republican sweep of the 2010 elections. Since then no meaningful legislation has been passed, highly critical or not. Time and again the Republicans have consistently shot down through filibuster any bills the Democrats have tried to push forward. Stifling progress has become an art form since congressional decorum no longer constrains members to the antiquated device of rambling on for countless days. Believe it or not, they don’t even have show their face in chambers! Just the warning of a filibuster is enough to intimidate. It’s as easy as calling in a bomb threat.

It used to be unfathomable for any politician to consider practicing such deconstructionism in an attempt to hinder the business of the United States government. In the past, voters would have certainly have handed them their buttocks. Sadly, now that heavily pocketed lobbyists are the motivating force promoting their hidden personal agendas, constituents’ opinions no longer matter. A congressional member’s sole motivation seems to be to completely disregard the real reasons he/she was initially elected to office. Conducting legislative business in a manner that benefits no one, except a few, is now the call of the day.

It's time to wake up people! Let's get up on our red, white and blue soapbox and stand up for what is right! We all need to be more like the protesters of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. They had their hearts in the right place…wait a minute...what happened to them anyway?

Obama for America

Courtesy of US News and World Report
Courtesy of US News and World Report

Whatever happened to the “Occupy Wall Street” Movement?

According to U.S. News and World Report, the original movement fizzled out as a result of the “Dreaded 4Ds”. It was too DIVERSE in scope and DISORGANIZED which handicapped it from setting realistic goals. Those who were responsible for rallying support refused to set aside their own personal grievances and join forces around one mutual cause. Subsequently, the disorganization created DYSFUNCTION in the leadership ranks. Finally, DISAGREEMENTS about money nailed the coffin shut.

What was executed was a hot mess. Countless spats and in-fighting was caught on tape by the media. Trash was everywhere. Confused people milled aimlessly. Some were more interested in socializing or giving interviews than actual protesting. It only makes sense that the whole thing seemed like one grand “goof-off” party to the Wall Street executives who peered disapprovingly down from their high-rise perches.

The article was correct in its assessment of the factors that caused the movement to go bust, but it never touched on the most significant underlying problem. The inexperienced twenty-something crowd didn't have the necessary skills to budget vast amounts of donated money or the wherewithal to elect a world-wise leader to organize their efforts. A more seasoned person from the days of the Civil Rights Movement would have told those kids that they were doomed to fail if they only concerned themselves with power, food and shelter. They needed to devise a broader plan of attack in which basic human needs would have been built into the grand scheme. For example, when the unions took over the capitol in Wisconsin, they were automatically sheltered from the elements and food was donated by sympathizers. Protesters were then able to concentrate on the task at hand.

The OWS Movement’s most critical mistake was to blame Wall Street. The economic crisis occurred as a result of consistent deregulation conducted by Congress over a thirty-year period. Our legislators basically sold America out to the 1% for monetary gain. Wall Street was merely the vehicle. Heck, even the 1% shouldn't be faulted. They couldn't have done as much damage as they did without the changes made to Federal laws. Federal laws can only be enacted or suspended by Congress. Congress is to blame.

The OWS Movement’s focus should have been on Congress. They should have occupied the halls and the Washington/local offices of every member of the Senate and House of Representatives. This would have made more of an impact and there would certainly have been enough shelter, bathrooms and food to go around within the pampered halls of government. This idea isn't new. It can only be assumed the protesters must have considered this as well, but they were too cowardly to organize their protest similar to the lunch counter protests. Back then protesters were replenished when others fell to incarceration. The OWS must have come to the conclusion that a criminal record and maybe a beating by riot police would be their only reward for civil disobedience. What was the point of protesting if the OWS were not willing say “ow!”?

The American State of Affairs (aka The Fallout from the Economic Crisis)

The economic divide is wider now than ever before in the history of the United States.Instead of families getting financially ahead, they are falling way behind.Here are a few important facts that have occurred as a result of the financial crisis of 2008.

The wealth of the 2% has increased over 250%.Their influence dominates the governing of both the Republican and Democratic Parties.

