It’s become more about money than freedom. If history goes in cycles, we’re at a tipping point to a new era. Our direction depends on the course we take as a people.
What’s changed that gave birth to this pivot? For those of you who actually care who Gwyneth Paltrow is married to, here’s a short lesson. It’s mostly technology, but also that a Western democracy can no longer borrow free money. The computing capacity available to today’s society enables a level of wealth creation unknown to any prior age. The elite then use these super-fortunes to buy influence and control which feeds more treasure to them. This creates an exponential cycle in which those who possess little money and powers are just simply left out. Some folks have begun to talk of a ‘Second Gilded Age’. I’m not so sure about this, I just know we have a huge problem here.
In the seven decades since the end of the Second World War these same conditions existed to some extent. It’s just that technology is so much more powerful today. And a country can’t borrow enough to buy off the lower levels of civilization. The era of guiltless never-ending state borrowing is over. The agreement used to be that the middle-class and poor got benefits provided by the state and said elites. And, here’s the kicker, the opportunity to climb the ladder. If you worked hard, you kept a job, at least partial health care, a decent retirement, and ultimately the chance to make your life and the lives of your children better.
Yet, in a manner few anticipated, this social contract depended upon the state’s ability to constantly borrow money and run a deficit. Those days are over and the state is broke. Thus the state is no longer able to meet its obligations and that leaves only the brilliant-elite. The rich are balking at assuming the state’s end of the bargain. Rightly so, it’s not their job. But people believe it is. And when nobody has enough money to solve the problem, then we have a big problem, friends.
All of this is hard enough to wrap your brains around without the plague inducing impacts of the agreement between the elite factions. Even if they had not cut a deal on their own, we’d still be out of money. But what makes this truly a potential nightmare is the renewed dark alliance between money and power. It’s always been like this to some extent, but this has gotten out of hand.
Your local, state, and federal politicians, who should be figuring out how to prevent your social security from going bankrupt, are too busy doing the bidding of those with money. You don’t have any money, and so you’re not important to them. The political-class is in the business of helping the interests of the sections of business that are shameless & immoral enough to engage in vote buying.
Together, this guild is what I refer to as the elites. This is the section of society that now exists to fuel their own interests, largely at the expense of the rest of us. This group crosses all normal boundaries you can think of. They are Democrat & Republican. They are urban & rural. They are all races. They are male & female. They’ll tell you that they they’re separated into bands that battle each other. They’re lying. They’re all one in the same.
Now not everybody who is a politician or a rich businessman fits into this category. There are entrepreneurs who refuse to play the game. There are politicians who are genuinely interested in doing only good, and don’t give a damn about money. But they are only part of the mix. What’s the ratio between them and the evil I mentioned above? I have no idea, but I know it’s not a ratio we can live with.
To illustrate what I’m talking about, let’s analyze just one issue on the table.
Your hard earned Cash tastes sweet in my Soul
Comcast wants to acquire Time Warner. By any reasonable definition, this gives Comcast a monopoly in many of the major cable & internet markets in the country. This is a product area where Americans already suffer high prices due to a lack of competition.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts is, of course, no stranger to money in politics. President Obama golfs with Roberts, spends time in his home(s), hosts fundraisers for Obama, sits on various Presidential councils, promotes administrative initiatives, and so on.
But wait, there’s more. Roberts also donates a ton of cash to Republicans too! Now’s he’s donated more to Democrats lately, but maybe that’s just because they’re in power right now. He’s been accused many, many times in the past of being a fervent supporter of Republicans during the Bush years when they had power. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence? Maybe an Arcturan held a bolt pistol to his head and made him play both sides with lots of cash, but I doubt it.
But wait, there’s more. A former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voting member who approved of Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal, Meredith Attwell Baker, Republican, Bush official, is now a key lobbyist with Comcast. Maybe they just hired her because of her talent and experience? I’m sure it wasn’t to return a favor or anything like that.
But wait, there’s more. Tom Wheeler, the head of the FCC and thus in charge of regulating the deal is a former lobbyist for the cable companies! And a big Obama loyalist and fundraiser. I’m sure he’s all about ruling fairly against the corporations he used to represent. I’m sure he doesn’t owe them any courtesies at all.
