* Eisenhower's original draft of the "military-industrial complex" speech originally referred to the "military-industrial-Congressional complex"
* every $1 spent on lobbying for lower corporate taxes brings a return of $6 to $20 in tax reductions
* the top 10 hedge fund managers last year made an average of $2.5 billion and paid 15% of that in tax
* "there were more people who believed in the British crown at the time of the Revolution than who believe in our Congress today"
More at: http://www.fixcongressfirst.org
You go on OpenSecrets and discover a list of corporations that are supposedly funding your official. The problem with this data is that if I was to independently make a donation right now, it would be attributed to my EMPLOYER by OpenSecrets and every other such site out there.
In reality, by law, corporations CANNOT contribute to campaigns directly. They can establish one single PAC, which has a limit of several thousand dollars or something like that, but thats that. Hardly the millions in direct contributions that we hear about.
If you download the raw data from the FEC -- which I did -- what you see is thousands of small donations, subject to the same limits as set by law ($2,300 I believe), coming from individuals. How can you possibly attribute these contributions to their employers and claim that a particular corporation is influencing the official through campaign money?
I really really want to understand how a corporation gets from point A (we want to give a million dollars to this guy) to point B (he actually gets it regardless of the limits set by law). I am very frustrated by not being able to "follow the money" from the raw data coming from the FEC. Would somebody please offer an explanation? Why should I blindly believe that Mega Corp USA is influencing my official through campaign contributions? Where's the proof?!
EDIT: Quick search turns up what I mean about the data: http://www.delawarepolitics.net/misusing-opensecretsorg/
I agree that I would like to hear more about the logistics of how corporate money is translated into influence.
One argument is that the election itself doesn't really matter that much. Access to elected officials matters more: thus the economy of lobbying in DC. Lobbyists are former congressmen or staffers who can use their connections to influence existing legislation.
You may argue that lobbyists have no influence, but given the number of representatives and staffers that work on the contents of each thousand page bill, it's hard to imagine that they truly have ZERO influence. Once you've established nonzero influence, it's just a matter of hiring enough lobbyists to get some desired change.
The speaker in the linked presentation and the organization he represents -- not to mention that it's popular belief -- claim that lobbyists are the ones funding the same officials' campaigns. As far as I can tell there is no data that supports this claim.
Fair Elections Now Act is the speaker's proposed reform.
"Under this legislation, congressional candidates who raise a threshold number of small-dollar donations would qualify for a chunk of funding—several hundred thousand dollars for House, millions for many Senate races. If they accept this funding, they can’t raise big-dollar donations. But they can raise contributions up to $100, which would be matched four to one by a central fund. Reduced fees for TV airtime is also an element of this bill, creating an incentive for politicians to opt into this system and run people-powered campaigns."
So lower the limit of per person donations and match whatever they collect with tax payer money. What problem would that solve exactly and what does it have to do with corporate money when they can't make contributions in the first place?
My guess is that the standard method for contributing, say 240,000 is to hire 100 lobbyists, each of whom contribute the individual max (and take a cut as their lobbyist salary.) Certainly seems like it should be illegal, but I'm not sure it is. Limiting contributions would make that harder, as you'd have to hire 25 times as many lobbyists, but certainly not impossible.
My guess is this is Lessig's compromise, considering the free speech guarantees corporations enjoy. I'm sure he'd rather use more direct methods for blocking corporate influence if he didn't think the court would overrule it.
No matter how long I stare at this I just don't see how corporations are contributing to campaigns beyond what is allowed by the PAC limit (which is a tiny sum.)
This lack of data on the part of the speaker and lack of understanding on my part, prevents me from believing that corporations are the puppet masters of Congress. In a sense it's self evident, but I can't bring myself to blindly blame it on campaign money. I want to be sure of the cause so I don't, as the speaker ironically puts it, end up "hacking at the branches."
I can't find any language that expressly prohibits hiring lobbyists to make donations, and I'm not sure how enforceable such a law would be. Are you referring to chapter 2, section 6, "General Treasury Funds"?
