Moyers & Company presents "United States of ALEC," a report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of -- ALEC. This piece, really a full feature, was carefully researched for months and put together by Bill Moyers. Kind of gets at the impact of crony capitalism when it is very organized. "Stand your Ground," suppression of the climate change debate, privatizing public functions, tax breaks and subsidies for companies and lobbying without regulation as a nonprofit - thanks ALEC. Working mostly at the state level, they have written up to 1/3 of the bills in some states; I don't think citizens have consciously given the corporate world this much political power. If they did I stand corrected.
The contempt with which America's wealthy privately view those beneath them is actually an old story. (see video)
by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, BillMoyers.com
Like everyone else, we watched the movie of the week — that clandestine video from Mitt Romney’s fundraiser in Florida. Thanks to that anonymous cameraperson, we now have a record of what our modern day, wealthy gentry really thinks about the rest of us — and it’s not pretty.
On the other hand, it’s also not news. If you had reported as long as some of us have on winner-take-all politics and the unenlightened assumptions of the moneyed class, you wouldn’t find the remarks of Romney and his pals all that exceptional. The resentment, disdain and contempt with which they privately view those beneath them are an old story.
In fact, the video’s reminiscent of our first Gilded Age, back in the late 19th century. The celebrated New York dandy Frederick Townsend Martin summed it up when he declared, “We are the rich. We own America. We got it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it.”
And so they do, as that glitzy gathering in Florida reminds us. You could see and hear one of the guests ask Mitt Romney what they could do to help. The governor answers, “Frankly, what I need you to do is to raise millions of dollars, because the president’s going to have about $800 to $900 million. And that’s — that’s by far the most important thing you could do.”
He’s being truthful there, because money rules these campaigns. And if there were more secret videos from other candidates, we would see them in equally compromised positions, bowing and scraping in their infernal pursuit of campaign cash, bending over backwards to suffer the advice that the privileged think their money entitles them to give.
And we mean both parties. Not far from us the other night, at a Manhattan fundraiser hosted by Jay-Z and Beyoncé, President Obama joked, “If somebody here has a $10 million check — I can’t solicit it from you, but feel free to use it wisely.” At least we think he was joking — Obama and Romney alike now shape their schedules as much around moneymaking events as rallies and town halls. Even though a state may be a lost cause when it comes to votes, if there’s money to be made they’ll change the campaign jet’s flight plan and make a special landing, just for the cold hard cash.
By the time the primaries were over this year, the top 150 political and media consultants already had raked in an estimated $465 million – or more. When Election Day finally rolls around, chances are that number will have at least doubled. [VIDEO and Full Text]
Before Michigan's 2006 gubernatorial primary, an East Lansing direct-mail consultant named Mark Grebner decided to shame nonvoters. He sent citizens copies of their own publicly available voting histories, along with those of their neighbors, and said that he would deliver an updated set following the election. In response, Mr. Grebner received death threats, but his tactic worked. Those whom he targeted were 20% more likely to show up at the polls than those who received a standard get-out-the-vote reminder.
Welcome to the modern science of politics, where voters have become lab rats in an ongoing cycle of controlled trials informed by principles from behavioral psychology. Once dominated by superstition and guesswork, campaigns today are now awash in data and insights that allow them to act on that data.
As election day approaches, here are five ways that campaigns are using these new tools to sway voters:
From Forbes: It’s enough to make even the most ardent Obama cynic scratch his head in confusion.
Amidst all the cries of Barack Obama being the most prolific big government spender the nation has ever suffered, Marketwatch is reporting that our president has actually been tighter with a buck than any United States president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.
"According to conservatives, a marginal tax increase on the rich is class warfare on the wrong side. Why charge the richest 1% a 2% tax hike; John Stewart does the math and finds that all we really need to do is to take 1/2 of all of the bottom 50% worldly possessions and we get a similar deficit reduction."
Bill wants your help building awareness about obstacles placed in front of valid voters across the country. WATCH VIDEO
by BILL MOYERS, BillMoyers.com
In ten states so far — some of them swing states — voter ID laws make it prohibitively difficult for some voters, particularly the elderly, poor and minorities, to get required photo identification. Besides requiring voter ID, other laws have decreased the number of early voting days, made it harder for nonprofit groups to register new voters, and repealed election day voter registration.
Rather than throw your hands up in desperation at the powerful political steamroller smashing our democracy, Bill encourages you to re-double your efforts to make a difference, as others have. He offers some real-life, real-people examples, and asks you to share your encounters with politically-motivated rules that make it harder to register or vote, as well as stories of your efforts to overcome them.
