Money in Politics: Where Is the Outrage?

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his wife Tonette cheer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

We might wish the uproar from the convention halls of both parties these busy weeks were the wholesome clamor of delegates deliberating serious visions of how we should be governed for the next four years. It rises instead from scripted TV spectacles — grown-ups doing somersaults of make-believe — that will once again distract the public’s attention from the death rattle of American democracy brought on by an overdose of campaign cash.

No serious proposal to take the money out of politics, or even reduce its tightening grip on the body politic, will emerge from Tampa or Charlotte, so the sounds of celebration and merriment are merely prelude to a funeral cortege for America as a shared experience. A radical minority of the super-rich has gained ascendency over politics, buying the policies, laws, tax breaks, subsidies, and rules that consolidate a permanent state of vast inequality by which they can further help themselves to America’s wealth and resources.

Their appetite for more is insatiable. As we write, Mitt Romney, after two fundraisers in which he raised nearly $10 million from the oil and gas industry, and having duly consulted with the Oklahoma billionaire energy executive who chairs the campaign’s energy advisory committee, has announced that if elected President, he will end a century of federal control over oil and gas drilling on public lands, leaving such matters to local officials more attuned to industry desires. Theodore Roosevelt, the first great advocate for public lands in the White House, would be rolling in his grave, if Dick Cheney hadn’t already dumped his bones in a Wyoming mining shaft during the first hours of the Bush-Halliburton administration.

We are nearing the culmination of a cunning and fanatical drive to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that were slowly and painstakingly built over decades to protect everyday citizens from the excesses of private power. The “city on the hill” has become a fortress of privilege, guarded by a hired political class and safely separated from the economic pressures that are upending the household stability, family dynamics, social mobility, and civic life of everyday Americans.

Socrates said to understand a thing, you must first name it. As in Athens then, so in America now: The name for what’s happening to our political system is corruption — a deep, systemic corruption.

How did we get here?

Let’s begin with the judicial legerdemain of nine black-robed magicians on the Supreme Court back in the l880s breathing life into an artificial creation called “the corporation.” An entity with no body, soul, sense, or mortality was endowed with all the rights of a living, breathing “person” under the Constitution. Closer to our own time, the Supreme Court of 1976 in Buckley vs. Valeo gutted a fair elections law passed by a Congress that could no longer ignore the stench of Watergate. The Court ruled that wealthy individuals could spend unlimited amounts of their own fortunes to get themselves elected to office, and that anyone could pour dollars by the hundreds of thousands into the war chests of political action committees to pay for “issue ads,” clearly favoring one side in a political race, so long as a specific candidate or party was not named.

Money, the justices declared in another burst of invention, was simply a form of speech.

Then, just two years ago, the Roberts Court, in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, removed any lingering doubts that the marvelous “persons” that corporations had become could reach into their golden troughs to support their candidates and causes through such supposedly “educational” devices as a movie trashing Hillary Clinton.

Meaningful oversight of campaign expenditure, necessary if representative government is to have a fair chance against rapacious wealth, was swept away. Hail to a new era in which a modestly-financed candidate is at the mercy of nuclear strikes from television ads paid for by a rich or corporate-backed opponent with an “equal right” to “free speech.” As one hard pressed Connecticut Republican, lagging behind in a primary race against a billionaire opponent outspending him twelve to one, put it: “I’m fighting someone with a machine gun and I’ve got a pistol.” When the votes were counted, even the pistol turned out to be a peashooter.

A generation ago, the veteran Washington reporter Elizabeth Drew warned against the rising tide of campaign money that would flood over the gunwales of our ship of state and sink the entire vessel. Noah’s Flood was a mere drop in the bucket compared to the tidal wave that has fulfilled Drew’s prophecy. The re-election of every member of Congress today is now at the mercy of corporate barons and private princes who can make or destroy a candidacy by giving to those who vote “right,” or lavishing funds on opponents of those who don’t.

Writing the majority opinion for Citizens United, Justice Anthony Kennedy would have us believe corruption only happens if cash passes from one hand to another. But surely as he arrives at his chambers across from Capitol Hill every morning, he must inhale the fetid air rising from the cesspool that stretches from Congress to K Street — and know there’s something rotten, beyond the naked eye, in how Washington works.

Senator John McCain knows. Having been implicated in the Keating Five scandal during the savings and loan debacle 30 years ago, he repented and tried to clean up the game. To no avail. And now he describes our elections as nothing less than “an influence-peddling scheme in which both parties compete to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder.”

For the ultimate absurdity of money’s role, we must look to another group of happy billionaires, the corporate owners of the television stations which reap handsome profits for selling the public’s airwaves to undisclosed buyers (also known as campaign contributors) who pollute the political atmosphere with millions of dollars spent on toxic ads designed to keep voters angry, dumb, or both. Every proposal is shot down or undermined that would make it a duty for those stations to devote free air time for public purposes in order to earn the licenses that they treat as permits to get rich. In one of the great perversions of the Constitution foisted on its subjects by their overlords, the public airwaves where free speech should reign have become private enclosures to which access must be bought. Free? It’s about as free as Tiffany pearls.

Money rules. And in the foul air democracy chokes and gasps, the middle class falls behind, and the poor sink from sight as political donations determine the course and speech of policies that could make the difference in the lives of ordinary people struggling in a dog-eat-dog world.

The Devil must grin at such a sorry state of affairs and at the wicked catch-22 at its core. To fight the power of private money, it is first necessary to get elected. To get elected it is necessary to raise astronomical amounts of private money from people who expect obedience in return. “That’s some catch,” says Yossarian to Doc Daneeka, and Doc agrees: “It’s the best there is.”

Where is the outrage at this corruption? Partly smoothed away with the violence, banality, and tawdry fare served up by a corporate media with every regard for the public’s thirst for distractions and none for its need to know. Sacrificed to the ethos of entertainment, political news — instead of getting us as close as possible to the verifiable truth — has been reduced to a pablum of so-called objective analysis which gives equal time to polemicists spouting their party’s talking points.

