Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tell me what Plutocracy Looks like! THIS is what plutocracy looks like!

One of my favorite "call-chorus" chants on Occupy Wall Street is this: One person shouts out "Tell me what democracy looks like!" and the crowd chorus replies: "This is what democracy looks like." Sounds simple--and it is--but it's incredibly energizing. I think that now is the time to put some numbers and faces to the the opposite of the #OWS movement--and what it's fighting against, to wit: a bald-faced collusion between government and hegemonic corporate interests known as plutocracy.

plu·toc·ra·cy

 [ploo-tok-ruh-see] 
  1. The rule or power of wealth or of the wealthy.
  2. government or state in which the wealthy class rules.
  3. class or group ruling, or exercising power or influence, by virtue of its wealth.
The March Toward Plutocracy: In 2010, the Supreme Court Ruled that Corporations were Basically People... 

...and that the government cannot ban political spending by corporations in elections. The majority ruled that the government has no business regulating political speech (ignoring the obvious fact that corporations aren't actually individuals). The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy, which is, of course, exactly what the majority conservative old males wanted. By conflating "free speech" with campaign contributions, the Supreme Court opened up the floodgates of corporate spending on campaigns in an outrageous effort to erase any remaining line between corporate money and its influence on representative democracy.

Protesting Plutocracy: Activists against Supreme Court
 Ruling to Treat Corporations like People
The Supreme Court apparently didn't consider the following exhibits in its ruling:


Exhibit A. The Best "Democracy" Money Can Buy: Big Political Action Committees (PACs) Contribute Tens of Thousands to Super Committee Members

Step Right Up! Who's Got an Agenda? 

For those who remember, part of the debt deal between Obama and the extremist republicans was to "kick the can" of spending cuts and revenue increasing down the road by appointing a "Super Committee" of members of Congress--evenly split between democrats and republicans. According to the Sunlight Foundation, large Political Action Committee members contributed $83,000 to these super committee members. PACs from Lockheed Martin, the National Association of Realtors, Pfizer and Chevron all contributed to members of the super committee. 

Aside from the fact that this super committee isn't really what congress is supposed to be about (hint: a body that represents all the people), these contributions are a clear, but not terribly surprising attempt to sway their ultimate decisions on how "at least $1.2 trillion in cuts to the debt" will be made. 


Exhibit B. Keeping Wealthy Haitian Textile Workers in CheckUS Companies and Diplomats Work to Prevent Wages from Growing 40%! (From $3 to $5 per day.)


US Textile Industry in Haiti? Winning.
Haitian Textile Workers making $3 a day? Not so much.

Among the many thousands of memoranda and diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, the cables surrounding the quashing of the increase in minimum wages for Haitian textile workers stands out as a particularly horrendous form of plutocrats doing what they do best: undermine the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable while aggrandize the richest and least vulnerable. In June 2011 Think Progress reported the following

In 2009, the Haitian parliament unanimously passed a measure that would hike the Haitian minimum wage to $5 a day. Contractors for large American clothing firms like Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, and Levi’s began protesting the increase in the minimum wage, aggressively lobbying the parliament and the populist Haitian president, René Préval, to reverse course. They were soon joined by American diplomats who began to lobby the Haitian government as well, arguing that it would be too costly for textile manufacturers. 


In August 2009, Préval partially conceded to the demands of the garment industry and the United States. He negotiated a new arrangement with his parliament that would offer a special carveout for the textile sector — allowing it to pay $3 a day rather than $5 a day — which marked a huge win for major textiles corporations like Hanes and Dockers.

My Take: The textile industry in Haiti threatened to "make the sector economically unviable and consequently force factories to shut down" if the minimum wage was increased to about the cost of a Venti cappuccino at Starbucks. So, corporations make policy here in the United States with collusion of elected representatives. Corporations make policy abroad with the collusion of elected and unelected "international development" officials. Plutocratic? Much.

And so, what can be done? 

I called Bernie Sanders today on Thom Hartmann's show "Brunch with Bernie" about what could be done in the face of the Supreme Court's decision to allow unlimited campaign contributions, and here's what he had to say.



Wanna take action? Check http://democracyisforpeople.org. Here's what they have to say about the challenges we face in overturning this...

The problem we now face is that the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution to extend the First Amendment rights of real people to corporations. Congress does not have the power to overturn a court decision based on the Constitution.
But that’s not to say there aren’t things that Congress can and should do. We are pursuing several legislative reforms, including full disclosure of corporate electioneering activities, public financing of elections and a shareholder protection act. These legislative measures can mitigate the problem, but a constitutional amendment is the long-term solution to address the damaging impact of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
Click the link below to urge your members of Congress to combat the influence of corporate money in our elections. 


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