I’m in DC right now, about to hand over our petition to get money out of politics to Senator Dick Durbin. It’s fitting I’m in DC to do this today, because a jobs report just came out showing that our politics can not solve our unemployment problem.
Apparently, this month, America added a little over 100,000 jobs. The unemployment rate remained flat, and the broader unemployment rate jumped to 16.5%. These numbers indicate that America cannot employ the thirty million people who want to work, who want to put their collective energy and personhood towards something of meaning. It’s telling Americans they are trash. Americans do not like hearing that message from their government, and they are making that point loud and clear in roiling protests all over the country. This is heartening to say the least; I’ve been wandering and experiencing our country come alive, from Zuccotti Park and the Occupy Wall Street protests. And what we all want is to end bought government, to build a shared alignment of our values in a wave of energy.
The contrast to DC could not be clearer. Earlier this week, President Obama and Congress decided to kill a couple hundred thousand American jobs to help big money interests, by passing three corporate trade bills. He’s doing this even as protests wrack the country, and as our very culture speaks back. This week, for instance, Sesame Street decided to introduce a new character suffering from poverty and hunger so part of their audience of children can see someone like them. Imagine that – protests in the streets, children being told it’s normal to be hungry, and a President and Congress focused meanwhile on shipping jobs elsewhere.
Amazing. But understandable. This is the result of a bought government.
How, exactly, is this working? How is this system depriving us of what we need? It’s simple – the cash speaks, the people don’t.
Let’s start with trade. NAFTA-style free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama are now “fast-tracked”, and should end up passing at some point next week. Just the Korean deal alone will kill 156,000 jobs. The Panama deal will enable corporations to hide revenue from taxation and regulation, and the Colombia deal is about ensuring there is yet another low cost production zone with no labor rights. These deals are supported most prominently by the US Chamber of Commerce, the biggest spender of anonymous cash in the 2010 elections.
Beyond these mini-NAFTAs lies a trans-Pacific trade deal that is already threatening the lives of people around the world. This one’s at the behest of big pharma, which has its own stake in our government. No one has credibly analyzed this trade framework yet, but I’m pretty sure that anything within the existing free trade axis isn’t going to be helping us find jobs.
Again, bought government. The campaign cash comes from corporate interests, and they get what they want.
What about the public? What is it that we don’t see when we allow a bought government to run wild?
Sesame Street introduces new characters periodically as the culture changes. Today’s a new character is named Lily. Her family suffers from what’s called “food insecurity”, otherwise known as hunger (a scourge which costs America $167 billion a year). That’s how many children are going hungry in modern America, that Sesame Street must feature a hungry character to stay relevant.
This too comes back to money. Food stamps were the original mechanism to deal with hunger, as a government program, they helped end hunger domestically. Senator George McGovern in the 1970s realized that hunger was a massive problem, and used a Senate select committee to research, publicize, and solve the problem. There was no donor base behind the hunger problem, but Congress has a structure that allowed it to diagnose problems felt by Americans, and deal with them. Food stamps and school lunches, not Sesame Street, were how Congress used to tackle the problem of children having nutritional deficiencies.
And what about today? Aside from corporate trade deals, what is Congress doing to solve today’s most pressing issues. Well, Congress is spending its time… forming caucuses to support Predator Drones. Yes, there’s a Predator drone caucus whose mission is to acquire more drones as quickly as possible and deploy them anywhere, even against protesters at the political conventions this summer. Boeing, Northrup Grumman, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems are quite happy to buy Congress to sell more of their product. In the predator drone caucus is the Chair of the Defense Appropriations Committee, Norm Dicks. He holds the position Jack Murtha held, on the subcommittee made famous by Tom Hanks in Charlie Wilson’s War. His subcommittee dispenses hundreds of billions of dollars. And they say we have no industrial policy!
We get no jobs. We get hungry children. And we get drones spying on protesters. That’s bought government for you.
I could go on. I could talk about banking policy, and the way that banks fund politicians to ensure that they face no real threat from regulators. Or how the Bush administration destroyed the anti-trust section of the Justice Department, and the Obama administration hasn’t been able to really repair it. Or the Keystone pipeline and oil, in which former a Hillary Clinton for President staffer lobbied colleagues at the State Department at the behest of the pipeline company TransCanada.
But you get the point. Money has simply overwhelmed our political system. And the protests we’re seeing, the national convulsion of frustration against corruption, are a result.
After all, if our government-corporate elites can’t ensure that we as a society feed hungry children, then why would any of us expect that we would ensure there are enough jobs? We have a bought government, and a bought government isn’t very interested in making sure you have a job, or a child has a meal.
After I finish my day in DC, after I let Senator Durbin know that people want an end to this corrupt system, I’m going to Zuccotti Square again, because it is only in building waves of energy, of human dedication to ending our collective inaction, can we move forward to get money out. And then maybe we will get the jobs we so desperately need.