One North Louisiana Voice: US Political System Is Broken
Written by  // Wednesday, 14 July 2010 11:26 //

Our political system is broken.  I confess to frequent dismay at how political actors of all stripes vote on issues, but a vote in Congress week before last ranks right up there with the worst votes of their tenure.

Once again the culprit is Senator Ben Nelson, purported Democrat of Nebraska.  He joined with Republicans to vote against extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed.  

Never mind that unemployment insurance is one of the best ways to preserve demand for goods because these folks spend the money immediately.  Never mind that there are currently five applicants for every one job opening.  In the minds of Republicans and Nelson, unemployed people are just plain lazy.

What would it take to convince them otherwise?  Do we need 25% of the country standing on street corners with signs, “Will work for food”?  That these members of Congress have no clue is evident in the following statement:
John Boehner, leader of the House Republicans, said that the Wall Street reform bill is like “killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.”  I strongly suspect that everyone who lost a job, a home, health insurance, and retirement savings would disagree with his description of the damage Wall Street did to this country, and indeed, to the world.

Wall Street is rushing money into Republican coffers in hopes that the GOP will regain a majority in Congress and reverse any restrictions bankers may face as a result of the financial reforms currently being negotiated.  
It’s abundantly clear that keeping the economy in the doldrums is part of a Republican strategy to take down Obama and gain seats in this year’s mid-term elections.  They are counting on voters being uninformed as to who is blocking legislation to improve the situation, and assuming the public will blame Democrats, since they are in the majority.   
I’d say that’s a good bet on the part of Republicans.  Since 26% of Americans can’t say from whom we declared our independence, I suspect people won’t understand arcane Senate filibuster rules that allow a minority to overrule the wishes of a majority.  Talk about a broken system!

Republicans refuse to vote for a jobs bill, they refuse to provide extended unemployment benefits, they refuse to consider a saner energy policy, and they refused to extend health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions (they lost that one).  They refuse, they refuse, they refuse.  

Power is paramount.  Governing for them is an unimportant afterthought.  

It doesn’t matter to Ben Nelson and Republicans that families across the country have   been devastated by the actions of Wall Street.  They voted for hundreds of billions to rescue bankers, but now say it’s too expensive to rescue ordinary Americans.

After voting to deny long-term unemployed people a lifeline, these clueless senators then adjourned to enjoy their 4th of July recess.  Meanwhile, millions of people are left hanging, unsure of where they’ll turn next to feed

their children.  Senators should be right proud of themselves.

I’m just as angry with Democratic Senator Harry Reid for not keeping them in session until they approved the unemployment extension, even if that meant they would be in session until the cows come home.  

Let’s face it.  Big corporations own Congress due to their campaign contributions.  The Supreme Court, with its 5-4 decision on January 21, 2010 in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission put the nail in the coffin of our democracy.  We have for years been on the road to oligarchy, and with this decision, our society will reach that destination.

In the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court said that corporations would be denied free speech if they were not allowed to spend unlimited funds to influence elections.  It is patently absurd to treat a corporation as an individual.  
Individuals can ride a horse, corporations cannot.  Individuals can swim; corporations cannot.  Individuals can read; corporations cannot.  Individuals can pray; corporations cannot.  Corporations are not individuals—period.  This won’t be the last bad decision rendered by this conservative Supreme Court.

Karl Rove, that feeble excuse of a human being who was responsible for propelling George W. Bush into the presidency, has formed a group called American Crossroads to collect unlimited amounts of money to influence the elections in November.  He admitted that this group was made possible by the recent Citizens United ruling.  

American Crossroads is targeted at the country’s wealthiest donors, making members of Congress who get funds from it even more beholden to the most privileged people in our society.  Unemployed people, on the other hand, don’t have any spare change to make a campaign contribution.

By Judith Howard (guest opinion)

Judith Howard is a Ruston native,with a M.S.W. from UNC-Chapel Hill, Ph.D. from UCLA.  She has Co-author of Category 5: The Story of Camille, Lessons Unlearned from America's Most Violent Hurricane (University of Michigan Press, 2005) and authored "At Home on the Mouth of the Mississippi,".  She  has written a weekly column for Ruston's Morning Paper for 8 years. 

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