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Intro: "The defining political issue of 2012 won't be the government's size. It will be who government is for. Americans have never much liked government. After all, the nation was conceived in a revolution against government. But the surge of cynicism now engulfing America isn't about government's size. The cynicism comes from a growing perception that government isn't working for average people. It's for big business, Wall Street, and the very rich instead."

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)



The Defining Issue: Who Is Government For

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

20 December 11

 

he defining political issue of 2012 won't be the government's size. It will be who government is for.

Americans have never much liked government. After all, the nation was conceived in a revolution against government.

But the surge of cynicism now engulfing America isn't about government's size. The cynicism comes from a growing perception that government isn't working for average people. It's for big business, Wall Street, and the very rich instead.

In a recent Pew Foundation poll, 77 percent of respondents said too much power is in the hands of a few rich people and corporations.

That's understandable. To take a few examples:

Wall Street got bailed out but homeowners caught in the fierce downdraft caused by the Street's excesses have got almost nothing.

Big agribusiness continues to rake in hundreds of billions in price supports and ethanol subsidies. Big pharma gets extended patent protection that drives up everyone's drug prices. Big oil gets its own federal subsidy. But small businesses on the Main Streets of America are barely making it.

American Airlines uses bankruptcy to ward off debtors and renegotiate labor contracts. Donald Trump's businesses go bankrupt without impinging on Trump's own personal fortune. But the law won't allow you to use personal bankruptcy to renegotiate your home mortgage.

If you run a giant bank that defrauds millions of small investors of their life savings, the bank might pay a small fine but you won't go to prison. Not a single top Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for Wall Street's mega-fraud. But if you sell an ounce of marijuana you could be put away for a long time.

Not a day goes by without Republicans decrying the budget deficit. But the biggest single reason for the yawning deficit is big money's corruption of Washington.

One of the deficit's biggest drivers - Medicare - would be lower if Medicare could use its bargaining leverage to get drug companies to reduce their prices. Why hasn't it happened? Big Pharma won't allow it.

Medicare's administrative costs are only 3 percent, far below the 10 percent average administrative costs of private insurers. So why not tame rising healthcare costs for all Americans by allowing any family to opt in? That was the idea behind the "public option." Health insurers stopped it in its tracks.

The other big budgetary expense is national defense. America spends more on our military than do China, Russia, Britain, France, Japan, and Germany combined. The basic defense budget (the portion unrelated to the costs of fighting wars) keeps growing, now about 25 percent higher than it was a decade ago, adjusted for inflation.

That's because defense contractors have cultivated sponsors on Capitol Hill and located their plants and facilities in politically important congressional districts.

So we keep spending billions on Cold War weapons systems like nuclear attack submarines, aircraft carriers, and manned combat fighters that pump up the bottom lines of Bechtel, Martin-Marietta, and their ilk, but have nothing to do with 21st-century combat.

Declining tax receipts are also driving the deficit. That's partly because most Americans have less income to tax these days.

Yet the richest Americans are taking home a bigger share of total income than at any time since the 1920s. Their tax payments are down because the Bush tax cuts reduced their top rates to the lowest level in more than half a century, and cut capital gains taxes to 15 percent.

Congress hasn't even closed a loophole that allows mutual-fund and private-equity managers to treat their incomes as capital gains.

So the four hundred richest Americans, whose total wealth exceeds the combined wealth of the bottom 150 million Americans put together, pay an average of 17 percent of their income in taxes. That's lower than the tax rates of most day laborers and child-care workers.

Meanwhile, Social Security payroll taxes continue to climb as a share of total tax revenues. Yet the payroll tax is regressive, applying only to yearly income under $106,800.

And the share of revenues coming from corporations has been dropping. The biggest, like GE, find ways to pay no federal taxes at all. Many shelter their income abroad, and every few years Congress grants them a tax amnesty to bring the money home.

Get it? "Big government" isn't the problem. The problem is big money is taking over government.