I realize that this sort of libertarianism is often viewed as "immature" or primitive. But ultimately I don't see how you can have, one the one hand, a congress powerful enough to do healthcare and financial reform, and on the other hand, be surprised when the same congress is successfully courted by financial interests. It seems to be an inevitable result.
Businesses, with current law, CANNOT make donations to campaigns! Only individuals can and the limit is $2,300.
The whole thing sounds very sensational and juicy, but the FEC data just DOES NOT SHOW THIS. See my comment down the page, email me at my username at gmail, I am really trying hard to understand campaign finances.
I'm very much disturbed by the impotence of our Congress, and that's exactly why I keep trying to understand what's _really_ wrong, but I am not about to accept some theory just because it sounds enticing when there is ZERO data to confirm it.
However, because the free speech of an individual or corporations must be protected, nothing stops a corp from paying thousands of people to shout praises from a rooftop, either about a specific candidate or just a divisive campaign issue. Because money can fairly easily be translated into free speech or the opportunity for free speech (the attention of the public) it is very hard to effectively regulate. The best that has been done is regulation around the edges that require campaign commercial disclosures. Lately, even these restrictions have been called into question as well:
It clearly states that corporations can't use their treasury to make contributions to campaigns. From what I gather, they can start a PAC but thats subject to the more or less the same limits as individual contributors.
My understanding is that the subsidies are there to incentivize corn production. The video says that the subsidized cost of corn production is actually negative -- that you can go plant a corn field and will have made money before you sell a single ear.
Once the corn is produced, if there are additional subsidies for ethanol production from corn, then that may divert corn from food uses. It may increase the cost of HFCS production.
But the cost of corn production is still lower despite, or perhaps even because of, the ethanol subsidies.
The energy company lobbies with millions because they can expect the benefits of lobbying to exceed the millions. The people could easily out-vote the special interests, but they run into the rational ignorance problem: with current technology, the cost of casting an informed vote is greater than the expected benefit. Isn't that the fundamental problem?
The solution, I think, is to create technology which makes it easy for voters to hold their reps accountable, thus shifting the task of accountability into the "worth it" category for regular people. That's what I'm working on anyway: http://votereports.org/
Asking the public to pay attention to amendments made in committees and subcommittees is wishful thinking. The inexorable economic logic of special interests fleecing a Democratic political system crushes the intentions of the do-gooders.
Of course - and not my wish, incidentally. The whole point is to use technology to lower the cost of informed participation to the point that just about anybody is willing to do it. This means that somebody has to pay attention, but we want that somebody to be somebody else. That voters don't have time, but trusted intermediaries can doing legislative scrutiny for them and simplify it down to a actionable information for busy voters - a simple score. Interest groups have been issuing this sort of thing for years. Ever heard of the NRA report card? It's the lynchpin of gun advocacy political success.
At VoteReports, we're opening up the process of creating these report cards, simplifying and systematizing it so any user can create them, and building higher-level concepts and tools on top of them so any voter can get answers easily and quickly.
> It doesn't matter what your rep's voting record is ... the sausage has already been made.
So I guess courts don't matter - the crime has already been committed, right? The logic of accountability is it deters bad behavior going forward. And if politicians start losing their cushy jobs because of accountability, do you really believe they won't shape up?
And yes, as of this week we'll be adding amendments to the mix - so we'll bring the sausage-making to light by including those actions in their ultimate score as well.
I guess my logic is a little different: I'm saying, if politicians are voted for based on their actual actions, rather than party label, incumbency, or what-not, then bad behavior is punished and the opportunity for proper representation presents itself. Is that so crazy? What kind of sane political system doesn't have people voting based on the issues?
I'm not asking people to pay attention to minutia - on the contrary, I think we should make technology which minimizes the amount of attention they need to pay in order to be informed. That is, reducing the role of committees &c. in their minds.
[condensed for the tldr crowd]
There should be no tariffs, since those economically benefit some while hurting everyone else. There should be no subsidies, as those economically benefit some while hurting everyone else.
