Wednesday, February 17, 2016

IS AMERICA FOR SALE AND WHO IS TRYING TO BUY IT?

 Bernie Sanders message is loud an clear; AMERICA IS NOT FOR SALE!



Buying America! When you say it, it does sound a bit extreme, even kookie and fringes on being seen as a "conspiracy nut." But a closer look at how the pieces are put together is scary.

It's no secret that the wealthy use their money to acquire influence and power. It works very well as we saw when Wall Street brought down the banking system in 2008 and walked away with $10 Trillion; $3 Trillion of which came from the collapse of the housing market that resulted in millions of Main Street Americans losing their home, their retirement accounts and for many their dignity. For many Americans the American Dream became a nightmare that still wakes them up at night.

The people that committed these unpunished crimes were so powerful they were able to compel the US government to use taxpayers money to bail them out claiming they were to "big to fail or jail."

Now that's power, and this unfettered power that bleeds over America and has no place in a democracy.


While addressing the Illinois General Assembly, the President said:

Now, this year, just over 150 families — 150 families — have spent as much on the presidential race as the rest of America combined. Today, a couple of billionaires in one state can push their agenda, dump dark money into every state — nobody knows where it’s coming from — mostly used on these dark ads, everybody is kind of dark and the worst picture possible. And there’s some ominous voice talking about how they’re destroying the country.

And they spend this money based on some ideological preference that really is disconnected to the realities of how people live. They’re not that concerned about the particulars of what’s happening in a union hall in Galesburg, and what folks are going through trying to find a job. They’re not particularly familiar with what’s happening at a VFW post. In Carbondale. They haven’t heard personally from farmers outside of the Quads and what they’re going through. Those are the voices that should be outweighing a handful of folks with a lot of money. I’m not saying the folks with a lot of money should have no voice; I’m saying they shouldn’t be able to drown out everybody else’s.

And that’s why I disagree with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. I don’t believe that money is speech, or that political spending should have no limits, or that it shouldn’t be disclosed. I still support a constitutional amendment to set reasonable limits on financial influence in America’s elections.

But amending the Constitution is an extremely challenging and time-consuming process — as it should be. So we’re going to have to come up with more immediate ways to reduce the influence of money in politics. There are a lot of good proposals out there, and we have to work to find ones that can gain some bipartisan support — because a handful of families and hidden interests shouldn’t be able to bankroll elections in the greatest democracy on Earth.


So, who are these people? (The Families Funding the 2016 Presidential Election - The New York Times)

They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.

Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. 

Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.

The families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlement programs.

The politicians who are nothing more than hired hands continue to bark about how these policies are "good for American, and it's what Americans want." What they leave out of the canned speeches is that the "Americans" they refer to make up only around 1% of the population.

As for the rest of America? Two-thirds of Americans support higher taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year, according to a June New York Times/CBS News poll, while six in 10 favor more government intervention to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly seven in 10 favor preserving Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are.


The 158 families are determined to not allow that to happen. Each contributed $250,000 or more in the campaign through June 30, according to the most recent available Federal Election Commission filings and other data, while an additional 200 families gave more than $100,000. Together, the two groups contributed well over half the money in the presidential election -- the vast majority of it supporting Republicans.

“The campaign finance system is now a countervailing force to the way the actual voters of the country are evolving and the policies they want,” said Ruy Teixeira, a political and demographic expert at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Like most of the ultra wealthy, the new donor elite is deeply private. Very few of those contacted were willing to speak about their contributions or their political views. Many donations were made from business addresses or post office boxes, or wound through limited liability corporations or trusts, exploiting the new avenues opened up by Citizens United, which gave corporate entities far more leeway to spend money on behalf of candidates. Some contributors, for reasons of privacy or tax planning, are not listed as the owners of the homes where they live, further obscuring the family and social ties that bind them.

Investigations by journalists — reveal a class apart, distant from much of America while geographically, socially and economically intermingling among themselves. Nearly all the neighborhoods where they live would fit within the city limits of New Orleans. But minorities make up less than one-fifth of those neighborhoods’ collective population, and virtually no one is black. Their residents make four and a half times the salary of the average American, and are twice as likely to be college educated.

Most of the families are clustered around just nine cities. Many are neighbors, living near one another in neighborhoods like Bel Air and Brentwood in Los Angeles; River Oaks, a Houston community popular with energy executives; or Indian Creek Village, a private island near Miami that has a private security force and just 35 homes lining an 18-hole golf course.

More than 50 members of these families have made the Forbes 400 list of the country’s top billionaires, marking a scale of wealth against which even a million-dollar political contribution can seem relatively small. The Chicago hedge fund billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin, for example, earns about $68.5 million a month after taxes, according to court filings made by his wife in their divorce. He has given a total of $300,000 to groups backing Republican presidential candidates. That is a huge sum on its face, yet is the equivalent of only $21.17 for a typical American household, according to Congressional Budget Office data on after-tax income.

As the share of national wealth and income going to the middle class has shrunk, these families are among those whose share has grown.

The accumulation of wealth has been particularly rapid at the elite levels of Wall Street, where financiers who once managed other people’s capital now, increasingly, own it themselves. Sixty-four of the families made their wealth in finance, the largest single faction among the super-donors of 2016.

Some are even betting on candidates like Ted Cruz who is shunned by their party’s traditional donor establishment. The three families who have provided the largest donations in the campaign to date — the Wilks family of Texas, which made billions providing trucks and equipment in the shale fields; the Mercers of New York, headed by the hedge fund investor Robert Mercer; and Toby Neugebauer, a Texas-born private equity investor — have backed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a socially conservative Tea Party firebrand disdained by Republican leaders.

A number of the families are tied to networks of ideological donors who, on the left and the right alike, have sought to fundamentally reshape their own political parties. More than a dozen donors or members of their families have been involved with the twice-yearly seminars hosted by the Kochs, whose organizations have pressed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to eliminate the Export-Import Bank. They include Mr. Deason and his wife; the brokerage pioneer Charles Schwab, whose wife, Helen, is among the donors; and Karen Buchwald Wright, whose family company makes compressors used to extract and transport natural gas.

Another group of the families, including the hedge fund investor George Soros and his son Jonathan, have ties to the Democracy Alliance, a network of liberal donors who have pushed Democrats to move aggressively on climate change legislation and progressive taxation. Those donors, many of them from Hollywood or Wall Street, have put millions of dollars behind Hillary Rodham Clinton.

These people and the politicians they bankroll present a much bigger threat to America than any rag-tag terrorist group that roams the Middle East. These people are intent on taking America without firing a shot or detonating a single bomb. And, whats even more insidious is that they are duping many Americans into helping them do it.