How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

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How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Mossling on June 8th, 2010, 8:49 pm 

US midterm elections spending raises questions over special interests
Tuesday 8 June 2010
"It is legalised corruption," according to Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Centre for Public Integrity in Washington, which tracks campaign contributions.

He said that, although members of Congress insist they vote independently, it was a matter of debate how much they are influenced by big campaign contributions.

Such contributions can be decisive. "Every election cycle has been much larger than the last one, and those spending the money tend to win.

"There are a lot of examples of someone rich who does not win, but, generally, those who raise the most money tend to be the winners," Buzenberg said.

"That is an indictment of democracy."


------------------------

The Chinese say that this is the reason why they do not embrace the West's Democracy - it's just another version of a corrupt political system.

Is there any way that the West's current democratic system can be made fairer so that the people's voices can be heard rather than the a few wealthy companies'?
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Marshall on June 9th, 2010, 4:57 pm 

Bingo.

Corruption of democracy by money forces is the single most crucial issue of our time.

Market capitalism can only work to human benefit if the rules of the game and road channel creative business energy in that direction. If the strongest players can set the rules---buying congressmen and regulatory commissioners to get whatever exceptions and loopholes---you get greed feedback. CEO+ billionaire interests get fatter, then buy more influence, thus get more power over the rules we play by, and so get fatter still. Feedback cycle that is out of control. That's how it looks to me, anyway.

So you ask if anything can be done. If nothing done then representative democracy, and democratic capitalism will die. Life will be controlled by an oligarchy of money interests and the media.

I don't know if anything can be. Have no idea what the political future holds. I don't normally read or post in Politics forum, partly for that reason.

I recently read a book by Robert Reich, called "Supercapitalism". He discusses how the present situation developed. He traces the history of Usa society and economy from 1950s to present. Goes into detail about the problems. Doesn't blame anybody, just analyzes. Then he proposes some SOLUTIONS. He has some ideas of how to change the rules so the system works better. More like the balance of power between labor, management, investors, national interest etc that existed 50-60 years ago.

I don't know if Reich's proposals would achieve what's needed. You can get the book from the library and see what you think. And I don't know if they have a chance. Reich has a blog. You can read the blog if you don't want to get his book from the library.

Here's Reich's blog:
http://robertreich.org/

I'd like to hear of other people who have alternative ideas.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Mossling on June 9th, 2010, 9:13 pm 

Maybe government positions are to be realtively badly paid, and all high-level government workers have to have transparent finances and 'perks'?

Shouldn't those with power be granted it out of their love for their nation, rather than out of their desire for wealth?

I don't think material compensation is necessary for people to be roused to look for better solutions for their neighbours and family.

If the most powerful politicians were to receive a lifetsyle akin to the majority 'working class', then this could be an incentive for them to raise and maintain standards of living for the nation in general... ?

'Job satisfaction' can be the power and importance one receives, rather than the material benefits, can it not?

Just an idea. What do you think?
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby kidjan on June 9th, 2010, 9:32 pm 

Mossling wrote:Maybe government positions are to be realtively badly paid, and all high-level government workers have to have transparent finances and 'perks'?


I think you have to be really careful when deciding how to incentivize people. Dan Pink's talk is compelling because much of the debate between the philosophies of collectivism and capitalism are centered around what motivates people. It only makes sense to refer to the science that's been done on the subject of motivation.

Clearly, for many jobs, pay is actually a terrible way to incentivise people. I do not contribute to open source projects because I expect to be paid. I don't contribute to wikipedia because I expect to be paid.

I don't think material compensation is necessary for people to be roused to look for better solutions for their neighbours and family.


I would argue that's only important to the extent that it takes the personal security question off the table--I think you need to pay people "enough," and after that, they generally don't care.


If the most powerful politicians were to receive a lifetsyle akin to the majority 'working class', then this could be an incentive for them to raise and maintain standards of living for the nation in general... ?


Most politicians are not paid well. Perhaps on the federal or state level, but in local communities...it can be a complete pittance. Even on the state or federal level, it's not exactly a huge sum of money. Most make money through other means.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Mazomaniac on June 9th, 2010, 10:23 pm 

One idea that would be interesting to explore is the concept of compulsory voting - especially in the US.

In some countries - most notably Australia - citizens are required to attend the polls on election day. They still cast an anonymous ballot (and a percentage are cast as spoiled ballots in protest of the practice), but everyone has to show to the polling place and cast some sort of vote no matter what. While there's a lot to be said against this system on grounds of practicality, expense, human rights/free speech, etc, the Australians at least seem to have little problem with it and think it works out well.

I think there are advantages to compulsory voting in the "Special Interest" question because it tends to minimize the impact of money in the campaign system. Money has an amplified impact in US politics because it can be so effectively targeted to a particular audience. The US population is so well characterized and monitored that you can get a very high impact out of each add dollar simply by targeting your adds to the correct demographic segment. Since most US elections are relatively close and turn-out is a fraction of the total population, it's fairly easy to swing an election with a few million bucks just by targeting a small percentage of voters and energizing them to get out to the polls.

