Monday, March 20, 2017

Wealth, political power, and influence

The concentration of wealth, political power, and influence go hand in hand and are mutually reinforcing. 
The rest of humanity has little voice in their world.

As the United Nations Human Development Report stated nearly a decade ago: “Disadvantaged groups – poor people, women, rural populations, indigenous communities – are disadvantaged partly because they have a weak political voice, and they have a weak political voice because they are disadvantaged. Where political institutions are seen as vehicles for perpetuating unjust inequalities or advancing the interest of the elites, that undermines the development of democracy and creates conditions for state breakdown.”

When entities become so large that they spend more on lobbying
the congress than they do on advertising and good work, they
 have become agents of domination rather than service.

An individual citizen's right to speak, to assemble, to participate in government has been overwhelmed by louder voices in recent decades.   Corporations are people now, and super PACs are unrestrained.   
Super PACs play an interesting role.  Technically known as independent, expenditure-only committees, super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations, and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates, but they may not contribute to or coordinate with the candidates. Update: 2000+ super PACs took in $1.79 billion for the 2016 election cycle.  PACs and super PACs; good or bad?  Read the list and give it a little thought, perhaps.
When the U.S. was young, there were few eligible voters; only 38,000 voted in our first presidential election.  Today there are 230+ million voters registered.  Does that change things?

Updates needed?  

  • Term limits for Congress, perhaps.  
  • Some transparency for corporate lobbyists would be interesting.  
  • A restatement of constitutional values beginning with the 'equal' issues and an analysis of how well (or poorly) we're doing in that arena would be enlightening.  
  • Full accountability for influence would be extraordinarily valuable.  
  • And lying to us; how about laws against government lying to the public, deliberately stating as fact things they know are untrue.  Those would be particularly encouraging.  
  • Among my personal favorites, mandating a breakup of the 'too big to fail' financial behemoths would be a big step in the right direction, too.  I hope I understand the issues adequately.

Whatever we do to be involved and represented, it's perhaps going to have to be different.  The way it used to work is pretty much obsolete.

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