Posts Tagged ‘Guest Post’

Guest Post: How Much Would It Cost To Buy Congress Back From Special Interests?

30 Jun

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

How Much Would It Cost To Buy Congress Back From Special Interests?

Here's a thought: let's buy our Congress back from the special interests who now own it.

We all know special interests own the U.S. Congress and the Federal machinery of governance (i.e. regulatory capture). How much would it cost the American citizenry to buy back their Congress? The goal in buying our Congress back from the banking cartel et al. would not be to compete with the special interests for congressional favors--it would be to elect a Congress which would eradicate their power and influence altogether.

A tall order, perhaps, but certainly not impossible, if we're willing to spend the money to not just match special interest contributions to campaigns but steamroll them.

A seat in the U.S. Senate is a pricey little lever of power, so we better be ready to spend $50 million per seat. Seats in smaller states will be less, but seats in the big states will cost more, but this is a pretty good average.

That's $5 billion to buy the Senate.

A seat in the House of Representatives is a lot cheaper to buy: $10 million is still considered a lot of money in this playground of power.
But the special interests-- you know the usual suspects, the banks, Wall Street, Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Tobacco, the military-industrial complex, Big Ag, public unions, the educrat complex, trial lawyers, foreign governments, and so on--will fight tooth and nail to maintain their control of the Federal machinery, so we better double that to $20 million per seat. Let's see, $20 million times 435....

That's $8.7 billion to buy the House of Representatives.

It seems we're stuck with the corporate toadies on the Supreme Court, but the President could scotch the people's plans to regain control of their government, so we better buy the office of the President, too.

It seems Obama's purchase price was about $100 million, but the special interests will be desperate to have "their man or woman" with the veto power, so we better triple this to $300 million.

Add these up and it looks like we could buy back our government for the paltry sum of $14 billion. This is roughly .0037% of the Federal budget of $3.8 trillion, i.e. one-third of one percent. That is incredible leverage: $1 in campaign bribes controls $300 in annual spending--and a global empire.

Once we bought back our government, what would be the first items on the agenda? The first item would be to eradicate private bribes, a.k.a. private campaign contributions and lobbying.

If you allow $1 in campaign contributions, then you also allow $10 million. There is no way to finesse bribery, so it has to be cut and dried: no member of Congress can accept any gift or contribution of any nature, monetary or otherwise, and all campaigns will be publicly financed.

Is this system perfect? Of course not. There is no perfect system. But the point here is that a system which allows even a $1 private contribution to a campaign cannot be restricted; after the courts have their say, then all attempted limitations prove worthless.

So it's really all or nothing: either we put our government up for auction to the highest bribe, or we ban all gifts and private campaign financing and go with public financing of all elections in the nation.

That is the only practical and sane solution. Any proposal that seeks to finesse bribery will fail, just like all previous attempts at campaign finance reform.

Any member of Congress who accepts a gift, trinket, meal, cash in an envelope, etc. will lose their seat upon conviction of accepting the gift. Once again, you can't finesse bribery. It has to be all or nothing, and the only way to control bribery is to ban it outright.

As for lobbying, thanks to a Supreme Court dominated by corporate toadies, it will be difficult to ban lobbying outright. However, that doesn't mean Congress shouldn't try to force the toadies on the Supreme Court to make a distinction between a corporation with $100 billion in assets and billions to spend on bribes and a penniless citizen.

(Those two are not coincidental; in a nation run by and for corporations, the citizens all end up penniless unless they own or manage said corporations, or work for a Federal fiefdom which can stripmine the nation at will.)

Congress should pass a law banning paid-for lobbying. If a citizen wants to go to Congress and advocate a position, they are free to do so--but they can't accept money to do so. If they receive any compensation from any agency, enterprise, foreign government, other citizen, you name it, from any source, then they will be sentenced to 10 years of fulltime community service in Washington D.C., picking up trash, etc.

If the Supreme Court toadies strike down that law, then here's another approach:

Require all paid lobbyists to wear clown suits during their paid hours of work.

In addition, all lobbyists are required to wear three placards, each with text of at least two inches in height.

The first placard lists their total annual compensation as a lobbyist.

The second lists the special interest they work for.

The third lists the total amount of money that special interest spent the previous year on lobbying, regulatory capture, bribes to politicos and political parties, etc.

Every piece of paper issued by lobbyists must be stamped in large red letters, "This lobbying paid for by (special interest)", and every video, Powerpoint presentation, etc. must also be stamped with the same message on every frame.

The second item on the agenda is a one-page tax form. The form looks like the current 1040 form except it stops at line 22: TOTAL INCOME. A progressive flat tax is then calculated from that line. Once again, you cannot finesse bribery or exemptions, exclusions, loopholes and exceptions. Once you allow exemptions, exclusions, loopholes and exceptions, then you've opened Pandora's Box of gaming the system, and the financial Elites will soon plow holes in the tax code large enough to drive trucks through while John Q. Citizen will be paying full pop, just like now.

The entire charade of punishing and rewarding certain behaviors to pursue some policy has to end. Any deduction, such as interest on mortgages, ends up creating perverse incentives which can and will be gamed. It's really that simple: you cannot finesse bribery or exemptions, exclusions and loopholes, because these are two sides of the same coin.

The tremendous inequality in income, wealth, power and opportunity which is distorting and destroying our nation all flow from the inequalities enabled by bribery and tax avoidance. The only way to fix the nation is to eliminate bribery (campaign contributions and lobbying) entirely, and eliminate tax avoidance entirely by eliminating all deductions, exemptions, loopholes, etc. State total income from all sources everywhere on the planet, calculate tax, done.

When you think about how tiny $14 billion is compared to the $3.8 trillion Federal budget and the $14.5 trillion U.S. economy, it makes you want to weep; how cheaply we have sold our government, and how much we suffer under the whip of those who bought it for a pittance.