That impact is diminished in the context of compulsory voting. Now you've got to move a lot more people across a much larger demographic range before your money starts to have an impact. It's easy to get an extra 2% of people who otherwise would not have voted out to polls by throwing a big pile of ad money at them. If all you need to do is get people who already agree with you to go out and vote your ad dollars become very effective.

But that's not the case in a compulsory voting system. Now it's useless to spend money to get your supporters out to the polls - they're already going. Instead you have to spend your ad money convincing people who are against your ideas or undecided to change their minds in your favor. That takes a lot more effort and costs a great deal more than just getting folks out to vote.

The net result would be, I believe, a tremendous disincentive for third parties and other special interests to throw big money into a campaign. If the politicians aren't getting as much bang for the buck from ad money, then the special interests won't get as much bang for the buck with the politicians. If ad money doesn't affect elections then ad money won't affect politicians either. The candidates will be forced to respond to the populace rather than the donors.

Like I said, there are a lot of problematic side effects with compulsory voting but I think it's worth a discussion. IIRC, the Aussies have had it for nearly a century and they seem to do quite well. The drawbacks can't be all that bad and - if it does even the political playing field between big money and private citizens - may well be balanced by the positive effects. I don't know how well this would work in other countries with shorter election cycles and less "tube heads" tied to the television and characterized by marketing companies down to the size of their socks. I think it would interesting to see an experiment in it, though.

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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Marshall on June 9th, 2010, 10:28 pm 

Mossling, to say the obvious:
the money issue is campaign finance.
A career politician wants to be reelected so he or she desperately needs money, often at state and Usa level big money.
No reasonable salary paid to a congressperson is going to pay for the TV spots and the travel and the crew that you need to win nowadays.

So the money to look at is not take-home pay. money is what translates into media-power.

It has gotten so that if you have smart think-tanks and savvy advisors to tell you what cliche to use and what slogan will work then you can virtually BUY public approval, especially if a popular state governor or coming from outside the system (eg billionaire CEO or movie star)

Mossling, I think I'm not telling you anything. I think your original post implied this already.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Mossling on June 10th, 2010, 11:09 am 

Marshall, yes, the article I referenced was to do with campaign finance, and yet I saw it fit to move on to why that finance has to be so high. Obhviously it matters that much, to those who want power, to get in to to power. What is the current incentive for these people, really, beyond material gain?

If the people who chase power were required by law to have the same quality of living as the majority (i.e. working class) in their nation, and accept such a thing for their whole lives (as they are in a very responsible and important position in society, and future gains from past special interest 'deals' being made need to be prevented), then I don't think they would need to spend such vast amounts - INVEST such large amounts - because if they do, they are obviously going to be getting more of something in return, right?

If someone sees themselves as a Democracy-lover (i.e. apparently a democratic politician - a prime minister or president, for example), then why would it be too much for them to share the quality of life of the majority in their nation? Wouldn't this put them in the best place to unsderstand the majority voice? Isn't being preserved in historical records and most of the people around them respecting them, and protecting them as a very valuable individual, enough compensation for the responsibility? What more do they want, really?

I have heard about people becoming police officers because they feared for their family's safety, which can extend to their local community, and of course even further - they did it because they were worried that other people wouldn't do such a good job. I am sure this can happen for politicians if the materialist incentive is taken out of the equation, or are we saying that no one wants to govern a nation on purely practical socio-functional grounds?
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Mossling on August 10th, 2010, 10:21 pm 

Here is a great example of a reaction to Obama's current lifestyle (granted, by an apparent right-wing bigot). However, I can't help but think that the US President's quality of life, far removed from that of the democratic majority, isolates him and his family from those who elected him to the extent that it is detrimental to his politics no matter how much the opposition party rants on about it:

The Obamas Party Like Royalty as the Country Boils Over in Disgust
rushlimbaugh.com - August 6, 2010

"This guy Obama is so out of touch -- he is so devoid of reality, living in such a self created fantasy world...
[...]
He's jetting all over the place, his wife is jetting all over the place, ordering special food and special clothes, vacationing every other week. Four vacations in July alone! See, Obama and his wife don't understand what everyone is complaining about. They have never had it so good. They don't want for anything. They don't even pay for anything. In fact, they look at it as though they are owed this.
[...]
They want to be thanked far taking your paycheck and giving it to the politicians and bureaucrats who then spread it around like confetti to their friends and special interests?
[...]
The ruling class is having a big party, partying like never before. The Obamas are living it up. Concerts at the White House, top chefs cooking for them, flying in from all over the country. Meanwhile, they preach a hatred of capitalism. They preach a hatred against profit.
[...]
Michelle has a beach close down in Spain after taking 40 of her best friends and leasing 60 rooms in a five-star hotel, paid for by you, because they deserve it. But you have to pay. You have to pay up. They preach against capitalism while living off of it. The Obamas have not done a day's worth of work in their lives to generate this kind of lifestyle for themselves. They are living off of you and every one of us."

----------------------

Ghandi on the other hand: "wanted to live like most of the people in India: out in the countriside and poor. He wanted to be one of them, one of the country he was born in but was away from for so long. So he started travelling through the country by train in the third class wagons. There he saw a lot of India and a lot of the ways how people lived and worked there. Very soon he became the leader of the Indian Campaign for Home-Rule. The Indians loved him because he was so close to them. He lived in the country and lived an easy life of joy and satisfaction." Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby kidjan on August 11th, 2010, 1:28 pm 

You're seriously bringing Rush Limbaugh into the debate?

