Friday, March 19, 2010

Why Is Andrew Gall Running Against Steny Hoyer? Does He Think He's Don Quijote?


I offered Andrew Gall an opportunity to do a guest post here at DWT explaining his motivation for running against Steny Hoyer in Maryland. He went one step further and put together a straight forward video that explains who he is and why he's running for the MD-05 congressional seat. "I'm running against friend of corporate America, Steny Hoyer," he told me, "because I believe we need to hold elected officials accountable for their actions-- actions like supporting an illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq and granting retroactively telecom immunity."

If you'd like to give Andrew a hand climbing this mountain, you can do it at the Blue America Send The Democrats A Message page, But whether you do or you don't, I can't imagine you-- unless you're John Roberts or Sammy Alito on here lurking again-- won't agree with his point about taking the corrosive effects of money out of the electoral and legislative process.

One of the very worst practitioners of using corporate cash to bend the will of the Congress against ordinary American families is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In just the past couple of weeks they flew 250 CEOs to Washington to lobby against workers' rights and the Employee Free Choice Act. They spent another $7 million to try to defeat the healthcare reform bill. And they're busy as beavers working on a $3 million ad blitz to misinform the public about financial reform-- funded by, you guessed it of course: bailed out banksters. When Andrew points out that corporate money is poisoning our system, he isn't exaggerating.

This week Dan Eggen, writing in the Washington Post, detailed the plans of the Chamber to defeat the Democrats in November by spends limitless sums of money in close races. They actually believe-- as was outlined in Adam Curtis' BBC documentary, The Trap-- they the corporations, not the people should be the ultimate arbiters of the nation's fate. It's stunning watching the brainwashed teabaggers running around with the placards the corporations have paid for to help disenfranchise these morons-- and, alas, the rest of us. Eggen points out that the astroturf organizations the Chamber is backing "will target vulnerable Democrats in up to two dozen states with ads, get-out-the-vote operations and other grassroots efforts. The chamber plans to spend at least $50 million on political races and related activities this year, a 40 percent increase from 2008. The strategy follows the chamber's record lobbying effort at the end of 2009, when it spent nearly $800,000 a day rallying opposition to Democratic proposals in Congress. All told, the organization spent more money on lobbying and political activities last year than either the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee, which serve as the main fundraising and grass-roots operations for the parties... Republicans say the chamber will be crucial to their strategy of portraying Democrats as reckless in spending and ineffective in creating jobs."

Wednesday Thom Hartmann told me he enjoyed the coverage we've been giving his new book, The Threshold, here at DWT. I was glad to hear it because I have another few paragraphs from that remarkable book to share with you.
Conservatives, from Sir Edmund Burke's opposition to the Revolutionary War of 1776 to today's opponents of labor rights, believe that too much power and wealth in the hands of the middle class will inevitably lead to instability (they pointed to the riots and uprisings of the 1960s and 1970s-- the time that the middle class was at its strongest since the 1770s, another time of "revolution of the rabble"), and that, as Alan Greenspan [a long time Ayn Rand cultist] frankly told the Wall Street Journal in 1989, his job as Fed chairman was to maintain a certain minimum level of "worker insecurity" so there wouldn't be "wage inflation"-- income increases among the middle class.

...[Greenspan and Robert Rubin] believed that the traditional regulators of economies-- empowered labor and high marginal tax rates for corporations and the very rich-- were no longer necessary. Both believed in the Milton Friedman "Chicago School" theories that are today often referred to as "conservative economics," "neoliberalism," or "Reaganomics."

Governments, they told Clinton, would be replaced by economies made up largely of corporations operating outside the realm of government control. Money (capital) would be free to move anywhere in the world, although the movement of people (labor) would continue to be tightly restricted to maximize the potential for profit in any particular geographic part of the new worldwide marketplace. The idea of a nation as a sovereign entity answerable to its people was, in their view, quaint and outdated. People (and nations) existed, they believed, to serve economic forces, not the other way around.

Walter B. Wriston, the head of Citicorp, the world's largest bank at the time, had just published a book, with the unambiguous title The Twilight of Sovereignty, that laid this idea out explicitly. As noted in Curtis' documentary, Wriston wrote, "Markets are the only true voting machines. If they are left untouched by politicians and regulation, they will truly come to act out the people's will for the first time in modern history." [Looks like the Chamber of Commerce read that book.]

In 1929, on the eve of the first Republican Great Depression, the top one tenth of 1 percent (0.1 percent) of the U.S. population-- a total of about one hundred thousand people-- received almost 9 percent of all U.S. income. The same was true of the United Kingdom and France. The top 1 percent of Americans held 49 percent of all wealth.

While the Republican Great Depression decreased both the wealth and income numbers slightly, those numbers really began to collapse for the ultra-rich and increase for the middle class when Franklin D. Roosevelt put in place his New Deal through the late 1930s and early 1940s, particularly with the introduction of a top income tax rate of 91 percent on every dollar earned over roughly $3.2 million in today's dollars. The income flowing to the top one tenth of one percent (0.1%) of American wage earners had crashed by almost two thirds, down to just over 3.0 percent by 1943, and by the 1950s, as Dwight D. Eisenhower kept in place Roosevelt's policies, down to just over 2.0 percent, where it stayed until around 1980, when Reagan slashed taxes on the ultra-rich. By the late 1970s the share of the nation's wealth owned by the nation's top 1 percent of asset holders had fallen in the United States from almost 50% in 1929 to a low of around 25 percent-- money that had moved into the hands of the middle class, who could now raise a family and buy a home on a single income.

...[T]he elites of the United States and United Kingdom decided to fight back, staging a coup in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A result is that today the top 0.1 percent of U.S. wage earners are back up over 6 percent-- a 100 percent increase over the 1940-1980 New Deal era-- and the wealth owned by the top 1 percent is now back over 50 percent

And it is that philosophy and that 0.1 percent that are represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and by the Republican Party and, shamefully, by corrupted Democrats like Blanche Lincoln, Harold Ford, Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer.

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