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writing for godot

Our Corrupt, Constitutionally Constipated Government

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Written by G. Ross Stephens   
Sunday, 13 January 2013 03:39

At first blush, it appears that the Republican Party, alias the Tea Party, is the cause of our political constipation, but they are only the most obvious cause. The real causes of this blockage of our political alimentary canal is far more endemic and complex. Both parties, the structural malaise of our federal-state-local system of government, and corporations with their ruling elites need to share the blame. Our federal-state-local legal structures, strictures, and constitutions are totally inadequate for dealing with the problems and issues of the 21st Century.

Government cannot function. Power is so distributed and distorted that we are governed by minorities. In the 2012 election, Democrats had a million vote advantage over Republicans for the House of Representatives, yet Republicans now have a 33 seat majority. It’s called ‘gerrymandering’, distorting Congressional district boundaries so a minority can win the election. That’s why we get the same old faces in Congress after each election.

Small states control the U.S. Senate. The 26 smallest states with less than 18 percent of the population have a majority of the votes, control its committees, and legislative procedures. Nine states with a majority of the population have only 18 percent of the votes. Though it did not happen in 2012, the electoral college can give the election to a candidate for president who lost the popular vote.

Moreover, important powers are divided among three branches (legislative, executive, and judicial) as one branch can negate action by the others restricting the ability of government for concerted action to deal with critical issues.

Excepting war and foreign relations concentrated at the national level, governmental power is further curtailed by the division between federal, state, and local levels and among state and local governments – all of which have similar limits and distortions in their constitutions. We have fifty states, seven state-like entities (also with gerrymandered representation), nearly 90,000 local governments, and about 270,000 departments and agencies layered on top of one-another.

These structures and strictures limit governmental authority, foment competition among these miniscule polities for resources, and similarly segment the electorate. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the pieces cannot be put back together again for concerted political action to deal with major issues facing the nation. It takes a truly major and immediate crisis like the Great Depression or World War II.

Government is not the dominant power in this country. The important, competing, and in many ways dominant source is the multijurisdictional/multinational corporation. These vertically integrated behemoths, dominated by corporate elites, span multiple political jurisdictions and nations. They owe no allegiance to any government or nation.

Our economic elites not only buy our legislative representatives through lobbying, campaign contributions, and lucrative jobs when they retire, they also create a myriad of non-profit subsidiary (charitable?) corporations to push issues near and dear to them. Since 2010, the Supreme Court has given corporations the right-to-vote with their money in elections. We now have the best government money can buy. Its been bought.

These corporations foster competition among governments for economic development at all levels seeking tax exemptions, loopholes, tax expenditures, TIFs, subsidies, and other goodies that benefit them. They locate where taxes are low and labor cheap. If there’s a major economic development project that has not received some of these subsidies from government in recent years, I have failed to find it.

Among the states, taxes on business explain four-fifths of the differences in their ability to raise revenue; taxes on personal income explain the rest. So we have cut taxes on business and top income earners and raised them on the bottom half of the taxpayers and those with incomes so low they don’t need to pay income taxes.

In 1980, the association (correlation) of tax capacity (potential tax base) with revenue actually collected among states-local systems of government was 81 percent; for 2007 this relationship dropped to 39 percent indicating states have given away half of their potential ability to raise revenue. The Feds have done the same through tax cuts and redefining what is income and capital gains with “tax reform” under Reagan and the tax cuts of 2001-2003 under George W. Bush.

We privatized war and national security, with 400,000 procurement contracts, as 60 percent of national security expenditures by the nine major federal agencies involved goes to private corporations. Corporations that pay few, if any taxes as national security spending constitutes nearly half of the federal budget. There is an incestuous relationship between the military, its contractors, and our so-called ‘representatives’ in Congress. It’s a perverted form of capitalism with corporations living on the public dole.

The real political power in the United States belongs to the ruling elites of corporations that span multiple political jurisdictions and nations. These economically integrated leviathans are able to unduly influence, change, and co-opt public policy; avoid taxes; and avoid, skirt, and usurp the powers of government and regulation by government.

They have gamed the system. It’s not a democracy. It’s not even a republic. It doesn’t represent the public, the states, or other subnational governments. De facto, the system represents corporate elites. It’s all perfectly legal. That’s a measure of how deep the fecal matter at the bottom of the septic tank called Congress really is.

Where is the Ex-Lax when you really need it?

“I pledge allegiance to the corporation, its CEO and Board of Directors, for which it stands....“

 

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+2 # DakotaKid 2013-01-14 12:59
Here's something you probably were never taught in school and you won't read it in the mainstream press:

"Small states control the U.S. Senate. The 26 smallest states with less than 18 percent of the population have a majority of the votes, control its committees, and legislative procedures. Nine states with a majority of the population have only 18 percent of the votes. Though it did not happen in 2012, the electoral college can give the election to a candidate for president who lost the popular vote."

So much for the myth of American democracy...
 
 
+2 # Firefox11 2013-01-14 16:20
They have gamed the system. It’s not a democracy. It’s not even a republic. It doesn’t represent the public, the states, or other subnational governments. De facto, the system represents corporate elites. It’s all perfectly legal

Was it Shakespeare who said: "I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation, nor the musician's, which is fantastical, nor the courtier's, which is proud, nor the soldier's, which is ambitious, nor the lawyer's, which is politic."
(As You Like It, 4.1.97), Jaques to Rosalind If citizens served in government, instead of lawyers, the outcome could have been different.
 
 
0 # CenTexDem 2013-01-22 10:31
We need to become active in such organizations as Move to Amend and Wolf-PAC. We need to lobby our lawmakers, state and federal, to support resolutions to repeal Citizens United like the ones pending in the Texas legislature of all places, namely Ellis S.C.R. No. 2 and Thompson H.C.R. No. 21 and Burnam H.C.R.A. No. A25.
 
 
0 # Barkingcarpet 2013-01-29 08:07
"Majority" rule, is not necessarily a good thing. There are basic rights which all of nature and all living things should have, and be respected.
Our system IS corrupt and generally only about one thing at this time, the preservation of empire and profit. Unfortunately, it is at the expense of a future worth living in, or one which will support our lives.
Time to choose, with every waking $, or to kiss the future goodbuy, as we abdicate our responsibilitie s to the future. We are terrible stewards, and I am ashamed to be an American, and proud of it.
We can do better. Oops, gotta run to the mall and get a bunch of badly made formerly living diversity, which I don't need....... Go Tarsands, Nukes, and Fracking!
 
 
0 # OligarchyNot 2013-02-06 18:06
What a great, well-written article. It explains many things I was unaware of and makes one realize how messed up our government has become. If I had to choose one of the outlined problems to tackle above all the others, it would be to remove all corporate influence of our government, including private subcontracting. Members of Congress like to complain about the deficit, but they never reveal the true source of our over-spending. They want to place the burden of the deficit on the backs of individual, middle class Americans instead of on the backs of the corporate class, who receive bailouts, subsidies and tax breaks the People never receive. Off with their heads!!!
 

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