Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The tricks of the wealthy and other problems of the USA

For the better part of this year I've been saving articles about the wealthy in the US. Growing income disparities, legislation favorable to the wealthy, our corporate-friendly Supreme Court, new legal tricks the wealthy are using, Obama's inaction on punishing the conmen who drove the economy to ruin--I kept collecting them in order to eventually write a blog post on the matter. Now many of the articles are a bit dated, but I've decided to go ahead and comment on them.

This article criticizes the many government programs that effectively take money from the working masses to subsidize the profligacy and risk-taking of the wealthy.

This Op-Ed details something called a dynasty trust. It is a way for the rich to protect their wealth by handing ownership over to the trust. The wealthy and their descendants can enjoy the goods of the trust, even building it up to include homes, businesses, and the like, without paying taxes or worrying about creditors touching the trust. It is one more little con that the wealthy are playing in the US right now.

This is an article about Propositions 16 and 17 in California's June primaries. Both were measures proposed by private companies, and both were defeated (though a bit too narrowly for comfort). Both represent an unprecedented incursion of private interests into democracy--private companies that want laws changed in California can avoid oversight and debate in the Legislature by proposing and financing such ballot initiatives.

This is a piece by Ted Koppel lamenting the replacement of hard news aspiring to objectivity with endless vitriol and opinions edified as if they were fact. I can't help but believe that the corporatization of news and the dumbing-down of the general public goes hand in hand with our yawning wealth gap and the enactment of legislation that goes against the public interest.

Here is an article on the striking-down of Arizona's law providing public financing for campaigns. In an age when many feel that big money in politics is the big issue to address before we can improve anything in our country, it is hard to believe that the Supreme Court would be fighting against the types of sensible public financing laws enacted by states like Arizona and Maine.

Here is a commentary piece describing the ugly barrage of corporate-financed campaign ads in states like Colorado, courtesy of the Citizens United decision of the Roberts Supreme Court. The article gives real-world evidence of what was obvious to any thinking person--allowing unfettered corporate spending in elections doesn't enrich the political environment, but rather impoverishes it.

This graphic shows that the Supreme Court is much more polarized than it was 30 years ago. The Court clerks, who have an important influence on opinions, are increasingly hard-line ideologues.

This article talks about the ideological breach between Obama and Roberts. It ends with a call for a televised debate/conversation between the two men regarding the role of government.

This article bemoans the Obama administration's anemic prosecution of the corporate bad guys who led us into the financial crisis. It too recognizes that it is a big problem with the US economy's dependence on the financial sector, which as it functions today produces almost nothing and looks more like a pyramid scheme than a rising tide lifting all boats. Paul Krugman also weighs in with a similar criticism of Obama's weak will to create change. Rolling Stone did an interview with Obama in which he was allowed to defend himself a bit.

Okay, all that represents about a half-year's worth of NYT articles touching on what I feel are the major political ills facing the US--wealth inequality, corporate-friendly courts and lawmakers, and irresponsible media. I'd love to hear from anyone weighing in on if these really are the big issues facing the US today, and what to do about them.

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