As ProPublica recently reported: “Someone who gives up to $2,500 to the campaign of President Barack Obama or challenger Mitt Romney will have his or her name, address and profession listed on the FEC website for all to see. But that same person can give $1 million or more to a social welfare group that buys ads supporting or attacking those same candidates and stay anonymous.” But when is the last time you heard one of the millionaire anchors of the Sunday talk shows aggressively pursue a beltway poobah demanding to learn about the perfidious sources of the secret money that is poisoning our politics?

At our combined ages we’ve seen it all; hope no longer springs eternal. We know the odds against reversing the hardening grip of the monied interests are disheartening. Those interests are playing to win the ferocious class war they launched 40 years ago with a strategy devised by the corporate lawyer Lewis Powell (later a Supreme Court justice) and a call to arms from the Wall Street wheeler-dealer William Simon, who had been Richard Nixon’s treasury secretary. Simon argued that “funds generated by business” would have to “rush by multimillions” into conservative causes in order to uproot the institutions and the “heretical” morality of the New Deal. He called for an “alliance” between right-wing ideologues and “men of action in the capitalist world” to mount a “veritable crusade” against everything brought forth by the long struggle for a progressive America. Business Week noted at the time “that some people will obviously have to do with less… It will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more.”

This was not meant to be. America was not intended to be a winner-take-all country. Our system of checks and balances — read The Federalist Papers — was to keep an equilibrium in how power works and for whom. Because of the vast sums of money buying up our politics, those checks and balances are fast disappearing and time is against us.

We are losing ground, but that’s the time when, more than ever, we need to glance back at the progressive crusades of a century ago to take note of what has been forgotten, or rather what braying blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have been distorting or attempting to flush down the memory hole. Robbing a nation of its historical memory is the most devastating of all larcenies because it opens the door to far worse crimes.

We have been here before. The two of us have collaborated in studying the example of the populists and progressives who over a century ago took on the financial and political corruptors. They faced heavy odds, too — a Supreme Court that exalted wealth as practically a sacred right, the distortion by intellectual and religious leaders of the theory of evolution to “prove” that the richest were the fittest to rule, the crony capitalism of businessmen and politicians.

With government in the grip of such exploiters, child labor was a fact of life, men and women were paid pittances for long hours of work and left unprotected from industrial diseases and accidents, and workers too old to be useful to employers any longer were abandoned to starvation or the poorhouse. No model laws existed to protect them.

But these pioneers of progressivism were tough citizens, their political courage fueled by moral conviction. They sensed, as the Kansas editor William Allen White wrote, that their country had fallen into the hands of self-seekers, their civilization needed recasting, and a new relationship must be forged between haves and have-nots. When the two major parties failed them they gave full throat to their discontent by fighting from outside, and when Theodore Roosevelt’s breakaway Progressive Party held its organizing convention in l912 — exactly one hundred years ago — they shook the rafters with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Oh, for such defiance today!

From the fighters of that era came a renewal of the social contract first set forth in the preamble of the Constitution — the moral and political notion of “We, the People.” Equitable access to public resources was its core, so that when the aristocrat De Tocqueville came here from France in the l830s he marveled at the egalitarian spirit he found in the new country. Public institutions, laws and regulation, as well as the ideas, norms, and beliefs embedded in the American mythos pointed to a future of prosperity open to all. That ideal survived the fires of the civil war and then the hard, cold cruelties of the industrial era and the First Gilded Age because people believed in and fought for it. They neither scorned nor worshipped wealth but were determined it would not rule.

It was on these foundations that the New Deal built the structure now under attack, with the support of a Depression-stricken nation which realized that we were all in it together — as we were in the war against fascism that followed.

But in the succeeding fat years the nation forgot something — the words of the great progressive senator Robert LaFollette from Wisconsin: “Democracy is a life and demands constant struggle.” Constant struggle. No victory can be taken for granted, no vigilance relaxed. Like the Bourbon kings of France, the lords of unrestrained, amoral capitalism never forgot anything. They learned from their defeat how to organize new strategies and messages, furnish the money to back them, and recapture control of the nation’s life. And in the absence of genuine, fight-to-the-finish resistance, they are winning big-time.

Think of where we are now. One party is scary and the other is scared. The Tea Party, the religious right, and a host of billionaires dominate the Republican Party. Secret money fills its coffers. And in the primaries this year almost every Republican inclined to compromise to make government work went down before radical and well-funded opponents with a fundamental “anti-government” mindset.

Yet even now President Obama says he is sure the Republicans will be willing to negotiate if he is re-elected. Sure, and the wolves will sit down with the lamb.

Nor is that all. In Wisconsin, salvo after salvo of campaign cash for union-busting Governor Scott Walker defeated the effort to recall him. In Pennsylvania a hardline judge has given his approval to a voter ID law specifically targeted to making it harder for low-income would-be voters to register. And such laws are proliferating like runaway cancer cells in state after state. The Tea Party and right-wing Christians furnish the shock troops of these assaults, but those who could be counted on for sturdy defense are not immune to the grinding pressures of nonstop fundraising. Democratic incumbents and challengers, in national and state canvasses likewise garner corporate contributions — including President Obama, whose fundraising advantage is about to be overtaken by Mitt Romney and the Deep Pockets to whom he is beholden. And at both conventions, the prime time show is merely window-dressing; the real action occurs at countless private invitation-only parties where CEOs, lobbyists, trade associations and donors literally cash in their chips. Writing in the New York Times, for example, Nicholas Confessore reports how The American Petroleum Institute will entertain with a concert and panels, all the while promoting an agenda that includes approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, opposition to new transparency rules for American energy companies operating abroad, and the expansion of oil production on those public lands Mitt Romney is preparing to turn over to them.

