Tag Archives: corporations

Kansas City Under Occupation

That’s right, the Occupy Wall Street movement is making noise in the heartland. According to the Kansas City Star, a group of around 300 protesters are camped out at Penn Valley Park across from the Kansas City Federal Reserve building. They had various signs and people speaking and all of that. The question still looms over this entire movement though. What do they want?

The answer doesn’t seem to be even remotely clear. I’ve heard various reports on these protests from different places in the country. To me it seems that people are just mad. The groups seem to have some diversity in political ideology, though it’s hard to tell how much. They seem to not like the idea of “corporate personhood” or the large amount of corporate influence in our elections.

I’ve yet to decide what I think of all of this. The footage I’ve seen looks like young people who want real change. Think of the beginnings of the Tea Party. It was a bunch of people who got upset over government bailouts of corporations and a ballooning deficit. They talked about fiscal responsibility and people from different sides of the political spectrum were involved. Then the ultra-right hijacked the movement using vast sums of money and turned it away from balancing the budget. Suddenly, The Tea Party was about cutting government spending and lowering regulations and taxes. Those who were not staunch conservatives left, and we had a national movement spouting talking points for billionaires and corporations. It is still to be seen if this movement will suffer the same fate from the right or the left.

After reading the piece on the Star’s website I took a look at some of the comments. One guy tried to somehow make an argument using Abraham Lincoln. I’m not sure why. Anyway, I came across this comment by playon266:

“as they all celebrate by making calls, taking pictures, and sending texts on their smart phones (made by big corporations, on carriers that are big corporations)… and then while driving home in their car or truck or hybrid (all made by big corporations), they’ll stop at Wal-Mart (a HUGE corporation) and buy cheap food (from corporate food producers) and cheap imported products (from big FOREIGN corporations)… and they’ll think they made an impact. Interesting…”

He makes a point. Corporations exist because we support them. If no one  went to Wal-mart, we would not complain about the evils of Wal-Mart. Playon662 misses the point however. These protesters don’t want corporations to be eliminated, they want them to get the same treatment we do. They want them to pay taxes. They want them to have less influence in our political system. They want the everyday citizen to pay less in taxes than the corporation with a multi-billion dollar profit margin.

Two pieces were written at the Kansas Free Press, about the Occupy Wall Street protests. One, by Christina Stein, celebrates the activism and drive of the protesters. The other, by Ken Poland, questions whether these protesters have the knowledge and ability to exact change. You should read them both.

It is too early to know what these protests will accomplish, if anything. One thing seems sure; the protests are spreading. The coming days will show if Americans are truly angry, and if they are, will politicians listen?

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Obama Did the Right Thing

Pres. Obama recently struck a compromise with congressional Republicans over the fate of the Bush tax cuts.  Many liberals (myself included) wanted the President to pick a fight. At some point he has too. Compromise is seemingly great. In fact, our country was built on it, but many see Pres. Obama as being to eager to compromise. This was the perfect issue to pick a fight with Republicans.  The only difference between the President’s plan and Republicans plan was an extension for people whose lives would most likely not be affected but a minor tax increase. The wealthiest Americans would see their income tax rates rise from 36% to 39.6%.  No wealthy American was going to lose their house over 3.6%, but many middle class Americans are losing their houses right now.

I recently wrote that Democrats needed to take a stand and show Republicans for what they are; obstructionist whores for corporations and the rich.  Democrats could have done it. They could have won, but they didn’t. Instead, the President chose to compromise. So, the rich get to keep more of their money. That won’t help stimulate the economy though. It’s generally accepted that the rich will spend about what they would anyway. The rest will be saved to insure they remain rich. So despite all this, why should we support Pres.  Obama? We should support him because it was the right thing to do.

As part of this compromise unemployment benefits are being significantly extended. The portion of payroll taxes that workers pay will be cut. Both of these measures should help to stimulate the economy by putting more money into the hands of a large number of people.  Unemployment benefits are a direct government investment in our economy. People who collect them will almost immediately spend them. They have to. Those benefits pay for groceries and housing. They are a direct injection of money into the economy. So, while the wealthiest among us will have lower taxes, the least fortunate will be able to support themselves and as a result support the economic recovery.