Let's be clear: there is zero factual link between Obama taking vacations and him being in the pockets of special interest groups. This sort of non-information does nothing to promote your argument. So no, it's not a "great example," it is a lousy example devoid of actual fact and laden with poor inferences that simply wouldn't hold any merit under close examination.

(I should also note that even the sections you posted have numerous factual inaccuracies in them--the only person living in a fantasy world would seem to be Rush Limbaugh, inciting class warfare where none exists)
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Lomax on August 11th, 2010, 2:13 pm 

Hello Mossling,

It is embrassing that I even need to point this out, but: none of the Presidential luxuries you mention are afforded by capital interests. The government makes its treasury by socialist means - taxing.

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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby reconsiderate on August 11th, 2010, 10:14 pm 

True democracy happens from the ground up, and I think this problem is firmly rooted in economic spirit of too many everyday people. I believe that if you talk to many people on a political level, they will claim to be against corruption, favoritism, etc. but in practice they would prefer to be a privileged "pet" on a payroll than to have a free market truly free of corporate protectionism and the access to privilege that comes with this kind of postion-economy. So instead of people willing to make the sacrifices it would take to push for a truer form of democracy, they actually don't mind politics taking the same form as the economic positions they want to inhabit - namely positions of privilege whose prosperity is determined by corporate control. In other words, people basically want everything, including themselves and the government to be under corporate control as long as the corporations are generating prosperity and privilege that benefits them directly. In other words, they just want to be on the payroll. They really don't want to sacrifice the privileges that come with being corporate pets in order to have truly free democratic politics. The only thing democratic about it, really, is that the government is "representative" of the people insofar as politicians behave as professionals who manage their individual will according to corporate interests the same as do the people. Freedom has become freedom to sell your freedom to corporate prosperity - and that seems to be the freedom that the majority wants protected.

Of course, it's impossible to say something this cynical without believing it is either headed for some form of eventual crisis or reform - but you never know.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Mossling on August 12th, 2010, 7:28 am 

kidjan wrote:Let's be clear: there is zero factual link between Obama taking vacations and him being in the pockets of special interest groups.

I don't think I, or RL suggested that.

There is a link of sorts, though, of course, with Obama being in the White House (with a salary) and all: "BP and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to federal candidates over the past 20 years, with the largest chunk of their money going to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations come from a mix of employees and the company’s political action committees — $2.89 million flowed to campaigns from BP-related PACs and about $638,000 came from individuals. On top of that, the oil giant has spent millions each year on lobbying — including $15.9 million last year alone — as it has tried to influence energy policy." Obama biggest recipient of BP cash


kidjan wrote:So no, it's not a "great example," it is a lousy example devoid of actual fact and laden with poor inferences that simply wouldn't hold any merit under close examination.

I said it was "a great example of a reaction to Obama's current lifestyle" in the vein of judging him for his affluence relative to that of the average majority voter - nothing more. I did say that RL was apparently a bigot, though: "a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices". This was supposed to infer that I was well aware of RL's particular opinionated ideas.

kidjan wrote:I should also note that even the sections you posted have numerous factual inaccuracies in them--the only person living in a fantasy world would seem to be Rush Limbaugh, inciting class warfare where none exists

I am sure some details are highly debatable, or 'spun', but it is the general sentiment I was wanting to refer to:

"The annual salary of US President Barack Obama is $400,000 per annum" Bloomberg Businessweek

"Depending on whether or not those working part-time are included, the average American makes between $32,000 and $39,000." Wiki: Average Joe

It seems we're talking some very different lifestyles here no matter how one presents it, and so based upon these rifts in quality of life (10 times the 'average joe'), it seems the majority of people within the US democratic system will feel rather distant from the man they elect to make decisions concerning their lives. How can Obama ever really understand from the heart, in this fast-changing modern world, what it is like to be buying food, shelter, clothes, etc., on $39,000? It seems he can't, and that can easily undermine his ability to communicate effectively with his electorate.

Lomax wrote:none of the Presidential luxuries you mention are afforded by capital interests. The government makes its treasury by socialist means - taxing.

When did I mention that?

On the "capitalist interests" front, I think it goes without saying that the likes of Bush and Blair set themselves up very nicely via their powerful positions so that when their terms at the top ended, they could continue to live a life of grotesque affluence - possibly even more so than when they lead their respective nations in government. I think this kind fo thing is also "an indictment of democracy".

reconsiderate wrote:. I believe that if you talk to many people on a political level, they will claim to be against corruption, favoritism, etc. but in practice they would prefer to be a privileged "pet" on a payroll than to have a free market truly free of corporate protectionism and the access to privilege that comes with this kind of postion-economy.

I agree, however, I think that it is important, with respect to Democracy, whether these "many people" are a majority. If they are a majority, then it's business as usual, and democracy which gets undermined to the extent that it is no longer really democracy, but the leaders of Wall Street et al organising the nation's future.

reconsiderate wrote:Freedom has become freedom to sell your freedom to corporate prosperity - and that seems to be the freedom that the majority wants protected.

