Sep 5, 2012

Follow The Money, Stupid

I realized why I've become so irritated by and detached from the political squabbling during this election year. The hot-button topics infuriating people on both the left and the right--healthcare reform, reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, gun control, social safety nets, immigration, and economic policy, to name a few--should be the issues on which voters base their decisions when choosing a president. Instead, they are being used as a distraction, an attempt to draw attention away from the most frightening and far-reaching reality of all—politics is about money. It’s not about vaginas or “legitimate” versus “illegitimate” rape, although it’s easy to focus on those flashpoints.

There is a collection of superrich politicians and businessmen who make decisions beyond the average citizen’s knowledge or control: waging war for profit, controlling the world's energy supply, ignoring global climate change, and hoarding a staggering amount of wealth. Government and big business no longer serve the people. To the contrary, they comprise a private club whose single goal is to protect and increase their wealth and power, and to wield that power to the continuing detriment of the people.

Take, for instance, the contributions of Super PACs in this year’s election. (In case you don’t know, Super PACs are independent expenditure-only committees, which may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.) Restore our Future has contributed $61.99 million to the Romney campaign as of August 14, compared to $18.72 million contributed by Priorities USA Action to the Obama campaign. 

Does Restore our Future care about the details of the Republican party’s agenda on abortion? Of course not. Even Romney doesn’t agree with it. (Or does he?) They simply want Romney to get elected, for their own reasons. We rage over some idiot’s supposed misunderstanding of how a woman’s body responds to rape, and the media go crazy for a few days until the furor is reduced to a humorous internet meme. Meanwhile, team Romney issues some vague rebuke intended to distance Mitt from the foolish remark, and placate his cash cows, and then they move on, fueled by obscene amounts of money. There is no lasting impact, other than a trail of politicians, such as Todd Akin, whose political careers may or may not be affected. Perhaps their wives will decline to fuck them for a week or two. Most likely, their gaffes will be quickly forgotten.

I’m tired of the hyperbolic nonsense spewing from politicians’ mouths, but I’m more frustrated by how easily distracted we are by the most recent senseless sound bite. A part of me feels that remarks such as Akin’s shouldn’t be ignored, but every minute we spend fuming over what could quite possibly be one man’s deliberately obtuse comment is a minute we could be fighting for real change. The Occupy Wall Street movement felt like a good start, but what happened to that momentum? Did we lose interest because of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Health Care Reform Act? Or because a group of previously irrelevant politicians began a war on women’s reproductive rights? Or was it the shootings in Colorado and subsequent controversy over gun control? Maybe Paul Ryan’s compulsive lying?

It’s all bullshit compared to the geopolitical control enjoyed by what Dwight D. Eisenhower (a Republican) coined the “military industrial complex” in his 1961 presidential exit speech. He warned:
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist."
We clearly have not heeded that warning, and as long as we allow ourselves to be distracted from what is now an entrenched concentration of wealth and power, as long as we fret over issues that should be important—issues that politicians disingenuously present as all-important—we will remain powerless to fight the real enemies. And we will become as irrelevant as the last talking head to make an inflammatory public remark.

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