Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, May 2, 2010 11:08 pm

Among the many reasons I will miss Bill Moyers …

Filed under: I want my money back.,Sad,Salute! — Lex @ 11:08 pm
Tags: ,

… is that he speaks plainly:

You’ve no doubt figured out my bias by now. I’ve hardly kept it a secret. In this regard, I take my cue from the late Edward R. Murrow, the Moses of broadcast news.

Ed Murrow told his generation of journalists bias is okay as long as you don’t try to hide it. So here, one more time, is mine: plutocracy and democracy don’t mix. Plutocracy, the rule of the rich, political power controlled by the wealthy.

Plutocracy is not an American word but it’s become an American phenomenon. Back in the fall of 2005, the Wall Street giant Citigroup even coined a variation on it, plutonomy, an economic system where the privileged few make sure the rich get richer with government on their side. By the next spring, Citigroup decided the time had come to publicly “bang the drum on plutonomy.”

And bang they did, with an “equity strategy” for their investors, entitled, “Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer.” Here are some excerpts:

“Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper…[and] take an increasing share of income and wealth over the last 20 years…”

“…the top 10%, particularly the top 1% of the US– the plutonomists in our parlance– have benefited disproportionately from the recent productivity surge in the US…[and] from globalization and the productivity boom, at the relative expense of labor.”

“…[and they] are likely to get even wealthier in the coming years. [Because] the dynamics of plutonomy are still intact.”

And so they were, before the great collapse of 2008. And so they are, today, after the fall. While millions of people have lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings, the plutonomists are doing just fine. In some cases, even better, thanks to our bailout of the big banks which meant record profits and record bonuses for Wall Street.

Now why is this? Because over the past 30 years the plutocrats, or plutonomists — choose your poison — have used their vastly increased wealth to capture the flag and assure the government does their bidding. Remember that Citigroup reference to “market-friendly governments” on their side? It hasn’t mattered which party has been in power — government has done Wall Street’s bidding.

Don’t blame the lobbyists, by the way; they are simply the mules of politics, delivering the drug of choice to a political class addicted to cash — what polite circles call “campaign contributions” and Tony Soprano would call “protection.”

This marriage of money and politics has produced an America of gross inequality at the top and low social mobility at the bottom, with little but anxiety and dread in between, as middle class Americans feel the ground falling out from under their feet. According to a study from the Pew Research Center last month, nine out of ten Americans give our national economy a negative rating. Eight out of ten report difficulty finding jobs in their communities, and seven out of ten say they experienced job-related or financial problems over the past year.

So it is that like those populists of that earlier era, millions of Americans have awakened to a sobering reality: they live in a plutocracy, where they are disposable. Then, the remedy was a popular insurgency that ignited the spark of democracy.

Now we have come to another parting of the ways, and once again the fate and character of our country are up for grabs.

So along with Jim Hightower and Iowa’s concerned citizens, and many of you, I am biased: democracy only works when we claim it as our own.

We are being robbed, and one of the few MSM figures at any level who will say so in so many words is retiring. God save the United States.

Friday, February 19, 2010 11:44 pm

Bill Moyers on money and politics

Worth watching:

Over the course of a long career in journalism, I’ve covered this story of money in politics more than any other. From time to time, I’ve been hopeful about a change for the better, but truth is, it just keeps getting uglier every year.

Those who write the checks keep buying the results they want at the expense of the public. As a reputedly self-governing democracy, we desperately need to address the problems that we’ve created for ourselves, but money makes impossible the reforms that might save us.

Nothing in this country seems to be working to anyone’s satisfaction except the wealth machine that rewards those who game the system. Unless we break their grip on our political institution, their power to buy the agenda they want no matter the cost to everyone else, we’re finished as a functioning democracy.

In this I am sympathetic to the people who show up at tea party rallies asking what happened to their jobs, their pensions, their security — the America they believed in. What’s happened, says the political scientist Sheldon Wolin, is the increasing cohabitation of state and corporate power.

This is why I find the supreme court ruling so preposterous and ominous. Five radical judges have taken a giant step toward legitimating the corporate takeover of democracy. “One person, one vote” — stop kidding yourself. As I once heard a very rich oilman tell congress after he paid $300,000 to the democratic party to get a moment of President Clinton’s ear, “Money is a bit more than a vote.” The huge sums of money that already flood our elections will now be multiplied many times over, most likely in secret.

Just this week, that indispensable journalistic website Talking Points Memo.com reported that an influential Washington lobbying firm is alerting corporate clients on how to use trade associations like the Chamber of Commerce as pass-throughs to dump unlimited amounts of cash directly into elections. They can specifically advocate or oppose a candidate — right up to election day — while keeping a low profile to prevent “public scrutiny” and negative press coverage. We’ll never know what hit us, and like the Titanic, we’ll go down but with even fewer lifeboats.

“The increasing cohabitation of state and corporate power.” There’s a word for that, and it’s right on the tip of my tongue …

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