Coming for my regular bi-monthly, working sojourn through New York and Washington DC, is always an eye opener because of my participation in the incredibly stimulating conversation and debate about the current workings of our Democracy and the Future shape of it.
Am fortunate and Thankful being amongst the great Thinkers and practitioners of the Art of Politics and the awesome learnings about the Great Democracy this country represents. Lately the Presidential Election Campaign Finance issue has been dominating the Agenda. Rightfully so. And nowhere is this discussion more potent than in Washington’s beltway of Power and in Manhattan’s Wall Street — beltway of Finance. Being in New York is always thrilling and a growth experience. Hearing the various voices for or against issues and political ideology and personal economic choices is the “Conversation” du jour and is a more fascinating feast, than any dish the famous Chefs of New York City can serve out in their upscale eateries around here in Manhattan.
Because there is a serious effort at usurping our Democracy going on right NOW.
And this is no fallow conspiracy theory but simple Politics. Simple Economic Theory Politics, blended with High Finance and the old school politics of “begging” out the vote… ”Begging out” in the marketplace. Yet how is this “marketplace begging machine” gets oiled in order to keep working smoothly, is another matter altogether and not much thought is given to that here in the suave dinner parties of the rich and powerful…
Oil for “Political Money” and “Political Money” for Oil is a Realpolitik axiom as old as the oil industry itself. Oil Politics dates back to the first oil discoveries in Pennsylvania and the rise in power of the Rockefellers, the other oil men and the JP Morgan’s ilk, and their commensurate rise of political influence, rising right along with their wealth in a fairly virtuous cycle. By now Oil Politics, is a well understood medium of exchange, financing a well oiled machine through the immense profits generated — most of them overseas and untaxed – by the BIG OIL COMPANIES, pooling together their resources and influence and thus having a huge and shadowy impact on the elections cycle of the United States. An asymmetrical impact when fighting the election for the most important post of Leadership across the world…
In the past, the oil barons, had a clearly understood political, patriotic and public benefit agenda and fought for it as self made men loyal to the Free Enterprise Democracy. Free Minds — Free Markets. Success all around and great economic growth ensued. And in that past, all the Oil barons were honourable Americans.
Clearly, that’s not the case anymore. Not all current big oil men and the Big Oil Companies, are as virtuous as those titans of Free Enterprise of yore. And the aims and legacy of the current decision making leaders in the Energy business and the oil industry executives’ isn’t anywhere near as altruistic and philanthropic as the carefully crafted legacy of these old school great men of Capitalism and market driven success. Mainly because the current minions have it too easy being fat cat bureaucrats, with all kinds of supports, aren’t owners and their name isn’t on the shingle above the door. And even in the rare case when it is – they tend to be a far more pedestrian lowly and sickly slick bazaar breed of oilmen. Still they are mostly foreigners and not even allowed to vote in the United States as the case might be for most all of the executives of the world’s biggest Oil companies. Yet they can buy your elections… Because they are brought in by treacherous power hungry Quislings.
In this instance, the Koch brothers. And we know this because this weekend, the Koch brothers are holding “secret” conference, with hundreds of anonymous “Oil business donors” from all around the world, in an attempt to assemble their unlimited SuperPAC Big Oil Power Money and use these monies in order to buy the American People’s Presidential elections.
Sadly, I have not been invited.
That shouldn’t be allowed to happen…
How things have changed…
The thing is …
Times haven’t really changed that much.
And buying political influence on the Hill, with oil money is still done rather extensively. Back in the 2000 election it was US oil money. But now the game has been opened up to foreign oil money too. And now is done mainly with foreign oil money and you can thank the convening powers of the Koch brothers and of the Super Big PACs. Not because of the Free Speech protection offered by the Supreme Court’s decision on “Citizens United” but rather the willingness of the Super PAC assemblers to use dirty Oil Power Money capital to do the dirty deed.
