The Corporate Congressional Tango
Author’s Note: I wrote this post a few years ago for a blog I used to maintain called Irregular Vegetables. This was a popular post, garnering a few thousand reads and was shared dozens of times on Social media. I have updated it only to reflect the passage of time.
Sadly It remains relevant today.
Laying greenbacks over the sweaty palms of politicians is hardly a new thing. History doesn’t seem to record the point when political prostitution was a novel concept, but until recently it was was polite to close the door. These days the bribery is done right out in the open.
Starry eyes and love is all around us
In 1975 the song Dance With Me rose to number 6 on the Billboard charts. This little slice of pop history has been played millions of times on soft rock channels. The infectious melody of that classic – which is now running through your head – was the work of John Hall. No, not the same Hall that went on to pop legend status as Hall and Oates.
John Hall was the founder of Orleans which is not a big enough name to have tribute bands (as far as I could find) but they did have other hits including Still The One a year later. You might recall that later one was used in commercials for something or other. At least two presidential candidates have been asked to stop using it in the campaign.
After the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident, John Hall co-founded M.U.S.E. (Musicians United for Safe Energy) along with more widely known artists – Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Graham Nash.
M.U.S.E put on huge concerts in support of it’s a message against nuclear power and was a big part of the overall no more nukes movement. M.U.S.E. and many other no nukes folks initially gathered to oppose nuclear power out of concern for the environment, but they later broadened their focus and allied with groups opposing nuclear bombs.
In 1982 around a million rapscallion nature lovers and hippie peaceniks converged on New York in what was the largest political demonstration in American history to that date.
Worldwide groups like M.U.S.E have had some success. some countries including Norway and Australia have no nuclear power plants and remain opposed to them. Others such as Germany and Spain are working to move completely away from nuclear power.
Here at home however is a different story. In 1979 when M.U.S.E. was formed there were 69 nuclear reactors in the US, by 1991 there were 112, today there are 100 and 4 more being built.
Why, despite the huge outpouring of energy and the backing of many big names, have these no-nuke groups for the most part gone backward in the United States?
Hall and the other environmental watchdogs ran up against two American truths.
- First, no matter how much you kick, no matter how loud you scream, piles of corporate money will muffle your voice noise and slow you down.
- Second, in America, people have become less important and less a part of the equation than are corporations.
I want to be your partner
In order to fight back against groups like M.U.S.E. The pro-Nuke crowd has to convince ordinary people that concern for the environment is unwarranted, that looking out for the health and safety of themselves and others is bad, or at the very least passe’.
A lot of resources go into these fights. Fake scientific studies need to be produced as a counter to the real ones, experts need to be marginalized, and real science needs to be denied loudly and denigrated completely.
Torpedoes be damned, the spin cycle of the propaganda machine must churn at full speed.
Capitalism is always looking for more efficient, cheaper methods. Somewhere along the way, someone figured out that it was easier and cheaper to just buy politicians.
Don’t get me wrong I am not against corporations. In fact, I own one, I just don’t think of it as a person. It is paper and rules, not flesh and blood. My corporation was not squeezed through a birth canal, instead, the parts of it were assembled like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster – Only in an attorney’s office rather than a lab.
I have never taken my corporation to dinner or a movie or shared a conversation with it over drinks. My corporation exists at the pleasure of and according to the laws of my state. In other words, it is a legal fiction.
A corporation does not breathe air or drink water, therefore they can not suffer the ills caused by pollution. Corporations do not have a spouse or kids waiting at home for them at the end of the shift and can never really know the devastation caused by an unsafe workplace.
A corporate body does not wear out from the drudgery of years on the factory floor and has no reason to plan for the golden years. As far as I could find no corporation has ever lost it’s home and life savings to medical bills.
Until corporations can somehow feel the absolute hopelessness of one of their children being diagnosed with cancer, the ache of muscles after hours of labor, or the sheer despair of the loved one lost to an unsafe workplace, they should never be granted the same rights as people.
Instead – borrowing from the vernacular of the right-wing – we are now giving corporations special rights. A corporation for example can commit fraud or murder and never see the inside of a jail cell.
Corporations have not been given the right to vote, yet. They have however been given a very wide road with which they can deliver truckloads of cash to influence the way you vote.
Although those truckloads of money can not generally be dropped into the candidates piggy-banks directly, the Citizens United decision and other mistakes by the SCOTUS allow unlimited amounts to be spent directly for the benefit of a candidate without only a hint of sleight of hand. It works because the American public allows it to, again and again. It has also generally made the election system more corrupt and increasingly more polarized.
Of course, this crooked freeway runs both ways. The same vehicles which deliver campaign victory are loaded up with focused tax breaks, and government largess before returning. Then, they are piled high with money for the officeholders next go around, and the cycle continues.
Did I say crooked? Although the road may have its twists and turns. this is all completely legal thanks to decisions by the robed sages on the Supreme Court which have christened corporations as people and granted them the right to buy politicians openly in the public square.
Can’t you see?
78 percent of those asked in a 2015 Bloomberg poll believe that Citizens United was a bad decision. Other polls have very similar numbers and have since the high court decided the case in 2010, yet as they say, here we are.
This is not a left vs right issue, In fact, it is one of the few remaining things on which Republicans (80 percent) and Democrats (83 percent) overwhelmingly agree. Yet, as I said here we are.
Because Citizens United was foisted on us by the sapient nine – albeit narrowly – there is a pretty high bar set to get over it. Still, If the opinions of the reprobates in congress matched with the opinions of those who elected them, then it is a bar that could be cleared easily.
It has been more than 10 years since five robe-clad wise men granted corporations the right to sponsor and own politicians and the ruling still corrupts and corrodes our political system.
In 2014 an attempt was made in the Senate to start the process of putting some sanity back in the system. Every single Democrat voted to move the legislation forward, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Republican filibuster. Every single Republican voted to keep the system as it is.
Let me state that again. Although 80 percent of rank and file Republicans across the country believe that Citizens United should be overturned, 100 percent of Senate Republicans believe the system is fine as is. Why the disconnect?
Far be it from me to ask the Republicans in Congress not to dance with the corporate master who brung em to the shindig, I think it is clear they wouldn’t listen if I did. The only thing these hucksters think about is staying in power and the only thing they understand is an election loss and yet you continue to hand them wins.
These politicians keep right on pimping themselves right under your nose. If you continue to act surprised when they climb in bed with the corporations and toss you out into the cold well then don’t be surprised when you freeze to death.
John Hall put his music career on hold and served two terms in the House of Representatives. When he was defeated in 2010 he opted to get out of politics citing the prohibitive costs associated with elections, especially after Citizens United.
Just as during his earlier efforts, Hall learned that corporations hold more sway than people, and apparently that is the way we want it to be. Otherwise, we might actually work to change it. What are you doing to change the culture of corruption?