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Stick a fork in (the) US, Democracy is Cooked

22 Jan

With the Supreme Court ruling that the government cannot regulate or limit political spending by corporations, a bullet has been put through the head of a suffering democracy.   It was a mercy killing.  For years now, Americans have been pathetically clinging to the idea that their votes meant something.  Well, they don’t have to worry about that anymore.  Thanks to the Supreme Court, it’s now all special interests, all the time.  

It would be a mistake, however, to say that Americans’ votes will be worthless.  In a political version of American Idol, we will be given the honor of deciding which corporate-sponsored politician will be able to become a highly respected, suit-and-tie-wearing marionette.  And then we will live happily ever after, basking in the illusion of democracy. 

In the decision’s simplest terms, Exxon, Citibank, Pfizer, General Electric, etc..,. will now be able to gush money toward any candidate they feel deserving, meaning one who will support their interests.  Sure, you may be outraged that a Canadian can pay $5 for medication that costs you $40.  You might even be so incensed that you exercise your right as an American citizen and call your Senator, urging them to support lower cost prescription drugs.  But who do you think they are going to listen to:  you or the lobbyist from Johnson and Johnson who just dropped $500,000 into the making of a campaign advertisement supporting that Senator? Good luck with that.

If you want to see how this money-in-politics dynamic works on a small scale, read what The Hangover learned while talking to Susan Collins’ office.  Or if you would really like to be educated on the topic, check out Who Rules America?by G. William Domhoff.

It was Thomas Jefferson who said:  

“The end of democracy, and the defeat of the American revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of the lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.”

Consider the revolution over.

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Susan Collins: PAC Money Makes Policy

1 Oct

Susan Collins opposes President Obama’s health care plan, particularly the public option.  The Hangover knows this because one of her staff was kind enough to tell me so in a recent phone conversation.   Consider me cynical.  When in a follow-up I asked the staff member how much campaign money Senator Collins has taken from the medical, insurance, and pharmaceutical lobbies, Collin’s mouthpiece told me that she didn’t have that information.   I wondered aloud if Collins didn’t know how much payola came from those sectors.   I was reassured that while the Collins’ staffer didn’t have that information, it was available at fec.gov, the Federal Election Commission’s website.  This excahnge followed:

The Hangover:  “Don’t you think Senator Collins should provide that (who she received campaign donations from) information?”

Collins  Staff Member:  “The information is available on the website, fec.gov, that I told you about.”

The Hangover:  “Don’t you think that withholding the information makes her look corrupt like all those other Republicans taking money from lobbyists?”

Collins Staffer:  “The information is available on the FEC website, sir.”

Before any Republicans think The Hangover is “profiling,” we heartily acknowledge that Senate Democrats take just as much money as the Republicans do from these lobbies.   That’s the problem.  (It’s no wonder that real health care reform is impossible:  Mandated business creation for insurance companies isn’t exactly health care reform.)

The Hangover took the staffer’s advice and checked out the FEC website.  The information was, indeed, there.  In fact, the report on Susan Collins’ accepted  campaign contributions for the 2007-2008 election cycle was disgusting.  What’s worse is that her tally reads similarly to those of her 99 Senate colleagues serving  “we the people.”  Collins’ list of contributors can be viewed here in it’s entirety, but there are some obvious highlights:

In the 2007-2008 election cycle, Senator Collins received expenditures of:

$26,000 from the American Association of Neurosurgeons PAC

$190, 530 from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons PAC

$14, 000 from Aetna’s PAC

$20,000 from the American Hospital Association PAC

$20,000 from AFLAC’s PAC (that’s the one with the duck)  

$18,000 from the Blue Cross/Blue Shield PAC

$1000from the Bluecross of Michigan PAC (???)

There are so many contributors listed, The Hangover doesn’t blame the Senator for not providing her staffers with the information.   They’d have to be MIT graduates to follow it. 

In terms of full disclosure, The Hangover gave nothing to Senator Collins’ campaign.  We find this is appropriate.  If any of Maine’s other 1.5 million residents believe that the Senator is looking out for their best interest, all they have to do is pull out their processed checks for the last few years.   It’s likely one is getting according to what one gave.

Dick Cheney Wheeling Out of Office

20 Jan

 

"I knew I should have let the butler take the box from Halliburton."

Cheney: "I knew I should have let the butler take the box from Halliburton."

Dick Cheney will be in a wheelchair as he leaves office today, due to pulling a muscle in his back while moving boxes into his new home in McClean, Virginia.

That Halliburton gold must be heavy.