In this case we’ll examine the risk of these foreign generated Oil money, buying the whole of the United States Democracy and the White House to boot. Much like back in the year 2000, only now the game is opened up to foreign adventurism to buy that pad on the Hill to call home away from home. Just like a pied-a-terre in Manhattan would be for most of us — except that here is your freedom that’s up for sale.
But let’s get there slowly…
Still we like to comfort & delude ourselves with blaming side issues and looking at side shows.
IE – Just see how David Axelrod, President Obama’s political strategist, recently stoked a common misconception about the 2012 political campaign finance, by blaming the Supreme Court for empowering 21st-century “robber barons trying to take over the government” and in doing so caused a further erosion of the Public Finance option and the need to reform campaign finance… Because nobody in their right mind living in America thinks that the electoral process is well run and the finance of candidates fighting elections, and issues is transparent, well thought out and democratic. That being said, the current US great recession is still reeling the populace around the barrel of uncertainty, and seeing so many billions of dollars wasted in pointless electoral banter is seen as a sacrifice of good capital in these moments of crisis.
And as Europe sinks deeper into its crisis, and fears grow about the slowdown in China and in all the other emerging economies, America’s crisis is integrated to the rest of the world. Because the economic ties to the rest of the world are coming to look like restraints rather than supports and this has a bearing into the upcoming Presidential election just as much as political campaign finance rules have. Because vast amounts of this cash come from overseas via a convoluted path that has allowed the choosing of the American President to be influenced by many more people and special interests than just the American people, their votes and their wallets.
So follow the money and see where it emanates from…
And that’s the clue that the worldwide campaign finance of Democratic Parliamentary candidates is interconnected, due to the integration of the US and the rest of the world’s economy into the global matrix of Finance, Political economy and the worldwide intelligent village. So today, we are all responsible — in some fashion — for the choosing of the next US President, same as the US Foreign Office [ie Dept. of State] was and maybe is responsible to some degree, for the choosing of political leaders around the world or at least for those within the US dominated alliances of NATO and ASEAN countries and beyond. Well, so is Democracy working for us, and it is truly working for some of us more than what for others. But that is how the Democratic process works — inefficient, sometimes unjust and all the time susceptible to corruption. Still, an integrated economic world naturally integrates it’s political machinations in order to function at it’s potent best too. An imperfect world yet far from dystopian, is run in a Democratic process where available. Because Democracy far from perfect is still the best system of political governance we’ve come up with so far. And although the increased integration of the world economy is the central factor in the synchronised global downturn of 2007-10, and for some countries still reeling into the recession now in 2012, things have gotten even more intense and insecure. Because now the outlook for the US economy, the world’s largest, is admittedly very important for every other country, but by the same token the US is increasingly dependent on the rest of the world and that co-dependency spells good news and bad news alike. For Politics and for the Economy.
With US unemployment stubbornly high, the internationalization of the US economy is also becoming a central issue for November’s presidential election. President Obama’s team has been attacking Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, for having “sent jobs overseas” while working in private equity at Bain Capital and making poor judgement decisions.
But that explanation does not account for another development that probably has been just as influential in these pivotal elections, as the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in creating the flood of money into the election process. Namely, the demise of the public financing system for elections. Both Democrats and Republicans have abandoned it and now the system of Public Campaign Finance and all associated Reforms, are dead. Their demise was was hastened by Mr. Obama’s decision four years ago, to abandon it… and instead seek money form the voters and all sundry. This has led to an enormous explosion of Finance wars that mimic the defense spending competition of the old Cold War. A conflict that bankrupted the old Soviet East and subsequently the West as well was this war od attrition end result.
So far, Mr. Obama, Mitt Romney and their respective parties have raised more than $1.2 billion in this Financial war od attrition. This alone is five times the amount raised by all “super PACs” combined, as they race frantically for the cash they need to pay for television advertising, sophisticated technology and old-fashioned get-out-the-vote efforts. But the immense capital from the BIG OIL COMPANIES is just now entering the game. Because Oil Company money from all the International oil companies and their subsidiaries is just now getting into the American Political Game.
