burgesses congress buy elections aristocratic despotism

Americans Want Deficit Cut and Entitlements Kept
deficit spending tax cut national debt entitlements

Politics in America -- Only the rich need apply

Americans elect rich candidates to office yet are displeased by how the winners spend public money and want some of the largesse for themselves. To make that Christmas wish come true, Americans would have to vote in geonomics. We trim, blend, and append two 2010 articles from (1) the Los Angeles Times, Dec 12, by Andrew Trees, author of The Founding Fathers and the Politics of Character, and (2) Bloomberg, Dec 10, by Heidi Przybyla and Mike Dorning.

by Andrew Trees and by Heidi Przybyla & Mike Dorning

Keeping with Colonial American tradition, George Washington served 160 gallons of rum to roughly 400 voters during the 1758 campaign for the Virginia House of Burgesses. It was an expensive way to campaign. It meant only the rich could play.

More recently, 2009 data show that 261 of the 535 members of Congress were millionaires (this probably understates the actual number because members of Congress aren't required to report their homes as assets). For the Senate alone, median income was an astounding $2.38 million. This is not too shabby when the median household income in America is roughly $50,000.

Modern election laws prevent the crude bribery of Colonial times. Yet the rich still try to buy elections.
* Hillary Rodham Clinton lent $13.2 million to her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
* Mitt Romney spent more than $40 million in his losing bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
* Rick Scott lavished more than $70 million of his and his family's fortune to snare the job as Florida's governor.
* Meg Whitman spent more than $160 million -- $140 million-plus of which was her own money -- in a failed effort to seize the governorship of California, or roughly $50 per vote.
* Michael Bloomberg spent $102 million to win a third term as mayor of New York, or roughly $174 per vote.

Although many self-financed candidates end up losing, they scare off competitors of more modest means.

Founding Father John Adams' great fear was that we would have "an aristocratic despotism" … of "the rich, the well born, and the able acquir[ing] an influence among the people that will soon be too much for simple honesty and plain sense."

Over the last quarter of a century, the nation's policies have been slanted overwhelmingly in favor of the rich. Between 1979 and 2004, the after-tax income for the top 1% skyrocketed 176%. The bottom fifth squeezed out a measly 6% gain.

As Adams warned back then, you get the policies you pay for.

JJS: While the few insiders get a lot from government and the many outsiders don’t, that might be about to change.

According to a poll taken Dec. 4-7, days after Obama’s commission sounded an alarm over the nation’s “unsustainable fiscal path,” the public believes it’s more important to “minimize sacrifice” than to take “bold and fast” action to pare the $13.7 trillion national debt.

A majority wants the US Congress to keep its hands off entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and most other programs. They want to maintain tax breaks like the mortgage-interest deduction.

In the fiscal year ended Sept 30, Congress spent more than federal taxes raised, stretching the annual deficit to $1.29 trillion or 9% of the gross domestic product [the total national debt is about ten times that].

Americans are against raising the gasoline tax. Six of 10 would end tax cuts for the highest-earning Americans. And 7 of 10 favor a tax on Wall Street profits.

“We give billions of dollars to these corporations, and they pretty much just put it in their pocket,” said Donald Froemming, a 57-year-old independent voter and unemployed diesel gas mechanic from Moose Lake Minnesota.

A near consensus of 82% of respondents opposed cuts to the Medicare health-insurance system for the elderly. And 72% opposes reducing benefits for the Medicaid health program for the poor. Seventy-two percent of those earning $100,000 or more also are opposed. Even among Tea Party supporters, 66% were against reducing Medicaid benefits. Just 35% of all respondents back a system in which government vouchers would help people pay for their own health insurance.

Support for keeping the current structure of the Social Security program is strong, at 55%. Lower-earning Americans are especially averse to any big changes.

The areas for change that have majority support are raising the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax -- now at $107,000 -- and reducing benefits for the wealthy. Ironically, those making $100,000 or more are most supportive of raising the cap, at 59%, compared with 45% of those making $25,000 or less. Two-thirds would means-test recipients of Social Security and Medicare benefits [disqualifying the rich].

Just 31% want to see cost-of-living increases trimmed and 37% say the government should gradually raise the age of Social Security eligibility to 69.

Americans are split on a 6.5% national sales tax to bring down the deficit, with 46% in favor and 49% opposed.

Three-quarters of the country -- across party lines and even among those who want bold action -- opposes a 15-cent gasoline tax.

A freeze on nondefense discretionary spending, which some Republican congressional leaders have proposed, is opposed by 53% against 43% in favor. Cuts in defense spending are opposed by 51% versus 45% in favor.

JJS: War is the most expensive thing the national government does. Besides the budget for the Department of Defense (formerly the War Department), add on the part of the debt due to war and research for bombs which is in the Energy Department and the welfare for ex-soldiers. The total eclipses all other spending categories.

Call war “defense” and it’s hard to cut spending for it. Call war “war” -- as politicians used to -- and maybe the public would guard their wallets more closely.

A question not asked would be: “Would you prefer to get a check, and your fellow citizens get a similar amount, to be able to afford the services of your own choosing, instead of letting Congress give money to corporations and bureaucracies that give money to providers that are supposed to serve everyone the same?”

Another might be: “Instead of directing public funds and natural resource rents into the pockets of a few insiders, creating a wealthy class that most people want to tax, would you prefer not to create the rich in the first place and instead redirect these resource rents into the public treasury and back out again as social services and a Citizens Dividend, like the Alaska oil dividend?”

Questions like these would let people think outside the box. After a while they’d be able to see the logic of geonomics. Once a critical mass sees the big picture, not long afterwards we could all benefit from economic justice -- and in time for Christmas?


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Wealth Gap Yawns and So Do Media

Lobbyists Get $1.3 Million for Every Hour Congress Met

Major daily US paper pushes cutting war spending

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