Finance and Corruption in America

The American government is corrupt. Those who have enough money can almost get anything they want from our government, whether it is tax breaks, or subsidies, or policies and laws changed, removed, or added. If you offer our government enough money, they will put your needs on their agenda. The more money you have, the higher on the agenda your needs go. This has been the case for at least the last hundred years, and its been keeps getting worse. Many have taken advantage of this, from Oil Companies, Utilities, HMOs, Pharmaceutical Companies, Prison Corporations, Defense Contractors, Logging Companies, and so on. The results are that many laws and policies are tailored to suit the needs of these powerful entities.

This has become such a common practice, that there is no longer any shame in the way it's done. In February 1999, the Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, John McCain decided to take on the issue of airline passenger complaints, which was reaching an extraordinary volume. He filed an Airline Passenger Fairness Act, which would regulate the airlines' treatment of their passengers. This interfered with the airlines' profit agenda, so they decided to buy off the Senate. Writer Michael Grunwald said in the October 20, 1999 issue of the Washington Post, that after the airlines "directed a hasty infusion of 'soft money' donations to both political parties - the issue seemed to disappear." According to the article, in the week before the vote, the airlines shelled out $226,000 towards the political parties.

If you have money, you have power. If you have power, then the American government works for you. If you don't have any power, the American government will let you fall. The Senate passed a Bankruptcy bill in 2001, which is an obvious gift to big banks. Not only does it benefit big banks, but wealthy individuals are exempt from the harm this does to most Americans. In the article, "Bankruptcy Bill Benefits Chosen Few," in the March 10, 2001 Washington Post, it says the bill "contains a special clause that helps shield a group of well-to-do Americans from debt of at least $15 million." There is no question why this bill was passed, according to Kathleen Day's article in the March 16, 2001 Washington Post article, "Senate Votes to Toughen Bankruptcy." It article states, "The credit card industry has lobbied heavily for the bill. Contributions to federal candidates and the political parties from banks and finance and credit card companies during the 2000 campaign totaled $37.7 million.

One might wonder why a rich company, such as Microsoft, would even be hassled by the Justice Department of a government which is so influenced by big business. The truth is, according to the Washington Post, "Microsoft, a latecomer to the Washington Scene, has been sharply increasing its lobbying, political donations . . . to counter the political and lobbying activities of its adversaries." (October 15, 1999) The huge software giant has no shame in its goal, "Microsoft Corporation lobbyists and allies are aggressively pressing Congress to reduce next year's proposed funding for the Justice Department's antitrust division."

The benefits big business receives for their donations to political parties are endless. Not only can a corporation get tax cuts, they can get negative tax rates. This means, not only do they pay zero dollars in taxes, but they also get additional profits at tax time. "Texaco, for example, received a tax rebate of $67.76 million, which meant that it paid taxes at a rate of negative 37.2 percent..." (Washington Post, October 20, 2000)

In Time Magazine, issue February 7, 2000, an article called "Big Money and Politics" states that, "campaign spending in America has divided all of us into two groups: first- and second-class citizens." It says that if you are in the second group, you pay more taxes, you pay more for products, are have to follow laws that do not apply to others. Those who are in the first group are exempt from taxes, paying off their debts, following laws, paying suitable wages to workers, and have many other benefits of this special elite status.

Although the GOP for the most part has been against reforming the problem of finance corruption, Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, is now one of the foremost proponents of a Campaign Finance Bill, along with Senator Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin. Many Republicans feel that the onslaught of money that flows from big business to our government is a "form of free speech." According to a September 15, 1999 article of the Washington Post, opposition leaders are "warning wavering Republicans that they would lose their important edge on soft-money contributions if the bill was passed. Democrats have strongly supported the measure, though they too have come to benefit heavily from soft money."

Senator McCain and Feingold had previously tried and failed to get a Finance Reform Bill to pass the Senate due to a filibuster, led mainly by Senator Mitch McConnell (Republican from Kentucky) and Majority Leader Trent Lott (Republican from Mississippi). On September 14, 1999, Representatives Christopher Shays (Republican from Connecticut), and Martin Meehan (Democrat from Massachusetts), had been successful in creating a bill which passed through the House of Representatives. "We're going from a government by the people, for the people, to a government of lobbyists and special interests," said Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (Washington Post, September 15, 1999). "By passing Shays-Meehan, we will take a major step towards restoring the American people's belief in their representative democracy and returning the agenda back to their needs."

There was massive effort to derail the bill, such as that of Majority Whip Tom DeLay (Republican from Texas) who is quoted as saying that the bill "guts the First Amendment." As with previous Campaign Finance Bills, the Shays-Meehan bill was filibustered in the Senate on October 19, 1999. McCain ran on this issue when running for the Republican Presidential nomination for the 2000 Presidency. He promises to make this issue a priority for the next term, but there is no chance that his newly endorsed president, George W. Bush, would ever sign such a bill into law, nor is there a chance of getting the two-thirds vote needed to overturn his presidential veto.

The 19th President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, had made an early observation back in 1881, when he said, "This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations." Two decades earlier, President Lincoln had written in a letter to William Elkin that the "corporations have been enthroned, and an era of corruption in high places will follow." After the last election, with corporate influence exceeding any other (over 1/10 of a billion dollars, to both major political parties), one wonders if our founding fathers would recognize the corrupt government they once fought to protect. "The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson," President Franklin D. Roosevelt, November 21, 1933.

(c) 2001

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