WARNING: WALL OF TEXT BELOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
I just saw a video on TYT (the Young Turks, it's a YT channel) about campaign finance (or more specifically, the efforts of a group called Wolf-PAC to get money out and overturn Citizens' United), and this has been an issue boiling on the old pot for a while, so I figured I would take the opportunity here to talk about it.
Why the corruption in politics? Why the insistence that corporations are people, money is free speech, and that billionaires like the Koch Brothers should be allowed to spend unlimited dollars to support the candidates they want in office?
Well, the answer is simple - they want to buy politicians to get them to do things for their company so they can have a better lot in life. Donald Trump basically has admitted to such things openly and publicly, which I personally think is great for revealing the corruption we have in our governmental institutions that fill its seats via elections (like Congress) or appointment (like the SCOTUS) versus those that are filled by the regular employment method (like the rank & file of the FBI). Jon Stewart basically highlighted this corruption in his segment a few months back called Burn Noticed.
To sum up: the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology basically questioned an eminent scientist on global climate change, and asked about nonsensical factors like global wobble, which operates on a timescale so vastly larger than the sum of recorded human history (which is about 5000 years) and that for their climatological projections (which were only 100 years), global wobble never factored. Jon then pointed out that the guys leading the idiots' charge were people who got campaign contributions from places like the Koch Bros, who have been trying to disprove climate change for years.
One of the critics even pointed out that he did not care what the data was from the scientists - their employment depended on climate change existing, and he basically accused the scientists of deciding on the conclusion, then fabricating the evidence they needed to get it. That's like cops deciding what the crime rate is, and then going out and making sure the crimes get committed so they don't get downsized. It's absurd. It's against everything they should stand for. And for someone to even think about doing it is a heinous act of evil.
But I'm not here to share on that - this is stuff everyone already can know or figure out for themself. No, I'm here to share another question. Why? Why did it come to this point? Why did the rich and powerful decide to corrupt this system to favor them and their judgment rather than let it continue as the way it was, democracy as it should be? For that, for me, you have to go back a ways. You can go back further, but to me, it really goes back about half a century to around the time of the civil rights movement and MLK.
For better and for worse, the country has changed since the adoption of the Civil & Voting Rights Acts. Better in that the intimidation tactics and other such things that were used for a century - 1865 to 1965 - were struck down. Stuff like the Jim Crow laws and restricting by race who could work for public bodies. Worse in that the overall goal of people who wanted to see these acts fail were not stopped by their passage. Quite the opposite, they became even more determined, and changed their methods of operation. LBJ, who signed both Acts, basically told people that he knew their passage would mean the loss of the South - many voters were the so-called 'Dixiecrats' and were concerned with a single issue, segregation - for at least a generation.
In the 1968 election, LBJ ran - and lost - the nomination to Hubert Humphries, who then went on to face Richard Nixon and lose, because Nixon had scooped up the Dixiecrats and formulated the Southern Strategy of lore.
Or so the story goes, because the reality was different.
The Deep South - at least in part: Arkansas & Louisiana; Mississippi & Alabama; and Georgia - were carried not by Nixon but by 3rd party candidate George Wallace, who was most famous for being shot and for saying "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever." Ironically, this was actually a really early example of saying what the people want to hear to get them to vote for you - Wallace ran for governor of Alabama in 1958, and was endorsed by the NAACP during that race, but lost to his opponent who was endorsed by the KKK. When asked about his change in stance towards blacks, Wallace was stated to have said, and I quote: "I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been a part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I started talking about [blacks], and they stomped the floor."
Nixon himself didn't pick up the Deep South until his reelection in 1972, which was a landslide (he carried all but 1 state and DC). And then Watergate happened and we all know how that turned out. Even though Nixon is gone, though, the Dixiecrats still live, and they've teamed up with a powerful ally to try and steer the course of the affairs of this country while they've got time left. And the team-up is something born out of hell itself, if you ask me.
Because you see, the maniacal genius of the Dixiecrat plan lay in taking advantage of the only-recently-helped minority (at the time) populace of the US, as well as selecting in something that could never be outlawed in a capitalist society like ours. We can't discriminate based on race, or sexuality, or gender...but they bypassed all of those and went straight for the throats of the poor - where a good number of the minorities in our country are economically. It's little coincidence that the next major Republican after Nixon - Ronald Reagan - was the one talking about welfare queens, and moochers, and takers, and guys who are gaming the system. Nearly every major Republican since Reagan has talked about the poor, too, and I don't think I need to belabor the point about stuff these guys have said.