But wait there’s more. Comcast has developed a habit of providing campaign cash, “to almost every member of Congress who has a hand in regulating it.” Democrat & Republican. Why, well, for whatever reason would they want to do that?
So, I’ll just assume our benevolent government will fairly and impartially determine whether Comcast’s future monopoly is in the best interests of you, the American consumer, right? Do they really think we’re this stupid? Why yes, friends, yes they do!
Here’s a little hint for those of you who are only interested in having your political party, social project, or defining issue win: The elites are playing you all for fools. There is no side, there is only them. And if you’re not them, you’re not important.
Maybe you still don’t understand, or disagree with, what I’m talking about. Okay, let’s look at the most basic tenant of a functioning democracy. Do you, the average voter, have access to the politicians who represent you?
You vote for them, they work for you. A politician is your employee. As their boss, you should be able to interact with them, right? Wrong. Because you don’t have money, they don’t care what you think. Observe this truly brilliant experiment from NPR:
I can’t solve all of this in one blog post. Indeed, I’m not smart enough to solve this at all. But it’s time to begin the assault by detonating the most pervasive trait of today’s money: the theft of our freedom. We must get the elite’s cash separated from politics. Thus I propose two broad solutions as a start.
A place where Dreams are Broken
– Political Finance Reform
Now a number of you are going to blow this off outright based upon your beliefs. Oh, how fervent the opposition was to campaign finance reform. A lot of you are going to claim that supporting this is tantamount to opposing free speech. Oh, really?
Here’s the problem, kids. Free speech in terms of influencing the political debate does not exist. Instead, we have impact of speech. The impact of your speech is directly proportional to how much money you have. If you have no money, you have no impact.
Note that I also say political reform and not just campaigns. It does us no good if we fix money in campaigns, but then the elites can still buy votes with fancy trips and gifts after somebody is elected. And both “sides” need to ante up to this correction. Corporations, unions, business, environmentalists, everybody’s got to get out of the game of influencing our lives based upon how much cash they bring to the table.
And we need to know who’s doing it. Technology has enabled control to an extent unthinkable to those who built our republic. We need to harness its power to fight back. We need databases that show where money and politics align. These treasure troves of sin should be required for open access to the public.
Every dollar that goes into a campaign needs visibility. If we don’t know who bankrolled a guy, we can’t honestly assess whether his or her actions, once elected, aren’t influenced to the benefit of one over the many. A few of you are going to tell me this is awful because it gives government the power to retaliate against those who give money to the side that lost. That’s a valid concern, but a separate issue. Blatant political retaliation is not necessarily about money. If the government wants you, they can get you all kinds of different ways.
If a politician meets with a corporation and then writes a letter demanding action on their behalf, they’re on report. If a politician talks with a rich guy in a bar, they’re on report. If a politician goes to visit a business, they’re on report. And so on. If politicians don’t like micromanaging & reporting their lives this way, then don’t run for office. You work for us, we don’t trust you, and so we’ll monitor you like a boss monitors a degenerate employee.
If it’s all legal, if it’s all part of the normal activities of government, then the people who government represents have a right to know about it. And then we can judge for ourselves if these actions are legitimate. If it’s all above board, they have nothing to hide. If they’re up to no good, we must know and take appropriate measures.
They had money problems too, but also Honor & Duty
The great comedian, social & political commentator, Bill Hicks has a number of swell lines. You can love Bill or hate him. He had a lot to say that pissed people off. This is kind of why I favor him. Even as I agree with a lot of what he said, I also despise a lot of the rest. By the way, he knew this. It was his point. Either way, he died well before his time. Here’s my favorite from him:
“It’s all about money, not freedom, y’all, okay? Nothing to do with fuckin’ freedom. If you think you’re free, try going somewhere without fucking money, okay?”
Now granted, Bill might have meant you can’t take a bus somewhere and check into a hotel room without cash. But I suspect he really meant something along the lines of what I’m talking about here today.
Igniting this core of evil and dancing upon its shattered grave is going to be very hard. Everybody in power has a vested interest in its continuance. So we need to work the problem together. If we don’t, our freedom’s destroyed forever. This isn’t a right, left, east, north, whatever, “side” thing. This is an “Our Freedom” thing. Gather your fireworks, matches, and booze, friends. It’s well past time to detonate this hateful disease from our way of life.