Government is doing less of the things most of us want it to do - providing good public schools and affordable access to college, improving our roads and bridges and water systems, and maintaining safety nets to catch average people who fall - and more of the things big corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy want it to do.

Some conservatives argue we wouldn't have to worry about big money taking over government if we had a smaller government to begin with.

Here's what Congressman Paul Ryan told me Sunday morning when we were debating all this on ABC's "This Week":

If the power and money are going to be here in Washington, that's where the influence is going to go … that's where the powerful are going to go to influence it.

Ryan has it upside down. A smaller government that's still dominated by money would continue to do the bidding of Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, oil companies, big agribusiness, big insurance, military contractors, and rich individuals.

It just wouldn't do anything else.

If we want to get our democracy back we've got to get big money out of politics.

We need real campaign finance reform.

And a constitutional amendment reversing the Supreme Court's bizarre rulings that under the First Amendment money is speech and corporations are people.

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+85 # BradFromSalem 2011-12-20 12:59
I have noticed that the Righties consistently get it backwards or as Robert Reich says "upside down". When you take the list of issues in this article and hand them to both a Rightie and a sane person there is nearly total agreement that it is a list of economic issues facing the country.
But when you ask a Rightie to explain what the issue means, they nearly always blame the victim.
The high cost of medical care to Righties is not fixed by making the system less serpentine. Instead, they say to fix it by having competition. They blame the poor for being lied to and hypnotized by mortgage sales weasels into buying more house than they can afford.
They blame the unions when private employers want more money for the corporation and when the sate coffers dry up due to lack of jobs, the unions get blamed for that.

I could go on for hours, but it is like seemingly intelligent folks that happen to subscribe to Righty politics leave the ability to analyze and connect the dots, especially on economic issues.

Which is why they cannot see how critical it is to reverse Citizen's United and outlaw all Corporate participation in our political dialogue. Let the people figure out what is best for themselves FIRST.
 
 
-48 # Martintfre 2011-12-20 13:24
Legitimate government is limited to protecting the inherent rights of individuals.

There is no right to enslave another to satisfy your wants and government that does such no matter how large the majority that supports that precept is immoral
 
 
+54 # BradFromSalem 2011-12-20 13:53
Getting money out of politics does protect the rights of individual natural persons. By allowing fictional persons to express political views corrupts the concepts which are the basis for allowing such fictions to exist. Government is not responsible, except as defined by natural persons, to protect corporations. Additionally, as you note, government's first duty is to protect natural person's inherent rights. I assume you are referring to the Declaration of Independence on that point.
When government, as in the Citizens United ruling, takes it upon itself to provide rights to corporations beyond what has been defined then a corruption of our political process has occurred.

What Robert Reich is suggesting is that We The People, reverse that ruling by clarifying the Constitution via amendment. And once that is done, create laws that raises the wall we must have between corporations and government.
 
 
-4 # Martintfre 2011-12-21 07:21
//Getting money out of politics does protect the rights of individual natural persons.//
Who's money?

IF it is the legal fiction - like a corporation or Union then yes the money should be ended.

IF the money is US citizens - the share holders of the USA then no the money should not be limited - just reported.

A PAC made only of US Citizens - say your tree hugger PAC of Northern California could take contributions from US citizens in Texas - Florida etc and be able to do the political bidding of people who can't be there in person but want to help.

If has PAC is non citizens Corporation,uni on, other non citizens then no.
 
 
+42 # Jim Rocket 2011-12-20 14:52
"Legitimate government is limited to protecting the inherent rights of individuals."
That would include protecting individuals from corporations.
 
 
+8 # Martintfre 2011-12-21 07:27
Corporations are a legal fiction - a child of government - Like the democratic and republican parties are corporations as are Unions a legal fictions.

Neither Corporations nor unions nor churches have rights they are not people.
 
 
+26 # JCM 2011-12-20 15:15
The Congress was created to "provide for the general welfare", a very board ability to improve the lives of all Americans. And who is enslaving who when coorperate big money has taken control over our political process?
 