Does this money really matter? Do owls and bats fly by night? Needed reforms are dead on arrival on the floor of Senate and House. Banking regulations with teeth? Mortgage relief? Non-starters when the banks’ lobbyists virtually own Washington and the President of the United States tells Wall Street financiers he is all that stands between them and the pitchforks of an angry mob. Action on global warming? Not while the fossil fuel industries and corporate-back climate deniers have their powerful say in the matter. Cutting bloated military expenditures? Uh-uh, when it means facing a barrage of scare stories about weakening our defenses against terrorism. Spend money on modernizing our rail system or creating more public transportation in our auto-choked city streets? What heavy artillery the auto, gasoline and highway construction lobbies would rain down on any such proposal.

All of which would make a Progressive Rip Van Winkle shake his head in disbelief and grind his teeth in fury. “Where is the passion we shared for driving money from politics?” he would ask. Where indeed? Not on the floor of either of these conventions. You are unlikely to hear the name of Theodore Roosevelt praised by Republicans or of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by the Democrats, except in perfunctory terms (It was FDR, after all, who said he feared government by money as much as government by the mob.)

Each party will sing the obligatory hosannas to the middle class, give the silent treatment to the working poor, and bellow forth the platitudes of America’s “spirit of enterprise and innovation” that will restore our robust economy and world leadership. If the stagnant recovery and sufferings of the unemployed and underemployed get any mention, it will be to blame them on the other party. As for taking on the predatory rich, forget it.

Our advice: Learn something from the emptiness of what you see and hear — and if it doesn’t make you mad as hell and ready to fight back against the Money Power, we are all in real trouble.


Bill Moyers and historian Bernard A. Weisberger have collaborated on several television series, including A Walk Through the 20th Century and Report from Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention. They are now working on The Fighting Spirit: The People vs. The Gilded Age.

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  • http://twitter.com/jamenta John Amenta

    Wow. Powerful well written article. One notch above usual. Thank you.

  • SarahS

    How do we fight? Who do we fight?
    This just in from the wire services: “The Obama administration has decided to allow Shell to drill in Arctic
    waters off the Alaska coast, saying that for the time being the company
    must not go so deep as to hit actual oil because its troubled oil spill
    containment barge isn’t ready.”
    I fear this battle must be passed on to our young people who have the energy and the motivation to continue. All my life, since I first came to UC Berkeley in 1964, I have worked for progressive causes, protested against destructive and useless wars, done what I could to preserve our planet and tried to do my part to be an aware, informed citizens.

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/30/2977222/obama-to-let-shell-drill-in-arctic.html#storylink=cpy

  • Dan McCrory

    Do I, as a union leader and community activist, have a chance to get elected to public office? I don’t have rich friends or powerful allies. Should I give up before I start? I want SO MUCH to represent all the folks out there like me…

  • Dan McCrory

    Just like Sarah, I’m looking for a call to action. Do we just sit here and wring our hands in despair? Start another political party? (Which, of course, takes money). Storm the Bastille?

    BTW, minor point: the comments of De Tocqueville seemed out of place in the chronology of the history of the progressive movement. Perhaps, if you had led with that as the spirit that rose to oppose rule by the rich and powerful.

  • SalinasPhil

    I am already mad as hell about the money corrupting American politics (and global politics). But there’s no place to direct that anger. Both parties have been corrupted and there is no popular movement/uprising.

    President Obama had his chance to make real changes, after the world nearly faced The Great Depression II. He had the mandate. But no… Instead, he bowed to the special interests, took their bribes/money, and continues to do so to this day.

    So for patriots like me looking to join a revolution, there is little hope remaining. Leaving America increasingly looks like the best choice. Sad, but where are the alternatives? Where are the revolutionaries we need to get back our representative government?

  • David S.

    Here’s how to fight, and a path to winning: Pass the DISCLOSE Act to expose who pays for all the attack ads, right in the ads themselves. Take action to pass it in CA at http://www.YesFairElections.org . Take action to pass it nationally at http://www.publicampaign.org .

  • George Jetson

    I disagree. “Democracy REQUIRES an informed electorate.”
    SOMEBODY, and I’m afraid it’s us, has to push back against Fox.
    Bill’s already retired twice…. I’m afraid it’s up to us.
    As Molly Ivins said, “Keep raising hell”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1567837307 Charlotte Shapiro

    PRAY FOR IT! WAIT FOR IT! Collapse of both major parties is an imperative…

  • Fred

    I hear a lot of righteous anger from some and abject defeat from others. Some say they gave their all but it wasn’t enough and now they’re past their prime and have lost the energy to continue the battle so it is better left to the young. Sad, very sad.
    I pay attention to history, as we were all instructed to do, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”. Well, I think we’ve ignored it and repeated it just as those before us did. We had our revolution just as others have before us. When the revolution was over those who desired a return to normalcy and peace went home believing that all was now well with the world and in their land. Those who sought Power and greed stayed in the Halls of Government and found their dreams fulfilled. They not being content with normalcy and peace were lauded as being ambitious, proactive leaders willing to sacrifice all for their nation. But were they indeed making sacrifices or merely knew that the right place for making all their ambitions come true was to be in holding the reins of power. These people are the deal breakers. They are the ultimate destroyers of any idealistic society. When they have sufficiently muddied the surface of the waters with their corruption to the point that nothing below can continue to survive that is the end of the Ideal Society that was fought for and hoped for. The corrupt do not rest on their laurels they are proactive in their quest for power. While the rest sleep. We have slept far too long. The world passed us by while we did so, and now we are wondering how it happened. America might have been special, At least it was in our own minds, but in truth we are merely a mirror of all those that have gone before us. We are a flash in the pan that rose like a rocket and are falling like a meteor. We haven’t even managed to last as long as some of the more aged Empires such as Great Britain. It might be a shadow of it’s former greatness but it still exists. Will we be able to same as much. We have done everything at a rapid fire pace, including hasten our own demise. The selfish and greedy Power seekers are the most destructive force in the Universe. How do you really combat them? We have met the enemy and he is us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1057945324 Tamara Graham

    Exposing isn’t enough…we need to get rid of the $$. Join http://www.movetoamend.org to reverse Citizens United

  • Anon777777

    Wikileaks, Anonymous, Pirate Party, Occupy

  • jerry

    The piece by Lee Fang (The Nation…) on the influence of big money in politics dwarfs the present argument and puts in proper perspective what we are dealing with and why we’re doomed.