What's funny is I can't see much of a difference between this and modern Communist China. Maybe it's just the labels and the boundaries drawn between things which are in different places....
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Lomax on August 12th, 2010, 8:51 am 

Hello Mossling,

Mossling wrote:When did I mention that?


Well, in your quotation of *spits* Limbaugh.

Mossling wrote:On the "capitalist interests" front, I think it goes without saying that the likes of Bush and Blair set themselves up very nicely via their powerful positions so that when their terms at the top ended, they could continue to live a life of grotesque affluence - possibly even more so than when they lead their respective nations in government. I think this kind fo thing is also "an indictment of democracy".


Certainly. I do agree that capitalism forms concerning distortions in the democratic system, but perhaps not largely for the reasons you mention. My main concern is that election campaigns are run by private PR industries - so the party with the biggest budget gets to do the most campaigning. Obviously, major benefactors tend to favour those parties which won't increase income tax. The result is that right-wing parties can make their voicest the most heard. In the UK elections this year, the conservative party had a considerably bigger budget than all of the other parties put together. In the UK we do have a cap on how much money a party can spend on advertising themselves, but it is no deterrent - they spend the rest on smearing their opponents. Besides biasing the public ability to choose their vote correctly, this also sets a very bad example for the younger generations.

What baffles me more is that in many respects the political sphere does still manage to evolve leftwards, on a larger time-scale; perhaps this is something to be said for human rationality and compassion.

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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby kidjan on August 12th, 2010, 1:05 pm 

Mossling wrote:There is a link of sorts, though, of course, with Obama being in the White House (with a salary) and all: "BP and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to federal candidates over the past 20 years, with the largest chunk of their money going to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations come from a mix of employees and the company’s political action committees — $2.89 million flowed to campaigns from BP-related PACs and about $638,000 came from individuals. On top of that, the oil giant has spent millions each year on lobbying — including $15.9 million last year alone — as it has tried to influence energy policy." Obama biggest recipient of BP cash


Yes, but the exact same article also contains:

During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.

An Obama spokesman rejected the notion that the president took big oil money.

“President Obama didn’t accept a dime from corporate PACs or federal lobbyists during his presidential campaign,” spokesman Ben LaBolt said. “He raised $750 million from nearly four million Americans. And since he became president, he rolled back tax breaks and giveaways for the oil and gas industry, spearheaded a G20 agreement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, and made the largest investment in American history in clean energy incentives.”


So, he got $750 million in support from four million Americans, and a paltry $77,051 over 20 years from BP? If we're making the claim that politicians will chase money, it's pretty clear who's more lucrative here: the American people.

I am sure some details are highly debatable, or 'spun', but it is the general sentiment I was wanting to refer to:

"The annual salary of US President Barack Obama is $400,000 per annum" Bloomberg Businessweek


He's the POTUS. $400k actually seems somewhat on the low side considering he's basically the leader of the free world. Certainly he could do much better for himself in the private sector, with far less responsibility and accountability. He'd probably make at least this much yearly (possibly more with bonuses) as a partner at a decent law firm.

It seems we're talking some very different lifestyles here no matter how one presents it, and so based upon these rifts in quality of life (10 times the 'average joe'), it seems the majority of people within the US democratic system will feel rather distant from the man they elect to make decisions concerning their lives. How can Obama ever really understand from the heart, in this fast-changing modern world, what it is like to be buying food, shelter, clothes, etc., on $39,000? It seems he can't, and that can easily undermine his ability to communicate effectively with his electorate.


I think he understands it quite clearly, given the policies he's pushed for in office. One need not look further than his taxation policies and the health care push (these health care changes aren't meaningful to the wealthy, who will obviously always have decent health care). Many people object to his tax policies, claiming them to be redistribution of wealth and an attack on capitalism/wealth/profit/etc., yet you claim the opposite, which is a rather strange dichotomy, don't you think?

So no, again, I disagree with you. I understand your argument, but the facts simply don't line up. You've cherry picked a few incriminating sentences out of a news article, while ignoring the official reply, which is probably why you are operating under some false (or definitely unjustified) pretenses.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Mossling on August 13th, 2010, 2:09 am 

Lomax wrote:What baffles me more is that in many respects the political sphere does still manage to evolve leftwards, on a larger time-scale; perhaps this is something to be said for human rationality and compassion.

Agreed.

kidjan wrote:“President Obama didn’t accept a dime from corporate PACs or federal lobbyists during his presidential campaign,” spokesman Ben LaBolt said. “He raised $750 million from nearly four million Americans."...
So, he got $750 million in support from four million Americans, and a paltry $77,051 over 20 years from BP? If we're making the claim that politicians will chase money, it's pretty clear who's more lucrative here: the American people.

Of course there were more wealthy donors than BP:

"those with wealth and power also have played a critical role in creating Obama's record-breaking fundraising machine, and their generosity has earned them a prominent voice in shaping his campaign. Seventy-nine "bundlers," five of them billionaires, have tapped their personal networks to raise at least $200,000 each. They have helped the campaign recruit more than 27,000 donors to write checks for $2,300, the maximum allowed. Washington Post: Big Donors Among Obama's Grass Roots

"The organizations themselves did not donate , rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. ...
Because of contribution limits, organizations that bundle together many individual contributions are often among the top donors to presidential candidates. These contributions can come from the organization's members or employees (and their families). The organization may support one candidate, or hedge its bets by supporting multiple candidates. Groups with national networks of donors - like EMILY's List and Club for Growth - make for particularly big bundlers.