 
-4 # Martintfre 2011-12-21 07:31
Congress - the executive - the judicial system was created to protect the inherent rights of the individuals -
How?
By doing a limited list of things - common defense - common trade - consistent set of laws that do not favor some over another thus the general welfare will be best aided.
 
 
-15 # Carolyn 2011-12-20 15:34
Quoting Martintfre:
Legitimate government is limited to protecting the inherent rights of individuals.

There is no right to enslave another to satisfy your wants and government that does such no matter how large the majority that supports that precept is immoral

I find this a legitimate statement. thank you for saying it.
 
 
+31 # mebemo 2011-12-20 18:14
Quoting Martintfre:
Legitimate government is limited to protecting the inherent rights of individuals.

There is no right to enslave another to satisfy your wants and government that does such no matter how large the majority that supports that precept is immoral


What about the inherent right of individuals to breathe clean air, drink unpolluted water and eat uncontaminated food? Who will protect that if government doesn't?

Honestly, bro, sometimes it seems as if you live in another century, before the rise of the industrial system. "Enslaving another to satisfy your wants" is a more accurate description of corporate kleptocrats than of those who wish to hinder their damage.

How do you earn your living? Do you work with other people? Do you like them?
 
 
+11 # BobboMax 2011-12-20 19:23
Well said, mebemo.

Now if we could just make our government more effective at protecting one set of "inherent rights" without unnecessarily infringing on another set of "inherent rights."
 
 
-1 # Martintfre 2011-12-21 08:00
//What about the inherent right of individuals to breathe clean air, drink unpolluted water and eat uncontaminated food? Who will protect that if government doesn't?// It should, but since individual rights are getting eroded rather then protected by government it does not.

I have no right to enslave or burden my neighbor with my trash.

IF government was constrained to protecting the rights of individuals then there would be no EPA to sell (permit) away my right to clean land air and water where the government courts protect the polluters, pollution is trespass.
 
 
-9 # Martintfre 2011-12-21 07:22
I take it by the large number of negative votes (38 and counting) many believe in a right to enslave others - I find you all immoral.
 
 
+10 # mebemo 2011-12-21 09:04
Quoting Martintfre:
I take it by the large number of negative votes (38 and counting) many believe in a right to enslave others - I find you all immoral.


From what do you derive your notion that anyone here wants to enslave anyone? Where do you get your ideas?
 
 
+8 # Jane Gilgun 2011-12-21 09:12
I wish I knew what you are talking about. Do you think too few people have too much power and those in power are selfish and some are liars and hypocrites? Do you see callous disregard in governmental policies. Do you think that what affects one of us affects us all? Do you uphold values of justice and care? Please speak in ways that others can understand you. There is enough cover ups in this country and the world. Whatever happened values like honesty?

It's hard to see people call themselves Christians when they disregard the well-being of others. No religion advocates callousness toward all others except those who are part of your group.
 
 
+7 # Jane Gilgun 2011-12-21 09:14
What is just wrote is to Martinfre. To Robert Reich I say, "Bravo." Justice and care trump greed and callous disregard.
 
 
+11 # jimvw2@msn.com 2011-12-21 09:36
Rand nonsense.

Everything important that's been achieved in this country, has been achieved with the facilitation of government, communal support.

Henry Ford paid his workers a living wage because the government was going to force him to do so.

The middle class was created by the emergence of the labor union and the determination of the Congress at that time to protect the rights of workers to organize and negotiate for their compensation (The NLRA).

A downsized government can't protect our inherent rights when it is infested with special interest representatives who have a mandate to violate them in the interests of their clients.

You Ayn Rand acolytes need to grow up or get out of the way and let Americans with a strong sense of justice take charge and drive the money lenders from the temple.

We need to take our government back from the machines you and yours so ardently defend.

We need better government, not less government. We need a government owned by the people, the electorate, not the corporations. Get a clue.
 
 
-69 # Martintfre 2011-12-20 13:46
Typical Reich drivel blaming corporations for corruption but a blind eye to the politicians from BOTH parties who are selling it. As If those politicians who have fought and clawed their way to power over We the People are suddenly helpless babies in the arms of the powerful lobbies.
 
