by Ralph Lopez / truthout / January 19, 2012
It’s a quid pro quo. Only the most gullible rube ready to buy swampland in Florida could think otherwise. The citizen’s watchdog MAPlight.org found that congressmen who voted for TARP, the “Troubled Assets Relief Program,” received nearly 50 percent more in campaign contributions from the financial services industry (an average of about $149,000) than congressmen who voted no.
And House Energy and Commerce Committee members who voted yes on an amendment in 2009 favored by the forest products industry, to allow heavier cutting of trees, received an average of $25,745 from the forestry and paper products industry. This was ten times more than each member voting no. The pattern repeats itself over and over, ditto for why wars go on when polls show most of the population is against them.
TARP is the most well-known, but by no means the only or even the largest according to projections, of the government bailout programs which are projected to cost around $50,000 for every man, woman, and child in America, on top of normal taxes. The costs are borne in systemic and most times intangible ways. Bridges don’t get maintained by states. Schools don’t get repaired. College loan and grant amounts are capped at a lower level. A soldier doesn’t get the psychiatric help he is begging for after he gets cuts loose from the Army, it being cheaper to prescribe a handful of meds and send him home.
The cost are intangible, that is, until a bridge collapses. A potential academic star decides he or she can’t afford the first choice college. Until another soldier blows his brains out.
David DeGraw, the intellectual founder of OWS and author of “The Economic Elite Vs. The People of the United States,” asserts:
Current statistical societal indicators clearly demonstrate that a strategic attack has been launched and an analysis of current governmental policies prove that conditions for 99% of Americans will continue to deteriorate. The Economic Elite have engineered a financial coup and have brought war to our doorstep… and make no mistake, they have launched a war to eliminate the US middle class.”
The roughly $50,000 per every man, woman, and child figure is according to Neil Barofsky, former special inspector general for the government’s financial bailout programs, whom Glenn Greenwald called “easily…one of the most impressive and courageous political officials in Washington.”
A series of bailouts, bank rescues and other economic lifelines could end up costing the federal government as much as $23 trillion, the U.S. government’s watchdog over the effort says – a staggering amount that is nearly double the nation’s entire economic output for a year.
$23 trillion is more than the total cost of all the wars the United States has ever fought, put together. World War II, for example, cost $4.1 trillion in 2008 dollars, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Despite all efforts to contort Occupy Wall Street into a mob of malcontent losers of the economic race, looking to take what is not theirs, OWS persists in educating the American public that they are the ones getting stolen from. As one sign at a protest said, “They only call it class war when you fight back.”
Now Occupy DC has scored a bulls-eye with its descent on Congress yesterday and its unmistakable message: Get the money out of politics. Because as long as money drives politics, no other change is possible.
Reuters said yesterday:
“Demonstrators from the Occupy movement rallied at the Capitol and congressional office buildings on Tuesday to protest against the influence of money on lawmakers….Occupy protesters from around the country who gathered on the Capitol’s rain-soaked lawn carried signs saying, “Face it liberals, the Dems sold us out,” “Congress for sale” and “Banksters of America.””
And the NZ Herald reported in “Occupy protesters storm Washington DC”:
“small groups of protesters entered House office buildings in a bid to meet with individual members of Congress. Participants later in the evening marched to the Supreme Court and the White House.”
Even the Washington Post got it right, no doubt thanks to numerous meetings with activists getting wiser and meeting with reporters and editors repeatedly in case they really, really still did not understand “why are we here.” The WaPo report,“What Occupy DC wants: Less corporate money in politics,” quotes “Brian”:
“Our government has allowed policy, laws and justice to be for sale to the highest bidder….There needs to be a limit on the amount of money you can spend on elections, or can contribute…”
In case the media still didn’t get it, the Occupiers started the day with a march on Bank of America.
Two days ago Occupy DC passed a “Corporate Personhood Resolution,” which states, as HuffPo reports:
In 2010, the United States Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that independent spending on elections by corporations and other groups could not be limited by government regulations. This decision is only the latest in a long line of judicial rulings that have invented the legal doctrine of corporate personhood, affording corporations the same constitutional rights as people.
Occupy DC joins Move To Amend the Constitution, which is holding actions at courthouses across the country tomorrow, Friday, demanding the ratification of a constitutional amendment which would supersede the Supreme Court decision in Buckley v. Valeo, in which money was first equated to speech, as if the equivalent of handing a $100 bribe for a police officer to not give you a traffic ticket had anything to do with the First Amendment.
A rather remarkable OpenSecrets.org report on Occupy DC covers an earlier speech by Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig:
Lessig emphasized corruption in our current government — not of the bribery variety a la Rod Blagojevich, but rather in Congress’ dependence on money, money that is mostly from corporations and a tiny proportion of the population.
“Forget 99 percent, we are the 99.5 percent,” Lessig told the audience “Only .05 percent of America gave the max contribution of $2,500 to candidates last election.”
Lessig’s statistics are correct, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics. Only .05 percent of the U.S. population gave the legal maximum to at least one candidate, which was $2,400 per election during the 2010 cycle.
In fact, only 0.26 percent of the U.S. population gave more than $200, the level at which public disclosure of contribution records is mandated by the Federal Elections Commission.
Yet these 818,700 or so donors accounted for 67.7 percent of the total contributions to federal candidates that election cycle.
In the report Ben Thompson, an Occupier from Bethesda, Md., told OpenSecrets Blog: “The money from Wall Street flows to K Street.”
Indeed, MAPLight.org, which is based on the OpenSecrets.org database, found, even more startlingly, that on average, 80 percent of congress members and senators campaign funds come from outside their districts, and largely from outside their states. MAPLight found a distinct flow of money from a small number of wealthy zip codes, such as Westchester County and Chevy Chase, MD, to congressmen representing many poorer, rural zip codes. A vote is a vote. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. And the most money by far emanated from addresses in and around the Washington DC beltway, i.e., where lobbyists and PACs live. These are the findings in the MAPLight.org report entitled “Remote Control.”
The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. These are the same state legislators in whose hands any efforts to pass recall laws aimed at U.S. congressmen and senators would rest. In many ways, the imperious indifference of incumbents in Washington these days points to citizens getting reacquainted with their state legislators.
The renewed vigor and focus of OWS comes as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges voices the opinion that, since the national security establishment such as the NSA and FBI actually lobbied against the newly-signed National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA,) allowing the indefinite military detention of American citizens, the true target of NDAA is Occupy Wall Street this summer. Last year showed that police could not be relied upon to suppress dissent, making the 1% nervous enough to bribe congressmen to give the Executive Branch the power to “call in the Army”:
Hedges said in an interview with Democracy Now:
“And I think, without question, the corporate elites understand that things, certainly economically, are about to get much worse. I think they’re worried about the Occupy movement expanding. And I think that, in the end—and this is a supposition—they don’t trust the police to protect them, and they want to be able to call in the Army.”
The costs of bailouts and continuing wars mounts daily, with Obama now asking for another trillion-plus hike in the debt ceiling, a move many economists warn that the dollar cannot sustain. One illustration shows the budget predicament as the equivalent of one wage earner making $35,000 per year who cannot pay his bills, must borrow money, and is already $135,000 in debt.
So society cuts corners in every other way. Trains and subway service are lousy because drivers and equipment maintenance are being cut back. Public libraries are closed on Sundays, leaving children motivated to transcend their home environments to the streets. Our children and grandchildren are saddled with yet more debt to pay for trillion-dollar bailouts. They only call it class war when we fight back.