Current Events: Corruption in Campaigning
Let’s start with something I know we all have experience with: politicians who can’t keep their hockey sticks out of the goals, if you know what I mean. Think wiener—Congressman Anthony Weiner, of course. Actually, think Edwards. John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, just finished the first of what will no doubt be a long string of trials for federal corruption.
Here’s the cliff notes version of events: during his reach for the 2008 presidential nomination, Edwards had an affair with an aide, Rielle Hunter, who got pregnant. This was while his wife, Elizabeth, was fighting cancer (she passed away in 2010). Anyway, the illegal part is that Edwards allegedly used campaign funds to cover up the affair; he faces one charge of conspiracy and five focused on other donors. The prosecution claims that Edwards siphoned campaign money for personal use, while the defense claims that another aide, Andrew Young, who helped hide Hunter’s pregnancy, took the money behind Edwards’ back. So far, a jury has found Edwards not guilty on one charge and failed to reach a verdict on the other five; the judge declared a mistrial.
Well. What a twisted web of sordid scandal. I honestly don’t know if Edwards is guilty—a scumbag, certainly, but not necessarily a criminal.
Speaking of campaign finances, let’s talk about the Super PAC and, on a slightly related note, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. If you already know what a Super PAC is, you get to skip ahead to the next paragraph, you informed genius! A PAC is a Political Action Committee, or a group that campaigns for something. Normally, when a politician runs for office, there are rules on how much money he/she can accept from whom, among other things. Super PACs can accept unlimited donations from pretty much any person, organization or corporation, as long as they are technically independent of campaigns. Currently, they are known for supporting Republicans, specifically Mitt Romney. It’s worth noting that more than 80 percent of the money they raise comes from less than 4 percent of members: the very wealthy. Super PACs are essentially unlimited, unregulated, money machines that don’t have to disclose where the money comes from.
Now Cuomo. He ran his campaign on a platform of economic reform, and thought out, comprehensive policy change. He now considers a top issue to be bringing Vegas-style casinos to New York. Coincidentally, Big Gambling donated a whole hunk of money to his campaign. Funny how that works, huh?
I take so much issue with this whole concept I’d need a Punishment Blue Whale to express my frustration. As much as I might wish otherwise, candidates need money to run for office. Lots of it. But it seems glaringly obvious to me that this is not how democracy is supposed to work. Because hi, Mr. Cuomo? If you’re reading this, allow me to be the one to tell you: New York has bigger problems than a lack of blackjack tables. To me, this looks like how corruption happens. And I’ll be honest, it makes me nervous.
Since we’re already on the topic of New York, here’s this: New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is attempting to ban the sale of sugar sweetened drinks in quantities greater than 16 ounces in certain settings. Bloomberg is the man who created more bike lanes than all other administrations put together, who banned trans fats from restaurants, who forced fast-food places to post calorie counts, who ended smoking in bars. And he’s facing a huge opposition on this, mostly from the right. People call this a restriction on freedom, and say that if people want to be obese, that’s their business.
But it’s not. It stops being their business when the entire community foots the cost of those weight-related medical bills. And let me be clear: in my opinion, in fifty, maybe seventy years, we will look back on our eating habits the way we now look back on casual social smoking. This isn’t to say I’m for huge government restrictions; I like Sprite as much as the next girl, but it’s clear that people are not able to take responsibility for their own eating habits, and someone, even if it’s the government, needs to step in.
I’d like to end with what I consider to be the most significant of the news we’re discussing this week: the May economic report. It ain’t looking too good, folks. The economy is improving, but not nearly at the rate we’d like. The country added only 115,000 jobs last month, compared with 200,000-plus jobs in previous months; and it’s unclear where more growth could come from.
Since the economy is something we’ll no doubt be talking about in weeks to come, I’d like to focus on the politics for today. Since the reports were released, Mitt Romney made statements to the effect of, “See? Obama’s screwed it up. Democratic economic policies don’t work.” But let’s examine a more fundamental issue: have we actually been following Democratic, Obaman policies for the last four years? Well…no, not really. There was a push of stimulus spending in late 2009-early 2010, but that was about it in terms of Keynesian tactics. Other than that, we have been cutting taxes and slashing spending—using Republican methods, largely due to the Republican majority in Congress. To be more specific (cause I know we all like concreteness in our facts round here) spending is falling at a rate not seen since the de-mobilization following the Korean War, and taxes are historically low—lower than at any point during the Reagan administration, by the way.
What do I take from this? Well first of all, Republicans are, in a way, trying to con the American public. They’re saying that we need to vote Romney to get away from the big-spending Democratic policies that have failed to lead us out of the recession, when in fact it’s their own policies that we’ve been using, and that have been failing. Second, Obama needs to get someone competent on his PR team. The reason the con is working is that people don’t know all this. Why? Maybe Obama doesn’t want to admit that the Republican House has had its way and risk looking weak; I don’t know. But people need to realize that we haven’t actually had four years of Democratic big spending. So what should come next?
What's your take on all the corruption in politics?
Post by dianamer994!