 
+40 # BradFromSalem 2011-12-20 14:00
Not helpless babies. But the only ones that rise to power, Democrat or Republican have learned who butters their bread.
Many good persons become compromised by the power of the corporations, and their strength is growing while our Democracy becomes less democratic and more imperial. It shows off its massive strength to hide the weakness of its growing imperialistic notions.

Sorry, but that is what is at stake.
 
 
0 # lionsdenmother 2011-12-23 18:13
if the newly elected have any inclination to work for the people the super pac's get rid of them like they did Rep Alan Grayson and Jim Jeffords
 
 
+39 # shjlaw 2011-12-20 14:20
You miss the point, and the reality, entirely. You have probably heard the phrase: everyone has their price. Well, big corporations, and big coalitions of industry (financial, oil, pharma, etc) have unlimited resources and the motive and opportunity to pay whatever price is necessary for them to maintain their stranglehold on power. The politicians simply give in to human nature. Although it is despicable, it is easy to understand how it happens. We need to eliminate the opportunity for "profit" from holding public office by the mechanisms listed.
 
 
+37 # Jim Rocket 2011-12-20 14:57
The salary of a Senator is $174k. It costs $6 million to run a senate campaign. It is common sense that the person is going to feel more beholden to his donors than to his constituents... especially if he wants a second term.
 
 
+1 # lionsdenmother 2011-12-23 18:15
Two Words, PUBLIC FINANCING
 
 
+20 # JCM 2011-12-20 15:08
Compare what the 111th House passed agaisnt the 112th. You will planly see that it is not BOTH parties but one who cares less for the middle class and more for the extremely wealthy. Hint: it's not the Dems!
 
 
+30 # Carolyn 2011-12-20 15:53
Quoting Martintfre:
Typical Reich drivel blaming corporations for corruption but a blind eye to the politicians from BOTH parties who are selling it. As If those politicians who have fought and clawed their way to power over We the People are suddenly helpless babies in the arms of the powerful lobbies.

Reich doesn't address the basic problem. the reason we have government is that we need laws to protect most of us, not only from crime but from the greed and lust for power of the 1% of us.
The case for war is easily established. Just fill us with fear of our country being attacked by "others" and the politicians will take away our freedoms one by one, to protect us.
Preparing for and extending war (to protect ourselves) has become a way of life.
 
 
+3 # Martintfre 2011-12-21 07:34
//. the reason we have government is that we need laws to protect most of us, not only from crime but from the greed and lust for power of the 1%//

FYI: Congress IS the 1%.

Our Constitution was largely created to protect us FROM the government.

It is no accident the Bill of Rights starts with "Congress shall make no law..."
 
 
-2 # mebemo 2011-12-21 09:07
Quoting Martintfre:
//. the reason we have government is that we need laws to protect most of us, not only from crime but from the greed and lust for power of the 1%//

FYI: Congress IS the 1%."


PROVE IT. This is so obviously untrue. Why do you keep making assertions you can't back up?
 
 
+45 # George Kennedy 2011-12-20 13:48
Robert Reich is "right on the money" as the expression goes. The Right in this country occupy a parallel universe in which "down" is "up" and basic economics is arcane science reduced to the absurd. The only thing they understand is the exercise of power. VOTE THEM OUT OF POWER! Reclaim our democracy.
 
 
+23 # bugbuster 2011-12-20 14:08
I would like to think that voting the right out of power would fix things, but a lot would stay broken either way. A lot of the deregulation that ran our system off the rails was enacted during the Clinton years. Blue Dog Democrats still dog the political landscape. I think that the systemic changes mentioned in Reich's article would go further toward saving the USA from oblivion.
 
 
+23 # Doubter 2011-12-20 13:54
I hate to keep nitpicking but who are we DEFENDING against?
Please call it as it is:
NATIONAL OFFENSE!
 
