Archive for the Politics Category

AIG – Always Into Giving

Posted in Politics on April 5, 2009 by lylede

I highly doubt any of the thieves from AIG will ever be prosecuted. And Congress put on a pathetic, shameful display of pretending to be outraged over the retention bonuses AIG executives received after being bailed out by taxpayers – when many lawmakers knew all along about the bonuses!

AIG went from a respectable company to one that devised a “scheme that smacks of securities fraud” according to What Cooked the World’s Economy? It Wasn’t Your Overdue Mortgage – The Village Voice, 1-27-09. The article points out how AIG’s Financial Products unit wrote credit derivatives policies (insurance policies for investors) that AIG didn’t have the money to cover. And to get around those pesky American insurance reserve requirements AIG moved its Financial Products group to London.

And why won’t anyone from AIG go to jail? Two words: campaign contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn., and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee) has accepted $281,038 from AIG in campaign money, the highest amount of any politician, from 1989 to 2008. No wonder Dodd lied, got embarrassed, then backtracked when he initially claimed he was not a member of the conference committee that wrote a provision to the economic stimulus bill allowing companies receiving taxpayer bailout money to pay retention bonuses. Not only was Dodd a member of the committee but he played a key role in allowing these shameful bonuses.

As for other politicians accepting campaign money from AIG the Center for Responsive Politics lists George W. Bush coming in second with a haul of $200,560. Number three is Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) with $111,875, while number four is President Barack Obama at $110,332. Right behind the president is Senator John McCain (R-AZ) with $99,249 of largesse.

Congress needs to put in place some serious lobbying and campaign contribution reforms. Legislation is bought on a daily basis at the local, State and Federal levels of our governing system. This is something the founding fathers did not intend and I’ve yet to see this sad fact of our system provided for anywhere in the Constitution.

One reason our economy crashed is because the financial industry wanted deregulation and got it – by spending over $300 million on a successful lobbying / campaign contribution effort to get rid of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act (see Obama Urges Regulation in Wake of Housing Slump – NY Times 3-27-08).

Once the sensible, regulatory measures of Glass-Steagall were no longer law mortgage lenders and Wall Street – working in collusion – ran amok. For more on this see “How $350 Million Destroyed Our Economy.”

As for other problems we’re facing because of the corrupt nature of our system and campaign contributions, the list goes on:

We still don’t have comprehensive healthcare reform in this country because the health insurance companies make billions of dollars each year – and don’t want anything changed. So they contribute mightily to both political parties to do exactly nothing and Congress complies – by doing nothing!

We’re still hooked on oil and coal, while we’ve known for decades we need to get off of both. But Big Oil and Big Coal give lawmakers millions (if not billions!) of dollars of campaign contributions annually. As a result we still burn too much oil and coal and what does Congress do? Not only nothing about getting us off these harmful fossil fuels but lawmakers actually gave Big Oil a multi-billion dollar tax break during Bush’s first term as payback – while the oil companies were making record profits and gouging consumers at the pump!

We still have too many guns, including extremely deadly assault rifles, on the streets of our cities. In 1994 Congress banned assault rifles but it was a weak law that only lasted ten years. And once the GOP took over Congress and the great “Decider” was pretending to be a president the last thing they were going to do was anger their NRA donors by extending the ban (and in all fairness I’m certainly aware that plenty of Democrats also take campaign money from the NRA).

Mexican drug cartels are currently running amok in many Mexico-U.S. border cities, causing the Mexican Army to move into several areas. These murderous gangs are buying high-powered assault weapons from the thousands of U.S.-based gun dealers who’ve set up shop on the border. While I think the “right to bear arms” Constitutional argument is incredibly weak I seriously doubt it covers arming Mexican drug gangs (for more on this see “The right to bear arms” While Arming Mexican Drug Cartels).

It’s time for Congress to stop acting on behalf of its campaign contributors and start working for the people of this country. And it is imperative that we figure out a way to get corporate money out of politics. 

Additional reading:

For a scathing, brilliant rebuttal to “Dear AIG, I quit!” NY Times op-ed 3-24-09 by former AIG Financial Products employee Jake DeSantis (who wants people to re-think their anger toward AIG) read Matt Taibbi’s AIG Exec Whines About Public Anger, and Now We’re Supposed to Pity Him? Yeah, Right – The Smirking Chimp 3-27-09.

Smoke-Out the Smokers

Posted in Politics on March 15, 2009 by lylede

According to Administration open to taxing health benefits – NY Times 3-15-09, President Obama “could support taxing some employee health benefits, as several influential lawmakers and many economists favor, to help pay for overhauling the health care system.”

This is a terrible idea and the last thing we need is more taxes. Our healthcare and insurance systems certainly need an overhaul and unfortunately there are no inexpensive, easy answers.

One thing I would do, to make health insurance more affordable, is outlaw every plan from paying for any healthcare related to smoking illnesses. If somebody wants to smoke cigarettes fine, but make them pay for their healthcare 100% on their own.

Its obscene and galling that one reason health insurance is so expensive is because people with coverage contribute to the cost of covering and providing healthcare for people who smoke.

We’ve known for decades how incredibly bad smoking is to our bodies. If somebody is addicted to cigarettes all the non-addicts should not be contributing to paying for the addict’s healthcare. While this is a harsh measure and people would suffer terribly and die two things could also happen: when smokers realize they have to pay for their healthcare 100% some would stop smoking, and health insurance costs should decrease.

Ban Political Advertising to Restore Our Democracy

Posted in Politics on March 7, 2009 by lylede

Our political system is terribly corrupt because for decades politicians have been accepting campaign contributions from special interests and wealthy corporations. The politicians then pay back their contributors by passing legislation or doling out contracts that only benefit whoever donated to the politician. Legislation is bought and because of this our economy has crashed. 

According to Obama Urges Regulation in Wake of Housing Slump – NY Times 3-27-08 “the banking and insurance industries spent more than $300 million on a successful campaign to repeal the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.” Once the sensible, regulatory measures of Glass-Steagall were no longer law mortgage lenders and Wall Street – working in collusion – ran amok. For more on this see “How $350 Million Destroyed Our Economy.” We now face the worst economic crisis in history. 

It is time to fight the gross amount of political corruption so legislation is no longer purchased by special interests and wealthy corporations. One way to reduce the amount of money candidates need to raise is to completely ban all political advertisements from television, radio, newspapers, magazines and the Internet. The costs to produce and place these ads are astronomical. And I’m certainly all for free speech. But when it’s only available to a select few – instant multi-millionaires who are then beholden to their contributors – it’s grossly corrupt, abused and inefficient. 

It would also be such an extreme pleasure, during elections, not to be bombarded by the media with the pathetic bullshit that comes from every political advertisement. 

If all political advertising were banned from TV, radio, the Internet and print politicians could still use cyberspace to get the word out about their ideas and campaigns. And while they already do, this should be their only outlet. Voters could simply look up the candidates online (by doing a quick search of people running for office in their district), go to the candidates’ websites and see where they stand on the issues. 

I highly doubt the founding fathers of this country intended for legislation to be bought, practically on a daily basis at the local, state and Federal levels, like it currently is. We’re not living in a democracy anymore, but a plutocracy bordering on an oligarchy. It’s time to become democratic again.