When President Obama visited Texas yesterday, my FDL colleague, Blue Texan, lamented the fact he could neither meet with his President nor afford even the public, lesser-income fund raiser, let alone the private orgy of those who would be writing checks for $30,000 or more just to share a cocktail with Mr. Obama. It is a perfect symbol for the impossible dilemma we might label, “the Obama problem.”
A week ago, wealthy, former Obama fundraisers announced they had formed non-transparent fundraising organizations for oligarchs who wished to keep their millions in unlimited campaign donations secret, though they would say, “anonymous.” The justification given was to match equivalent secret fundraising efforts by Karl Rove, the Koch Bros, and other right wing organizations who have promised to raise hundreds of millions from anonymous donors for the 2012 elections.
In last Sunday’s lead editorial, the New York Times decried both efforts, but particularly singled out the President’s men for stooping to Rovian/Kochian levels, destroying transparency and undermining hopes for campaign financing reform. Though deservedly harsh, that critique still does not capture the affront to the democratic process and to the vast majority of Americans.
What these efforts tell us is not that both sides do it, so it’s only fair, and they cancel out, so no harm. Instead they reveal that the wealthiest oligarchs in the country can now freely and secretly buy the government. All that is happening now is the wealthiest oligarchs are preparing the paperwork to complete the sale to the anonymous buyers. It is a coup by contract.
This is no longer a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” if it ever was. Rather, as the Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz recently wrote, we have a government “of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1%.”
It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. . . . While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. . . .
I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you’re not one of the 1%. So the first question you have to ask yourself is, “what is the point of my attending the President’s fundraiser, even if I can get in the cheapside $25 event. What is this money for, and how will my donation be portrayed?”
Because if it hasn’t occurred to you yet, the most obvious conclusion is that you don’t matter. You and your neighbors’ collective donations aren’t going to amount to much compared to what the oligarchs are doing. They’re buying the government, and if you think your donation will help buy it back, think again. You can’t match their money, their influence, their access. Your role, which they’ve assigned to you without telling you, is to provide a phony popular cover for the deeply corrupt event to which you’re not invited.
The President’s men, from his bankster-friendly Treasury Secretary to his weak economic advisers, to his appointment of “I don’t do full employment and I can’t even get inflation right” Ben Bernanke, and on an on have already fixed the direction of government as it affects your lives. His regulators have been told the President’s reelection requires they not undermine the business-friendly theme of the week. A million of you could contribute $25 to reelect the President and the national Democratic leaders, and it won’t change a thing.
Contrary to what Ms. Wasserman Schultz told Rachel Maddow last night, Mr. Obama and the Democratic leadership are clearly not “focused like a laser-beam on jobs and the economy.” These people have given up on unemployment, as though the New Deal’s job creating programs never existed. They’ve ignored the Progressive Caucus and its alternative budget. They’ve given up on solving the housing/mortgage crisis while the Administration used extend and pretend to prolong the foreclosure crisis for the banks’ benefit. They’ve given up trying to help states avoid drastic layoffs of public employees and cuts in Medicaid and unemployment insurance. They’ve given up on economic stimulus to grow the economy and create jobs. Instead, every national Democratic leader, and all of the DemoPods like Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner, et ilk, can’t wait to tell voters how much more responsible they were about cutting the deficit, including programs that barely keep the heads of working families above water. They defend Medicare only because Republicans made the foolish mistake of proposing to dismantle it.
And never mind the endless wars, a foreign policy based on Murder, Inc., the growing poverty and inequality, the 50 million uninsured, the effects of climate change, some of which are surging down the Mississippi River today. Nevermind reining in the banksters or the mortgage hucksters, or the mass polluters that are killing our oceans and your kids. Obama’s Party isn’t focused on any of that.
The Obama Party has given up on all of that because none of it is on the oligarch’s agenda. And your $25 isn’t gonna change that.
As Jon Walker and others have noted, it’s not just the $25. The oligarchs don’t care about your $25 because you’re regularly giving them the use of much more of your money to use against you. As long as you’re funneling your insurance, your mortgage, your credit cards, your savings through the people who’ve just shown they’ll steal everything you’ve got, giving the use of that money to the oligarchs, your $25 doesn’t mean squat to them.
So it’s time for all of us to stop being chumps. The oligarchs are winning and they’re buying your government using your money. We can’t yet stop them, and we can’t outbid them. The only thing we have left is numbers. Lots of numbers. People who vote, people who can organize and confront the oligarchs in every way we can think of.
How do we develop the means to keep from handing over the use of our resources to our opponents? Until we figure out a way to do that, we’re outrageously outgunned.
So to my friend Blue Texan, I say, “don’t worry about missing Obama’s $25 fund raiser. What are you going to do with that $25 and that time? Because I can think of a lot better ways to spend it.”
Firedoglake will be holding an FDL Member webinar tonight, starting at 7:00 p.m. EDT, to listen to ideas from FDL Members about what FDL should be focusing on for 2012. Members have already sent in lots of good ideas. We’ve already sent e-mails to members telling them how to register for tonight’s session. If you’d like to attend but you’re not already a member, you can join here.