 
+17 # noitall 2011-12-20 16:32
They're defending us against these very scary OWS kids who are freekin' out about THEIR future! GAWD KNOWS what they might do. Sure they're peaceful but will they stay peaceful as we continue to beat them and harrass them? They might strike back or try to defend themselves. So, just as we have a military that can beat up the world several times over, we need a police force that can beat up several times larger groups of peaceniks. Better yet, change the constitution so we can use our military to beat up OUR citizens. Now there is a cost-saving measure. People gathering in large groups are a health risk and we need a HUGE police force in the interest of public health. AND they're harder then hell on the grass and don't look very well groomed, play their drums too loud and those "mike checks" shouting truth is embarrassing and not good for business (look what happened to that Manning kid), and...Anyway, Doubter, that's what I can figure out what we're so scared about...someone else's kids. Note: there are other economic benefits, private prisons, side jobs for white shirts, gasses of various types (sales are up), sod sales, all in all, its just good for our private sector.
 
 
+2 # epcraig 2011-12-22 09:22
I would prefer we go back to the original Department of War rather than the lie of Department of Defense. Since that renaming we have fought not one defensive war.
 
 
+8 # BobboMax 2011-12-20 14:01
One other point- too much of government seems to be run for the benefit of "public servants." Efficiency means government can't seek the "consent of the governed" at every interaction ("Excuse me sir, you seem to be committing burglary- do you mind if I arrest you?") BUT, for example, it's arguable that a significant part of Congress is not in any way earning its pay, unless you count lobbyist and corporate contributions as pay. My own state's Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) is rewarding some erstwhile public servants wildly out of proportion to their contributions to society. The FBI seems more focused on entrapping naive young Muslim men than on finding genuine threats to our society. (The Underwear Bomber's FATHER turned him, to no avail- he was actually stopped by a fellow passenger, at no cost to anyone's civil liberties.) I could go on at length, but every reader has an equally long list. Think globally and act locally- if YOUR local water department is wasting YOUR money, call them out on it- thoughtfully, respectfully, but firmly.
 
 
+16 # shjlaw 2011-12-20 14:09
Hip, hip, hooray! Keep pounding away, Bob. Maybe, just maybe, the message will seep through to the misinformed and manipulated majority. Clean, publicly funded elections and the death of corporate personhood are the only way to make our government work for us, We the People.
 
 
+21 # LeeBlack 2011-12-20 14:21
“[Our government is] for big business, Wall Street, and the very rich instead." That's why what we have is a plutarchy - not a democracy. (a combination of both plutocracy and oligarchy is called plutarchy). Capitalism and the ‘free market’ are NOT democracy. Yet we claim to be spreading Democracy throughout the world.
 
 
-31 # MidwestTom 2011-12-20 14:49
WhenI have to get permission to cut down a tree on my property, government is too big and over reaching. We now have close to 48% of our citizens dependent on government handouts in one form or another. Is it any wonder that companies are leaving America, the same way they are leaving Illinois and California? WPeople don't go in business to employ others, they go in business to make a profit; and when government taxes and policies disadvantage them they move. Our government wants to control nearly everything that we do, and that is the sign of a too large government.
 
 
+28 # BradFromSalem 2011-12-20 15:18
Tom,

Thanks! You are making my point! People are not dependent on government handouts as you call them because they are stupid or lazy. They get assistance because they are underemployed, underpaid, and overworked. Since our current economic system is tilted toward rewarding those at the top of any enterprise, the rest get short changed. Their jobs get sent away; did you ever see a price drop due to outsourcing?

"Now made in China for only pennies, we pass the savings on to you!"

No that savings goes to the top, and the former WORKERS are left getting handouts.

While I cannot speak about your tree, but our environmental laws are in place to protect us all. Can you vent mustard gas from your house? Why not? It your property. The trees are necessary for us to breath, excuse us for wanting clean air.

Our government controls very little. Almost all government decisions, especially tax policy, is driven by business. They even get tax breaks to send jobs overseas.

Stop blaming the victims, its a really shameful way to live.
 
