Do Politicians Really Care About People?
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, July 24, 2016
Do They Really Care About Us?
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on July 24, 2016
Used with permission
I am a political independent, a status I have enjoyed since 2002. I watched the Republican National Convention last week and will watch the Democratic National Convention this week. I will decide which candidate has earned my support after Labor Day.
Meanwhile, I am assessing whether the current class of political candidates running for election in November really cares about us. I always enjoy a good political speech, but I tend to judge candidates and public officials by their actions or inaction, rather than their “feel good” speeches.
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump agreed that America’s financial system is “rigged” in favor of the super rich. I agree with them. Sadly, this truism does not seem to bother a majority of public officials at the local, state and national level. Here is how and why the system is rigged against ordinary Americans.
First, every Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. EST, media organizations nationwide report on how well the financial portfolios of the wealthiest Americans and major public companies have performed on Wall Street. When the super rich have a good day, we all know it. When they have a bad day, we know that as well.
Pew Research found that 53 percent of Americans own no stock at all, and out of the 47 percent who do, the richest 5 percent own two-thirds of that stock. And only 10 percent of Americans have pensions, so stock market gains or losses don’t affect the incomes of the vast majority of retirees.
Unlike Wall Street, I know of no financial dashboard that gauges Main Street’s financial health on a daily basis. Why? Our politicians cater to Wall Street, not to Main Street. The only time Main Street sees the politicians who hold the power to correct the glaring imbalance between the financial health of Wall Street and Main Street is at election time. After we vote for them, they usually go straight back to sucking up to Wall Street.
Second, ethics in government has been reduced to meaningless campaign rhetoric for many of today’s public officials. All too often, these officials come into public office struggling to make ends meet financially, and they leave rich. How is this possible? The answer is simple – they use their public offices to enrich themselves. They work harder at reaching this selfish personal goal than they do at representing their constituents’ interests.
The latest trend at the state and local level is to use tax dollars, campaign funds and “dark money” to non-profit corporations to enjoy a “lifestyle of the rich and famous”. In Alabama, public officials like former House Speaker Mike Hubbard have pocketed millions of dollars from “friends” while handling their special requests before government agencies. What is more, Governor Robert Bentley has lavished his married mistress, Rebekah Mason, with a jet-setting lifestyle that would have made legendary Playboy founder Hugh Heffner envious. Of course, taxpayers and gubernatorial campaign donors sponsored Bentley’s extravagant May-December romantic liaisons that included: (a) private aircraft on demand for Rebekah, (b) dinner for two and a Celine Dion concert in Las Vegas last year, and (c) a White House dinner in Washington this year.
Third, the U.S. tax code favors the super rich, who have mastered the art of avoiding or minimizing the payment of their fair share of taxes. There are hundreds of American billionaires and multinational U.S. corporations that pay no federal income taxes whatsoever. They actually brag about this fact privately. Main Street always winds up carrying their share of the tax burden.
Fourth, Wall Street banks and their CEO are not charged for committing major federal crimes. They are too big to prosecute or jail. Main Street is not. Republicans and Democratic administrations have adhered to a time-honored tradition of not prosecuting Wall Street banks, even when these banks admit to their widespread criminal activities, including wire and mail fraud, bid rigging, money laundering for drug dealers and terrorist nations, bribery of public officials, criminal conspiracy, racketeering, and securities fraud. Many of these Wall Street banks are serial offenders. JP Morgan Chase has been caught violating the law 18 times since 2002. They are “untouchable” and they know it.
Wall Street banks loss more than $13 trillion dollars in American wealth during the Great Recession of 2008 due to their “in-your-face” lawlessness and greed. Yet, no Wall Street CEO went to jail for the spree of financial crimes that caused the Great Recession.
Fifth, corporate welfare has skyrocketed to $1.5 trillion in recent years. Examples of this welfare will make you sick. They include: (a) tax breaks for obscene CEO bonuses ($7 billion per year); (b) Sharply reduced interest rates on money borrowed from the Federal Reserve for the ten biggest Wall Street banks ($83 billion per year); (c) tax cuts for luxury corporate jets ($300 million per year); (d) subsidies for major oil companies ($37.5 billion per year); (e) subsidies for the pharmaceutical industry ($270 billion per year); (f) subsidies from state and local governments ($80.4 billion per year); (g) handouts to large agri-businesses total $18 billion per year; and (h) capital gains tax breaks for the rich ($51 billion per year). Furthermore, the Export-Import (Ex-Im) bank, which is a slush fund for large, multinational corporations, had a $112 billion portfolio. Of this amount, $90 billion went to multinationals. A huge portion of this money went to just 10 wealthy corporations. Finally, federal contracts for the top 200 biggest companies total $880 billion per year. These companies spent a combined $5.8 billion on lobbying Congress between 2007 and 2012. In return, these 200 companies received $4.4 trillion in federal contracts, most of which were awarded on a non-bid basis.
Locally, an estimated $10 million dollars in aggregate corporate campaign contributions, which is laundered through political action committees to Alabama’s governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, senate president, attorney general, state legislators and Supreme Court candidates, gives these corporate donors ironclad control over $24 billion in annual state budgets. In turn, these corporate donors have been able to reap tax breaks, incentives, and government handouts that are more than 100 times the amount of their campaign contributions.
These are just a few of the truisms that describe how Main Street and taxpayers are treated in America. This is why I do not get excited about political speeches. This is also why I pay zero attention to party labels. I simply follow the money. It usually leads to the silent truth about what our candidates for public office in America stand for.
Do they really care about Main Street? The facts on pocketbook issues say, “No”.
In his October 28, 2015, article titled, “10 Taxpayer Handouts to the Super Rich That Will Make Your Blood Boil”, author Tom Cahill make a big point about the top ten Wall Street Banks – they have grown even bigger than they were just before the 2008 financial meltdown. And due to their size, these banks are perceived as “too big to fail,” as their demise would spell doom for the U.S. financial sector as a whole. So as these big banks grow bigger, the Federal Reserve Bank allows them to borrow money at lower interest rates than other big banks – essentially subsidizing the continued growth of these big banks. In 2013, Bloomberg estimated the ten biggest Wall Street banks suck up $83 billion per year in corporate welfare.
If we made the big banks borrow at the same interest rates as every other bank, that would produce enough money to double the current federal budgets for highway spending ($48.6 billion), Head Start ($10.1 billion), the Environmental Protection Agency ($7.89 billion), nutrition assistance for women, infants, and children ($6.2 billion), the National Parks Service ($3 billion), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ($2.39 billion), with $5 billion left over.
I am waiting to see how the presidential candidates are going to fix the rigged financial system discussed in today’s article.