Joseph E. Stiglitz’s new book, "The Price of Inequality," is the single most comprehensive counterargument to both Democratic neoliberalism and Republican laissez-faire theories. While credible economists running the gamut from center right to center left describe our bleak present as the result of seemingly unstoppable developments - globalization and automation, a self-replicating establishment built on “meritocratic” competition, the debt-driven collapse of 2008 - Stiglitz stands apart in his defiant rejection of such notions of inevitability. He seeks to shift the terms of the debate.
It is not uncontrollable technological and social change that has produced a two-tier society, Stiglitz argues, but the exercise of political power by moneyed interests over legislative and regulatory processes. "While there may be underlying economic forces at play," he writes, "politics have shaped the market, and shaped it in ways that advantage the top at the expense of the rest." But politics, he insists, is subject to change.
Stiglitz may prove most prescient when he warns of a society governed by "rules of the game that weaken the bargaining strength of workers vis-a-vis capital." At present, he says,"the dearth of jobs and the asymmetries in globalization have created competition for jobs in which workers have lost and the owners of capital have won." We are becoming a country "in which the rich live in gated communities, send their children to expensive schools and have access to first-rate medical care. Meanwhile, the rest live in a world marked by insecurity, at best mediocre education and in effect rationed health care." Except for a brief period in 2008-9, when the stock market decline hit the wealthy the hardest, the trends would seem to be moving toward Stiglitz's pessimistic vision of the future, with little prospect of change no matter who wins office on Nov. 6.
Thomas B. Edsall, the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, writes a weekly online column for The Times.
Our guest on The Bottom Line Sunday at 5 pm ET is Mattea Kramer, who writes in her latest piece that high-profile claims of fantasy, fear only hold back America's resources from being used to spur economy.
As we approach the historic Senate hearing about the impact of Super PAC's and the "Citizens United" decree, Jessica English welcomes Mattea Kramer of National Priorities Project as her guest. Mattea's article, Four Spending Myths Holding Up the Economy, has been boncing all over the Internet, including TomDispatch, CBS News, Mother Jones, Huffington Post, and Salon. Read the article, and come up with a good quetions for Mattea! 646-929-2495
My favorite (actually least favorite) was Myth 4: The Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- will bankrupt the federal government while levying the biggest tax in U.S. history.
THE BOTTOM LINE with Jessica English Sundays 5 pm to 6:30 pm eastern time (2 pm to 3:30 pm PT)
Call to listen or to join the conversation: 646-929-2495 or LISTEN LIVE on the web
Excerpt from article by Joseph E. Stiglitz for GoodReads.com:
A closer look at those at the top reveals a disproportionate role for rent-seeking: some have obtained their wealth by exercising monopoly power; others are CEOs who have taken advantage of deficiencies in corporate governance to extract for themselves an excessive share of corporate earnings; and still others have used political connections to benefit from government munificence – either excessively high prices for what the government buys (drugs), or excessively low prices for what the government sells (mineral rights).
Likewise, part of the wealth of those in finance comes from exploiting the poor, through predatory lending and abusive credit-card practices. Those at the top, in such cases, are enriched at the direct expense of those at the bottom.
It might not be so bad if there were even a grain of truth to trickle-down economics – the quaint notion that everyone benefits from enriching those at the top. But most Americans today are worse off – with lower real (inflation-adjusted) incomes – than they were in 1997, a decade and a half ago. All of the benefits of growth have gone to the top.
Defenders of America's inequality argue that the poor and those in the middle shouldn't complain. While they may be getting a smaller share of the pie than they did in the past, the pie is growing so much, thanks to the contributions of the rich and superrich, that the size of their slice is actually larger. The evidence, again, flatly contradicts this. Indeed, America grew far faster in the decades after the second world war, when it was growing together, than it has since 1980, when it began growing apart.
This shouldn't come as a surprise, once one understands the sources of inequality. Rent-seeking distorts the economy. Market forces, of course, play a role, too, but markets are shaped by politics; and, in America, with its quasi-corrupt system of campaign finance and its revolving doors between government and industry, politics is shaped by money. [MORE]
This week was a big one. The first presidential debate came and went, and it was full of sound bites but missing the information voters need, as Mattea Kramer explained this week on TomDispatch.
In case you missed it, here's what else happened this week.
In this YouTube video, Chris Hellman explains what those automatic spending cuts would do to federal programs from education to food safety.