 
-6 # Martintfre 2011-12-21 07:42
//No that savings goes to the top, and the former WORKERS are left getting handouts.//

The savings go to the customers who choose to purchase at Wall mart rather then some more expensive place. Profits,AFTER the customers voluntarily vote with their dollars, and after expenses are covered then profits go to the top... The top like the mutual funds in retirement plans across the nation.
 
 
+4 # mebemo 2011-12-21 09:11
Quoting Martintfre:
//No that savings goes to the top, and the former WORKERS are left getting handouts.//

The savings go to the customers who choose to purchase at Wall mart rather then some more expensive place.


News flash: people don't 'choose" to shop at Walmart. They do it because they can't afford expensive places. What world do you live in?
 
 
+22 # shjlaw 2011-12-20 15:41
Tom, it seems you have swallowed the simplistic propaganda of the right. Were it not for government, you likely wouldn't have any trees on your property to cut down! They would have been wiped out long ago. Plus, the ONLY companies that pull up and take their work out of America are companies that obviously don't give a damn about their local communities and care only about their bottom lines. Let the bastards go as far as I am concerned, but cut off all the entitlements they receive, which seems to be their only real connection to our nation. Finally, how many locally owned and operated businesses in your community are pulling up roots to move out of the country? NONE, that's how many. It's those businesses that matter because the community matters to them. Pull your head out of the tar sands and get a clue. It's people like you that "think" you know something, but don't, that are much of the problem and not big government, which makes your life livable, even when you are so ignorant as to not see how much it benefits you!
 
 
0 # lionsdenmother 2011-12-23 19:11
if only i could give this two thumbs up. it is a true patriot that supports local business, global corporations are the ones who have no ties to america and like halliburton giants will someday retire in dubai with their trillions of american dollars
 
 
+14 # Daveherbs 2011-12-20 16:00
Quoting MidwestTom:
WhenI have to get permission to cut down a tree on my property, government is too big and over reaching. We now have close to 48% of our citizens dependent on government handouts in one form or another. Is it any wonder that companies are leaving America, the same way they are leaving Illinois and California? WPeople don't go in business to employ others, they go in business to make a profit; and when government taxes and policies disadvantage them they move. Our government wants to control nearly everything that we do, and that is the sign of a too large government.


A pity you live in a state controled by republicans. Here the small business is encouraged and helped through local, state and fedral agencies. But there must be a demand.

Now WalMart remains a huge culprit in that the don't offer significant health insurance to their store workers (Wal-Mart has a limited benefit plan, called Starbridge.
Fast-Growing Health Plan Has A Catch: $1,000-a-Year Cap
Employees Pay $10 or So Weekly, for Basics That Provide Little Help for Serious Illness)that creates a burden for the rest of us and great anxiety for the least of us. Walmart owners enjoy their 30 billion each, when a little humanity would go a long way in their company. Vendors for Walmart have their products made overseas or Walmart is not interested in them.Regulation s seem not to be an issue, but greed is.
 
 
+14 # noitall 2011-12-20 16:16
MidwestTom, just when it seems like you're catching on, you go all teabagger on us. You assume that all private landowners are responsible as you apparently are. Your land, your tree, but we (and your tree) are all a part of something bigger. You cut down your tree and it has impact on more than just you and your property. You are the microcosm. Look at big timber. They own the land, the trees are theirs, they want to cut them down. There are rivers flowing through their property, there is bio-diversity that all of life depends on. No govt. would rely on Big Timber being responsible. In a perfect world, we ALL would be responsible and following your bible, look out for our brothers but your bible also warns us about GREED. There is the problem, we pick and choose from our teachings and we justify our greed. "its mine and I can do with it what I wish". Govt. (EPA) says "not quite so fast..." and diversity, soil conservation, pollution, etc. are somewhat protected. Examples of where this runs foul is where you have regs., but the private sector is allowed to do these good things voluntarily. Some do the right thing but most wait until it becomes critical and they are mandated to DO THE RIGHT THING. They need parents. If we all acted right and did the right thing (as we know) we wouldn't need daddy Govt. Problem is now, Mommy and Daddy are taking bribes from their rich kids so they won't run away from home. @#$%s it all up. Our army helps them when they get in street trouble.
 
