© Josh Sager – June 2014
In his famous Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln made the following statement that would get assimilated into the American ideal of our nation:
Americans like to see ourselves as part of a nation of freedom, where the people are able to access democracy and have a real say in our governance. Our liberties are protected, our freedoms are ensured, and a series of checks and balances ensure that minorities and majorities alike have their interests looked after.
Unfortunately, Lincoln was wrong, and 151 years after he delivered his address, the United States has devolved into a country run by politicians who are little better than telemarketers, for the advancement of the corporations and individuals that donate massive sums to those in power. When the views of the American people conflict with the interests of these entrenched interests, our voices become irrelevant and our politicians inevitably support those who paid exorbitant sums to get them into office.
Government by Telemarketers
In post-Citizens United Washington D.C., elected officials spend a majority of their work days (and many of their off days) begging big-money interests for campaign donations and meeting with lobbyists. This has become necessary, simply because campaigns are expensive and any politician to spend their time actually working on governing/legislating will likely lose their next election to somebody who out-raised them by spending most of their time with donors.
The above picture is a model schedule (leaked by Huffington Post) given to freshman Democrats on November 16th, 2012 that details how their work day will likely break down. Out of a ten hour day, these politicians will spend 4 hours on the phone with donors, and between two and three hours meeting donors in person (“constituent visits” = meeting wealthy donors visiting D.C. while “strategic outreach” = meeting with industry groups and lobbyists).
In effect, most of our elected officials in Washington have been reduced to telemarketers who spend hours on the phone every day trying to convince people into buying their “product” (gratitude from a politician)—they even have “quotas” for sales that determine whether or not they get a good position (ex. a committee chairmanship) or are passed over for a higher earner.
Just like telemarketers, these politicians have little to do with creating the thing that they are selling; the job of writing policy has been left to lobbyists and aides, while party leadership and corporate interests script the votes.
This transformation of politicians to telemarketers is completely bipartisan, and the largest difference between Democrats and Republicans is the call list that they use—the GOP begs big-oil, big-agriculture, and big-finance for money, while the Democrats focus more on big-education, big-labor, and big-pharma.
…for the Corporations
Politicians need thousands, if not millions, of dollars to get elected (depending upon the type of race), thus are vulnerable to the whims of donors. If a politician or party refuses to get bought by big-money, they will be overwhelmed by an opponent who is willing to sell their votes in order to sit in office—they will face a tsunami of attack ads, funded by dark money groups, and will have no way to fight back with their own advertising.
By virtue of the fact that corporations are the largest and most powerful economic entities in our society, they gain incredible influence over our political system. Corporations buy control over our politicians in order to ensure that their taxes and regulations remain low, eliminate their competition, and capture valuable government contracts. All of these corrupt goals are immensely profitable and, in the absence of functioning campaign finance laws, entirely legal.
Put simply, corporations have the money to donate and the desire to control the government, thus are the prime benefactors for corrupt politicians willing to make a deal. A select few exceptional politicians buck the control of corporations (ex. Elizabeth Warren or Buddy Roemer) but these individuals are largely drowned out by the corrupt establishments.
While corporations are the most entrenched and widespread donors to politics, it is important to note that, recent years have seen the rise of conservative super-donors who give millions of dollars to Republicans. Individuals like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson have given many millions of dollars (Adelson is believed to be the largest donor, giving over $100 million to Reopublicans in 2012 alone) to right wing groups and candidates—while there are left wing donors who give a lot of money to the Democrats, they have given only a fraction of the money that their right wing counterparts have. These individuals have social and economic interests that they seek to promote (many of which actually align with big-business), and have rapidly become the go-to donors to those right wingers to extreme, religious or unstable for big-business to want to associate with publically.
If Lincoln could see the United States today, he would likely be incredibly discouraged with the current state of our politics—that said, he wouldn’t be surprised, as he spoke several times of the dangers of corruption via entrenched corporate interests.
Both the Democrats and the Republicans have been irredeemably corrupted—although the GOP is far more corrupted than the Democrats—and the people have absolutely lost their voices in our government. We are represented by politicians who spend their days sucking up to big-money and delegating the job of legislating to lobbyists and party leaders.
If we want to end this pattern of corruption and corporatism, we must pass a constitutional amendment banning money in politics (go to Wolf-PAC.org for information) and kick the corrupt inhabitants of Washington out of office, to be remembered simply as the most corrupt set of corporate tools in the modern era of our republic.