Monday, September 06, 2010


“The rich are not happy”—but they understand how to play in the “free market”

by Larry Geller

So we’re in for a change this coming election. They run the country.

“The rich are not happy.”

Major political action committees and employees of the nation's largest business empires have dramatically shifted their money to the right.   [The Raw Story, Major Democratic donors shift donations to the right, 9/6/2010]

I was clicking through a number of articles that Google found on the subject of campaign contributions, ads, and how the mid-term election will go. None of them mentioned voters.

HELLOOO! I’m here, I’m the voter, what about me???

I can shout, no one cares.

Our democracy seems to run by a free market in votes. Rich corporations understand this, and they run the market.

We the people, don’t.

Come with me on a hypothetical fantasy journey.

Journey What do I mean “they run the country?”?? Don’t we vote?  Of course. But corporate campaign donations buy the ads that tell people how to vote. It works. They contribute to a candidate, we vote for that candidate. You know it works, most of the time.

Since they are dependent on corporate money for their very jobs, the politicians obey their corporate masters. We vote, we send the actors to Congress, but then corporations write the script.

Voting is the bedrock of democracy. We are the voters. Perhaps in the future we won’t be necessary, they’ll figure out some more efficient scheme. But right now, how it works is that money buys our votes, even if we don’t get that money.

Hmmm… why is that? People have lost jobs, many have lost their homes. Corporations are paying politicians for our votes. We don’t profit, they do. Obviously, we don’t understand how the market in votes works.

Suppose we reformed the market for votes.

Pot of gold Corporations understand a “free market.” You always hear them talk about how great it is. Why not try this out?

We voters need money, it’s a recession, they have money. They want our votes… why are they giving it to politicians???

We voters can change this. If we work it right, there could be a whole new market that will profit voters directly. It will also eliminate the low voter turnout that seems to bug newspaper columnists though no one else cares much. You already know where I’m going with this.

Hawaii and other states are moving toward mail-in voting. Oregon is already there. There’s a danger in this to democracy. Suppose (I’m just supposing), that voters figure out how to get into the corporate free market for votes? Just suppose for a moment.

How long will it be before we can sell our signed voting envelope directly to Goldman Sachs?

Suppose they offered $5 per candidate? Suppose they offered $500 per candidate? Money is nothing to them. They eat caviar for breakfast on their yachts.

Why should all that corporate money go to politicians and TV stations when we’re hurting in the middle of a big bad recession?

Maybe it will be a kind of Craigslist. Maybe corporations will advertise openly to buy votes. “Ballots for mayor wanted in Honolulu. Cash on the barrel! 3-4 p.m., 1000 Bishop Street. All welcome.”

In the current dysfunctional scheme we remain losers because we are not in charge of our own democracy. We could try a different dysfunctional scheme that will at least put bread, if not caviar, on the table. Think of it as redistributing the wealth, or taking from the rich and giving to the poor, whatever.

The way things are going, all we have to sell might be our votes. Sad. Sad.


But I digress.

The reality is that we’re still pawns, not players. Here’s what is happening in the current free market of corporate vote-buying:

Since Obama's election, the political action committees and employees of 126 businesses that had donated money to Senate Democrats in the 2008 campaign have switched all or most of their 2010 contributions to the Republicans, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission reports by the Houston Chronicle. That list is led by prominent Wall Street firms but includes energy companies, manufacturers, lobbying operations and other groups with a monetary stake in Capitol Hill deliberations.

Not only have those 126 organizations decided to hedge their bets, they're placing plenty of distance between themselves and the Democrats who control Capitol Hill. Their donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have dropped 25 percent this year, to $1.67 million.  [Houston Chronicle, GOP raids Democrats' donor list, 9/5/2010]

In all the reporting on shifting campaign contributions and what that will mean in the next election, there is no mention at all about voters. We really are pawns in this giant vote-buying game.

Will we ever figure out that we are being used?



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