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September 10, 2015


We saw in Part I the pathetic and pandering attempts by two Republican candidates for president to appeal to a frustrated right wing of the American electorate via building of “walls” on both our northern and southern borders based on some vague notion that walls will protect us from whatever evils these foreigners are trying to peddle to our shores. Would that include an end to our massive cross-border oil imports from Mexico and Canada? What about all of the American auto and other factories located across the river from Detroit in Ontario and across the Rio Grande River in Mexico? Do they shut down for lack of access and/or confiscatory tariffs? Do Republican candidates propose to trash our North American trade treaty with our neighbors? What will happen to American banks operating in Canada and Canadian banks operating in our country which have long term collateral and other such contractual interests at stake? Have these candidates given any consideration to the immediate and long term implications of their hare-brained and off the cuff wall-building proposals in their pandering for votes?

Do such candidates propose to reverse globalization for certain purposes and affirm it for others and (with the exception of imported labor – unless such need for cheap labor and thus higher profits has been robotized) have our country retreat into a shell essentially populated by money makers and wage slave laborers and robots? Just what is their vision of America’s future and how do they plan to take us there? When are they going to understand that there are many other countries on planet Earth, that globalization is here to stay, and that good geopolitical standing requires (so to speak) the use of a fine surgical instrument and not a machete? It is a new world and such Republican candidates with their mindless chatter are preparing us for the old one, an expansionist libertarian world of the latter part of the 19th century which featured the Gilded Age and John Wayne “beat ‘em up – shoot first and ask questions later” philosophy what with their “wall-building” and Cheney-like military posturing.

So who is backing such dead-end and nonsensical views of America’s geopolitical future? The biggest backer is the American Chamber of Commerce, a group of more than 3 million members and with annual revenue surpassing $165 million. In the 2014 election cycle, the Chamber spend $35,464,243 on political campaigns: $33,363,209 in support for Republican candidates, $2,101,034 in support of Democrats – a some 17-1 ratio in favor of Republicans – but  that is only the election part of the story.

The Chamber also spends lavishly on lobbying. During ONLY THE SECOND QUARTER of 2015 (April 1, 2015 – June 30, 2015), the Chamber spent $22,970,000, which far surpassed lobby spending by any other business or professional association. (This quarterly figure also includes spending by the Chamber-owned Institute for Legal Reform.) “Tort reform” (aka how to immunize tort feasors from liability for wrongdoing) is apparently a big item of concern for the Chambers’ insurance members and those they insure, just as taxes on international operations would be to multinational corporations like GE.

Other spending during only the second three months of 2015 include the American Medical Association at $12,400,000; Boeing at $9,288,000; General Electric at $8,460,000; National Association of Realtors at $8,180,000; Business Roundtable at $6,430,000; National Association of Manufacturers at $4,840,000; the Pharmaceutical Industry of America at $4,820,000, and even Google at $4,620,000 – and all such spending for only 90 days – so that as annualized such spending for lobbying and elections will be in the billions, and that excludes spending of individual donors such as the Koch Brothers, Shelden Adelsen of casino fame (along with Trump the gambler) and “dark money” from who knows where.

When you add up known and unknown contributions to the political coffers of the Republican Party even before the floodgates of Citizens United were opened directly from corporate and other (Saudi?) treasuries to the treasury of the Republican Party, it is clear that money is buying our democracy right before our very eyes and that much of such exchange of money for votes has been legalized by a court which found that money is speech and corporations are people. It therefore follows that those with more money have more speech than those who do not (as one conservative justice openly if preliminarily opined during oral argument in the Citizens case), and since more speech equals more votes, the old “one man-one vote” view of democracy is out the window. Money now rules, and since it is “speech” it will be protected by the First Amendment from claims such as mine that in a democracy only human citizens should have the vote. Our only hope short of constitutional amendment is that an aroused and knowledgeable citizen vote will somehow overcome money as speech in future elections, starting with the election in the fall of 2016. The Chamber and Kochs do not have enough money to buy my vote (and our democracy) with their political propaganda on monopolized air waves, for instance.

To give us some idea of the massive spending for lobbying over time by the top ten (not including spending on electioneering), Maplight org. has compiled figures over a period from 2008 -2015. The Chamber again leads the pack by far with expenditures of $598,520,000 – or almost 600 million dollars. The National Association of Realtors at $221,380,000; General Electric at $169,740,000, with the usual suspects at well over $100 million for the period measured, suspects such as ExxonMobil, Boeing, the Pharmaceutical Industry of America et al.

So how about Big Labor and the dictatorial “Big Labor bosses” that Republican candidate Walker is constantly harping about? Here’s the answer: Those terrible people who have the gall to seek a living wage and a fair share of the economy’s wealth and income that they helped amass (as members of the AFL-CIO) ranked 182nd on Maplight’s 2008 – 2015 compilation in lobbying expenditures of $22,320,000 OVER EIGHT YEARS, which was slightly less than the Chamber spent IN THE SECOND QUARTER of 2015! Governor Walker’s complaint of labor dictatorship is clearly a diversionary tactic; if money is speech, then it is his backers who plainly constitute a threat to America and the democracy of its people.

With the vast sums the Chamber spends in lobbying, it is not surprising that its goals are diverse. Current issues on which they spend a lot of lobbying money include Big Tobacco in its attempts to limit or eliminate tobacco company liability in lawsuits which, interestingly, could be filed under the terms of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and perhaps under other international accords as well. Other spending involves the protection of coal-fired power plants from EPA rules in which the Chamber claims that such proposed greenhouse-reduction efforts to reduce emissions would reduce our annual GDP by $50 billion, inflict significant damage to our economy and reduce our nation’s global competitiveness etc. My response to such propaganda and spending (which you and I help pay for since lobbying expenses are deductible)? Thanks for the lung cancer and particle-laced atmosphere; we the people appreciate your help. When, readers, does this charade of rich over poor end? Is our health as well as our wage level now secondary to accumulation of assets by the rich? What’s next?    GERALD    E


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