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I noticed a segment on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS in which Naomi Klein, Eliot Spitzer, David Frum, and Stephen Dubner discuss financial regulation in the aftermath of the worst recession in over 70 years.  After Klein and Spitzer had a chance to give their views on the need for financial regulation to prevent another disaster like we experienced in 2008-09, Dubner steps in, saying

“…government right now in Washington is at this bizarre place where, if it’s not paralyzed or broken, it’s pretty darn close.  It’s really hard to…it’s really hard for me, as someone who doesn’t really traffic in the political realm willingly or all that often to see where’s a good outcome here from a political perspective because I don’t see it.”

Zakaria then goes on to agree with him:  “…on any issue if you look at…immigration, energy, it’s just paralyzed in general.”  Then Frum adds “The US government doesn’t govern well, we’ll concede that, but the American private sector does deliver unbelievable things and we are sitting here at the end of an extraordinary innovation…”

I’m pretty much done with trying to figure out if conservatives and neoconservatives actually believe that an unhinged, unfettered marketplace would yield beneficial results or are just saying so because their jobs depend on them not understanding the adverse effects of such deregulation.  The fact is that on a range of issues, from energy to healthcare to financial regulation, Republicans in Congress have blocked efforts at reform, choosing to side with their corporate paymasters who benefit financially from the status quo.  When Republicans control the executive branch, they appoint hacks to head government agencies about which they are ideologically opposed, while de-funding and under staffing those same agencies.  And then when Democrats have control, conservatives say, gee, look at how bad the government works while they block reform.

Thomas Frank was on PBS’ Bill Moyers Journal recently and discussed this stupefying phenomenon.

The analogy that works for me is that Republicans are the lead elephant on the back of our collective airplane and we are trying to take off before we reach the end of the runway, but it is a very heavy elephant.  And on issues such as climate change, the whole world is on board.

I’m trying to not be apoplectic about today’s Supreme Court decision, but, absent some Congressional intervention, I don’t see how this isn’t one of the worst things that could’ve possibly happened to progressive causes in the US.  The Republican Party, already overtly the radical wing of the business party (the other wing being the Democratic Party), will now have an unlimited flow of funds to finance its candidates in any and all US elections (judicial, congressional, gubernatorial, presidential, etc.).  If Exxon was to spend just over 2% of its 2008 profits on financing a Republican presidential candidate, it would outspend all the money spent by both McCain and Obama in the 2008 presidential election, the most expensive in history.

PBS’ Newshour has an interesting segment online.

By an accident of history (and some argue, a distortion), corporations are considered legal persons in the US.  This has allowed shills for big business to argue that the First Amendment, which grants US citizens with free speech, extends to corporations freedom to donate money to political candidates.

Fortunately, the campaign donation disclosure laws are still pertinent as upheld by the Supreme Court (Clarence Thomas dissented).

** Disclosure requirement: Any corporation that spends more than $10,000 in a year to produce or air the kind of election season ad covered by federal restrictions must file a  report with the Federal Election Commission revealing the names and addresses of anyone who contributed $1,000 or more to the ad’s preparation or distribution.

** Disclaimer requirement: If a political ad is not authorized by a candidate or a political committee, the broadcast of the ad must say who is responsible for its content, plus the name and address of the group behind the ad.

It is difficult to imagine the consequences if these disclosure laws were not upheld.

Hopefully, the Democratically-controlled Congress will pass some new laws that place some limits on corporate campaign contributions or at least allow for politicians to opt into public funding for their campaigns.

Ultimately, this is about more than the ability of corporations to bribe politicians with campaign contributions and receive favors.  I would argue that the worst problems facing the US today have not been solved as a result of corporate domination of government policy formation because corporate interests are often diametrically opposite US’ interests.  Furthermore, most of the major problems the US faces are a result of this same domination in the first place.  What happened today is the US went from being between the teeth of the corporate monster into its belly.

Update:

Kevin Drum has a distressing post on the subject.

Update II:

So, I’m probably completely wrong.

Update III:

And Kevin Drum has a another thoughtful post regarding the ruling, referencing the above Greenwald post.

I’m really ambivalent about this.  I appreciate the significance of limiting the First Amendment but I also acknowledge that this ruling unleashes corporations, which would have no qualms about selling each and every American a fistful of cyanide if it promised a good quarter for the shareholders.

I suppose a key question is where to go from here.  How can our current system limit the slant toward corporate power?

So, the Haitian earthquake has become the first big story of 2010.  The US media with all its powers and abilities is covering the story non-stop. Yet, in a truly breathtaking way that is unique, perhaps, to the US media, the story unfolding will be presented almost completely free from context.

I got a chance to watch Meet the Press this past Sunday, 01/17, and saw a brief segment (occurs at 28:20-29:00) purporting to show the history of US involvement in Haiti.  The high-tech graphic timeline begins with “1934, that’s when the US ends a nearly two decade occupation of Haiti”.  What the US was doing in Haiti in the first place is of course not mentioned.  The US sponsored 2004 coup and removal of Aristide is depicted as “US Marines land in Haiti to help restore order”.

Crooks and Liars, a liberal blog, is happy to point out a mainstream television news program, Fareed Zakaria’s GPS from 01/17/10, which depicts something slightly resembling historical context.  Zakaria presents the reason for Woodrow Wilson’s sending in the Marines as “some say that America simply wanted to protect its investments there.”  (It’s always funny when a TV journalist uses the lead-in “some say”.  It’s usually used to introduce a partisan point of view, but in this case it’s actually used to soften an already duplicitously benign viewpoint.)  Zakaria goes on to completely omit the 2004 US-sponsored coup.

The fact that this kind of historical amnesia can happen in a society that pretends it has a free press is stupefying.  But I won’t pretend it’s surprising; I’ve lived here for a while.  The corporations which own the networks which use the public airwaves have the same narrow interests as the ones they protect by omitting the history of Haiti from broadcasts.

@ntyork on twitter

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