  • Ellis

    There is something that We the People can do: Work very hard for a constitutional amendment abolishing all corporate constitutional rights and banning or placing limits on money spent in campaigns/politics. The Democracy Amendment movement is already here! This November, Massachusetts voters in about 30 legislative districts will vote on a nonbinding public policy question regarding said constitutional amendment. Six other states have taken similar steps.

    There are numerous national organizations working for an amendment: Common Cause, Move To Amend, Free Speech for People, etc. These groups are really growing and, in my experience, are filled with energetic, knowledgeable, and reasonable people. There has to be hope.

  • Harryvv

    Very good article but I am so depressed and feel from your article that there is nothing that we can do. We may as well give up. Your last paragraph gives me little hope. People must be given tools to fight. How do we fight this?

  • honey

    I truly believe limiting campaign spending…and I mean limiting ALL campaign spending as well as the period of time in which to campaign(!), coupled with the “de-personizing” of corporations would be a excellent start to tackling the political corruption rampant throughout our democratic processes. The problem inherent with this proposal is, again, trying to find a legislator who is not afraid of being a “one-termer”; not afraid of going up against the big-moneyed lobbyists, party chairs, and corporate machines; not afraid of being vetted and not afraid of the media making mincemeat of her/his family for the cheap sales pitch selling TV ads, on-line space, and yes, the proverbial over-inked pages I insist on turning every morning! A new Party?….please…this Country won’t even go to the polls to vote! Really, what can so few do to stop the over-moneyed power houses?

  • Anonymous

    “Our advice: Learn something from the emptiness of what you see and hear — and if it doesn’t make you mad as hell and ready to fight back against the Money Power, we are all in real trouble.”

    I have learned, I am mad, I am fighting back. I’m part of a growing community of people doing the same. But this community can’t even get a mention, much less support from people who will react viscerally to this article, much less the authors.
    The Green Party has been trying to build a movement and forge a practice of politics in the very way this article hopes to see our system rehabilitated. Yet we get virtually no press for this effort. How is this change supposed to happen if those who are doing it are ignored?? So perhaps you don’t completely agree with the aims of the Green Party but at least learn from the struggles which we’ve experienced because I guarantee that whatever type of party you and others seek to form that positions itself in opposition to this vast plutocratic empire , you’ll have an uphill battle. Third parties need to band together to deal with the gerrymandered rules that the major parties engineer to keep usurpers from the electoral process . . . this is in addition to being blocked from debates, ignored by the media, and now even marginalized within the community of outraged folks? If you truly think you’re going to “rehabilitate” the Democratic party, that the answer, as I’ve heard for decades, is to work within this party to change it, well . . . those decades have taught me that it’s hopeless, indeed I think we all recognize that the Dems take as much money from corporate interests as Republicans, sometimes even consecutive checks from the same donors!!
    Please Bill Moyers, pay attention to the Green Party and other emerging parties bent on fighting this money-ficiation of our democracy. You have the national platform to speak out on this but we have to actually put all of this frustration into action. Our presidential ticket of Dr. Jill Stein and anti-poverty activist Sherri Honkala, as well as our Green New Deal plan, deserve attention, even if it’s critical. But to just ignore people who are trying to practice democracy as it should be done, with no corporate funding, appealing to the average voter for funding and on the ground support, and a platform hammered out by real people, not special interests. I just gave the campaign $250, which will be matched as the Stein campaign has qualified for matching funds, something laughed at and ignored by the Romney and sadly, the Obama ticket as well.
    The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And reclaiming our democracy starts with what may seem to the jaded a small, impossible campaign.
    Please register Green to make a statement, please blog, email, post, and cover the Stein/Honkala campaign, and those of other Greens running, and consider voting for Jill Stein and Sherri Honkala, and Greens on your local ballot, and fight for their right to be on the ballot. Don’t just get mad, get busy!!

  • Anonymous

    The Green Party has the aims you’re looking for in terms of fighting back, and we are already formed and on the ballot in 43 states, also qualifiying for matching funds, the way campaigns ought to be financed and limited to. Please check out our platform (www.gp.org) , our Green New Deal plan (http://www.jillstein.org/green_new_deal) and our candidates, Jill Stein and Sherri Honkala (www.jillstein.org) , as well as local candidates who may be running in your area. We exist. We don’t get much press in the major media, but are you surprised, considering who owns them?

  • Anonymous

    Yes, you do! Consider joining with your local Green Party activists. There may already be a ballot line in existence. Electoral rules are often made by major parties to make it difficult for new candidates and new parties to run but we’ve been fighting to open this up all over the nation. Our presidential ticket is on the ballot in 43 states and counting. It can be done! If it’s something you want to pursue, by all means run!

  • 1 Ol Witch

    In my 70s, after nursing my husband through his cancer death, I am exhausted at every level. I worked as a therapist and RN in one of the most violent cities in our country and it broke my heart repeatedly. All my life I combined spirituality with activism (after escaping my abuser) with writing. I was able to change the HMO that employed me for the better by educating and campaiging there. Now I find my letters to the editor no longer get published. My Fed. Rep. knows me by name. (And white hair!) I voted Green in every election that a Republican won, so it didn’t look like the best option to me. And, Petra Kelly’s murder, only added to the impression of having already lost. My Governor and my President, bothy of whom I mistook for Progressives, even my own county leaders, ignore my letters and calls. Frankly, I feel helpless, overwhelmed and probably irrelevant. Occupy doesn’t seem the most effective action to me–street theater does. And, my time for demonstrations has passed unless I want to die being pepper sprayed, imprisoned or tasered, the accurate probably outcome of any of those regular brutalities. I’m supporting two generations and don’t even want to be martyred, that aside. The world wouldn’t blink at my death– just their world. I read one book after another about this, and find no solution from my energy expendature. I turn the baton over to you with a whole heart, energy, and credibility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/linda.l.skinner.1 Linda L. Skinner

    A lot of us are ready to fight back — but how??? With votes that don’t matter? Protests that are ignored? How do we start the revolution>>

  • 1 Ol Witch

    You have my heartfelt empathy and I share your wondering if there is anything to be done? May we all be kinder to ourselves and each other.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Catherine-Mason/705689570 Catherine Mason

    Unfortunately the Constitution can only be amended by the people in power now. If we had a national referendum process, we might have an avenue for the changes needed. Until that or something like it happens, we are in the hands of our bought-and-paid-for “representatives”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thomas.spalding.5 Thomas Spalding

    Robert Burns “All that and All That.”

