Sunday, March 02, 2014

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

The way politics is financed in the US, combined with the increasing inequalities in income and wealth, means that democracy is  at risk.

This applies to even the half-assed democracy the US has, with most people not bothering to vote and others being stopped from voting and gerrymandering and so on, though the lethargy of the average voter is also linked to the problem of one-vote-one-dollar. 

The power of money in US elections distorts democracy. Rich people don't give large amounts of money without expecting something in return:

The Republican donors who have financed the party’s vast outside-spending machine are turning against the consultants and political strategists they once lavished with hundreds of millions of dollars. 
In recent months, they have begun holding back checks from Republican “super PACs” like American Crossroads, unsatisfied with the groups’ explanations for their failure to unseat President Obama or win back the Senate. Others, less willing than in the past to defer to the party elders and former congressional staff members who control the biggest groups, are demanding a bigger voice in creating strategy in exchange for their continued support. 
Donors like Paul Singer, the billionaire Republican investor, have expanded their in-house political shops, building teams of loyal advisers and researchers to guide and coordinate their giving. And some of the biggest contributors to Republican outside groups in 2012 are now gravitating toward the more donor-centric political and philanthropic network overseen by Charles and David Koch, who have wooed them in part by promising more accountability over how money is spent.

David, and Charles Koch oversee a political and philanthropic network that promises donors more accountability.
“People are really drawn to the Koch model,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a New York hedge fund investor and Republican fund-raiser, who attended the Kochs’ annual donor conference near Palm Springs, Calif., in January. “It’s adaptive, data-driven, and they are the most propitious capital allocators in political activism.” 
The quiet revolt signals a broader shift in the world of big money. Clubs of elite donors in both parties are taking a more central role in shaping policy and campaigns, displacing party leaders and the outside-spending organizations they helped create after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. And the sheer scale of their spending is almost certain to rewrite the playbook for political campaigns this year, as candidates reckon with the strongly held views of some of the world’s wealthiest people.

Bolds are mine.

And the larger the wealth differences between the rich and the rest, the more will the political goals of the two groups diverge.  Whose goals will be taken care of when money comes from the top one percent of the one percent? 

One article argues that the current US wealth and income inequalities match those of the 1920s UK, portrayed, in its extreme form,  in the 'Downton Abbey' television series.   It's the Lord Granthams of this world who are funding the US elections, and it's their concerns and goals which will weigh the most.  Even very nice Lord Granthams will not have the same worries and concerns in life as Daisy, the kitchen maid.

The solution to this dilemma is real campaign finance reform, duh.  But it's not in the interest of the incumbents (and especially not in the interest of the Republican incumbents), so we are not going to get anywhere with that.  Then there are the Republicans in the Supreme Court who recently made everything worse in this respect.  Finally, lots of ordinary people don't want to pay taxes for the funding of campaigns, probably because they don't care or understand that the Lord Granthams will then rule.