The Citizens United decision that Democrats condemn, was a clear signal that the Supreme Court takes a dim view of campaign finance restrictions. And of Campaign Finance Reform too. Really sending this hot potato back to the Legislature but telling them in No uncertain terms that there will be NO NEW RESTRICTIONS ON FREE SPEECH. PERIOD. THAT IS WHAT THE CITIZENS UNITED DECISION IS ALL ABOUT. Scotus is right. I know you’ll find this difficult to digest but am certain on this issue. FREE SPEECH NEEDS TO BE PROTECTED… and the Supremes served us well here again.
And after all, it is only a minority factor in the surge of money running into politics, and its effects have been less profound than often portrayed. Still the SCOTUS decision loosened the conditions under which corporations and unions can back candidates, publicly or privately. Yet organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which since the ruling can use undisclosed donations to advocate victory or defeat of specific candidates, could previously use such donations to influence elections under the veil of “issue advocacy.”
The Citizens United decision was cited in a separate 2010 Supreme Court ruling, SpeechNow.org VS the FEC, which made clear that individuals can pool unlimited donations in political committees that operate independently of candidates. But wealthy people like Sheldon Adelson, who recently gave $10 million to a super PAC backing Mr. Romney, have enjoyed the right to spend unlimited sums on their own campaign advocacy since the Supreme Court’s 1976 ruling in Buckley VS Valeo.
Citizens United “is an effective rhetorical tool” for opponents of the decision, said Robert Bauer, Mr. Obama’s former White House counsel. But he plays down its importance in the creation of super PACs that followed the SpeechNow.org decision.
“People have lumped a lot of issues together under the banner of Citizens United,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat who is active on campaign finance issues. Still, he argues that the 2010 decision “changed the psychology” of campaign finance to produce an “anything-goes atmosphere.”
But the largest sums have been raised through the regulated system that now drives the campaign schedules of Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, as well as those of candidates for the House and Senate. Mr. Obama set the standard with the $745 million he raised in 2008 after opting not to participate in the post-Watergate public financing system, under which candidates received taxpayer funds in return for accepting limits on their spending.
But you can make a strong case that one dividing line has actually received too little attention and it’s the battle line between young and old. The chasm we used to call it or the generation gap. We draw this at the age of 65, 50 or 40. Wherever the line is, the people on either side of it end up looking very different, both economically and politically. The generation gap may not be a pop culture staple, as it was in the 1960s, but it is probably wider than it has been at any time since then.
Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, younger and older adults voted in largely similar ways, with a majority of each supporting the winner in every presidential election. Sometime around 2004, though, older voters began moving right, while younger voters shifted left. This year, polls suggest that Mitt Romney will win a landslide among the over-65 crowd and that President Obama will do likewise among those under 40.
And that reflects the insular way the economy looks like too. Because the US has traditionally been seen as a relatively closed economy, but that is no more true today, that it ever was. THe US was always a Mercantilist power and that is where the POWER comes from… Look at the song of the Marines sent to Tripoli in Libya two hundred years ago to protect the American Mercantile and foreign shipping interests…
Always the US had been an export nation and one with the highest productivity among it’s peers. An international power since it’s conception with the sword to match the almighty dollar. Yet since the late 20th century, the US mainline economy, has become significantly more open on just about every measure. When globalisation became a hot topic in the 1990s, it often seemed that it was affecting only poor countries and former members of the Soviet bloc. However, the US was globalizing faster than all of them at the same time.
The simplest measure of economic openness – exports and imports as a share of gross domestic product – is about 30 per cent, in line with the global average, having risen about 10 percentage points over the past two decades.
That is not only because of a widening of the trade deficit: exports as well as imports have risen.
Some of the measures of financial integration are even more striking. Bank lending, the ownership of US securities, and corporate assets and earnings, are now all significantly more international than they were.
Foreign direct investment and takeovers, in both economic and political issues and both within and out, of the US have boomed and blossomed in recent years… There has also been an immigration increase to match the great influx of people in the 1860s-1920s. And that is another way our world’s Democratic nations bond together. Free flows of People…
Democracy is precious, but also pernicious and catchy.
