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Lobbying: Our Worst National Disaster

April 16th, 2010 · No Comments · Lobbying, Media, Politics

There are about 14,000 lobbyists now in Washington. That is more than 26 lobbyists for every Senator, Congressman and member of the White House staff. Last year, 2009, lobbyists spent a staggering $3.46 billion on influencing government.

This is a huge problem for the United States of America and its future.

If you are a Middle Class American…one who has a household income of between roughly $50,000 per year on the low end and $120,000 on the high end…then you should be more concerned about current-day lobbying in Washington, D.C. than anything else in society…more than war, more than jobs, more than health care, the environment, global warming or the national debt. The reason is that, very soon–this November–corporations will be able to hand money directly to your Congressman, Senator, or reach right into your community and buy up judges.

Since 1980 the wealth of the United States has shifted from the middle class to the very top of the upper class. Corporations basically pay no taxes. The rich are getting richer, my friends, and there is no doubt about it, and they have influence on government policy. They elected a President who tried to sell Social Security, the last meager hope of the working poor for survival in old age…right down the river to Goldman,Sachs and Charlie Schwab. Lobbying influence very tangible things in your life, even some that are not strictly a part of government For example…health insurance.

The average CEO of a health insurance company makes about $14 million a year, every year. Some of these people have been in those positions for ten years. Their average personal wealth has to be in the neighborhood of $100 million. But they aren’t the only ones. Their entire upper management is in the seven-figure range or in that stratosphere. And all giant corporations from oil to finance are the same. The fix is in, and in order to be part of the winning team, they go along or go away. Most go along. So what does it mean to you?

What happens to you, in health insurance for example, is nothing…unless, let’s say, you lose your job. Then you pay COBRA, the entire amount of your employer’s contribution to your health insurance, plus your contribution…if you can get it. If you lose COBRA and have some pre-condition…you probably won’t get health insurance at all. Now your home is at risk, your savings, your 401K. Suddenly the American Dream becomes the American nightmare. This is what the millions face who have been laid off since the middle of 2008. Even as unnaffordable as COBRA is, it only lasts for 18 months. Then they can cut you off.

The reason that those top executives at the health insurance companies make those huge incomes is because of lobbying. The disaster that is the health insurance industry is not merely apparent to journalists. Congressional representatives and Senators get phone calls, letters, and emails every day telling them horror stories happening to their constituents. But lobbyists show up on their doorstep with money, campaign contributions. And while the pressure from the people is strong, members of Congress know that the health insurance industry lobby will cut off any member who does not help them, and literally try to obliterate any member in a district which they may be able to manipulate with advertising on local media. Again, it happens across all major industries.

Here’s another example. Don Blankenship is the head of Massey Mining. His neglect just killed 29 miners in western Virginia and a few years ago another of his neglected mines killed 20 more. He doesn’t care about human life. What he cares about is money. He makes money from coal and he doesn’t care whom he has to kill to get it. (And if you’re saying to yourself…this can’t be happening in America….this is the 21st Century….then get over yourself. Get over it. We’re already back to 1910, heading for 1895.)

Blankenship understands how things work. The miners are poor…he sees to that. They have no unions…he sees to that, not only by threatening to close down mines, but by giving large amounts, $30,000 last year to the Republican Party (he gave 91% of his money to Republicans) and people like Neocon Republican Rob Portman. When he knew that he would be sued for serious damages some years ago, he spent over $5 million dollars to literally buy elections of two appeals court judges. The cases came up. The judges ruled in his favor. His judges. His court system. A petty dictator…who killed 49 miners and will get away with it.

People are dying because of corporations every single day. Even the ones who are supposed to be protecting us. Halliburton killed 9 American soldiers by electrocuting them in showers while they were in Iraq. It was bad enough that the Iraqi improvised explosive devices were killing them. Halliburton, which had received $12.5 billion, with a “b” since Dick Cheney became Vice President, could not even keep our soldiers safe in their own showers. Yet no one, not one person, has been convicted of manslaughter. It is 1900 all over again. The Moguls are back, only now they are smarter, bigger, have the backing of huge media interests and the Republicans. And now the Bush Supreme Court just gave them the green light to take over Congress.

The Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that the government may not put any restrictions on corporations concerning the financial or personal support of individual candidates. This decision overturned every other major piece of free speech legislation relating to political campaigns in our nation’s history. It means that huge corporations may go into a Congressman’s district and spend as much as they like to get rid of someone who is keeping them from polluting a town or from creating a hog farm or doing whatever it is that they want to do. Corporations have the funds to literally buy every single member of Congress. Maybe not the sitting members, but they will find people who will do what they want. And then they will elect them.

