by Jerome Page, of Benicia, CA [http://beniciaherald.me/2012/06/10/the-largesse-of-billionaires-and-a-mea-culpa/#more-17981]:
JUNE 5, ELECTION DAY, DEMONSTRATED once again the fateful significance of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. The money that poured into Wisconsin in support of the reactionary policies of Gov. Scott Walker provides another window into the future — bleak, one fears — of American politics.
As noted in a June 7 piece by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times: “Walker had something more potent than an army: billionaires. … The governor put together a nationwide fundraising effort and was richly rewarded. Two-thirds of the $31 million Walker raised to fight the recall came from out-of-state donors, mostly rich guys who hate unions. The gush of cash going to Walker overwhelmed Barrett’s boots-on-the-ground effort and provided more proof, if any more were needed, that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling — eliminating limits on campaign donations — has dramatically altered the balance of power in American politics.
“When just one man, casino king Sheldon Adelson, can write a couple of checks and fund Newt Gingrich’s entire presidential campaign, you know the craps table of electioneering has been tilted in favor of candidates who look after the concerns of the mega-rich. … And guess what? Most of those candidates, just like most billionaires, are Republicans.”
A Jan. 21, 2011 report from the Institute for Southern Studies by Chris Kromm — written just one year after the Citizens United decision was announced — reviewed the first significant evidence of that decision’s importance.
“After the January 2010 decision, many in the media reported that corporations may be skittish about fully exploiting Citizens United’s political windfall, but that proved premature. Millions of dollars began flooding into existing electioneering like that of Americans for Prosperity, backed by benefactors like the Koch brothers and North Carolina retail magnate Art Pope. New groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and American Crossroads GPS were quickly erected to funnel tens of millions of dollars into key congressional races.
“A new report released by Public Citizen this week surveys the results:
“• Spending by outside groups jumped to $294.2 million in the 2010 election cycle, a nearly four-fold increase from the $68.9 million spent in 2006, the last midterms. Nearly half of that ($138.5 million) came from just 10 groups, with the biggest share by far benefiting Republicans.
“• In 60 out of 75 congressional races, the candidate benefiting most from outside spending won the race — a remarkable 80 percent win rate.
“• The source of the money flooding into elections after Citizens United was largely hidden: Because many of the independent groups aren’t required to disclose their donors, barely a third — 34 percent — of the groups reported which people and groups gave them money.”
And what then of the crucial election just ahead — not merely for the presidency, but for every legislative office in the land? I quote again from James Horsey:
“… (A)s long as elections are there to be bought, a handful of billionaires will have a far louder voice in who runs the country than all the activists on the left combined.
“As evidence, I offer exhibits one and two: David and Charles Koch, the billionaires Democrats love to hate. These oil magnates are generous sugar daddies for the ‘tea party’ and conservative candidates all over America.”
A minor footnote in the California election has some relevance. The tobacco interests that were approximately two to one behind in early polling on the tobacco tax bill pulled that one out with their massive infusion of cash into advertising — advertising that didn’t mention smoking but that roundly condemned taxation!
When we toss into that mix of unlimited and unidentified financial contributions the “power of The Pledge” (Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform no-tax-increase pledge), we have a recipe for future disaster for the middle class — and the nation.
Another note on that. The pledge somehow didn’t prevent a great many of the rich and well born, including the Republican candidates for the presidency, from complaining bitterly about the supposed “free ride” of the bottom 47 percent who paid no federal income tax. Somehow the fact that the lower middle class and the poor, subject to every regressive tax extant, end up paying a considerably higher proportion of their income in taxes than the rich is a reality buried deeply under conservative mythology. One report noted that in “Alabama, for example, low-income families (which make less than $13,000) pay 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while those making more than $229,000 pay just 4 percent.”
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BEFORE CLOSING, IT’S TIME FOR ME TO come before the readers of The Herald and confess to the sin of writing “personal opinion.”
In a considerable number of reaction posts at The Herald website following the posting of various of my columns, the following has been a frequent theme of several of my critics: I have no scientific credentials for my assertions about anthropogenic global warming and have falsely made such assertions without making it clear that they were merely “my opinion.”
The first part of this, as it happens, is certainly true. While I have a college degree in chemistry, I have not touched a test tube or professional chemical journal in 67 years; ditto for my knowledge of the higher mathematics required for even the simplest analysis of this extremely complex subject.
Similarly, my limitations extend to an example I once noted concerning the relationship of the sun and the Earth. Without the slightest hint of advanced astronomy, orbital theory of planetary motion or any sophisticated related science in my personal background, I brashly asserted that evidence exists that the Earth revolves around the sun. Since even the most cursory glimpse into the skies makes it very clear to skeptics that the reverse is the case, where does this leave me, my reputation and my “opinion” about that evidence? And that, I believe, sums up the situation and my critics’ complaints about my outrageous and egregious reach beyond my own direct experience into theories of anthropogenic global warming.
From this posting forward, if I have not adequately made the point previously, I want to make it very clear that every claim I make is a similar expression of my personal choices of reputable sources and related rational conclusions. While again, in each case, I cite evidence — often, I think it fair to say, voluminous evidence — from the scientific literature to support my conclusions, I have chosen that evidence and thus might possibly be said to be advancing a “personal opinion.”
This is clearly so with theories of anthropogenic global warming. In making my case, I have unquestionably gone out on a limb and cast my lot with those 18 prestigious U.S. scientific societies and that 97-percent majority of the most sophisticated of climate scientists. This was a bold, again possibly brash conclusion for which I must take personal responsibility.
As indeed it is my personal opinion that the optics of the massive tar sands project in the boreal forest of northern Canada and of the mountaintop leveling in the Appalachias are both sickening to view and the record of an environmental abomination — with more to come as fracking wends it chemical pathways into the Earth and as the arctic seas experience the rich harvest of some oil driller’s inevitable error.
And finally, it is my opinion that the grandchildren of those who dismiss all of this with clever superficialities about climate change cults drinking the Kool-Aid will not look kindly upon their inheritance.
That all of these columns and commentary were written after an intense bath in the scientific reports concerning these phenomena, and that I have spent 10-15 hours a week buried in the literature, is really no excuse. I have chosen who and what to believe.