Congress shouldn't be allowed to make complicated tax laws. If there's to be a tax, it should be simple and described in 1 paragraph. No exemptions, no breaks, no deductions. Those things are all trying to encourage or discourage some sort of activity, but it just ends up helping some while hurting everyone else more.
Congress shouldn't be allowed to redistribute wealth. It just helps some people while hurting everyone else and has negative secondary consequences. It as also not a necessary role for government.
Every way that congress dictates that the economy should go ends up helping some group by some amount and hurting everyone else by even more. That's sort of by definition, because if it helped everyone involved, it would take place naturally without the need to legally dictate it.
The domain of government is ultimately force, and when it tries to act in other areas, its monopoly on force corrupts its actions in those other areas, so it really needs to be restricted to the very simple act of protecting our rights as originally spelled out in the constitution. Things like tariffs, tax exemptions, redistribution of wealth, etc, have nothing to do with the protection of rights.
No room for loopholes.
1. no sales tax on anything considered an investment. only on "consumer" retail goods.
2. if you owned say a farm to grow food and owned a company or factory or machinery that could provide for you all the goods and services you needed (directly, without "selling" it to you) then you would pay no federal sales tax and therefore no federal tax at all, of any kind. Guess what class of people would most likely to be able to pull that off? That's right, the very rich, especially the inherited rich (remember, no tax on inheritance in this scheme!). Oh but you'd still have to buy the farm/factory/company right? But that would be an investment. No tax on buying an investment/asset.
3. buy a "used" good there would be no federal sales tax. only when buying a new good. (This would probably be abused. Imagine a bunch of people suddenly only wanting to buy "used" new things (one previous owner, still in new condition, no more than say 1 day old, etc.)
4. only retailers would have to collect this tax. if one private individual sold something to another private individual (or business!) then no tax.
Also, in a system like they propose where there is no IRS and no income tax reporting, how do they know who is below or above the poverty line? Psychic powers?
I'll stop now. I haven't even dug very deep.
FairTax.org has some attractive elements but it has a lot of suspicious elements too that makes me think it's a ploy by the rich/aristocratic class.
I also don't see problems with 3 or 4. 3 maybe if you get a "poor" person to buy something where they'll get reimbursed and then sell it back to you, but couldn't that be fixed by limiting the amount of reimbursement they get to their total income or some fraction of it?
2 does seem like a real potential problem. Maybe businesses would also have to pay the fair tax on their purchases of capital goods, but they can offset those taxes with credits from taxes they collect further down the line? So if a farmer spends 100k on a tractor and never sells anything, then he has to pay taxes on that tractor. If he later sells 100k worth of goods, he can cancel out the taxes he had to pay on the tractor. In theory, that 100k tractor should let him collect more than 100k additional revenue overall, so this should work out.
2) Yes, a very rich person owning a farm, and the tractors to farm. No private jet, no Ferrari, no mansion. If someone is able to produce every luxury item they need, from scratch, then yeah, that wouldn't be taxed. But its such a tiny minority, I don't think it matters.
3) Um, ok? Sounds like the person that owned it for the one day got hosed.
4) I think thats good, too.
There are problems with FairTax, to be sure, but you listed none of them.
Also any tax scheme which allows the rich to not pay any taxes at all, while still requiring working class to do so, cannot be described as a Fair Tax. If anything the name is an Orwellian mindfuck where the substance is the opposite of the surface.
What's good about it is the attempt to drastically simplify the tax code and reduce the amount of government spying on private lives. That goal (assuming that was their actual goal) is noble. The means described, however, are not.
When wealth is redistributed in the right direction, then there are empirical, measurable, positive benefits across the whole of society -- including those who are already wealthy.
It's fallacious to assume that, because many laws passed within the last 30 years have inappropriately favored large corporations, effectively redistributing public money to them, the process of redistribution itself shouldn't occur anywhere at all -- and that the issue of inequality can't or shouldn't be addressed.
If you really want to "strike at the root" of the problem, then you need to look toward the influence of money in our political system. The more unequal the distribution of wealth in our society, the easier it is for a small financial elite to bend the law in their favor.
