Welcome to the world’s first Continuum book series. When the book ends, the story doesn’t. The Writer and Victoria live and interact with the real world. Get to know them in real time as the story continues and fiction becomes reality! She’s on a mission to understand the human species. He’s a handicapped writer who understands the human species all too well. View in landscape mode for the best website experience.
Welcome to the world’s first Continuum book series. When the book ends, the story doesn’t. The Writer and Victoria live and interact with the real world. Get to know them in real time as the story continues and fiction becomes reality! She’s on a mission to understand the human species. He’s a handicapped writer who understands the human species all too well. View in landscape mode for the best website experience.

Branching Out

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The Year of My Life: reminiscences and rants: Politics — © 2016 —Available on Amazon

Sometimes I wonder what has happened to this country.  We started out with such noble intentions.  The founding fathers came up with a system of government that was “incorruptible.” The plan was to have three branches of government.  Each branch needed the other two to survive.  In this system of checks and balances, the Congress would propose the laws and the President of the United States had the power to veto any perspective law that was seen as an overstepping of boundaries.  Congress had the power to override that veto, but it wasn’t easy.  An impartial Supreme Court had the obligation to nullify or let stand any law that was deemed to be unfair by “We the People.”  It was felt that the Supreme Court of the United States couldn’t be subverted, until it was.

It happened slowly, over a long period of time.  The political party siblings became more set in their ways as they grew up.  Instead of growing closer, they grew further and further apart.  They fought constantly and, at times, hated each other.  But they always loved their baby brother, SCOTUS, because he was always the voice of reason and never took sides.  SCOTUS would always ask why circumstances and the situations surrounding those circumstances existed.  He would don an impartial blindfold and weigh the validity of both sides on the ever present scales of justice.  He did this because he loved both of his brothers equally; until the day that he started favoring one over the other.  He shifted back and forth like a metronome, courting favors from both brothers.  He did this so often that, over time, he lost his own identity and ceased being the voice of reason that had defined him in his youth.

Nothing is black and white. Politicians and ratings hungry media like to make it that way because it is in their best interest for issues to be that way.  It’s also in our best interest. People like easy answers to complex questions; unfortunately, there are none.

I’ve never understood this quirk of adult human nature.  As young children, we ask why all the time.  As we grow older, we stop asking and start accepting.  The only people who still ask why are pollsters and, at times, reporters.  Just about everyone else prefers to pledge allegiance to a party and be led by party leaders.  Did you ever wonder why party extremes are called the radical left and the radical right?  It’s because people become radicalized by individuals who are masters of political manipulation for their own means. Perhaps you’ve heard of them, they’re called politicians.

I began studying political science and world affairs in college. I’ve been studying those subjects ever since. I’ve learned that political rhetoric, on either side, is nothing but a smokescreen for politicians to cloud the issues and get elected. When I study a national or world event, the first thing I do is totally ignore the political rhetoric. I watch and read the news from both sides and no sides.  And then it all comes down to the inevitable choice of the lesser of two evils.  I don’t mean that to be derogatory.  I only used that expression to highlight the fact that there is no such thing as the perfect candidate or issue.  Every political decision, no matter how big or small, will always be the lesser of two evils.

Politicians and political issues evolve over time.  In the same way that I could never have written this book in one draft; it is unrealistic to believe that a politician will be totally defined on the first day that he or she takes office.  By the same token, legislation isn’t perfect the moment the ink dries.  For example, Medicare was a disaster when it first became law.  It was confusing and rife for abuse.  It still is, more than fifty years later.  But along the way, millions of senior and disabled Americans have lived healthier lives because Medicare came into being.  It is a work in progress, as is Obamacare, for tens of millions of previously uninsured or uninsurable Americans.  Both plans have detractors who point out the many flaws, including increased costs to other Americans.  But those detractors fail to realize that both health plans are works in progress that will never end.

If we were a country of robots this “imperfect” legislation would never be a problem, but we’re not.  As the diversification and needs of Americans change, so does the legislation put in place to protect us.  Unfortunately, the legislation doesn’t always keep pace with our needs.  Which brings up the problem of three branches of government that refuse to coexist for the betterment of the country.

Experts are quick to give a lot of reasons as to why our government has stopped working.  They will tell you that politicians inside the beltway that surrounds Washington, DC, have lost touch with Americans who live outside of the beltway.  They will tell you that the Republican Party, currently in control of Congress, has been hijacked by right wing conservatives.  They will tell you that the president of the United States has become frustrated with an unresponsive Congress and has taken to writing his legacy through the use of executive orders.  All three of these reasons are partially true.  But there is a fourth reason that is totally true.

Ever hear the phrase “politics makes strange bedfellows”?  Have you ever wondered what that really means?  Basically, it means that politicians will work with anyone, even people they dislike, if they find it advantageous to do so.  And what is the number one reason politicians find it advantageous to work with anyone?  The correct answer is money.  Show of hands, how many of you got that right?  Good for you!  Now we’ll take a short break while you run to the sink and wash the blood off your hands (yes, I am blatantly pandering to friends of Shakespeare).  You see, dear readers, you’re the reason they take that money.  What’s that?  You’ve never forced them to take that money?  The constituents doth protest too much, methinks (still pandering).  When you look at the way that the political system works, you did.

You see, running for office is really expensive.  It takes tens to hundreds of millions of dollars and, contrary to popular belief, most political candidates don’t have that kind of money.  The ones that do, don’t want to spend it on a 50/50 chance of winning.  Even Donald Trump, who made a big deal out of saying that he could self-fund his campaign, is taking money from contributors (I wonder if he suddenly realized that a better investment might be to spend it on the gaming tables at his old hotel).  So it’s no surprise that political candidates turn to the voters and, more importantly, special interest groups for the bulk of their campaign contributions.