Bail This Out

8 Dec

The Federal bailouts that began with the Savings and Loans during the George HW Bush Administration, touched down with the airlines after 9/11, threw 85 billion to AIG, then shoveled 700 billion to save our vaunted Financial Institutions, have now come to a three-way pile up on American automakers.   When the country’s leading capitalists are landing in Washington on a weekly basis asking for cash to keep their industries afloat, something’s wrong.  The United States and capitalism are supposedly merit-based institutions, or at least they used to be.  The Hangover asks:  Why is abject failure being rewarded?

Understandably, these financial institutions and industries need to stay viable or millions of Americans will be out of work or out of their homes.   That can’t happen.   But bailout dollars shouldn’t be handed over so that a sinking-into-the-muck status quo can be maintained.   When the AIG executives got their money, they spent nearly half a million dollars at a Califroina spa playing golf, stuffing their faces, and getting massages.  Will those running the auto industry and financial institutions prove to be so different? 

President Elect Obama stated:

“We have to have an auto industry that understands they can’t keep on doing things the same way.  If this management team that is currently in place doesn’t understand the urgency of the situation, and is not willing to make the tough choices and adapt to these new circumstances, then they shoud go.” 

But Obama has it backwards.  You don’t give the reward first and then demand the behavior.  Like spoiled children, our greatest capitalists need strict boundaries and discipline.  The Hangover proposes two simple “conditions” for companies who want “bailout” money.  If they’re willing to comply, they get their dollars.

Of course, some may say that these proposed conditions smack of socialsim.  But it’s exactly what the industries are asking for.  Give the capitalists what they want.

Low Gas Prices? Don’t Get Used To It.

23 Oct

Gas prices have dropped from a national average of $4.10 on July 16th to $2.78 today.   Joe Six-Pack (or the Plumber) is probably pretty happy about that.  $2.78 is also just about what a gallon cost last year at this time.  What happened in the interim to drive prices up over that four dollar mark?  Were the world’s oil reserves running dry without OPEC realizing it?  Did everyone in America buy a Hummer and go joyriding?  Don’t think so.  And what drove the prices back down?   Were previously untapped reserves discovered under Jed Camplett’s Bevery Hills Mansion?  Was a well drilled under every moose track in Sarah Palin’s Alaskan wilderness?  Did John McCain drill offshore wells faster than Wilt Chamberlain tapped stewardesses?  Not likely.   

However, there are several factors that can explain the astronomically rising prices:

During the Oil and OPEC friendly Bush administration, Oil Companies enjoyed record profits.  It’s a wonderful example of cronyism establishing a friendly business environment.   As Antonia Juhasz of the Asia Times notes:

What does $133 billion in profits buy an industry? It bought the oil industry at least eight years of a US “oiligarchy”: a government ruled by a small number of oil interests. The oil industry spent more money to get the George W Bush administration into office in 2000 than it has spent on any election before or since. In return it received, for the first time in American history, a president, vice president, and secretary of state who are all former oil company officials.

What this means is that you and I and everyone else in the United States has been–and will continue to be–manipulated.  A survey of the past six years finds that in the election years of 2002, 2004, 2006, and now 2008, gas prices have taken a significant dip in the months of October and November.  

It’s unlikely that this is coincidence or a result of Americans driving less because they enjoy walking in the crisp fall air.  It’s simply government-aided capitalism (Does that sound familiar?) at its finest.

Gas prices rose unitl the citizenry became aggravated to the point (apparently just short of $5 a gallon) where our legislators were forced to actually do their jobs.   Bills like the PUMP Act and the Close the Enron Loophole Act were introduced.   Gas prices started their slide.  Now the American public is quick to forget they were shelling out $4 a gallon this summer and are happy to fork over $2.78 (only 30% more than two years ago!).   Let’s hope that the legislation doesn’t disappear along with the peoples’ agitation. 

Of course, to maintain the status quo, President W Bush and his oil sidekicks know that it’s best to keep the masses pacified, especially in an election year.  The Republicans can’t have Obama ranting and raving about gas prices can they?  People might actually be reminded to listen when they go to fill up at the local Quickie Mart. 

So, not so mysteriously, gas prices have receded.  In the words of Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten:  “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

Have no fear, by New Years 2009 the price of a gallon of gas will be closer to $4.00 than our peaceful $2.78.     It is supply and demand.  The American people have a great supply of money and the oil companies will once again demand it.  Common sense tells us that the final month of 2008 may be Big Oil’s last chance before they ride off into the sunset with the Bush gang.  Then again, they give money to Senators and Representatives and the Democratic candidate, too.

