Maybe It’s Time to Occupy the (1%) Congress

By this time next week two things will be true that are not true right now:

First, the year will have changed from 2011 to 2012, and second, the Iowa caucus will be history.  It is widely believed that subsequent to the Iowa caucus, Rick Santorum will drop out of the race for republican 2012 nominee for president if he doesn’t do well.  If he does drop out, it will happen because running for national elective office is exceedingly expensive, and candidates, whose political campaigns are funded primarily by private and corporate campaign contributions, will not spend their own money unless they have a very good expectation of winning.  Rick Santorum does not that that expectation.

Rick Santorum was a lawyer who served as a republican congressman from Pennsylvania in the US House of Representatives for four years and also served as a US senator for two terms, but in this case he is just an example of the type of people that are in congress, from a financial point of view.  That is, members of congress have become part of the 1% that the Occupy Wall Street have been protesting against.

In 1984, the net worth of the average Americans was $20,648.  In 2009, that net worth, adjusted for inflation, actually declined to $20,500.  In contrast, the net worth of members of the US House of Representatives over the same time period rose from $280,000 to $725.056!  Interestingly, the republicans in congress always seem to have a higher net worth than democrats!  More detailed data is available HERE, but the chart below summarizes it pretty well:

Congressional net worth more than doubles since 1984

Sources: Center for Responsive Politics; Census Bureau; DW-Nominate database on Voteview.com; staff research.

Although this increasing divide between the “haves” and “have nots” is not endemic just to the USA, the problem in this country is made particularly bad by two factors:

First, political campaigns in the USA are NOT publicly funded.  If they were exclusively publicly funded, then corporate greed could not buy an election through campaign contributions. The candidates would thus be more apt to concentrate on real issues and policies as opposed to spending massive sums of corporate funding to bash each other.

But in the USA political campaigns are funded primarily by private/corporate campaign contributions, as noted earlier.   A candidate with the financial resources to run hourly television campaign ads bashing the opposition will eventually sway voters who are too stupid or too lazy to research the truth.  This is the basic principal of propaganda that was used so effectively in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s by Joseph Goebbels .

The second factor is that the campaign season in the USA is easily at least a year and a half long, based upon when the politicians start their political propaganda programs and the media begins to pay attention to them.

It’s all about money, and one of the basic tenets of capitalism is that the free market should be free to do whatever it wants to increase its maximize profits.  Expenses eat away at profit, and thus must be minimized at all costs by preventing and eliminating business regulation.  Business does that by funding certain corporate-friendly candidates so they will get elected and  pass laws that encourage free market practices and reduce and/or eliminate all market regulation.   The candidates the corporate interest back most often have accumulated their own business fortunes and thus have a vested interest in protecting their continued access to the totally-regulation-free market.  The ultimate vicious cycle at work.

Put another way, the American political system has been hijacked by the American economic system, which has been hijacked by the American financial system, which has been hijacked by both corporate and private greed mongers, whom have hijacked congress and primarily (though not exclusively), the republicans in congress.  At this point there are only two entities standing in their way:

1.  The average voters, who unfortunately are not always the brightest bulbs on the tree, and

2.  The Occupy Wall Street (or Occupy “Whatever”) bunch.  The best, last hope for the economic well-being of the USA probably rests with the Occupy crowd.  Why?  Because contrary to the propaganda machine of the 1%, the Occupiers are not against wealth any more than Warren Buffet or his son Howard Buffett are;  They are against greed and economic abuse of the “have nots” by the “haves”.   They’re not afraid to publicly proclaim that the emperor has no clothes.  All the propaganda in the world cannot overcome an unfrightened truth or the unfrightened folks willing to stand up for it.

Remember the Occupy Wall Street protesters camped out in Zuccotti Park in New York’s Wall Street financial district?  Now imagine those folks camped out in the hallowed halls of Congress….

Oh, baby….    🙂

Have New Year to everyone from WE, the PEOPLE!!

T’was the Week before Christmas 2011 Edition

T’was the week before Christmas, and all through the House,

Tea party reps scattered, and quiet as a mouse,

The House chamber emptied, with no one around,

Except democrat Steny Hoyer, lamenting the grounds

That the GOP House used to reject the senate bill

With bipartisan support, that was sent to hill,

For the GOP house to vote and pass right away,

Extending payroll tax cuts, and sending help on the way

For those with no income, and doctors as well.

But the senate’s intentions were sent straight to hell

By the House GOP and its tea party rookies

Who would probably also steal grandma’s holiday cookies.

Speaker Boehner was for it, then he was not

After getting an earful and possibly a shot

From his Tea Party fanatics who populate the House.

He must have been thinking, “The Tea Party’s a louse

To oppose such a bill without even a care!”

Then they rushed home to enjoy holiday fare

With their families and friends.  But they won’t even dare

face the middle-class people who are destined to get

a payroll tax increase or some help, you can bet,

for the chronically unemployed, or for doctors providing Medicare.

No, the Tea Party won’t go public since they just do not care.

And the endless GOP presidential auditions,

Prepare for the contest in the Iowa tradition

Of being the first caucus state, by intention.

But support for the GOP clearly is waning

As people wake up to see it is raining

Republican snake oil all over the land

And realize the GOP is so full of sand.