University of California $1,591,395
Goldman Sachs $994,795
Harvard University $854,747
Microsoft Corp $833,617
Google Inc $803,436
Citigroup Inc $701,290
JPMorgan Chase & Co $695,132
Time Warner $590,084
Sidley Austin LLP $588,598
Stanford University $586,557
National Amusements Inc $551,683
UBS AG $543,219
Wilmerhale Llp $542,618
Skadden, Arps et al $530,839
IBM Corp $528,822
Columbia University $528,302
Morgan Stanley $514,881
General Electric $499,130
US Government $494,820
Latham & Watkins $493,835"
Barack Obama Top Contributors

"Bundling is another tactic used to skirt the regulations of the FEC. Bundling is when an individual gathers contributions from a large number of people and donates the money all at once to a campaign. The bundler often enjoys prominence in the campaign and can gain access to the candidate to make a plea for his or her special interest. Bundling is currently a hot topic of debate and frequently called out in reform talks" How Campaign Finance Works

Are you seriously suggesting that $1 million coming from Goldman Sachs isn't going to get them special consideration?

I'm not saying politicians will chase a salary from special interest groups, but they'll chase those groups to catapult them in to power, and then 'repay' those groups with political favours.

It is also worth acknowledging that one member of the public donating an incredibly paltry sum to Obama's campaign catpults him in to power so much less than an individual billionaire or huge corporation.

kidjan wrote:He's the POTUS. $400k actually seems somewhat on the low side considering he's basically the leader of the free world.

Really? He needs a financial incentive to attract him to that kind of power?

kidjan wrote:Certainly he could do much better for himself in the private sector, with far less responsibility and accountability.

Why the assumption that Obama needs at least $400k just to feel comfortable in life? Is he so different from the 'Average Joe' who is ten times poorer? I don't think the American economy could sustain a whole population on $400k each, so does he think he is more worthy of luxury than everyone else? That kind of attitude is not a vote-winner from where I'm standing.

kidjan wrote:Many people object to his tax policies, claiming them to be redistribution of wealth and an attack on capitalism/wealth/profit/etc., yet you claim the opposite, which is a rather strange dichotomy, don't you think?

The way I see it, he's on $400k for the next few years, he could quite possibly make more, like you said, when not in the Whitehouse, even though $400k is pretty sweet compared to what the majority of US citizens apparently earn, and so he'll pass what ever bill he wants to and laugh all the way to the bank no matter what happens. His particular politics were in need, and so he cashed in while becoming famous and thus more attractive to wife and other women, etc. - there are more benefits to being a POTUS than just the salary; he's made for life now - people will just be happy to pay to see him speak about his own life. We try to avoid anyone else speaking about themselves most fo the time. What's more, I don't think he's really installing that much faith regarding equality in the US - if he was so staunchly anti-capitalist, he would live his left-wing policies himself and go down in history as favourably as Ghandi has in India.

Obama's not redistributing his own wealth - only the wealth of others; a very lucrative position which often gets passed off as a kind of "Robin Hood' role. The fact remains that Obama most definitely does not live in Sherwood Forest in a tree house.

kidjan wrote:You've cherry picked a few incriminating sentences out of a news article

I think any quote could be called "cherry-picking". Should I have posted the whole article? Or just rephrased it in my own words? - I think that could be deemed "cherry-picking" also...

kidjan wrote:ignoring the official reply

The reply didn't seem to affect the implications of huge corporate organizations donating more than an individual ordinary citizen did and could to Obama's campaign fund; we're talking 13 businesess with significant political interests donating more than half a million dollars. No matter how much John Smith donated, it's not going to affect Obama's gratitude to the likes of Goldman Sachs, etc.

kidjan wrote:probably why you are operating under some false (or definitely unjustified) pretenses.

I really have no idea what you are talking about here? Can't we just discuss facts, and accept when we are wrong - when the facts speak for themselves?... I am here to discuss any point and concede when I am wrong. I have no problem with that. I think it is a bit aggressive to assume some pretension - which is an apparent ad hominem argument - when we can just discuss facts and see what the situation really is.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby kidjan on August 13th, 2010, 3:45 pm 

Mossling wrote:
kidjan wrote:He's the POTUS. $400k actually seems somewhat on the low side considering he's basically the leader of the free world.

Really? He needs a financial incentive to attract him to that kind of power?


No, quite the opposite: I doubt the financial incentive has anything to do with someone wanting to be POTUS. I don't think anyone in their right mind would want to be POTUS because of the salary; I think he is motivated by other factors besides money.

Why the assumption that Obama needs at least $400k just to feel comfortable in life?


Not sure what you're talking about, I made no such assumption.

Is he so different from the 'Average Joe' who is ten times poorer?


Of course he is. He went to Harvard Law School and got a JD, which means that he's better educated than about 90% of the rest of the country. He's enormously successful, and by any measure, he achieved this level of success on his own.