Just ask Aung San Suu Kyi whom I just heard speak at the Parliament in Westminster Palace in London, and you’ll see how important Democracy can be for those who haven’t got it…
Because Burma after it’s independence in 1947 could go either way.
And it did.
As it often happens it went the wrong way … into 50 years of military dictatorships lasting from 1962 to now.
Just hear how Aung Suu Kyi describes this process in her own words addressing the oldest continuously run Parliament in the world – the Westminster House of Parliament:
“Following Burma’s independence in 1948, our Parliamentary system was of course based on that of the UK. The era became known, in Burmese, as the Parliamentary Era- a name which by the mere necessity of its application speaks of the unfortunate changes which followed. Our Parliamentary Era, which lasted- more or less- until 1962, could not be said to have been perfect. But it was certainly the most progressive and promising period until now in the short history of independent Burma. It was at this time that Burma was considered the nation most likely to succeed in South East Asia. Things did not, however, go entirely to plan. They often don’t, in Burma, and indeed in the rest of the world.
Now, once again, we have an opportunity to reestablish true democracy in Burma. It is an opportunity for which we have waited many decades. If we do not use this opportunity, if we do not get things right this time round, it may be several decades more before a similar opportunity arises again.
And so it is for that reason that I ask Britain, as one of the oldest Parliamentary democracies, to consider what it can do to help build the sound institutions needed to support our nascent Parliamentary democracy.” ….
“This journey out of Burma has not been a sentimental pilgrimage to the past, but an exploration of the new opportunities at hand for the people of Burma. I have been struck, throughout my trip, by how extraordinarily warmhearted and open the world has been to us. To experience this first hand, after so long physically separated from this world, has been very moving. Countries that geographically are distant, have shown that they are close to Burma in what really matters: they are close to the aspirations of the Burmese people. We are brought into proximity through our shared values- and no geographical distance, no human-made barriers, can stand in our way.”
“During the years of my house arrest it was not just the BBC and other broadcasting stations that kept me in touch with the world outside. It was the music of Mozart and Ravi Shankar, and the biographies of men and women of different races and religions, that convinced me I would never be alone in my struggle. The prizes and honours I received were not so much a personal tribute, as a recognition of the basic humanity that unites one isolated person to the rest of the world.”
“During our dark days in the 1990s, a friend sent me a poem by Arthur Hugh Clough. It begins ‘Say not the struggle nought availeth…’. I understand that Winston Churchill, one of the greatest Parliamentarians the world has known, used the poem himself as a plea for the USA to step in against Nazi Germany. Today, I want to make a rather different point: that we can work together, combining political wisdom from East and West, to bring the light of democratic values to all peoples, in Burma and beyond. I will just read the final verse:
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright.
I would like to emphasise in conclusion that this is the most important time for Burma, that this is the moment of our greatest need- and so I would ask that our friends, both here in Britain and beyond, participate and support Burma’s efforts towards the establishment of a truly democratic and just society.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to address the members of one of the oldest democratic institutions in the world. Thank you for letting me into your midst. My country has not yet entered the ranks of truly democratic societies, but I’m confident we will get there before too long, with your help.”
Amazing Energy this diminutive woman has, and I wish her Godspeed and Good luck.
For her work is great and uplifting a whole country isn’t always easy.
Yet she’s got the requisite energy to do just that.
And energy is the one area where everyone is alone. Even the US has managed to disengage itself slightly from the rest of the world, in this field, as the boom in shale gas and oil production has cut imports way down. Self Sufficiency is still a far dream, but that is a dream at best because the US has no native Energy policy either. This is due to the special interest lobbies. As my friend T-Boone Pickens says, the Koch petroleum industries amongst others are the main culprits behind the failure of the political process of the US to have a robust national Energy policy…
And the same Koch Petroleum Industry and their namesake KOCH brothers are just now convening the usual suspects and all of the BIG OIL COMPANIES into their own Super PACs. They are creating the supper pool of international Big Oil Companies to influence American Elections. Just like inviting the Red Coats to protect George Washington’s fledging Democracy. It s a purely traitorous act. Because they are creating a multinational new breed of Super PAC for their super conservative Oil business friends, in order to raise untold zillions of fresh money and throw the lot into the current Presidential Political Campaign. They have one mission alone. They spend all that money in order to defeat Obama and end all the policies that they don’t like. Of course working with Romney must be a Love-fest for the Koch brothers and their cronies as they dig their heads in the sand. Just see the daft law North Carolina passed to stop the sea level rising by making it illegal… Making nature’s reaction to our follies illegal is very smart indeed…
Anybody out there?