The World of Commander McCain

27 Sep

In September 26th’s Presidential Debate, Republican hopeful John McCain often touted his vast experience in both domestic and foreign affairs.  McCain entered politics in 1981, when he retired from the Navy.  According to his talking points, the Senator was heavily involved in many of the most critical American political actions of the past 25-plus years.  And if that’s the case (who would doubt this man of honor?), why haven’t things turned out better for the United States?

Early on in the debate, McCain stated, ” We Republicans came to power to change government, and government changed us.”  He later added, It (meaning the money laden system of politics in Washington) corrupts people.”   This is one arena where McCain knows of which he speaks.  He was one of the infamous Keating Five:  A group of Senators found wielding influence for Charles Keating, director of the corrupt Lincoln Savings and Loan (There’s that deregulation, greed, and collapse formula again).  After receiving more than $100, 000 of Keating’s ill-earned dollars in campaign funds, as well as stays at Keating’s Bahamian vacation home, McCain attended hearings with federal regulators on behalf of Keating.  In the words of the Seattle Times, this placed McCain (and the entire group) “under an ethical cloud for years.”  It also led to McCain being found guilty by the Senate Ethics Committee of “using poor judgement” in acting on Keating’s behalf.  The incident does prove that McCain can work across the aisle–the other four members of the Keating Five were Democrats.  The Hangover is puzzled as to why that wasn’t featured in McCain’s considerable self portrait last night.

McCain did manage to mention that he’s been to Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Pakistan, Georgia (the country) and New Hampshire (the state).  He also boasted of meeting with Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Misha Saakashvili, and General Patraeus.  He looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and saw “a K, a G and a B”  Perhaps McCain was drunk at the time.  Just about the only thing McCain hasn’t done is kept track of how many houses he owns.

Through connections in Washington DC, The Hangover has gained access to a video of McCain actually taking on terrorists in New York City.  Only great modesty must have prevented McCain from sharing these exploits with the American People:

Deregulation+Capitalism+Socialism =Economic Herpes

24 Sep

Anyone who owns a television, radio, or computer now knows that the taxpayers of the United States are about to become the de-facto owners of one of the world’s largest insurance companies, AIG.  The US is also currently subsidizing the airline, oil, agriculture, banking, and finance industries.  Media talking heads and politicians are claiming this is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  Back then, FDR bailed out the country by thinking from the bottom up.  Now, our leaders are approaching the problem from the top down.  Which is just the kind of thinking that got us in this mess to begin with, starting with Comrade Reagan’s deregulation of the Savings and Loan industry back in the 1980’s.  A direct line can be drawn from there to the socialism the US is employing today to save our staggering economy. 

Roosevelt’s New Deal dealt with the Great Depression by offering relief and creating jobs for out of work Americans–the regular people, in other words.   Money was given to states and local municipalities to distribute in the form of aid to those same people.  The government also became involved in planning with industrial, agriculture, financial, and transportation sectors of the economy.   What basically became a managed economy survived and prospered.  Roosevelt’s plan worked, as history shows.

But now we are going to take a different approach.   We (as in the American government, spending our tax dollars) are going to pop 700 billion to save the financial industries.  We’ve loaned AIG , a company now under investigation by the FBI, 85 billion.  Even with a change in leadership at Freddie Mac or AIG, it’s “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’   It’s a curious approach–and seemingly un-American, as capitalism should operate as a meritocracy.  If you do well, you profit.  If you lose, you’re out. 

But that all changed in 1980’s when Comrade HW Bush engineered a bailout of a deregulated Savings and Loan Industry.  According to the GAO, that bailout cost half a trillion dollars, of which more than 130 billion was taxpayer funded.   It also provided today’s generation of CEO”s with a blueprint:  “If you run a deregulated industry,  your mission is to haul as much money out of it as you can.  If you cut some corners or take some chances and the wheels come off, so be it.  Your Uncle Sam will make it all better.  The worst that can happen is you get sent to your mansion for a five month time out.”  

A favorite of Republican economists and Presidents, deregulation is at the root of our economic herpes (Let’s face it; our “issues” might be eased, but they’ll always be subject to outbreaks).  Unfortunately, a deregged industry always collapses under the greed of those running it.  Look no further Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, AIG, and the old Savings and Loans. 

Of course, there are exceptions.  Deregulation of energy speculation has made gazillions for the oil companies and their lackeys.  And that sector just keeps chugging along.  It also allows you and me the privilege of paying $4.00 a gallon for gas. 

There’s no doubt that the Republicans are capitalists at heart.  Give them credit:  Their ethos of deregulation and bailout has raised America to new heights.  The United States will soon become the greatest Socialist country on the face of the earth.