I don't share your socialist/communist (not meant as an insult) angle here, which is probably the root of our disagreement, but that's probably a topic for a separate thread. I think it is incorrect to assume all people deserve equal pay or benefits, or even that all people are equal. I think all people are entitled to equal benefits and opportunity, but the simple truth of the matter is some people do much better than others.


The way I see it, he's on $400k for the next few years.............if he was so staunchly anti-capitalist, he would live his left-wing policies himself and go down in history as favourably as Ghandi has in India.


Obama is not anti-capitalist. He's very much in favor of free markets and capitalism, where it makes sense. And I think you're missing my point: he enacted taxes that would increase his own tax burden. Contrast this with Bush, who enacted taxes that would clearly lessen his own tax burden.


You've cherry picked a few incriminating sentences out of a news article

I think any quote could be called "cherry-picking". Should I have posted the whole article? Or just rephrased it in my own words? - I think that could be deemed "cherry-picking" also...[/quote]

No, but I think posting the $3 million-ish figure and then ignoring that Obama's share of that was $77,000 over 20 years is at least somewhat disingenuous.

ignoring the official reply
The reply didn't seem to affect the implications of huge corporate organizations donating more than an individual ordinary citizen did


I think you misread the article--even though they're from corporate sources, they are still contributions from individual employees in the corporation (i.e. "Because of contribution limits, organizations that bundle together many individual contributions are often among the top donors to presidential candidates. These contributions can come from the organization's members or employees and their families.") So I don't agree with you that it's "huge corporate organizations" donating more than an individual ordinary citizen did. No corporation can force their employees, members or families to contribute to a campaign, so I would have to believe that people who donated did individually support Barack Obama.

I really have no idea what you are talking about here? Can't we just discuss facts, and accept when we are wrong - when the facts speak for themselves?... I am here to discuss any point and concede when I am wrong. I have no problem with that. I think it is a bit aggressive to assume some pretension - which is an apparent ad hominem argument - when we can just discuss facts and see what the situation really is.


My beef is the way you presented that article--you basically repeated the most incriminating possible sentence, and omitted information that didn't support your position, which isn't fair or appropriate for debate. So no, it seems we can't "just discuss facts," because you either intentionally or accidentally removed some rather pertinent facts to the debate. I think facts do speak for themselves, which is why absent ones are all the more damaging.

I'm not trying to be disrespectful; I just really looks like you cherry-picked information out of that article. I'll try to be less blunt about it in the future.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Mossling on February 9th, 2011, 8:04 am 

Revealed: 50% of Tory funds come from City
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 8 February 2011

"Financiers in the City of London provided more than 50% of the funding for the Tories last year, new research has revealed, prompting claims that the party is in thrall to the banks.

A study by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism has found that the City accounted for £11.4m of Tory funding – 50.79% of its total haul – in 2010, a general election year. This compared with £2.7m, or 25% of its funding, in 2005, when David Cameron became party leader.

The research also shows that nearly 60 donors gave more than £50,000 to the Tories last year, entitling each of them to a face-to-face meeting with leading members of the party up to and including Cameron."
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Fuqin on February 9th, 2011, 10:28 am 

Mazomaniac
In some countries - most notably Australia - citizens are required to attend the polls on election day. They still cast an anonymous ballot (and a percentage are cast as spoiled ballots in protest of the practice), but everyone has to show to the polling place and cast some sort of vote no matter what. While there's a lot to be said against this system on grounds of practicality, expense, human rights/free speech, etc, the Australians at least seem to have little problem with it and think it works out well.
Hi Mazomaniac I’m from OZ in part your right ozzi voters tend to be quite shrewd if a polly stumbles or forsakes an ideal , we make them pay the price, our media whips them to and fro also ,there is money in the campaigns however if they spent too much it defiantly goes against them, we have a culture that detests the flashy lights and bullshit , one problem we have here is political apathy in the younger demographic and they have traditionally been the basis of the left here in OZ things like the green party, the unionists, welfare ,etc. were all part of the left when I was younger ,now days ‘and maybe it’s the fault of the left for being too like the right, they don’t tend to vote until their mid to late 20s I think there is a bit of bleakness and dismay with politics in general [and this is understandable] however the younger demographic on the right tend to be fanatically political, one problem is you can get away with not voting here if you never vote before but once you do they can track you and bingo there’s a substantial fine attached for not voting , overall though I’m pretty happy with the way things work over here, even the right wing over here have to pay attention to the average Joe, however in another way we still have this same problem big business overall controls the waves and without its support a government can be virtually blackmailed, I say this because it seems that if the business sector is not happy with current policy they make the little man’s life hell and this becomes ammunition for an opposition party , predominantly the right, but sometimes the left, anyhow I think they should experiment with compulsory voting in the US it would be interesting.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Mossling on February 25th, 2011, 6:52 am 

LOL, this is classic:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker answers his master’s call

"Koch: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.

Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. [*** Ethical violation much? ***] Thanks for all the support…it’s all about getting our freedoms back…"

----------

And the US has the audacity to suggest that socialist systems lend themselves to corruption....
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Mossling on May 27th, 2011, 10:58 pm 

Things are still not changing, it seems:

Guardian News: After the crash: the pauperisation of middle-class America (May 2011) wrote:both Republicans and Democrats are agreed to do nothing more that quibble over insignificant margins of so huge a deficit. Meanwhile, they perform live political theatre about their "deep concern about deficits and debts" for a bemused, bored and ever-more alienated public.