Not positive that this means that redistribution is absolutely a bad thing, but I also think the argument in favor of it is far from clear. It seems to me like the default would be to leave well enough alone and leave people to keep what they earn in a free society where there would be a separation of economy and state.
The most certain way to guarantee freedom is through democratic* empowerment in a community that controls its own resources, where one's decisions directly effect changes in his/her own life. In this way all people are guaranteed control over their own destinies.
* (I'd rather see participatory democracy in small communities than the republican form of representative democracy that the U.S. constitution specifies.)
When someone can greatly affect the outcome of events those who are effected will try to improve the outcome in their favor. In this case, it's getting laws passed to benefit you at the expense of everyone else. This happens all the time, and has happened extensively throughout the past. It has very little to do with lobbyists, they are merely a symptom. The root problem is that the government has its hand in everything and can tip the scales arbitrarily that unless you have someone in washington fighting for your cause you are likely to get the shaft.
The correct solution is to remove the incentives for people to lobby. This can be achieved by drastically shrinking the size and authority of the government. By pushing governance down to local levels it becomes less cost effective to lobby, it's no longer winner take all -- it becomes winner takes 1/50th and has to keep winning. It allows democracy to thrive.
Anyway, in short (TLDR) - his ideas are about treating the symptom and not the cause.
Governance at local levels sounds great, but unfortunately there are things that need to be regulated federally.
Perhaps a compromise we can agree on is that the separation of authority is where the core issue lies, and some of that authority certainly needs to be pushed down to the local level, but some certainly needs federal regulation (again, Finance, lookin at you).
Corporate money completely subverts the basic principle of "one person, one vote." By pouring vast sums of money into lobbying, corporations have influence all out of proportion to that principle.
Tell that to the Supreme Court. Which has said that, because of free speech, corporations are allowed to spend as much money as they wish directly advertising for political causes.
As for the phrase "only interpret it", the way the law is interpreted bears so little relation to what is written that there is no "only" about it. For the most obviously extreme example, consider how radically the interpretation of the phrase To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes changed in the 1930s.
If you're unfamiliar with that history, the short version is that Congress went from being able to regulate direct trade crossing state boundaries to being able to regulate anything that relates to commerce, even indirectly. For instance the Civil Rights Act is legal because of the Commerce Clause. I like the outcome, but do not agree with the reasoning used to get there.
It is not really fare that a party can win only because it has more money to communicate their message more widely and effectively. All variable should perhaps be minimised or eradicated except so that each candidate can be judged on merit.
I do not think I am in any way qualified to suggest how the system might work, but perhaps something like a dollar for every member of the party, or ten dollars for every member, or something like that.
The alternative might be to give each and every party a set amount, however small or large they might be, but then you might get some Nazi party with 10 million dollars to spend on corrupting the young.
So perhaps the first suggestion is preferable. That way, we are actually and really paying for them so their lifeline depends on the number of people that support them. I doubt democracy can be more direct than that.
Practically speaking thought, how do you regulation how campaigns are funded? Ultimately a campaign is just a bunch of people talking to each other, which translates into free speech. Constitutional guarantees of free speech and the 14th amendment make it very difficult to restrict how a company can influence an election.
And even if it infringes free speach not many things are absolute, even murdering someone has exceptions, such as self defence, soldiers, or a policeman for the prevention of crime. If the funding of political campaigns corrupts the entire system so fundamentally then maybe there should be an exception. But as I said funding hardly has anything to do with free speech, they can speak to each other as much as they like.
wow - this really defines the wall street and the united states of america as it exists today - this says in effect that wall street is a --legal-- ponzi scheme - the risk of the ponzi scheme is -insured- by people and the benefit -is- sure to go to the people who run the ponzi scheme - what an insight --i-- wish i said this myself
In a ponzi scheme, the investment goes solely to pay off previous investors -- that's it.
Wall Street is not a ponzi scheme.
Wall Street refers to this big amorphous blob comprised of many individual entities and transactions and businesses. Some of them do very much resemble Ponzi schemes. All of them? Of course not. Some? Yes.