Democracy’s Turning Point

My opinion is that the turning point for democracy was the years following the election of Obama, 2009-2012.

In 2008 the voters demanded change, and gave the Democrats a big majority. But Senate Democrats refused to end the filibuster. Instead, they required Republican permission to pass anything, and Republicans did not give them permission to pass anything at all.

This set the stage for the failure of the country we see today.

Congratulations Corporations, The Next President Will Be Your Business Partner (Updated)

It hasn’t sunk in yet but yesterday’s vote to allow Republican election-rigging and keep the filibuster marks the end of democracy. From here on out the fight is over. Republican efforts to rig the next elections will now accelerate. They know they have a free hand to do what they want. The public will tune out, understanding that nothing can change.

Billionaires and corporations funded and engineered the effort to keep the filibuster. Their thinking is that they’re at the top of a system rigged in their favor, and the filibuster keeps anything from changing. The filibuster has maintained their position at the top of the pyramid, blocking all efforts by the people to use government to change the rigged system. All Republicans were part of this pay-for-play operation, of course, but so were many Senate Democrats under Obama, and now Manchin and Sinema.

The corporations and billionaires think the current system of paying politicians to keep the money flowing to them has been locked in.
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The Benefits Of Trade And Automation Were Stolen From Us

The capitalist economist’s argument for “free trade” was the Jetsons Economy argument: the future will be glorious. They explained that when you move production to places where workers were paid less, everyone here would benefit because it freed up resources that would be applied to better jobs with higher wages, more free time, etc. The resulting gains would benefit everyone. And everyone where the jobs were moved to would also benefit from climbing the same ladder.

Sounds nice. A democracy would have made sure that was written into trade agreements, for everyone on both sides: The gains must be shared by everyone.

Same for automation, technology, etc. The gains were supposed to go to everyone. A democracy would have guaranteed that’s what happened.

A democracy would certainly have outlawed what did happen: Big money used “free” trade and automation/technology to pit workers against each other to force wages and benefits DOWN, with all the gains going to the top few.

What actually happened is that the Jetsons economy was stolen from us.

The Brand-Name “NAFTA”

All of this and the consequences — the benefits of trade and automation going to the top, everyone else forced ever downward, homes lost (and bought up by private equity to rent back to the former owners), factories closed and abandoned to rot, businesses closed and replaced by private-equity-owned chains, communities destroyed, etc – is covered by the brand name “NAFTA” for voters who were affected by this. That’s a big part of what brought us Trump and destroyed the Democratic party in the minds of all those voters.

Why Blame Dems?

Those textile mills and furniture manufacturers and all the rest of the manufacturing that went away when the Jetsons Economy future was stolen, the hollowed out cities with abandoned stores & homes downtown, ringed by private equity chains in malls out by the highway, bitter people forced out of the middle class blaming Dems for what happened to them…

The dilemma: This stuff branded NAFTA was a Republican/Wall Street neoliberal project all along but some Dems went along with it. Carter with deregulation, Clinton with trade, Obama with Wall Street. Wall Street/corporate money and propaganda getting them into office. (The famous chart showing the split between productivity and wages started under Carter/Volker. Then driven home by Reagan.)

The reason it’s identified with Dems more than Republicans now is that Dems were supposed to be the party of labor. The Democrats were supposed to protect working people from the things big money wanted to do to us. So Dems get the blame for breaking that wall of solidarity.

It’s like how Dems get the blame for things every single Republican is doing. We expect Republicans to be the party of capital, not Dems. Of course it wasn’t all elected Democrats who did this, but the capital bought enough Dems to get away with it.

Corruption Bred Corruption, Until…

Corruption always breeds greater corruption. Once someone can get ahead through corruption they have an advantage over the non-corrupt. The non-corrupt can’t compete and are driven out.

Allowing money to influence politics AT ALL (including “think tanks,” “non-profits” like ALEC, corrupt information sources like Fox, Epoch Times & talk radio, etc) bred greater and greater corruption to the point where a corruptly-constituted Supreme Court allowed unlimited money in political campaigns. That unlimited money drives a massive and unbeatable influence machine.

And then there’s just basic corruption – politicians paid by oil companies to allow them to profit off of killing the planet.

Our “system” is probably irretrievably corrupted. Tobacco kills around 480,000 Americans each year and causes a huge amount of disease and suffering beyond that. It is still legal and largely uncontrolled.

And, of course, the climate crisis has been allowed to reach a tipping point.

(Yesterday a “liberal” friend was talking about how “progressives” killed the infrastructure bill. That “opinion” comes straight from corrupt information sources. Despair.)

Planet-Killing Corruption In Plain Sight

One senator who makes a fortune from coal is blocking the country from last-ditch efforts to keep the climate crisis from becoming catastrophic. Well, it’s really one Democratic senator and EVERY Republican – all of them, their entire party and propaganda infrastructure paid by the fossil-fuel industry. But they go unmentioned.

The Guardian explains, in, Joe Manchin leads opposition to Biden’s climate bill, backed by support from oil, gas and coal,

In the current electoral cycle, Manchin has received more in political donations from the oil and gas industry than any other senator, more than double the second largest recipient. He is also the No 1 beneficiary of donations from the coal mining sector, leads the way in money accepted from gas pipeline operators, and is sixth in the ranking of senatorial donations from electricity utilities.

… But Manchin’s ties to the fossil fuel industry run deeper than political donations. After initially working in his family’s furniture and carpet business, Manchin set up a coal brokerage firm called Enersystems in 1988, running it until he became a full-time politician.

… His shares in Enersystems are worth between $1m and $5m, according to his latest financial disclosure document, with the senator receiving more than $5m in dividend income from the company over the past decade. The coal brokerage represents 71% of Manchin’s investment income, and about a third of his total net worth.

For history there should be a memorial monument that names names. It should list the names of individuals who contributed to the horrific situation they inherit.

But place that monument well above sea level.

Lies vs Democracy

This post first appeared at Imagine Democracy.

Well-funded lies are very effective.

The tobacco companies proved that with well-funded propaganda lies (a.k.a. “marketing”) you can get people to kill themselves while giving you their money.

The firearms industry proved that with well-funded propaganda lies you can convince people to allow kindergarteners to be killed while giving you their money.

Trump proved that well-funded propaganda lies (and media participation) he could convince people to kill democracy while giving him their money.

Now the oil&coal companies are proving that well-funded propaganda lies can get people to kill the planet while giving them their money.

Democracy doesn’t have an advertising agency to counter this stuff. This is why we need a Department of Democracy.

No One Will Be Held Accountable

Members of Congress trade stocks in companies when they receive inside information. CNBC, Insider trading and Congress: How lawmakers get rich from the stock market.

(PS NBC, Justice Department drops insider trading investigations of three senators.)

Federal Reserve officials trading stocks that the Fed is propping up. NY Times, Fed Officials’ Trading Draws Outcry, and Fuels Calls for Accountability, Central bank regional presidents traded securities in markets in which Fed choices mattered in 2020.

Federal Reserve officials traded stocks and other securities in 2020, a year in which the central bank took emergency steps to prop up financial markets and prevent their collapse — raising questions about whether the Fed’s ethics standards have become too lax as its role has vastly expanded.

Federal judges own stock in companies they rule on. WSJ, 131 Federal Judges Broke the Law by Hearing Cases Where They Had a Financial Interest,

More than 130 federal judges have violated U.S. law and judicial ethics by overseeing court cases involving companies in which they or their family owned stock.

A Wall Street Journal investigation found that judges have improperly failed to disqualify themselves from 685 court cases around the nation since 2010.

We all know no one will be held accountable.