Neither party can shake off its utter dependence now on corporate and rich citizens' monies for all their financial sustenance. Therefore, neither party imagines, let alone explores, alternatives to massive deficits and debts. After all, government deficits and debts mean: first, the government is not taxing corporations and the rich; and second, the government is, instead, borrowing from them and paying them interest. So, the two parties quibble over how much to cut which government jobs and public services.
[...]
The largest corporations and richest citizens long ago learned that if you want to sustain an extremely unequal distribution of wealth and income, you need an equally unequal distribution of political power. Those corporations use their profits to pay huge salaries and bonuses to their executives, to pay big dividends to their major shareholders, and to "contribute" to politics. The corporations, their top executives and the major shareholders whom they enrich all regularly finance the political campaigns and politicians that perform that sustaining function. An increasingly unequal capitalist economy pays for the increasingly undemocratic politics it needs.

Any serious effort to change the basic situation, functions and direction of government policy must change the answer our society now gives to this basic question: who gets and disposes of the profits of producing goods and services in the US economy? So long as the answer remains corporations' boards of directors and major shareholders (the status quo), current trends will continue until bigger economic collapses bring the system to self-destruction. Then we will have graduated from a crisis with banks "too big to fail" to a crisis that is itself "too big to overcome." Link
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Fuqin on May 27th, 2011, 11:59 pm 

Mossling I know I’m being overly simplistic when I say this but it seems to me that economics is always going to be the bow engine and ruder of the ship and money is the fuel of economics, the rest speaks for itself corruption is Inevitable IMHO, so is collapse and upheaval I think the US will find a way through, but at the moment it appears from an outsiders point of view to be in total denial, almost like the gambler that keeps borrowing money because he’s certain a miracle of wins is going to pull him out of the shit, at one stage the states could get away with this because all the other players needed it in the game , and they still do to a degree ,But I don’t think that’s economic its more to do with having a geopolitical strong man ,sad to say but Australia’s dependence or should I say sycophantical relationship with the US is based almost solely about having a bouncer we can call on should china decide it was sick of buying iron ore of us , or something to that effect .economically our dependencebut it’s looking less effected by what happens in the US every day, I mean in my lifetime I’ve never seen our dollar exceed the US dollar by , I think it was something like 30 cents unbelievable! that doesn’t do our exports much good but it sure makes the investors happy, funny there was a thread about japan and migration because of hardship etc. general reasons one moves country if I was say in my 20s to 30s and living in the states I would seriously be making planes to abandon ship and swim to the closest island, but that’s me I’m a bit of a nomad anyway.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby johnbnelson on May 28th, 2011, 6:36 am 

Mossling wrote:Is there any way that the West's current democratic system can be made fairer so that the people's voices can be heard rather than the a few wealthy companies'?


People need to read up on the issues, and stop voting based on which candidate is on the TV/radio/newpaper/ect more.

If people stop making thier decisions based on the media coverage that money buys, the money becomes less important, and addressing the issues in a meaningful maner becomes the priority because a candidate who fails to do so will not get reelected.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Whut on May 28th, 2011, 12:58 pm 

Mossling wrote:Is there any way that the West's current democratic system can be made fairer so that the people's voices can be heard rather than the a few wealthy companies'?


No, its impossible. You can tweek some things, sweep stuff under the carpet, but its just gonna re-surface somewhere else.

Profit undermines everything, full stop.

What political system we have doesn't matter to this extent if it has to run under a monetary system.

Its that simple.

Some make the point that the monetary system is sound because money is produced as a consequence of mutually beneficial interactions.

But this is so naive, as the illusion of mutually beneficial interactions is more then enough, and those with monetary power are only gonna get better at creating illusions, at this rate.

Problems like these will never go away under the monetary system, never.

Looking elsewhere to solve this problem is a waste of time, might aswell pee into the wind.

But alot of people can't get past the socialist and communism stigma, as if this has absolutly anything to do with it. (they both run under a monetary system, anyway...)
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Whut on May 28th, 2011, 1:45 pm 

johnbnelson wrote:
Mossling wrote:Is there any way that the West's current democratic system can be made fairer so that the people's voices can be heard rather than the a few wealthy companies'?


People need to read up on the issues, and stop voting based on which candidate is on the TV/radio/newpaper/ect more.

If people stop making thier decisions based on the media coverage that money buys, the money becomes less important, and addressing the issues in a meaningful maner becomes the priority because a candidate who fails to do so will not get reelected.


The biggest difference between those who get wrapped up in the media, and those who get wrapped up in "meaningful" politics is that those who are wrapped up in media are more prone to understand that what they are watching is just fabricated busywork.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby johnbnelson on May 28th, 2011, 2:38 pm 

Whut wrote:
johnbnelson wrote:
Mossling wrote:Is there any way that the West's current democratic system can be made fairer so that the people's voices can be heard rather than the a few wealthy companies'?


People need to read up on the issues, and stop voting based on which candidate is on the TV/radio/newpaper/ect more.