Of course, there are poor whites, too, who suffer from plans targeted at others, but to the Dixiecrats and their ilk, they're just collateral damage, or easily manipulated dupes. Or both. Because ultimately, Dixiecrats don't care who gets in the line of fire as long as they get to keep their right to make sure they're always superior.
How'd they get hooked up, then, with powerful billionaires? (Exceptions like Donald Trump, who is both a billionaire and a racist.)
We live in a democracy. One man. One vote. Everyone is equal. That's how it's supposed to work. The vote of a poor, undereducated farmer in Kansas is equal to the vote of the high-powered lawyer with years of education and training that lives in NYC. Problem is, the guys on the upper end of things - corporation executives and the like - see this situation and don't like it one bit.
"You're telling me that my vote, my opinion, my word is equal to that of everyone else?" They'd squawk. "I went to college and then Harvard MBA for years, and I gave up and sacrificed things like experimenting with drugs or drinking (whether underage or getting drunk often) or sex (take your pick), and made all those choices to do the right things...and I'm not any higher than the man who flunked out of school, gets drunk every night, and did everything wrong?" They'd be aghast, in utter disbelief. "No," they'd forcefully state, "that's not right. I made all the right choices, I did all the right things, I worked hard, I studied, I made something of myself, whereas that other man wasted his opportunity, his talents, his life..."
And here would come the conclusion.
"...he has no right to decide how this country should be run. He's a failure."
Now, you might reshuffle the deck, the names, the faces, the circumstances, a thousand times. But that is the core of why the rich and successful work so hard to keep themselves at the top and prevent the poor from gaining any traction. There are people who made right choices, and people who made wrong ones. And those who made the right choices get to enjoy the benefits of their decisions, whereas people who made wrong decisions must be made to pay for theirs. The idea of everyone completely equal terrifies them because it tells them that they are no better. That you can be smart or stupid, virtuous or viceful, strong or weak, it doesn't matter what. You are equal to the rest of your peers, regardless of your decisions.
Put that fear of everyone being equal up against the Dixiecrat ideology of minorities can't run things, and at the time that it happened - when a vast portion of minorities were poor - and you get the unholy fusion that you see today. It is a party line that is based on ignorance and fear, and the thought of what could happen, rather than what is.
The supreme irony is, I think, that if the persons responsible for this spent half the effort into helping people that they spend on trying to keep people 'in their place,' then our society is better off overall. One of the longstanding arguments against why we should raise the minimum wage is that, well, companies will just raise their prices for goods or services, so while the numbers on the check are bigger, families don't actually get any more money. Which makes sense, and is reasonable.
And ignores an equally valid alternative solution to the problem. Take McD's. Now, I've heard this number vary, but I'm going to try and stick with a simpler number for sake of argument - I've heard that McD's posts profits of around $5 billion every year. McD's executives say "well, if you make us raise the minimum wage, we'll just raise the prices on our food. A Big Mac combo won't cause $6 now, it'll cost $9, so we're not really giving our employees more money." Which is true - if your assumption is to keep your profit margins where they are or to raise them higher.
Profit can be given a lot of technical definitions, but I think everyone can basically agree that the definition of profit is that you make more money than you spend, and that includes paying your workers for their services. Now, let's say that McD's chooses to raise the rates they pay their workers, but not raise the cost of buying their food, and this will cost them $2 billion in profits. That brings them from $5 down to $3 billion. Which A: is still a lot of money, B: helps their workers, and C: still means they are making a profit. It's not like they went from $1 billion to -$1 billion, or even $2 billion to no profit. They are still in operation. Which is the thing that matters - are you still running at the end of the day?
In short, a lot of our problems today could simply be resolved by the choice of the person making decisions exercising their power to not be a total asshole. But it seems like we as a society aren't really capable of that. We'd rather stick the other guy in the eye and stay where we are now, rather than help him and thus help ourselves, too.
And that's a problem even the mightiest man on the planet can't fix.