And that’s how the international multinational BIG OIL COMPANIES pollute the vaunted American Democratic Electoral System. Seems like a throwback to the days when the big oil companies STAGED COUP D’ETAT AFTER COUP D’ ETAT AROUND THE WORLD, like in removing Mossadek in Iran, in Burma assassinating Aung Suu Kyi father and running a dictatorship for fifty long years, killing Lumumba, killing Allende and installing Pinochet in Chile, Nigeria, Iraq, and so many more examples of BIG OIL MONEY fostering dictatorships in all the oil rich nations around the world. Often times with the blessing of the State Department under the guise of fighting communism…
So now the BIG OIL COMPANIES want to buy this American Presidential Election too…
Nothing strange in this one after the disastrous eight year rule of Cheney’s bush and the deleterious effect it had in all of the world’s economies. Let alone the American Economy that it sank to it’s lowest ebb since the years preceding the Civil War.
Is this now a case of the chicken coming home to roost?
So even here, the US remains tied to the rest of the world economy and is likely to become more so, because oil is a global commodity and operates within a resource priced market, so the price is set principally by the international balance of supply and demand. There is a 12 per cent discount for US domestic crude compared to international prices, because shortages of pipeline capacity created bottlenecks, but that is likely to close over time.
As the economic ties between the US and the rest of the world tighten, the consequences are complex and difficult to disentangle. Economies that trade more with each other are more likely to move into recession and recovery together, but some of the implications of capital market integration may work the other way. If a slowdown in Europe or Asia encourages capital to flow into the US, for example, it could help to support American economic growth and also support the Presidential candidate that this money wants to see standing behind the “Resolute” in the oval office.
On balance, greater economic integration seems to increase the synchronisation of countries’ economic and democratic cycles. The latest evidence from the US, including the weakness of the stock market over the past three months, faltering manufacturing output, and a dip in exports in April, may be early warning signs of the impact of the latest problems in Europe and Asia and also spell a worrisome trend for Mitt Romney because he is seen as the anti Quantitative Easement and anti job creation, guy out there. And that attitude doesn’t help the world’s economy, same as it hinders the native economy of these United States.
In a turbulent world, the possibility of US economic and political self-reliance is a comforting thought for many Americans. Yet it appears unlikely to exist IN THIS ERA OF INTERCONNECTED FINANCIAL FLOWS STEMMING TOWARDS THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
Good Luck to us all.
Over the past couple of decades, the US has become significantly more integrated into the rest of the world economy. That shift has brought great benefits, in terms of US companies’ diversification and access to faster-growing emerging economies, the productivity gains brought about by increased specialisation, and the spur to innovation created by larger markets and greater competition.
And with elections looming there is a whole advertising industry looking to benefit from this boost in the arms of the economy that the Presidential elections provide. And there is no shortage of money here. Nor is there any reason to expect a slowdown. Neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Romney plans to take the $92 million per candidate on offer from public financing for this general election season, and combined they have raised less than $10 million for spending on the general election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. More than 95 percent of their receipts so far are for use only through the late-summer nominating conventions, meaning they still have far to go to fill their general election bank accounts.
Fred Wertheimer, a longtime advocate of campaign finance-law changes, predicts that $6 billion will be spent on races for Congress and the presidency by Election Day. Of that, he said, $5 billion will come from contributions that are publicly disclosed and limited by federal law, as opposed to the unregulated money flowing into outside groups.
So here is an industry that suffers no Recession…