  • OttisJ

    This was a refreshing read.
    Thank you so much for this history lesson. Baby boomers and Generation X need a better
    education on these sorts of things. We live in age were we are able to get information
    just by going to Google, but I will gladly state that nothing will ever replace
    a story passed down generation to generation. We have forgotten that.

    Reading the other comments allowed me to see the frustration
    that exists out there among the people. I am equally frustrated and mad as
    hell. I have also allowed my desperation to become despair over time. Fortunately,
    some things have happened over the last few days to restore my hope. The
    Judicial system has restored my faith in our system by judging against the
    efforts to deny the vote in Texas, Florida, and Ohio. I am aware the fight is
    not over yet, but it is nice to see that there are still officials out there who
    still know wrong from right. Yesterday, President Obama stood before the troops
    at Ft. Bliss and acknowledged some truths about the last 10 years that have not
    been spoken in the mainstream very often. He said,” So
    here’s my pledge to you. In a world of serious threats, I will never hesitate
    to use force to defend the United States of America or our interests. At the
    same time, I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely
    necessary. And when we do, we will give you the equipment and the clear mission
    and the smart strategy and the support back home that you need to get the job
    done. We owe you that.” He also introduced policy to assist our
    Soldier’s back at home. Lastly, I read this article and the comments following
    which affirm to me that there are many like-minded people out there. We just
    need to figure out how to get everyone together in a way that is organized and
    meaningful. The occupy movement was /is a taste of this, but it lacks focus and
    leadership in my opinion.

    I do not agree with those that ask that we support the Green Party
    simply because they are already organized. I believe it was that type of
    thinking that has gotten us to this point with the two party systems. I will
    however, educate myself about the party and the candidates. Change will only
    come when those whom still believe in respect for each other and compromise bridge
    the gap between the not so far right and the far left.

    Those of you who are tired
    are right to say this is the fight of people my age and below, but you also
    play an important role. Just as Mr. Moyer’s has done in this essay, you need to
    share your life experiences with us. We have not had our big opportunity to
    stand and fight for what is right and because a large number of us don’t even
    know life without a Microwave, we need help to understand the feelings and
    emotions from your past that some would like us to repeat. Please educate us on
    the social justice techniques of your era. I’m not talking about the things in
    the history books, but instead the things that went on behind the scenes. Do
    not ever be so tired that you cannot share your story of America with someone
    else.

    We like to blame our politician’s for everything that has been
    going on in this country, but the truth is we may only look as far as our own
    apathy and presumed comfort. Things could not have gone this wrong without our
    apathy and now they are counting on us to continue down the same road. In fact they
    expect it so much that they do not even mind getting on national TV and telling
    bold face lies over and over again. They believe we are ignorant and will
    continue to be so. This was a method used exclusively with minorities over the
    years, but now that we have a person of color in office it is good for every one
    of us.

    I’m an I’ve got a greater God than any amount of your money
    Christian, so I refuse to be lured into the we can do nothing without money
    trap. My solution is to be engaged and to stay informed. Much like the Arab Summer the internet is our
    greatest ally in this fight. We have to be willing to reach out and touch other
    like-minded citizens, but more than that we have to be willing to challenge those
    on both sides who have fallen prey to lies. We must share and repost
    non-partisan articles such as this one provided by Mr. Moyer. We have to do
    this even if are Facebook friend’s hate us sharing politics on our page.
    Remember there is a delete button.

    We need only look as far as Iraq to see the chaos and clutter that
    comes from a government infiltrated by corruption. There is a fight to be had
    here at home and it is not one of weapons and bombs. It is well past time that
    the citizens serve as our Soldiers have over the last 10 years. If we get this
    wrong we will not be able to just take down our tents and go home. This is our home
    and we will be stuck with it. The question really is, are you going to struggle
    for what is right now, or are you going to wait and struggle from underneath
    those with the most money. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have stood on
    stages in the past couple of days and touted about what it means to be
    American. They were both right on target. We are Americans, and when faced with
    insurmountable odds we do not wither, we do not quit. Those of you whom are
    tired go ahead and take rest, but then stand up and get back in the fight.

  • http://twitter.com/moonietwoeyes susan axtell

    Hang in there Ol Witch…YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are lots of us gray panthers out here wondering what to do. How do you convince people of what’s going on when they are completely hypnotised by their technology? Someday the big guns will come out…pointed at the children once more. I will be on those front lines (even if it’s in a wheel chair!) and the first round will take me down, hopefully giving those kids behind me enough time to run and find another day to fight again. Never give up…never surrender.

  • Steve Shay

    Hillary Clinton would now be president were it not for Chicago billionaires including the Pritzkers, Crowns, and Oprah Winfrey.

  • MBrecker

    Here’s one of my ways to help out: http://tinyurl.com/9mj4la4

  • TWells

    Did someone give y’all a bunch of sad sack suds???

    The one change I’d make to this article is don’t get mad—get CREATIVE people!

    Its true that we can’t beat their strength (money) –so we will have to be more cunning! Don’t play their game –play the game YOU are good at. There are all sorts of ways to inspire resistance. And, just as the Occupy Movement grew because it gave voice to the unspoken inklings of so many people, so too can a movement grow that is based on sustainability, human dignity, health and well being.