Their stated solutions to the problems they caused

Back when the government was locked in their claws,

When Bush and Cheney and the whole GOP

were helping the bankers create what would be

the worst economics since 1933

when the Great Depression gripped the entire country.

Yet, they have the audacity to forcefully claim,

with disdain for the truth and without any shame,

that the democrats are who are really to blame

’cause Obama hasn’t been able to tame

the recession he inherited from the very self-same

republicans who who use the extremely lame

excuse that three years should have been quite enough

for Obama to cure all if he had the “right stuff”.

But the House GOP has blocked action each time

Obama’s democrats tried to change the paradigm

of republican tax breaks, but just for the rich.

If the middle class wants one, they can just bitch.

So the government is deadlocked, since the GOP won’t play.

But it seems very likely that same group’s gonna pay

for their partisanship, saying constantly, “NO!”,

When voters in November tell the GOP where to go.

It won’t be to congress or the white house, for sure,

when the democrats win so that they can cure

the dysfunctional government the Tea Party has made.

Send the tea baggers home back to their strange Kool-aid!  🙂

 

Wishing all of you the very best Holiday (of your choice) Season and an awesome 2012!!!!

Howie

Christmas Tree or “Holiday” Tree?

Ah, the holiday season.  You have to love it…..sitting in front of a roaring fire roasting chestnuts, the family gatherings, a time for peace on Earth and goodwill toward men…right?

Not in the USA state of Rhode Island (RI).

The only reference from above that applies to RI is that of a “roaring fire”;  the roaring fire of controversy after the state’s independent governor, Lincoln Chafee, called the official state Christmas tree in the state capitol a “holiday” tree, just as his predecessor, republican governor Donald Carcieri had done in the past.  But that didn’t deter about 3,500 people from calling the governor’s office to protest the “holiday” tree reference.  So much for the concept of “good will”.

In his defense, Chafee explained that he was only honoring RI’s origin in the sixteenth century as a haven for religiously persecuted people as well as its tradition as the country’s first colony to institute a clear policy of permanent separation of church and state.  But despite the historical traditions of Rhode Island, that explanation was brushed aside by many in the extremely predominant Roman Catholic state, including the Bishop of the Providence diocese.

Adding to the firestorm is the the state’s House of Representatives, which last January passed a non-binding “symbolic” resolution declaring that the tree in question would henceforth be known only as a Christmas tree and not a “holiday” tree.  In fact, the resolution’s sponsor, republican state representative Doreen Costa is now planning to trump the governor by erecting her own Christmas tree in her statehouse office in protest.  In a manner of speaking, one might say that the author of the resolution to call the official tree a “christmas” tree and not any other name is, herself, erecting a “protest”tree!

It really does defy imagination that RI, which is the smallest state in the USA and which one can drive diagonally across from Connecticut to Massachusetts in 30 minutes but which, for some strange reason, believes it needs no less than 36 school districts for its 39 towns and villages while experiencing a large budget deficit, high unemployment and the highest density of potholes of any state, is somehow putting all of that aside to fight this fight that never needed fighting in the first place.  But to many Rhode Islanders, state government is a spectator sport, like hockey, where the fans can’t wait for a fight to break out.

Fact:  The tree is question is unquestionably a Christmas tree, and regardless of anyone’s religion (or lack thereof), will always be a Christmas tree.  Why?  Because the origin of decorating a tree at this time of year is clearly associated with Christmas.  The first known Christmas trees were decorated in Livonia and in Germany in the 16th century, back when Christmas was a much more solemn and religiously oriented holiday than it is today.  To deny its direct and undeniable link to Christmas which is still viewed as a religious holiday by Christians is to deny historical reality.

But wait.  There’s more!

Many non-Christians in the USA and other advanced western nations celebrate the entire holiday season, which over the years has become as much a social, economic, tree-buying, bargain-hunting, gift-giving, family-get-together, decoration-viewing, over-eating, office (among others) party event as anything else.  As a result, the original tradition of the “Christmas” tree has morphed accordingly into a “Holiday” tree, symbolizing the entire holiday season from Thanksgiving through to after New Years Day, as well as a fun activity that children of any religion enjoy when it comes to its decoration.

So the tree is both a Christmas tree and a Holiday tree!  People call it what they want, based upon their religious views and/or other preferences.  That’s okay, since what someone calls it is protected by that pesky first amendment of the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution.

However, not everyone is happy about that.  Many on the right claim there is a “war on Christmas“, and consider any reference to the tree other than “Christmas tree”  as both an attack on Christianity and blasphemy.  They abhor the social and economic associations many people now have with the holiday, even though they also fight for a totally free market and tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.  If it sounds like these right wing “war on Christmas” fanatics are fighting for opposing goals, it’s probably because they are.  But don’t tell them unless you want to be called an unpatriotic socialist!

Actually, it’s entertaining to have this argument renew itself every holiday season.  It helps people forget about other problems such as a weak economy, high unemployment, budget deficits and other depressing facts such as Iran wanting to blow all non-Muslims to bits with its still-in-development nuclear weapons.

Instead, people can focus on the real important issues that affect their lives…like what to call that poor dead tree that’s shedding a million needles on their living room rug…and the next big crisis to be addressed:

Changing the Easter Bunny’s name to Peter Cottontail!    🙂