  • The politicians’ promise of “Trickle Down” Politics is a farce.In reality, the wealthy have said that it is their prerogative to invest in foreign markets, if it is financially prudent for them to do so.Basically, they will spend their money how they see fit.
  • Most voters of moderate means have been pushed out of the political process by the elite.The undermining of our democratic institution by our legislative branch has left it in serious disrepair resulting in governing paralysis and the disenfranchisement of the American people.
  • The United States political system closely resembles a third-world oligarchy, more similar to the governments of Mexico, Brazil and Russia rather than Germany, Canada and Great Britain. Our middle-class is way behind in mobility compared to the middle-class of Australia, Germany and France.

Why is Congress Deadlocked?

You might say to yourself, “Can’t they all just get along?” In short they cannot, because almost every Congressional member has sold his/her soul to fulfill the interests of a diverse group of lobbyist-devils. To date, many Congressional members of the House and Senate depend on money contributed by lobbyists to gain or maintain office. Whenever proposals are made to limit campaign contributions in any substantive way, the bills are eventually watered down or killed altogether to retain the status quo. Real lawmaking can never occur if factions of Congress continue the tug-of-war of doing the bidding of lobbyists. They will forever carry on the back-stabbing; needlessly hindering each other’s progress. Only a few Congressmen will ever stay clear of lobbyist influence in an attempt to carry out the interest of the 98%, that is until they are driven out completely by their own party.

Historical Summary:

In 1986, the corridor outside the door of the U.S. Senate Ways and Means Committee was dubbed as, “Gucci Gulch”, referring to the over-the-top horse trading occurring between members of Congress and Gucci shoe-clad lobbyists hired by a cooperative of land developers, energy utilities, insurance companies, defense contractors and many other special interests groups. This was the birthplace of mega deals made by congressmen to accept extraordinarily large campaign contributions from lobbyists in exchange for pushing legislation that gave corporate lobbyists an advantage over its domestic and foreign competition.

For his part, Ronald Reagan recognized his obligation to all Americans and took a bold stance to limit lobbyists’ interference in law making. He recognized it was the government’s responsibility to spread the tax burden equally among all Americans and supported the Tax Reform Act of 1986, in spite of his campaign promise to never raise taxes. When it was finally ratified, the act closed corporate tax loopholes to permanently realign a flagrantly inequitable tax code. Its application subsequently lowered tax rates on everyone’s personal income and allowed for more opportunities to save for retirement and invest.

Fast-forward to 2002 when the World Trade Organization Appellate Body complained that U.S. companies were unfairly benefiting from prohibited inequitable export tax advantages and demanded an end to the practice. Some members of Congress argued against it, claiming that the removal of these tax advantages would unfairly hurt U.S. corporations due to a mandated tax provision in the Tax Reform Act. In 2004, George Bush “remedied” the issue by signing the Job Act which reinstated beneficial exclusions to taxation. This was the first of many laws to come designed to strip away the power of the Tax Reform Act and other laws protecting the American public from the reckless business practices of corporations.

In 2005, a second major folly of Bush administration was to relent to aggressive lobbyists pining for the passage of deep tax cuts for the wealthy. The changes in tax law were front-loaded with modest, temporary tax benefits for the middle-class ensuring Democrats’ support; while the fine print quietly back-loaded substantial cuts for the upper-class for years to come. Another folly was the administration's refusal to crack down on the predatory tactics of banks who offered no-money-down, interest-only mortgages to low-income families who couldn't afford them. The hubris acts of Bush administration combined with deregulation of financial institutions leading to reckless trading practices were the perfect storm to cause the collapse of the United States economy.

It should be a crime to take more than $10,000.00 in campaign contributions from lobbyists. If Congress ever does get around to enacting reform, they should pass this law making it retroactive to 2004 in order to snare the worst offenders. These offending politicians should then be immediately recalled and ousted from government. A second bill should be passed to sweep the Capitol clean of all special interest lobbyists by making their presence and campaign contributions illegal and subject to life imprisonment. If lobbyists want special treatment, they can adopt the same tactics as a normal citizen and send a letter to their congressmen and hope he/she cares enough to act.