 
+16 # Texan 4 Peace 2011-12-20 18:01
So wait, companies are leaving because they're morally disgusted over so many people being on welfare? Maybe if they hadn't moved all the jobs overseas, fewer people would be "dependent on govt. handouts." Of course businesses are there to make a profit, but it was govt. (at the bequest of business) that made it more profitable for them to move their business overseas rather than keep jobs here.
 
 
+13 # VC250 2011-12-20 15:08
It seems to me to be a matter of semantics. People talk about the size of government as if it were a physical object. To me it more a matter of strong government vs weak government, not size. And the question is better stated: Is government strong enough to perform its role in society without dominating it's constituents? The country is not homogeneous, and yet the Constitution requires that government covers everyone (even corporations). I'm glad to see that there are folks out there like Robert Reich who understand the fine balancing act.
 
 
+11 # economicminor 2011-12-20 15:08
Reich is right in what he is writing.

There are lots of things wrong.

Some who read this blog need to stand back a little and look in the mirror though. What is happening in America is the fault of more than the extreme righties. Oh, they are way out there but Clinton signed to repeal Glass Steagall and passed the Commodities Modernization Act which gave the banksters the power to lie cheat and steal. This is not a Republican bad, Democrat good only outcome.

Borrowing money was in everyone's self interest when inflation caused the prices of houses to climb year after year. Leverage benefited ALL who played that game. Most people felt they had no choice. Barney Frank was a proponent of FNM and FRE and the ownership society. To do this, lots of rules had to be either abandoned or ignored.

Again, Where is the Justice Department? Why aren't the obvious Fraudsters indicted? During the S&L debacle, thousands went to prison. Today it is only Madoff who stole from the 1%.

Come on, give posters like Martintfre a break. What they have to say is also true, even though some can't handle the truth and dis him/her.
 
 
+10 # hkatzman 2011-12-20 16:18
Government of the people is when we work together and are powerful. Weakening government weakens our power to protect ourselves. Calling corporations "people" waters down the power of real people. Corporations are not people, they are organizations composed of people working together.
 
 
-2 # epcraig 2011-12-22 09:31
Actually, to some extent corporations must be thought of as taking on government responsibilitie s for profit.
 
 
+9 # papabob 2011-12-20 16:57
Some of the existing concerns can be solved by limiting campaign funds to individual voters donations, plus government campaign subsidies. Think of it as a financial way of voting.
A restriction would eliminate payoffs to politicians (both parties) from corporations (who don't vote) whose clout is the "campaign" funds they "give". No more lobbyists influencing elected officials to support "special interests". They can send in their donation and be like everyone else.
Just imagine what the impact would be on the industrial-mili tary complex, and on those corporations that have become so big that they can do anything they want.
As Reich asks - why are the 1% able to use the clout they have, while the other 99% (without a voice) get the shaft?
And let's think about the elected officials, federal, as well as state and local. If they didn't have the voters (where the campaign funds come from) behind them, they're guaranteed to lose in the next election. All of a sudden it becomes very important to do exactly what the voter wants.

The time has finally arrived for some serious campaign reform.
 
 
+6 # douglassmyth 2011-12-20 19:42
This is a wonderful idea, but the Supreme Court majority has already ruled that money=speech, so, if corporations (not-voters, but legal persons) aren't allowed to give money to campaigns, or spend money on campaigns (with their media and artificial turf groups to work for them), then aren't we limiting their freedom of speech, which the Supremes are so anxious to protect?

I agree we have to get money out of politics, but I don't have a clue how it can be done, as long as Citizens United and Buckley stand as law of the land.

First we need a constitutional amendment to undo the damage this and the previous conservative court have done to our democratic system. Corporations are not people, and money is not speech.
 
