It’s odd— most people seem to think that being a professional politician in modern day America is all about sitting around, smoking expensive cigars, attending occasional committee meetings to vote on some trivial bit of unnecessary legislation, then scarfing down steak and lobster at $100 dollar-a-plate benefit banquets while lobbyists ply you with gifts and bribes.
Actually it’s quite the opposite. Most modern American politicians work 80+ hour weeks scrambling from benefit to benefit, trying to arrange meetings with potential donors while courting the favor of fickle lobbying organizations, DESPERATELY trying to raise enough money to fund their war chests for their next election. Even the smallest elections cost millions of dollars nowadays— the price of TV time alone is staggering. FAR more than any junior congressman could ever hope to afford alone (it’s no different for senior politicians, either— the bigger the office, the pricier the election). Then— even if you win— the very next day you’re back on the money-begging trail: an elected official is ALWAYS stumping for the next election. If you stop, you lose.
In order to succeed in modern American politics one has to abandon one’s moral compass and make endless deals with the big money, essentially going to work for it— otherwise they just stop funding you and buy a more pliable replacement. It’s the same on both sides of the aisle. Politics is a contest to influence public opinion to better serve the big corporations, thus earning corporate donations to fund successful relection bids. And I hate to break it to you, but there is only ONE party. They all went to the same schools, they all go to the same cocktail parties and benefit dinners, and they are all primarily concerned with keeping their jobs and staying on top of the system. The corporations subsidize BOTH sides. That way, they always win, and they always get what they want.
The government refers to it as “supporting the American economy,” but trust me: it’s the American corporate hegemony that’s being protected.
In the current system the American citizen (i.e: consumer) exists to feed the corporate economy. They keep us quiet by paying the media to feed us fairy tales about upward mobility, when actually the glass ceiling is turning to steel and the current plutocracy is becoming an aristocracy just above our heads. Meanwhile, the bullshit factories at Fox News and MSNBC keep everyone screaming at each other under the pretense that the “other side” is somehow the enemy.
It’s almost exactly what Orwell describes in 1984: a government which actively manipulates the media to convince the citizenry that it’s waging a constant battle against the enemies of the people… but the primary function of which has become the ongoing effort TO REMAIN IN EXISTENCE at the EXPENSE of the people.
A good example of how the corporate hegemony subverts beneficial public legislation is the sad tale of the Affordable Care Act.
The ACA is based on a laws package originally created in the early 1990’s by a Conservative Republican think tank (I know…gasp!) as a potential counter measure to a single-payer Medicare-type system then being proposed as “HilaryCare.” In order to avoid the creation of universal Medicare, it was proposed that instead you could fix things by working WITH the trillion-dollar-a-year insurance industry by getting everyone to pay existing insurance companies for coverage.
The insurance tycoons accepted it because— although it forced them to accept more risky policy holders— it would also gain them lots of new customers, compelled by law to buy their product. The “individual mandate” so widely castigated by our current batch of pro-business Republicans was CREATED BY the conservative Republicans of 1993 to avoid having the government subsidize public health care.
When Romney enacted the same plan as governor of Massachusetts, they called it “RomneyCare.”
But when the Dems got hold of it (and added a Government option to keep prices down as an alternative to the insurance companies) it’s suddenly “the worst idea ever spawned by liberals.” Which is more bullshit, because the whole thing was a conservative plan in the first place. But the insurance companies now might actually have to lower their prices and make less money— so they are fighting back. The original ’90’s Republican version might have worked, if this recent batch of “who cares if it might work, no Democrat laws must ever pass!” neoCon obstructionists hadn’t purposely gutted it so the Dems couldn’t score it as a win for their side.
I’m sad to say our two-party government is like a serpent, endlessly trying to devour its own tail.