No room for special interest, corporate money in politics |

No room for special interest, corporate money in politics

Other Voices
Michele Spencer

Everybody knows that something is going seriously wrong in this country and that the growing income gap between the top 1 percent and the rest of us is likely evidence of the underlying problem.

Aside from the impact of the Wall Street debacle, various trade agreements and technology, the problem is the movement toward an oligarchic form of society in which all economic and political power rests with a handful of billionaires.

That is what is driving this profound redistribution of wealth, the destruction of the middle class, our democracy and even the planet.

Ninety-five percent of all new income now goes to the top 1 percent. For example, according to Forbes Magazine, the Koch Brothers are worth $80 billion. Their fortune increased by $12 billion last year.

We need to elect people with the best common sense, fiscally responsible ideas and solutions in the interest of all the people.

During that same one year, Sheldon Adelson's fortune went up $11 billion. This is dangerous to our democracy because, as Sen. Bernie Sanders says "… a handful of self-serving right-wing billionaires have the capability of spending more money on the political process than everyone else combined and they will still be far better off than the preceding year." (Note: The Obama campaign spent $1 billion in the 2012 election.)

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Indeed, the Koch brothers have already spent more than $30 million to defeat Democrats in this mid-term election year.

"The combination of great wealth and political power leads to greater and greater accumulations and concentrations of both, tilting the playing field in favor of the Koch's and a few other billionaires and against the rest of us." — Robert Reich, professor of economics, U.C. Berkeley and former secretary of labor.

"Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely." — King Louis XIV of France.

What do the Koch brothers and these other billionaires want? What are their goals? In the short term, they want to repeal or eviscerate every major piece of legislation passed in the last 80 years which protects the interests of working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.

They want to destroy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education, the right of workers to organize, work safety, unemployment benefits, nutrition programs and the United States Post Office.

They not only oppose an increase in minimum wage, they want to abolish the concept of the minimum wage so that employers can hire workers at $3 per hour, for example. They want to dismantle virtually all agencies of government which work to protect the environment, clean air, clean water and safe food.

Needless to say, they also believe in a regressive tax system in which the wealthy and large corporations pay even less than they pay today. Long-term, their economic goal is to create a right-wing extremist 'free' economy in which working people have virtually no rights or protections …" — Sen. Bernie Sanders

All this, in addition to assuring that wealth and power continues to accrue to themselves.

Aside from the disproportionate recent influence of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party in Congress, shutting down the government both literally and figuratively at great cost to the taxpayers, while creating the most "do nothing" Congress in memory, we have all seen the conversation and culture change with the introduction and promotion of such concepts as the: "nanny state," "death panels," "welfare queens," "military unpreparedness," "vouchers," "religious freedom," "big government is the problem," "abortion mills," etc. to distort and redirect the political discussion.

How do you think all that has come about? Why do you think no gun safety legislation was passed when 90 percent of Americans wanted it? Congress has been bought and no longer represents the people.

We must stop this process by demanding that private, special interest and corporate money be eliminated from politics. We can accomplish this by demanding that political advertising and debates, as well as our elections, be exclusively funded by the government on our behalf. Lobbyists must be better regulated.

This country has enormous problems to face. We need to elect people with the best common sense, fiscally responsible ideas and solutions in the interest of all the people.

We need to provide a forum so that informed, sincere, competent people committed to public service have the opportunity to present their ideas to us for our consideration, rather than continue to be misguided by those candidates and ideologues backed with the most money. We need to create a system that eliminates the need for our elected representatives to spend most of their time fundraising for their next election rather than addressing the issues of the day. We need to do this in our own interest, before it is too late.

Michele Spencer lives in Grass Valley.

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