Epiphanyblog

All about ideas…

My opinions…for what they’re worth

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I’ve been staying away from politics and policy this last month because both subjects just anger me. Nevertheless, I haven’t been able to avoid the issues of the day. Who can, no matter how hard they try?

So, here’s my take on a few issues:

Vote everyone out and bring in a new person in.

That’s the sentiment I see all across the country. It’s an understandable sentiment, given the events of the last 10 years. But honestly, does anyone believe that just hiring a new person is going to solve the inherent problems that exist in the elective process?

We have legislators spending 60% to 75% of their time “dialing for dollars” to gather enough money money to run for re-election, rather than spend their time doing the job for which we hired them. Costs of election campaigns have increased by 200% or more over the last eight years. A House seat that used to cost $500K a few years ago now cost upward of a $1.5 million. That’s a heck of a lot of money to gather every two years. As a result, all legislators, whether House or Senate, spend most of their time seeking donations. Enter lobbyists…with dollars to spare. Even the most pristine and pure legislator seeking re-election would have a hard time turning down big dollar lobbyists donations, given the need for fund-raising. Even the most ethical person would have a hard time saying, “yeah, this industry lobbyist gave me a huge check but I don’t owe them anything. Not even “face time.” Or we can allow only the very rich to run for election. Talk about oligarchies taking over government! Is the U.S. to be France of the 1500s where the rich were supported by government while the rest of society paid the bill?

We can “vote the bums out” but nothing is going to change until the election rules are re-written…and given the SCOTUS judgments of the last year, that change will probably have to be a Constitutional Amendment.

Financial Regulations

We’ve yet to see the final bill that will emerge out of the House and Senate Conference. But I’m not holding my breathe that it will prevent another financial crisis and another bailout. Both Houses had the opportunity to institute strict rules…and break up the mega-banks…but they refused. Sure, “we don’t want to upset the financial markets” Geithner and Wall St captured Summers lobbied against tough regulations, but the two Houses didn’t have to go along with their wishes. They could have said that their responsibility is to make sure that another Great Recession, as a result of Financial gambling, never occurs again.

But again money got in the way…as well as an overwhelming belief in the sanctity of Wall St. All of the financial deregulation that occurred over the last thirty years…yes, it’s been 30+ years in the making…is a result of a concerted campaign on the part Wall St to convince, not just our legislators but every American, that Wall St knew best and would make us all rich. Every piece of financial legislation, from moving away from pension to 401ks and everything else, has been designed with the belief in the infallibility of Wall St.

To challenge those beliefs requires a great deal of soul searching as well as willingness to admit one’s own fallibility which is not a long suit amongst ego-driven legislators. Let’s face it, no one goes into politics without having a huge ego.

So who will win in the final financial regulation negotiations? My bet is the mega-banks. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. The people can hew a call loud enough to be heard around the world, “We never want to deal with this mess again. Break ’em up and make our money safe!” Four present and past regional Fed bank Presidents have said TBTF banks need to be broken up or we’ll face another financial crisis in the next few years. Geithner now is trying to stop them from calling for an end to the mega-banks, but their words are already out there. We need safe banking …and investments in our economy not in gambles which enrich the gamblers but lose for our businesses and everybody else.

Environmental Degradation

Okay, governmental agencies throughout the last eight years and probably well beyond have been infiltrated by people who really believed that industry knew best and that if industry were left alone, without regulations of any kind, that innovation would occur and all would be well. Because industry never does anything to hurt the public. Well, the BP oil spill shows that sometimes industry doesn’t have it right. Sometimes the need the make profits overbalances the need for public safety. Uncontrolled, unregulated industry is like allowing your mall kids to run wild in your living room. Okay, some people may say that analogy is overstretching. But is it really?

Why do you put rules on your kids? It’s to keep them from breaking and destroying everything in their path. Isn’t that what we want from industry? There’s still a large contingent of industry that believes that corporations – businesses – owe nothing to the community in which they reside or the greater community at large. Their only responsibility is to make the greatest profits for the shareholder…and nothing else matters.

I believe that corporations, and businesses in general, owe something to the community too. They owe the community not to do any harm. Like you, I don’t want a spoiled, self-centered kid running wild in my living room, wreaking havoc. Likewise I don’t want any business running wild in my community or state or country or world. Higher dividends do not justify the destruction of many thousands or millions of lives.

Immigration

Recently I read an article that said since NAFTA passed, the Mexican cost of living had increased by something like 70% while wages had decreased by over 30%. The Mexican farming industry has been decimated as a result of cheaper U.S. produce.

Imagine yourself as a Mexican citizen who had just lost your livelihood. Imagine you have a family to support and no job…unless you risk crossing the border for a low-paying American job. Imagine you read a poster saying that if you cross the border you will get a job, you will be able to support your family. What would you do?

Therein lies the conundrum. Sure lower prices in Mexico should have meant more people were financially better off, but the result was the opposite. Wages and jobs decreased, sending a flood of people across the border. Including those who chose to traffic in drugs…and often murder to get rich.

Yes, we as a Democratic Republic do have major problems, but those problems are made of our psyche and belief systems. The divisiveness I’ve seen lately as well as the money in politics which perverts our “public good” political process serve us ill. We can and should do better…even if it takes a Constitutional Amendment to make it happen.

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Written by Valerie Curl

June 12, 2010 at 8:40 AM

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