 
-7 # Charles3000 2011-12-20 19:49
American banks should be set free. The FDIC should be disbanded and all government regulations regarding banks should be ended. The Fed should return to banks the gold bullion owned by banks and now stored by the Fed. Let banks establish their own monetary system, gold backed, silver backed or whatever. Let them do their own thing unencumbered and unsupported by the national government. Returning the gold to the banks will remove the only excuse for US Government printed money being created and given to banks. When there was "gold backing" the "bills" were paper showing how much gold a bank owed the bearer of the bill. When gold backing was removed and the printed paper became money the US Government, instead of giving paper to banks, were now giving them money. That practice should end. Ending "gold backing" totally changed the US monetary system and changed it in favor of banks and to the detriment of the interests of Americans. The Fed should not be disbanded but the tie between banks and the Fed should be totally severed. The Fed employs many shape people who understand monetary matters and they will continue to be needed in the management of the nations monetary system. The Fed organization should be put under the US Treasure and the regional Fed banks should be purchased from the banks that hold stock in them and placed under the US Treasure as well. Tax payers should be given accounts in the Fed bank where they live and post offices should provide banking services.
 
 
+16 # Hall 2011-12-20 20:38
About 10 years ago I had venture capitalist partners that tried to force me to amend the agreement we had signed 12 years earlier. We settled out of court, but I was dismayed and surprised at how a "silent partner" could threaten me into court just because I was beginning to become successful after many years of hard work.
I wound up purchasing a book called "The Cheating Culture" by David Callahan which was written some 10 years of so earlier. He explained how the laws had been manipulated to allow large companies to cheat in order to insure monetary success.
He started his book by explaining that he initially went to find all the surviving members of the a class of 1957 MBA graduates. He said that they knew they would be successful in business and they all had an edge over the rest of the population because of their training and schooling. They, therefore, were required to learn the ethics of being successful and were taught to "give back" to their communities.
The surviving graduates complained that this aspect of learning to be business men was dropped long ago and that the new graduates of today were being taught to "win at all costs" instead.
This is the basic problem in America today. The values system behind making a living is no longer balanced in any way.
 
 
+14 # pwortman 2011-12-20 21:23
There in only one way to get the money out of politics and return to a sane democracy--a Constitutional amendment requiring public financing of all political campaigns. That means NO PACs, no ads from advocacy groups etc. And, it means free TV time to all candidates. As I recall, the public is supposed to own the airwaves not Fox, not Disney (ABC) etc. There's too much paranoia about Citizens United that misses the point--ALL private money must be taken out or we'll have our democracy--what 's left of it--take away forever--or until the next American Revolution.
 
 
+3 # tapelt 2011-12-21 14:49
"Donald Trump's businesses go bankrupt without impinging on Trump's own personal fortune. But the law won't allow you to use personal bankruptcy to renegotiate your home mortgage"

or pay off student loans. Of course, you are not told this when you apply for one!
 
 
0 # CharlesH2011 2011-12-25 17:39
This is an excellent statement of the problem. But having done so, Reich draws the wrong conclusion.

The answer to the question: "Who is Government for?" will ALWAYS be: those with power and influence. And the more power government has, the more money will be spent on lobbying and influence, and the MORE it will serve the moneyed interests. To pick but a single example, do you know whose Congressional district got 40% of all the waivers to the new health care legislation? Nancy Pelosi (then Speaker of the House). And she is a Progressive!

As Reich states:
"Some conservatives argue we wouldn't have to worry about big money taking over government if we had a smaller government to begin with."

That's NOT what conservatives argue! They would argue that we ALWAYS have to worry about big money taking over government, which is why we need to ensure that government has LIMITED powers.

Progressives are attached this idea of "If only...", as in if only the Supreme Court's ruling were overturned, if only we could restrict the role of money in elections, if only etc. etc. But we had 2 years of government under a Progressive president and a liberal congress, and they produced one of the most corrupt pieces of legislation --health care-- a model of how influence pedaling benefits the money-interests under the guise of "benefiting the people".
 

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