Now a candidate can’t generate enough cash by only taking ours.  But there are plenty of people who have much more money than we do; and by people I mean corporations.  You see, in 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States (the baby brother, SCOTUS) ruled on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  At its core, attorneys for Citizens United argued that a nonprofit corporation should be considered a person for the purpose of campaign donations.  Basically, they wanted all campaign donation limits lifted for nonprofit corporations.  Over time, that nonprofit distinction was broadened to include any corporations, organizations, labor unions, associations, secret clubs in treehouses, and the United Federation of Planets (notice how I snuck in another Trekkie pander).  This allowed an entirely new generation of wealthy “people” to give an unlimited amount of money to political campaigns.

Now it’s time for political candidates to go a courtin’.  They dress up in their Sunday best and set out to find their perfect matches.  But how do they know when they’ve made a love connection?  That’s where the voters come in because when it comes to setting up political candidates with corporate donors, we are all matchmakers.  Without us, they would have no idea of what they want in a mate.  The good news is that we have an extensive computer database of wealthy, single “people” who are more than ready to commit to a long-term relationship with Mr. or Ms. Right Political Candidate.

That old saying that there’s someone for everybody is especially true when it comes to dating political corporate donors.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in healthcare or hand guns, saving endangered species or money on your fuel bill, cleaner air or air travel.  Here’s the best part about dating political corporate donors; they already know that you’re only after them for their money!  So what do they get from you?  I’m glad you asked me that, my friends.  You know how you’ve always been told that you can’t buy respect, you have to earn it?  Well, that’s not exactly true in the world of political donor dating.  In this world, money does buy respect by the people who take the money.  So what does this respect do for you other than to boost your corporate donor ego?  It also has the potential to boost your cooperate donor bottom line. It’s as if all political candidates have read Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and they just can’t wait to practice what they’ve learned on your behalf.

Now I don’t want you to think that there’s something underhanded going on here.  Most of the time, there isn’t.  There are times when politicians will get caught up in the moment and go beyond the boundaries of a politician/donor relationship.  Those moments are few and far between.  When they do happen, both parties find themselves in bitter divorce proceedings culminating in huge financial losses and/or career reversals and, in extreme cases, unforeseen roommates.  But most of the time, it’s a symbiotic relationship that can help to forge agreements and deals which are beneficial to that politicians constituents.  A problem arises when a politician’s constituents become much more important than the country as a whole.

And for anyone but the president, constituents are the people who make sure that politicians keep getting a paycheck.  During congressional and senatorial election seasons, politicians are more worried about their constituents in their home states than they are about the people of the United States.  I once heard that party leaders start grooming politicians for the next election cycle on the day after they are sworn into office.  I can’t swear that it’s true, but it wouldn’t shock me if it was.

British Lord Acton once wrote, in a letter to an archbishop of the Church of England, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”  Lord Acton was referring to the actions of the church; but he could just as well have been referring to politicians who allow their actions to be defined by the office that they hold, rather than an obligation to the people that they serve.

But voters don’t seem to care.  We only care about how we personally benefit and the rest of the country be damned!  We only care about whether it means jobs, an influx of money into our communities, or justification of a religious or personal prejudice.  In actuality, we’re more like pimps than matchmakers.  We set up our politicians with lobbyists who pledge money to get what they want.

Every new session of Congress brings with it approximately 20,000 registered lobbyists attempting to sway politicians to their way of thinking. By the way, the term “lobbyist” is a throwback to a time when influence peddlers actually hung out in hotel lobbies and waited for politicians (now, that really does make me feel like a pimp).  Anyway, we take our cut in the form of less restrictive gun laws (NRA), more assistance for seniors (AARP), improved cell phone communications (Verizon) and much, much more.  How much influence is gained is directly proportional to the size of the industry these lobbyists represent.  Now to be fair, not all of these attempts at gaining influence are bad for the American voter.  Some service organizations do try to influence politicians to increase benefits and working conditions for their members.  But conversely, some corporations are only looking to increase their bottom lines.  The only certainty is that by the end of each session, someone will get a happy ending.  And isn’t that really what it’s all about?  Because we’re not just talking about a few dinners or a private jet to a golf weekend.  We’re talking about loads of money to buy campaign ads and pay for campaign staff so that a few years down the line, politicians will still be able to buy campaign ads and pay for campaign staff.  Get the picture?  It’s all about job security or, more precisely, job insecurity.

And while we’re on the subject of money, let’s talk about political action committees (PAC) and Super PAC.  By the way, if you haven’t already noticed, the one thing that politics and the military have one thing in common is acronyms for everything.  A political action committee raises money for a political race or issue.  Now there are all set of rules about who can donate, how much they can donate, how the money can be used, and what happens when then the race is over.  In general, the rules are the same for a PAC and a SPAC.  Neither PACs can have any contact with a candidate or the staff; but there is one glaring difference.  You know the old saying that you can’t take it with you?  That doesn’t pertain to a Super PAC.  Super PAC money doesn’t have to be returned to anyone.  Any leftover funds can be used for just about anything.  As far as I know, this loophole has yet to be abused.  I have no doubt that this will change if given enough time.  But since SPAC was spawned by Citizens United, my solution would be to get rid of Citizens United altogether.

In my opinion, there’s just too much organized money being infused into and ultimately contributing to election results.  We need to get rid of special interests and get back to the interests of the country as a whole.  Political candidates rarely address this because doing so would jeopardize their abilities to get elected or reelected by their constituencies.  Which brings us back to our strange bedfellows saying. Apparently, politicians will sleep around for the right price.  Try that outside of the beltway and you’ll get arrested.  But try it inside of the beltway and it will get you rewarded by the voters.

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