The more money that’s given to a centralized group, whether it is the U.S. government (higher taxes), Wall Street (TARP and QE2), or a public-sector union (collective bargaining), the less valuable your vote becomes. Powerful centralized groups with lots and lots of money are exactly what our founders wanted to eliminate. As centralized powers grow, the power of your vote decreases. And it’s only going to get worse.
President Obama’s star has faded from the supernova it was in 2008—when he raised a record $750 million. Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal headline read “Financiers Switch to GOP: Hedge-Fund Titans Who Backed Democrats Open Their Wallets for Republicans.” So he’s in full campaign mode now, scrambling since the hedge funds have gone GOP. He has still got to be furious about the loosening of campaign finance rules, and the opening of the corporate money spigot, with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. But this makes me wonder: Doesn’t all this money showered on politicians and political action committees (PACs) devalue your vote?
Citizens United, by allowing corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions, seems to be a matter of job security for the average worker. Not contributing to your boss’s favorite candidate could be career suicide. Anecdotal evidence, but worth noting, is that wherever the hedge fund leader’s money goes, it’s usually followed by the money of its employees. For example, hedge fund chief John Paulson and his employees gave three times as much to the GOP as to Democrats in 2010.
Well, if you can’t beat the Supreme Court in Citizens United, you may as well make your own rules. That’s how it seems to be going down as President Obama prepares to enforce the DISCLOSE Act (which failed in Congress) by executive order. The act requires any government contractor and its employees to disclose their donations to political organizations. What’s not lost on the Obama team, I’m sure, is the size of business contributions to PACs in the 2009 and 2010 cycle. As reported by nonpartisan OpenSecrets.org, it was evenly split—$164,845,649 to Democrats and $165,871,966 to Republicans. With the DISCLOSE Act, Obama could sway that $165 million his way in 2012.
The top 100 companies in government contract work pulled in nearly $130 billion in government contracts in 2010. Don’t you think government contractors seeking work under the Obama administration’s control will have to think twice about where they send 2012 political donations if there’s a DISCLOSE Act? At the very least, a well-placed White House cabinet member may be able to nudge money to Obama since his administration controls who gets the $130 billion or so in contracts for the next two years.
Let me be clear: I’m certainly not for Citizens United v. FEC or the DISCLOSE Act. Both take away power from the average citizen. And they’ve helped make this country a political mess of gamesmanship.
On the union front, the Obama-influenced National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) went forward with a complaint by Boeing’s union to prevent the company from moving part of its production from non-right-to-work Washington state to South Carolina, a right-to-work state. Big union has a seat on the five-member committee with former SEUI lawyer Craig Becker—an Obama recess appointment. Thanks to unions, Boeing’s commercial airliner production line has been stopped four times since 1989, and a 58-day strike in 2008 cost the company $1.8 billion according to CEO Jim McNerney. I’m not blaming unions for the problems with Boeing’s 737 fuselage, which caused a Southwest jet panel to come off. But at some point doesn’t all of this become a distraction from the business of making good airplanes?
How do Craig Becker and the NLRB help you or me if we’re not members of a union? Because you can bet this has less to do with making safer jets than it does with keeping the unions happy and their political contributions flowing. According to OpenSecrets.org, 93% of labor contributions from PACs went to Democrats in 2010. Not that it helped.
Our founders made sure the states were in charge, pure and simple. That’s not the case anymore. But it could change for the better. Just look at the right-to-work fight going on at the state level around the country. As it is, the 22 right-to-work states (and potentially 23 with New Hampshire) leave it up to the individual whether or not to join a union as a condition of employment. When given a chance, with right-to-work laws, most choose not to join the union and pay dues that end up funding the political union and Democrat machine. With all this money in politics, it’s the individual’s vote—the heartbeat of America—that ends up losing.
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