This was not a bad compromise, but Pres. Obama must take advantage of it. He may not have done it for the politics, but he should promote the politics of it. Republicans refused to do anything unless the rich pay  lower taxes.  Economists agree lower  taxes for the rich  are  not the most effective way of stimulating the economy. Putting money in the hands of the most Americans can do much more.  Republicans held up the business of the country to ensure their wealthy friends would keep their money. Pres. Obama compromised to make sure the economic recovery would continue while ensuring unemployed Americans could put food on their tables. He was right. They were wrong. Pres. Obama needs to make sure that America knows it and does not forget.

America’s One Party System

It’s time we admit a sad truth.  Nearly everyone on Capitol Hill belongs to one political party.  They don’t have a lot of choice.  It is how they get their jobs. It’s how they keep their jobs, and if they buck the trend a little too much, it’s how they lose why they lose their jobs. Yes America has fallen on one champion of liberty and capitalism.  The Green Party.

119 million. 50 million. 47 million. 36 million. No, this is not the Green Party of Ralph Nader. This is the Party of Money.  Those numbers are what Meg Whitman (California Gubernatorial candidate), Linda McMahon (Connecticut Senate candidate), American’s for Prosperity, and American Crossroads (both conservative political groups) have spent or are planning on spending on this election. Two candidates, and two political groups plan to spend 252 million dollars. 169 million on just two races. The Center for Public Integrity estimates over 500 million dollars is going to be spent by independent, mostly Republican leaning, groups this year. It takes money to get elected and politician’s look for it wherever it can be found.  Money works in two ways. It can be given to a specific candidate and they can use it to support their campaign. There are rules about how much you can contribute to one candidate though. The other option is give it to Karl Rove.

Okay, not just Karl Rove, but he’s a good example. Rove and some big-time Republican guys formed a group called American Crossroads.  They’ve been fund-raising and paying for attack ads all over the place.  American Crossroads tax status requires it to disclose donors however, so they formed a spin-off called Crossroads GPS. It’s tax status allows it to keep donations secret while somewhat limiting its political activities.   So if you happen to be a billionaire anarchist (I’m looking at you Koch brothers) you can spend willy-nilly and not upend the credibility of a group trying to connect with the Tea Party movement.  This combined with the recent Supreme Court ruling unleashing corporate money on the political world and what we have is a country where money is God.

The worst part is that corporate interest and special interest already ruled politicians.  What the Supreme Court did just completely opened a floodgate that was already mostly open.  Republicans and Democrats have relied on special interests to help them win elections for a long time before 2010.  Groups spanning the spectrum from the NRA to the NEA have long been trying to affect elections. When they “win, they tell Senators and Representatives, from state to federal, “We helped you win now you help us.  The whole thing has spiraled out of control.  The result is that other than your vote for the guy with a D or the guy with and R is the small piece of power you have but once their in they don’t really care about you. You don’t have a ton of money.

So, I am proposing two things to put power back into the hands of the people who politicians are supposed to represent.  The first is just an expansion on something that already exists. I believe that any advertisement that is meant to affect an election should have a candidates approval.  I think if the ACLU or  Commonsense Ten wants to run an ad in your election somebody should put their name and face on it.  I think we’d see a change in advertising if candidates had to take full responsibility for it.

The second can be summed up like this. If you don’t have a Social Security number you can’t contribute to a political campaign. That means Wal-Mart, Microsoft, or Africa for all I care. can’t influence our elections.  People will immediately tell me I’m destroying free speech. Tea Partiers will be outraged because the corporations that fund them will also be outraged.  The hypocrisy of the Right is that they are willing to dismiss giving constitutional rights to terrorists but willing to give them to corporations, who are not people.  If anyone can make a solid argument that when the Constitution was written they intended to give constitutional rights to corporations, I’ll listen.  The Right always says we should follow what the Founders intended. Well, the didn’t intend on money equaling free speech for conglomerates. Conglomerates didn’t exist.  Free speech is about individuals not being persecuted by the government for their thoughts and beliefs. As Aaron Sorkin wrote in “The American President” :

“You want free speech? Lets see you acknowledge a man whose words make you blood boil and is standing center stage advocating that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”

Free speech was and is about public discussion without the fear of repercussion. The ability to say everything you believe, without the thought that government can harm you for it. I live in Kansas where I have for my entire life tolerated Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. I tolerate them so that I know I can write this without consequence. It has nothing to do with money.   The people who vote are who should be represented by elected officials; not business, not political action committees.  We have to take the money out of politics so that  “ a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this Earth.”