If people stop making thier decisions based on the media coverage that money buys, the money becomes less important, and addressing the issues in a meaningful maner becomes the priority because a candidate who fails to do so will not get reelected.


The biggest difference between those who get wrapped up in the media, and those who get wrapped up in "meaningful" politics is that those who are wrapped up in media are more prone to understand that what they are watching is just fabricated busywork.


Most of the information in the news isn't fabricated, but it tends to be presented in ways which essentially 'nudge' readers/listeners/viewers to form opinions which mirror the intended viewpoint of the paper/station/ect, and/or ways that are intended to increase ratings.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Mossling on May 28th, 2011, 10:24 pm 

johnbnelson wrote:People need to read up on the issues, and stop voting based on which candidate is on the TV/radio/newpaper/ect more.

When's that going to happen? The masses are too used to being fed their beliefs via Fox News, etc.

I refuse to believe that Democracy can not be championed to the extent whereby we learn from the mistakes of the past, and make adjustments to government election rules in the interest of the nation's majority.

Maybe the West has been too safe for too long - Capitalism has just become a lazy game. Too much disposable income for the masses when compared to third world countries, and resilient poor families still enjoy peace at least. Scavenging in a waste tip in a peaceful nation could appear like heaven compared to scavenging on a waste tip in a war-torn nation, I can imagine.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Whut on May 29th, 2011, 3:56 pm 

johnbnelson wrote: Most of the information in the news isn't fabricated, but it tends to be presented in ways which essentially 'nudge' readers/listeners/viewers to form opinions which mirror the intended viewpoint of the paper/station/ect, and/or ways that are intended to increase ratings.


Your statement stems from the premise that meaningful politics in its current form is truely relevant. That it is the best beneficial way for us to move forward as a race given our current collective understanding, that the only thing stopping it is media distortion.

First of all, would you agree with this point I have made? (It is cirtainly implied.)
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby johnbnelson on May 29th, 2011, 5:08 pm 

Whut wrote: Your statement stems from the premise that meaningful politics in its current form is truely relevant. That it is the best beneficial way for us to move forward as a race given our current collective understanding, that the only thing stopping it is media distortion.

First of all, would you agree with this point I have made? (It is cirtainly implied.)


I never implied that it was the only factor, only one.

Indeed, i wouldn't even say that the media distortion is the root of the problem, but the willingness of people to accept it at face value.

Nor would i use it in terms of 'race', but rather 'nation' is a much better turn of phrase, and eliminates any confusion.
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby Eighty on May 31st, 2011, 11:45 pm 

Mossling wrote:US midterm elections spending raises questions over special interests
Tuesday 8 June 2010
"It is legalised corruption," according to Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Centre for Public Integrity in Washington, which tracks campaign contributions.

He said that, although members of Congress insist they vote independently, it was a matter of debate how much they are influenced by big campaign contributions.

Such contributions can be decisive. "Every election cycle has been much larger than the last one, and those spending the money tend to win.

"There are a lot of examples of someone rich who does not win, but, generally, those who raise the most money tend to be the winners," Buzenberg said.

"That is an indictment of democracy."


------------------------

The Chinese say that this is the reason why they do not embrace the West's Democracy - it's just another version of a corrupt political system.

Is there any way that the West's current democratic system can be made fairer so that the people's voices can be heard rather than the a few wealthy companies'?


We can stick to our constitution, but that appears to difficult for people who think we need to 'advance' or 'evolve, using the terms broadly of course.

Our democracy is a representative one however; by allowing corporations to donate money to politicians without any restriction is absolute corruption (see recent Supreme Court rulings http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/20 ... ritics-say, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/us/po ... cotus.html), as well as allowing lobbyism.
Both of these represent huge signs of corruption at the highest levels of government. Our founding fathers, as well as many notable figures (Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower) warned us against such corruption, because of their ability to foresee the danger in such practices.

When a corporation is given such power to give money unrestricted you set a precedent that allows for unequal rights. It essentially takes and strips the little bit of voting power the average Joe has and gives it to the corporation, who welds more influence than nearly any politician. It is not real representative democracy, it is corporatism, and it has completely debased America's government.

The only solutions I can think of would be to outlaw lobbying, and place a fair cap on the amounts a corporation can donate to any politician or even political party, so that all is fair and balanced. I would go as far as to suggest that an outright ban on corporate donations to politicians would be fair, and keep restrict it to the level of individual capability.

The influence of corporations must be removed from government, so that government can promote the ideals of the people (health, security, in in America's sense, fair capitalism) (not of a select few (the top 1% of the tax bracket).
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Re: How can Democracy avoid 'Special Interest'?

Postby johnbnelson on June 1st, 2011, 6:10 am 

Eighty wrote:When a corporation is given such power to give money unrestricted you set a precedent that allows for unequal rights. It essentially takes and strips the little bit of voting power the average Joe has and gives it to the corporation, who welds more influence than nearly any politician. It is not real representative democracy, it is corporatism, and it has completely debased America's government.


How have corperations lessened the amount of voting powe the 'average joe' has? I'd say the 'average joe' has done that on his/her own with the low voter turn out, and corperations, as is thier nature, have taken advantage of that situation.

In other words, the lack of voter turn out has essentially turned the US from a Democratic Republic, to an Oligarchic Republic.
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