    ANY steps you take- is one more drop in the bucket.

    From buying locally grown produce, to hanging a banner on an overpass, wearing shirts, posting signs, and supporting alternative education models — It matters. And it can inspire others.

    The old slogan was “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Well, we still need to “tune in,” and “drop out” of the commercial economy. Don’t work for them. Don’t give them your money. They hate that.

  • TWells

    If you used a pressure washer to write the words “Ayn Rand was EVIL” on a dirty overpass, or concrete barrier — could you get arrested for destruction of property –if you were CLEANING it?

    Just wondering…

  • http://www.facebook.com/cameron.wyman.7 Cameron Wyman

    Maybe were being invaded by some demonic alien life form that possesses our leaders, then sucks the brains and goodness out of them, and is causing them to do devilish deeds? That would explain all the corruption by our leaders, because no good person could just stand by and do nothing and just accept it. I don’t accept it one bit, and will fight to change it, as any good American would. America is about fighting corruption not creating it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=542889795 Carol Burke

    I’m mad as hell and out there fighting for our life!

  • Anonymous

    Bill and Bernie expand on and provide detail to the points I made in this following post a while back: The real question is why do SO many middle and working class people continue to support candidates and policies, that conflict directly with their own best interests? Come on people! Sharpen your critical thinking skills. Do your own research. Understand that many conservatives aren’t offering a well reasoned, fact-based agenda or, are making valid arguments about the economic realities we face, they are simply lying. They hope by repeating the same hollow talking points frequently and with conviction, that you will believe it’s true. They appeal to your fears or, biases and count on you failing to question their rhetoric, or the validity of their claims. Mitt is the very embodiment of those who have spent the last 30+ years, outsourcing and downsizing your job, stagnating your wages and subverting the American dream of upward socioeconomic mobility…all with your unwitting help.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cindy-Malzan/100003124705487 Cindy Malzan
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cindy-Malzan/100003124705487 Cindy Malzan

    Go to http://www.unitedrepublic.org or http://www.rootstrikers.org. These are two organizations working together along with many affiliate organizations, such as http://www.citizenaction.org, http://www.movetoamend.org among others, to get the money out of politics. United Republic and Rootstrikers were started by a Harvard lawyer, business persons, and, yes, even a former lobbyist. They have been working on supreme court proof legislation, but expect to need the assistance of the concerned public as citizen co-sponsors because it is doubtful any politician will sponsor it. If they did and it didn’t pass, then they don’t get any big money or ALEC donations anymore. I like the idea of a million or more citizen sponsors ,but it will take a lot of work to get them. Protests are not really ignored. The police, and sometimes even the FBI, take notice and shut them down. Most protests are too small. We need larger numbers of people. Multiple thousands. Like we get at football games. But it seems people don’t want to come out to save their way of life. At least at my office, people are not hurting enough financially to get out of their chairs and do something. They like what I am doing, but they say they are too busy, or they have children and families or it’s not going to matter anyway. Well, those are excuses. I work FT, I have a family and a teenager and I have a lot of medical concerns. I still participate in demonstrations, marches sometimes with a walker, always in pain. I write letters to the editor. I actively promote participation in the above organizations. I will be going to the united republic conference in Dallas in 2013. I just got back from a march in Albany NY. Went to DC last year. There are many many people just like me and we will succeed. I have to believe that. I know we won’t succeed if we don’t try. It may seem like we have already become a Imperial Empire, but we still have a chance and I won’t give up. I hope you don’t either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.elgee.5 Pat Elgee

    BRIBERY, TREASON, AND OTHER HIGH CRIMES AGAINST THE STATE are grounds for IMPEACHMENT ! It is in the Constitution which all elected swear to uphold! But “contributions” are just the way things are done these days. Billions go into the pockets of Congressmen every year! More heavily to republicans.

    Not even term limits will stop this ILLEGAL momentum. Two terms in the House, two terms in the Senate equal 4+4+6+6=20 years (right?) and enough time to do plenty of damage.

    Romney wants to give the oil companies free rein like they gave Wall Street, Free Market. We saw the greed of Wall Street. Oil companies and special interests OWN Romney. While this may do him plenty, it will do nothing for the people.

    What Obama needs to do is promise to at least put in term limits. He also needs to ask the people to vote him a democratic congress so he can get done the work that the Republicans refused to do.

    That republican philosophy that give the breaks to big business, and the good stuff will trickle down on the common man has been proven a lie. It is more a Trickle On deal !

  • Tall Stacey

    Regardless of who wins in November, I expect difficult times. What do people do who have nothing left to loose? I fear for our future. Stock your larders, prepare for the worst.

  • maggieb

    Yes, we need a way to some get media coverage for the third party candidates, many of whom aren’t accepting special interest money on principle. But the press doesn’t even acknowledge them, they won’t be invited to debates, and are fighting just to get on the ballot.

    It’s a catch 22. Even people that believe in these alternative candidates (like Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson) are too scared to endorse them because it might take away votes from Obama. They are more willing to stick with what they see as the “lesser of two evils”.

    It would take a media miracle to make these candidates viable. Look what they did to Ron Paul! Seems like the only hope is to infiltrate the media. Or maybe a social media campaign would work, but it would have to be very well organized and unified- right now there are too many parties and candidates floating around.

  • http://twitter.com/DollMakerBarb Barb Shillinger

    I am in my late sixties and have never been politically involved until the years leading up to the 2008 election. I was totally in disbelief that Bush was able to “steal” the election from Gore with the help of his brother’s state. I am furious at the five Justices on the Supreme Court who gave us the Citizens United decision. I have always believed that the Supreme Court stood for fairness but that decision changed my mind about that!! I am outraged and have joined our local “Occupy” movement, which is stalled at the moment. I am very surprised that many of my friends are content to sit on the sidelines and watch the Religious Right coopt our democratic form of government. Perhaps if most people feel that way, we actually DESERVE what is happening to our country. If we are so self-satisfied that we don’t want to make any “waves;” that we don’t work to make sure everyone gets treated well in our country, that workers are paid a living wage, and that corporations are NOT people, regardless of what those five justices say, then maybe we are getting exactly what we deserve: a country run by big corporations who are supported by a religious “lunatic fringe” who somehow think their own good is bound up in these giant businesses.