We already have corporations like EXXON and GE paying, last year, no taxes at all on tens of billions…billions…of profit. In the middle of a recession, when idiotic tea party people are being pushed by huge lobbying organizations to get out and carry signs against paying taxes and against the President who, by the way, got them at least some kind of health care reform that can be built on despite $400 million by the health insurance industry to prevent it.

President Obama endured enormous abuse to put the people in control of their own health care. But the huge health care industry and the Republicans who work for them want to repeal health care. As Anthony Weiner said so accurately during the health care reform debate, these people are a wholly owned subsidiary of the health care industry which means, make no mistake, that they are AGAINST YOU. They want to repeal the bill. Of course they do. Now that it is law, it can be improved without worrying about lobbyist payoffs to Senators from Nebraska or Arkansas who held up the process until they could get something that was worth pissing off the health insurance industry.

It is, yes, a bad bill and takes sort of a step back while taking a couple of steps forward. But it is better than no bill at all. Now that it is law, it can be improved and the Senate cannot stop these revisions with a filibuster. The Neocon Republicans and the health insurance industry can’t repeal it either. So the President who finally got that done for Americans is being hammered by the lobbyists, trying to discredit him. They are still spreading the conservative Koch Foundation money to fund tea parties through FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, and now this lobbying group calling itself “Tea Party Express” which is actually making a bundle from these ignorant hicks. The lobbying money has been spread money out across the country, helping to organize tea party groups who are, they admit in surveys, 75% Republican.

What the tea party racists don’t understand is that THEY are the ones who are being targeted by big corporations. It would be hilarious if it were not so serious for the rest of the country who are struggling with the economy that the Republican Bush Administration left us…15 million still unemployed. They are complaining about taxes, and the people at the top pay virtually no taxes comparatively…which is why we are $12 trillion in debt. If you look it up, year by year, since Reagan took office, $11 trillion of that $12 trillion came under Reagan, Bush and Bush II. Clinton had deficits but he also had offsetting surpluses.

The Right Wing is already underway with its latest campaign. Taxes again. Sean Hannity has been spending day after day assailing the poor working class. It is the old argument again…the rich pay all the taxes, so why shouldn’t the poor pay more taxes? Half the country pays no taxes at all, he says, meaning and demeaning the lower middle class which is a large group, all of whom pay FICA (which the Republicans have stolen to pay for tax cuts for the rich and for wars) and property taxes and state income taxes.

Well, first, what about the huge corporations who pay no taxes? They get corporate welfare, the corporate welfare queens, whose major stockholders will see that $45 billion in profit from EXXON, billionaire inheritors of the corporation founders and others who merely took someone’s money moved it from one account into EXXON stock and they now will get huge benefits because EXXON’s connections with the Republican Party over the last 30 years since Reagan have taken them completely out of the tax base. Those stockholders will pay taxes…15% or less capital gains taxes…on the tens of millions that they make from their EXXON stock.

While Sean Hannity complains that the working poor pay no taxes. Do you know why that is? Because when George W. Bush wanted more ($43,000 per million) tax breaks for his rich Texas, racist, secessionist, confederate friends he had to give the lower income people some breaks because even the Republican congress people around the country have a lot of working poor. So he cut taxes across the board. That meant that many on the lower end…we have so many whose incomes have gone down…would pay virtually nothing at all because they have virtually no income at all over bare existence levels.

So Sean Hannity should be talking to George W. Bush. But he won’t. He is paid by the very rich and huge corporations to distract the majority of Americans from the fact that the rich are not paying 35% on incomes over $500,000 a year. They are paying, maybe, 20% on every million. The same people who are paying the lobbyists and who are paying Rush Limbaugh $40 million a year (his show doesn’t even bill $40 million a year, so how could he make that income from advertising?) and paying Hannity $20 million a year and Glenn Beck $30 million a year are huge corporations who use our first amendment rights of free speech to spread lies, about the implied laziness and greed of the average American worker. Don’t people get it? Hannity is complaining about YOU.

It is all about lobbying. We must end lobbying in the United States, in Washington D.C. But we have to do it now. Because the Neoconservatives are already gearing up. The big corporations who have at least 100 times more money than unions and citizen groups to spend will be drowning out the message of the People to the other people, the dumb, uneducated, uncaring fools who will be led to the slaughter this fall. They will vote for the corporate-sponsored candidates who will outspend the People’s candidates by 100 to 1. And the lobbyists will make themselves wealthy doing it.

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