Top Five Campaign Recipients from Corporate Lobbyists

Total Contributions
Congress Member
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

Table Courtesy of Open, published June 12, 2012

Can It Get Any Worse for the American People?

Most definitely, it could get a lot worse. The system isn’t broken, it’s fixed. The election process is still highly corrupted by money. As long as corporate interests continue to high-jack the American political process there will always be opportunities for further deterioration. The best way to explain this is to use an illustration.

1984, a book by George Orwell tells of a future time period dominated by totalitarian rule. “Big Brother”, a political party supposedly led by a man who has never been seen except in posters and on television, tells the population how to think, eat and feel. In this world, self-awareness and self-expression are forbidden. Perpetrators are summarily tortured and executed. The traditional ideals of family, marriage, and parenting are skewed from their original meaning and redesigned to fit the whims of Big Brother. This “black-hole” life is achieved by years of chipping away at society’s culture and basic resources. In the end, the government attained ultimate power over its citizens through the systematic manipulation of the population’s fear and insecurity caused war.

The similarities between this fictional tale and our current reality are as follows:

George Orwells, "1984"
The Present
A small group monopolizes political power and gains complete control.
The 2% have gained 250% of the nation’s wealth, while the middle-class falls into poverty. No wealth means no political voice.
Attempts to control all aspects of social life – economy, art, science, private life and morals. Control of the thoughts and actions of its citizens.
In the past election many states tried to get voters to approve dozens of life-altering measures. They were all were influenced by Republican propaganda. *Data derived from the National Conference of State Legislators *Abortion: Montana - Florida *Loss of Civil Liberties: Alabama – Arizona – Florida – Minnesota – Montana – Ohio – Oklahoma – Oregon – Wyoming *Loss of Open Election: Alabama – Arizona - Minnesota *Health Services: Missouri – Alabama – Florida – Montana - Wyoming
War and rumors of war.
Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran, China, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea and Pakistan.
Mass interdependence via conscious manipulation towards a single ideology and is intolerant of counterintuitive thoughts/actions. Entails repression or control over business, labor unions, churches and political parties.
Our economy is predicated upon the spending habits of the 98%. We are encouraged by a single ideology touted by government leaders, business and media to “support” our economy by spending until we are heavily in debt and haven’t any savings to fall back on. Entities such as labor unions (Wisconsin) and political parties (Libertarian, Green etc. Parties) have been silenced through discrediting them in the media. Churches tend to support government ideologies as they emulate their own ideals.

Help Congress Stay On Target

Can We Stop It Before It Is Too Late?

We certainly can stop it. Just participate more in the political process by doing some or all of the following:

Register and VOTE: As a United States citizen not only is it your right, it is your duty. Don’t wait until the last minute to get registered. Also, don’t just vote every four years. Consistently vote in all state and local elections as they occur. Many states offer the ability to get registered at your local DMV. Contact your local elections office to find out more.

Pay Attention: Watch, listen to and/or read a variety of political news outlets to get a truly fair and balanced approach to politics, not just the spin.

Mobilize and Get Involved: Congress pays more attention to those who are organized. Start a political discussion group in your neighborhood and encourage recruitment. Hold your representative’s feet to the fire when he or she is acting against the public interest. Although the “Tea Party” is an illegitimate grass roots political organization, its inception and willingness to be heard should still be noted. (Illegitimate because the movement was originally initiated by corporate lobbyists.)

Tighten Up a Little on the Purse Strings: Nobody is looking out for you in Congress, so take heed and look out for yourself and your retirement. Resist impulse spending, building up massive debt and investing in the stock market. These gambles are rigged by the "house" and you are destined to lose. Also, do not leverage your property (i.e. second and third mortgage). Invest in savings bonds and do not put your hard earned money in a bank account unless it is drawing interest more than 1%. Credit unions offer the best bang for your buck without a plethora of bank charges eating up your savings. This all may sound counter-intuitive, but it will force the government and corporations to find other ways to earn income without breaking the backs of its own citizens! The government shouldn't rely solely on Americans to keep the world's economy running.

Do you vote in every election?

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