Why China Won’t Win in This Century

08 Jan

“The reason why China will never win hands-down in its current economic war with America is the same as why Japan didn’t succeed in the 1980s when all (Americans included) were expecting that its corporations and banks would eat America up. The reason is that both countries are good at copying ideas and technologies; neither is good at inventing new ones.” That argument is Keith Hudson’s post today on his blog.

Here’s the rest.

It’s their written language that’s the main part of their problem. It’s non-phonetic. It means that in order to acquire a basic vocabulary—of, say, 2,000 or 3,000 words (the content of their average newspapers)—- children have to learn uniquely-shaped characters (whole words) which have no, or very little, relationship with their utterance. A Chinese or Japanese child can learn to speak his language quite as readily as children do the world over, but learning how to read or write each individual word takes many years. And there’s only one way, unfortunately for children, and that’s by rote learning. And thousands of hours of rote learning over many years under the strict discipline of slave-masters in the schoolroom doesn’t do anything for the creativity of young minds—or for older minds for that matter because the basic mental skills are aptitudes are thoroughly laid down before puberty.

The Chinese and Japanese governments are well aware of the damage that rote learning is doing to them—and say so quite frequently. Although both countries can churn out ten of thousands of science and engineering graduates every year, there’s scarcely an independent mind among them. Independent ‘garage inventors’, as we have in the West, are as rare as hen’s teeth in China and Japan. For example, Japan has been industrialized for over a century—only a decade or two less than other Western countries—yet it has only won 15 Nobel prizes in the science subjects. Compare this figure with those of America (261), the UK (91) and Germany (88). China has only won 10! However, this comparison is unfair because China’s have only been won since it woke up in the 1970s. America’s number also needs to be modified because about a third of its prizes have been won by foreign-born scientists who became American citizens after migrating there.

It’s all Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s fault (yes, the same as is famed for his terracotta army). Once Qin had conquered several countries and unified China in 221BC, he standardized as many things as possible—from weights and measures and currency through to the written language. All the various scholars throughout his empire, speaking scores of different languages (some with and some without a written form) were forced—on pain of death—to produce a composite, but common, written language. And this could only be non-phonetic, of course. Even the mighty power of Emperor Qin couldn’t force millions of his subjects to learn a new common spoken language but he could certainly force his relatively few scholars to produce a new common written one. One popular penalty in those days was to cut someone through his midriff, mount him on a platter of hot tar and take him around the town, gesticulating and shouting before he expired.

And herein lies a paradox, because the industrial revolution in Europe would never have happened without starting from a basic stock of scores of innovations—such as canal locks, differential gears, sowing grain in rows and so forth—that had drifted in from China along the Great Silk Road over a period of centuries. However, this doesn’t signify that the Chinese had been more inventive than Europeans. But its common written language had meant that when one innovation—say a wheelbarrow (very important indeed for both China and Europe)—had been invented by a genius in one tucked-away corner of China, then the local mandarin could write and tell hundreds more all about this wonderful new device.

But what once had been an accelerator for both Chinese and European civilizations actually became a retardant for China when the Western Enlightenment and scientific revolution stirred into life in the 1600s and 1700s. The Chinese had no way of encapsulating these new ideas. A Chinese mandarin visiting Europe in, say, the 1700s or 1800s, and learning about the new exciting scientific ideas (if he’d learned Latin or another European language of course) had no way of disseminating them widely in China because there he had no method of writing them down in Chinese words that would have been instantly recognizable by fellow Chinese scholars or engineers. He could only convey the new ideas vaguely by speaking of them face-to-face when he returned home.

Thus Japan (which had inherited thousands of Chinese words) and China were left behind by the industrial revolution in England, Germany and America. They didn’t begin to catch up in earnest until the the 1870s (the Meiji Revolution) and the 1970s (the Deng Xiaoping Revolution) respectively. And this is still—largely—where they are today. Both the Chinese and Japanese governments are trying to phoneticize their written languages but only very slowly, such is the cultural conservatism of two thousands years to contend with.

What might be significant in China (though not yet happening in Japan), is that all their college and university entrants have to learn spoken and written English these days. All their top government officials speak English and most business and science faculties in their universities use English widely in their seminars. Also, thousands of their brightest young post-grad scientists go to America or England for research experience and qualifications. Indeed, once they are here for a few years they become quite as inventive as Western scientists (if not more so when you look at the authorship of many papers in heavyweight subject, say genetics or particle physics). Unfortunately for the Chinese and Japanese governments many, if not most, of the most innovative scientific minds elect to stay in their adoptive countries rather than to return.

But the problem is even more serious for China and Japan. Almost as important as are the original ideas of innovative individuals is the necessity of other individuals who will give a welcome to new ideas and help to develop them. And it’s this open-minded hinterland which is still limited because of their deep, conservative, authoritative cultures. Goodness knows, new ideas often have a hard time being accepted in the West. Even here, the crazy ideas of yesteryear sometimes have to wait until its die-hard opponents are dead and buried and a brand new generation appears. Only then are the ideas seen to be not so crazy after all.

There we are then. Japan came close to hollowing out America and Western Europe 30 years ago with its superbly made (Western-invented) products. China is threatening to do the same in the coming years. But the innovative momentum is still with the West and this sort of cultural momentum takes a century or two to die down—if it ever does—or a century to acquire—if it ever does in China and Japan.

Just BTW, many Indians would read the title of the post “Why China won’t win . . .” and subconsciously insert India in the context. India’s chances of going anywhere has been put paid to by the Congress-led UPA governments. That’s a shame but then it is hard to avoid the realization that Indians elect criminals to government.

It’s all karma, neh?