  • http://twitter.com/DollMakerBarb Barb Shillinger

    I think Obama WANTED to fix things, but every time he tried, the Republicans prevented it. I am hoping that if the Democrats get a majority in both houses, then some of what he wants to do will actually succeed. That said, I know that the big corporations influence both parties.

  • http://twitter.com/AriannaEditrix Arianna

    I have learned, over the course of my lifetime, that while you can live on hope, it’s a starvation diet. So, now, more than ever, though I’ve done it since I was a teen in the 70′s, I do what my mother called “the work”. For her mother, it was finding something for a hobo to do on the farm, so he’d feel pride in earning his meal and bed. For my mother, it was Civil Rights, Head Start and Migrant Education programs. For me, it was initially ending Vietnam and passing the ERA. Now, “the work”, to me is about building community and is more important than ever. Occupy, for all its’ faults, did get people out of their houses and face to face for the first time in a long time. I think it is an imperative, if we are to save any vestige of our societal ideal that we step outside of our comfort zones, engage with people unlike ourselves and have the hard conversations or do the hard things that will enable us to find common ground and work together to repair our country. I often do despair of our country, but I believe, that whilst civilization as we know it may not survive, only in community will the human race survive.
    For my mom, and all the other women and men who “work”:
    The Work

    I do the Work
    The Work is not online, out of touch, over budget
    The Work is outside your zone, or on the streets, often in someone’s face
    The Work is not sexy, stylish, neither synthetic nor shallow
    It can’t be because the Work is very, very hard…
    Back breaking, mind blowing, soul searing…
    HARD.
    It’s in the homeless shelters and shanty towns
    in the food pantry and the farmer’s fields
    in the crisis centers and city streets.

    It makes us sweat, cry and even scream

    It makes us flail, fail, fall and go at it again
    To finish the Work is only a dream
    It will never end.
    We do the Work to change
    Change hunger, homelessness, poverty, despair
    one human life for the better and go on…because…
    The Work never ends.

    The Work doesn’t care.
    If you have a job and are tired.
    If you are sick or retired.
    If you have no time or other things to do.
    If you think need can’t happen to you.
    If you are a capitalist, communist, socialist, or realist or nihilist.
    If you are a Democrat, Republican, Green or Independent.

    If you CARE…
    The Work requires only one thing,
    Your willingness to do it.

    When people starve, are sick, in dire straights, or dying.
    When people give up, on themselves, their family, children or nation.
    The Work once done is undone.
    It is undone because We are not done.

    Fewer people do the Work these days
    Many support it, say they’d do more if they could or knew what they should do
    Many forget, that at some point,
    Somewhere, somehow, someone was doing the Work and it helped them.

    There is no reward for doing the Work.
    No plaudits, plaques or gold watches.
    Those it helps may not seem to appreciate it.
    Others mock it, degrade it, decry and deny it.
    They hate you for wanting to do the work, let alone doing it.
    They say it’s pointless,hopeless, futile and foolish.
    Don’t listen to the naysayers, the “no’s” and “not nows”
    Don’t ever believe them.
    It must be “yes!” and “RIGHT NOW!”
    We have no choice anymore…
    But to do the Work.

  • http://twitter.com/AriannaEditrix Arianna

    Susan and Ol Witch…I’m out here, the “water” of Occupy is a bit choppy for elders, but keep swimming. They need US too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nancy.sharnet Nancy Sharnet

    It does make me mad that money is so powerful!

  • ckreview

    Thank you Bill Moyer (and colleague). There are few journalists left, and your efforts are appreciated and applauded.

    I do fear for this country.

    Someone said to me, “The fix is in,” when George Bush was elected. I thought they were a crackpot. Turns out they were just more aware of the scheme of things than I was.

    So I find myself totally abhorring the Repubs, and yet, look how much Obama has acted like a Repub– no public option; NDAA expanded, an entire shadow military in power now.

    A Canadian friend says many there have long thought this country would wind up a police state. What can we do? Other than the feeble “Occupy” movement, the young in this country sure don’t seem to be rising up against anything. They’re too busy watching big-screen TV in their parents’ basement.

  • Anonymous

    SalinasPhil, you can’t overlook the role played by congress in making it difficult for President Obama to pass certain legislative initiatives. Remember Congress are the lawmakers and the law passers and in the 112th congress in particular– the one currently seated– they have passed fewer laws than any congress in the past century. It’s not that the President doesn’t send over proposals. It’s that so many of them get voted down by the Republican majority. And I share your disappointment in the Democrats in Congress. When the Democrats had the majority, during the first two years of Obama’s term, they weren’t aggressive enough in pushing through real reforms. But the point is, a big share of blame for the President’s not having been able to get stuff done, is the role of Congress, which by our Constitution is charged with making and passing laws.

  • Greg

    Just finished reading the article and the posts. Thank you all for being citizens and for caring. There is hope. I, like many of you, also agree that we need to de-fang the corporate monster and remind our government that –as Nader always has said–it is by and for the people. peace brother and sisters see you on the street some time soon.

  • Bruce Korb

    Unless and until the Senate reverts the filibuster rules to what it was before, you need 60 loyal votes. (Thus exempting Lieberman.) I don’t like litmus tests for candidates, but support for filibuster reform needs to become one.

  • KimK

    Thank you, Bill and Bernie, for naming the beasts and issuing a clarion call to pay attention and take action. This is a powerful commentary which I’m sharing with my family and friends. I hope you’ve struck a nerve that will energize many to action.

    Many thanks as well to all the informed folk below who identified organizations working to get democracy back on track. I’m a Baby Boomer taught by my dad to “never give up” so I’m going to look into the groups suggested below, find a group I can support and get busy working for change.

