Monday, October 11, 2010

We’re on track to get the best Congress money can buy.

Money has a lot to do with what we are seeing in this election.  The January ruling by the Supreme Court in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission essentially gave the court’s stamp of approval for major corporations and rich individuals to pour millions into the mid-term elections without having to reveal what they were doing.

Rupert Murdock has poured millions into the mid-term elections backing Republicans.  He gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Associations and another $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that is aggressively advertising against Democratic candidates. (NOTE: The Chamber is taking money from foreign corporations and rich individuals with an interest in influencing the American government.)  Murdock publishes 175 newspapers, including the New York Post and The Times of London. In the U.S., he owns the Twentieth Century Fox Studio, Fox Network, and 35 TV stations that reach more than 40% of the country. His cable channels include Fox News (which aggressively supporters Republican and Tea Party candidates), and 19 regional sports channels. In all, as many as one in five American homes at any given time will be tuned into a show News Corp. either produced or delivered.  Fox News has been a major backer of the Tea Party movement and Republicans in general.  Australian by birth, in 1985 Murdoch became a United States citizen to satisfy legislation that only United States citizens could own American television stations. This also resulted in Murdoch losing his Australian citizenship. It's ironic that Americans who oppose immigration are being manipulated by an immigrant.

Then there are the Koch brothers, particularly David Koch.  David Hamilton Koch (pronounced "coke",born May 3, 1940) is an American businessman, philanthropist, political activist and chemical engineer. He is a co-owner, (with older brother Charles), and an executive vice president of Koch Industries, a conglomerate that is the second largest privately held company in the U.S. Koch is the richest resident of New York City, as of 2010. He is a major patron of the arts and funder of conservative and libertarian political causes.  Koch with his brother Charles has supported groups and candidates advocating the abolition of U.S. Federal agencies including the FBI, CIA, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, United States Department of Energy, and other federal regulatory agencies; ending Social Security, minimum-wage laws, corporate taxes, and legalization of prostitution, recreational drugs, and suicide.  Koch is a major supporter of Americans for Prosperity Foundation and FreedomWorks both of which helped to create and finance the US Tea Party movement.

These fiscal conservatives quite simply want to take the country back to the robber baron era of the late 1800’s before trust busting, before government regulation of big business, before the minimum wage, before labor had a right to organize and so on.  They are spending aggressively to promote laissez-faire capitalism with little or no government regulation of business.  They believe 2010 and 2012 may be their breakthrough years.  Their motive is essentially greed.  To accomplish their goal of rolling back a century or more of progressive legislation to regulate big business they appeal to social conservatives by praying on their fear of change and xenophobia.  I am quite certain that fiscal conservatives like Murdock and the Koch brothers care absolutely nothing about gay rights, immigration, abortion, and all the other social issues over which social conservatives are so upset.  The fiscal conservatives just want the votes social conservatives can provide and are willing to appeal to social conservatives’ fears to get it.  It is an alliance of greed and fear. 

There are several ironies about this upcoming election.  If ElectionProjection is right ( the Republicans may take control of both houses of Congress (House: 226 R to 209 D; Senate: 50 R to 48 D).  In other words, voters upset about unemployment and the state of the economy in general will be returning control over Congress to the very party that got us into this mess to begin with.  Additionally, the voters will be sending a message to the Republican Party that two more years of high unemployment will be good for the Republican Party and will give it the best chance of expanding its control over Congress and gaining the White House in 2012.  The Republican strategy for the 2010 elections was to obstruct any efforts by Obama and the Democrats to turn the economy and unemployment numbers around so the Democrats would get blamed and angry voters would vote them out.  They did this by resisting the original stimulus and then scaring voters about the deficit to prevent the administration from getting a second stimulus through Congress.  By the way, most economists have not been that concerned about the deficit short term since government spending is the only way to really get the economy moving again and interest rates are so low that financing short-term deficit spending is not a problem.  Long term the deficit is a problem of course but the best way to deal with it is to get the economy back on track.  Paul Krugman and other economists have argued that we need to be pumping a lot more money into the economy the stop state and local governments from laying off workers, jump start investments in infrastructure, provide incentives for small business to hire, and so on.  In my opinion, and the opinion of many of them, the original stimulus should have been much bigger and more front ended and a second stimulus, if anything larger and more targeted than the first, should have been passed last spring or early summer.  Of course, Republicans blogged that.

The Republican strategy of high unemployment/blame the Democrats seems to be working.  I expect the Republicans to double down on that strategy over the next two years.  Note that corporations and rich Republican supporters are not suffering from the unemployment/economic situation.  The stock market keeps improving and corporate profits are in good, and in some cases great shape.  Fiscal conservative Republicans see the opportunity to take over control of government and really go to work rolling back progressive legislation, regulations, and so on after 2012.  The other irony is that the Republicans will only make token efforts to advance the social conservative anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, etc agenda.  The Republicans will do just enough not to alienate the far social right but not enough to turn off the fiscal conservative independents that they will need in 2012. 

Much of this is coming about for two reasons:  First, corporate and rich conservative money flowing into anti-Obama, anti-Democrat, pro-Republican campaigns at a rate we haven’t seen in some time thanks to that Supreme Court case (By the way, Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife runs her own conservative political action group supporting Republican candidates.  Talk about a conflict of interest.).  Second, Obama has failed to energize his core supporters (young, blacks, Hispanics, gays, liberals, progressives, etc.) at a time when fiscal and social conservatives are excited about voting.  Many people in the groups that supported Obama in 2008 are right now planning to sit out the mid-term elections.  For example, Hispanics are so mad about the anti-immigration stuff that they are threatening not to vote.  Of course, that is really stupid since by not voting they will be allowing the anti-immigration crowd a victory.  College students aren’t energized because of their worries about their prospects for employment so they may not show up to vote.  That is also dumb since they will be allowing Republicans to take control of Congress and as I said Republicans created the mess and have no incentive to take action to bring unemployment down at least until after 2012. 

Things could still turn around by Election Day.  Polls show that there is some narrowing of various races.  Tea Party candidates tend to be a drag on Republican support at least among Independents.  Also, Obama’s recent efforts to reach out to his core supporters is having some effect.  The problem is there is not much time left.  Voting has already started.  Even if things start trending in a Democrat direction there just may not be enough time for us to overtake and pass the Republicans.  Must admit I am not optimistic.  Sorry.

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