Where Those Federal Dollars Go Would you or your neighbor notice a difference if big spending cuts took effect? We've got the details on how federal dollars affect your community.
You Ask, We Answer How was the stimulus spent, and did it work? We explained it on the blog.
32 Days In 32 days the president, the entire House of Representatives, and one-third of the Senate are up for grabs. Do you have the facts you need to cast an informed vote? Visit Voter Guide 2012 to see fact sheets and a side-by-side comparison of President Obama and Governor Romney on 12 key issues. And pick up a copy of A People's Guide to the Federal Budget. Choice magazine "highly recommended" it, calling the book "an excellent foundation" for understanding our nation's finances.
Stay tuned. NPP cracks open the federal budget for the rest of us.
Last week, Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan, the Republican architect of Congress's radical right-wing budget plan, as his running mate. Ryan has previously cited Rage Against the Machine as one of his favorite bands. Rage guitarist Tom Morello responds in this exclusive op-ed.
by TOM MORELLO, Rolling Stone
Paul Ryan's love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades. Charles Manson loved the Beatles but didn't understand them. Governor Chris Christie loves Bruce Springsteen but doesn't understand him. And Paul Ryan is clueless about his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine.
Ryan claims that he likes Rage's sound, but not the lyrics. Well, I don't care for Paul Ryan's sound or his lyrics. He can like whatever bands he wants, but his guiding vision of shifting revenue more radically to the one percent is antithetical to the message of Rage.
I wonder what Ryan's favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of "Fuck the Police"? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production? So many excellent choices to jam out to at Young Republican meetings!
Don't mistake me, I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta "rage" in him: A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically the only thing he's not raging against is the privileged elite he's groveling in front of for campaign contributions.
You see, the super rich must rationalize having more than they could ever spend while millions of children in the U.S. go to bed hungry every night. So, when they look themselves in the mirror, they convince themselves that "Those people are undeserving. They're . . . lesser." Some of these guys on the extreme right are more cynical than Paul Ryan, but he seems to really believe in this stuff. This unbridled rage against those who have the least is a cornerstone of the Romney-Ryan ticket. [MORE]
"Last night's (Texas) execution of a 54-year-old man “who could not handle money or navigate a phone book, a man who sucked his thumb and could not always tell the difference between left and right, a man who, as a child, could not match his socks, tie his shoes or button his clothes,” seemed to “directly contradict the spirit, if not the letter,” of a Supreme Court ruling in 2002 that appeared to bar the execution of mentally retarded inmates."
I have to keep reminding myself that we are a great country; I shouldn't have to do that. This practice needs to end, if not for the inmates; for the good of the country.
Lawrence Lessig, Buddy Roemer, and three Senators are testifying at a US Senate hearing tomorrow to consider overturning Citizens United with a Constitutional amendment. The hearing is at 02:30 PM in Hart 216. Hart is the Senate building at Constitution Avenue, C Street, First Street, and Second Street N.E., in Washington, DC 20002. [MORE]
Still smarting from his unsuccessful presidential campaign, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman won’t attend next month’s Republican National Convention or future GOP gatherings until the party starts to tackle the "bigger" issues.
Huntsman, who says he has been at every convention since 1984 when he was a delegate for Ronald Reagan, told The Salt Lake Tribune in a statement that he’s been asked repeatedly whether he would attend the August convention in Tampa, Fla., but noted that he is skipping it.
"I will not be attending this year’s convention, nor any Republican convention in the future," Huntsman said, "until the party focuses on a bigger, bolder, more confident future for the United States — a future based on problem solving, inclusiveness, and a willingness to address the trust deficit, which is every bit as corrosive as our fiscal and economic deficits."
Huntsman had racked up two national delegates with his third-place finish in New Hampshire and another from the Texas primary, a point that could have guaranteed him a speaking role. But Huntsman has released those delegates to Mitt Romney and endorsed the now-presumptive nominee.
The former Utah governor was uninvited to a Republican National Committee event in Florida in March after he suggested that the nation needed a third-party candidate who offered an alternative to the Republican and Democratic options.
In a statement this week, Huntsman said he wanted his party to return to its moorings that mirrored his last-minute campaign theme of "Country First."
"I encourage a return to the party we have been in the past," he said, "from Lincoln right on through to Reagan, that was always willing to put our country before politics." [MORE]
There are now several measures before Congress calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling. In addition, well over 250 state legislatures and municipalities have passed resolutions in support ...
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