  • petsrpeople2

    May I suggest that you read Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig. And Check out Rootstrikers.org. There are many ‘revolutions’ going on.
    Petsrpeople2

  • Invested

    Yes, but in the meantime we NEED Barack Obama to stave off drastid and likely irreversible destruction….

  • Invested

    Yes, but in the interim we NEED Barack Obama so as to avoid grave and likely irreversible destruction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=646389468 Michal Mudd

    Every election we’re told we need the equally corporately-funded Democratic candidate who will fix it all if we just hold our noses and believe. Millions do. Then come the midterm we get the hue and cry that nothing is changing, we need a third party! Then comes another election season, and the same folks who swore they learned the truth and will never vote for a corporately-controlled candidate again, argue that it’s not time to actually take action on supporting that third party (maybe *next* time) and line up to enter the voting booth to vote for the next equally corporately-funded Democratic candidate who will fix it all if we just hold our noses and believe . . . .

  • Tim McDonnell

    It’s no conspiracy theory, but an empirical matter of public record, that the wholesale buying, packaging and re-marketing of candidates has been a common practice since Teapot Dome in the 1920s. Technology and the price tag are the only differences in 100 years of corporate shell games. Bill Moyers is right to ask, “Where is the outrage?” The answer? Buried under the Kardashians by Burson+Marsteller, Hill+Knowlton and Albert Lasker’s Lord & Thomas Company.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.bergsten Chris Bergsten

    The Democrats and the Republicans are not EXACTLY the same, as some people have asserted. One is clearly more insane and radical – even evil – than the other. But they have two extremely important things in common: they’re both addicted to dirty corporate money.

    The Democrats are not, repeat, NOT crusaders for truth, justice, and the American way. At best, their callow resistance will only slow our ongoing slide into fascism and open bigotry; we are still getting there by degrees. At worst, they actually grease the slide, cooperating with Republicans with one hand while denouncing them with a sockpuppet worn on the other.

    Cowards and short-sighted fools are easily moved by fear, and so they urge the rest of us to vote for Obama – Obama the liar, the drone murderer, the war criminal, the man who sold us out to private health insurance companies, the man who signs trade agreements that ship more and more American jobs overseas, who treated Occupy with withering disregard, and more. “Reelect this man,” they say, “or else!”

    No, we absolutely do not need Obama to save us, any more than we would need pine logs to put out a house fire. What we need is someone like Jill Stein – someone who has real progressive policies and isn’t owned by wealthy secret donors. And she can’t do it alone; we need third parties in Congress, and the state houses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=588918364 Scott Spinucci

    I have the answers. I’ve been working on a solution – discussed in my documentary that needs a home. Bill – we need to meet. I’ve interviewed everyone from Lawerence Lessig to Roseanne Barr to Gary Johnson on the topic of taking money out of politics. I offer a novel solution. Contact me please: scottspinucci@yahoo.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=588918364 Scott Spinucci

    Bill, We do not have a money so much as we have a media problem. We can solve this problem without an amendment. The problem has been in the framing of this issue. You yourself are part of the problem (sorry to say as I have tremendous respect for you. Just Please give me a meeting and I will prove it to you. – Scott

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.elgee.5 Pat Elgee

    I think that the numbers now reflect that we were in Great Depression II, and if GM went down would have been in the deep abyss. Perhaps if Obama put on his platform that he needs a democratic congress to get big money out of politics, if he acknowledged and explained the corruption to the voters who are unaware, he might be in the position to clean it up. Again ACCEPTING BRIBARY IS GROUNDS FOR IMPEACHMENT.
    It appalled me when ITT built Nixon a 9 hole golf course on his CA estate, and it appalls me that big oil gave Romney $10 million. They own him!
    Sorry to digress. . . but one thing that really makes me hoot is how Romney keeps pushing home that he “looks” presidential. Well, if you squint your eyes, he could be mistaken for Reagan. Apparently some voters bought that, and he got the nomination! And if you want to be honest, Obama does not look like any other President in American history.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.elgee.5 Pat Elgee

    Perhaps we can dump tea in the harbor. We have Taxation without Representation again. Big corporations bought our Congress. We are not representated!
    Bill, thanks for letting us vent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.elgee.5 Pat Elgee

    I thought that if I ran I would like to outlaw lobbyist. Nobody in Congress could take bribes. I would make mpg ratings of all auto fleets increase yearly, I would really push to limit the use of oil and gasoline, I would cap oil profits–Can you even imagine how well funded my oppostion would be
    Better laugh or the tears will come through.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.elgee.5 Pat Elgee

    It is already in the Constitution! They named the grounds for impeachment: ACCEPTING BRIBERY, TREASON, AND OTHER HIGH CRIMES AGAINST THE STATE. Back when, I thought it was stupid when they were going after Nixon for Watergate when ITT built him a 9 hole golf course. They had a monopoly until he left office, then Ford busted that trust. Now you tell politicians that there will be no more accepting bribery and they will tell you that is simply how things are done these days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.elgee.5 Pat Elgee

    The states can bring a national referendum as well as Congress to amend the Constitution. Only one is needed to start the ball rolling. :)

  • Ellis

    Yes, you are right. And we both know that one in Washington will use it. I’m sticking with the amendment route.
    At least there is a good chance to stir up a national debate at the grassroots level. Look at the percentages of Independents, Dems, and Reps who believe that money has corrupted our government. This is where the struggle is beginning. Check out the websites for Move to Amend, Free Speech for People, etc. Read these: Corporations Are Not People by Jeff Clements and Unequal Democracy by Thom Hartmann. There are many things that can be done to begin the change. Cheers.

  • Ellis

    An afterthought: Check out Lawrence Lessig’s book Republic Lost. He maintains that Congress thinks of itself as clean. And it’s kinda true. There is little quid pro quo in Washington. Our elected officials would declare their innocence of bribery and legally they would be right. It is the culture of reciprocity that is corrupting. Try writing laws to rectify that morass.