How much did that vote really cost?
Pretend you're in the market for a new car.
You head over to the car dealership across town.
The lot is already occupied by salesmen hungry to make
you a deal. Who
would you prefer to sell you your new car?
a used car salesman stereotype, a fabricator of facts on the
spot who offers promises he'll never keep
Dale, the well dressed
professional salesman who appears polished, suave, and
concerned about your needs, but who, in the end, is still out to
screw you by selling you the car at the highest possible price
that'll earn him the greatest commission, not the best car for
your personal situation
I don't know about you, but my vote is with
already know he's a liar and can filter everything he says and
does through that lens.
Dale, on the other hand, could well fool me with his
pseudo-honesty, possibly gain my trust, and then fully exploit
it. Both are
however, is the more honestly dishonest.
For now, we'll consider
that a compliment.
I was in high school at a time when the
world was split in two.
On one side you had the democracy/capitalist camp,
represented mainly by the Western nations but with a few
prosperous Asian and Latin American ones thrown in for good
measure. On the
other side, you had the dictatorship/communism club, headed
separately by the Soviet Union and China and their hangers on.
Democracy/capitalism, we were taught, was good.
Dictatorship/communism was bad.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union "the
evil empire" and the conflict between democratic and dictatorial
nations as "the struggle between right and wrong and good and
Well, my friends, it was all a load of
rubbish, and I mean ALL of it.
When I look back on it all now, I see the Soviet Union
was Lenny. It was
clear, both to the USSR's citizens and to the rest of the world,
that the leaders there didn't represent their people.
The USSR never bothered to provide an illusion of choice.
As for the scarier and potentially more dangerous Dale, he looks a lot like big Western democracies,
particularly the United States.
The United States is considered the Land of
the Free, and Americans do enjoy ample freedoms.
They can be atheists or pray as they please - to
Jesus, to Buddha, to the toilet or to a pagan.
Travel within the country and abroad is unrestricted.
Freedom of the press is tolerated to some degree. No
one's going to jail for making fun of a political leader.
The benchmark of whether a country is
democratic is not really based on the above freedoms though.
Those freedoms are bonuses usually present in
country's democratic status is determined by whether it has free
and fair elections and if the results yield a government of the
people, by the people, and for the people.
Imagine there's a country run by a benevolent dictator
who has installed himself in office for life and has complete
control of the military, yet still allows for freedom of the
press, freedom of religion, etc.
You still wouldn't classify this country as a democracy.
The United States has two main
political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats.
This is mirrored in other mainstream democracies.
Australia has its Labor Party and its Liberal Party.
Britain has the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.
There is no rule of democracy which says that a country
must have two predominant political parties.
A country could have
three, four, five, or four dozen.
What a so-called democratic country can't have is just
It must appear like there is a choice of candidates from more
than one party. The
Soviet Union was run by just one party, and today, so is China.
Neither is considered democratic.
In my article,
of Defying Reality, I argued that politicians have one
objective: to serve
the interests of the corporations/banks/financial backers that
put them into power.
They have some latitude on specific policies and stances as long
as they promote the ultimate agenda of their backers.
This runs counter to the democratic ideal that
politicians are there to represent us and our interests.
At one point, long, long ago, politicians probably did
try to represent their constituents and a small number on the
big political stages probably still attempt to do so.
They're a tiny minority.
It's far more common to see politicians
flitting between the public and private sectors, exploiting the
connections in one sector to personally profit from the other.
The further you are up the political totem pole, the more
dough you can squeeze out of it.
The mayor of Stockton, California operates on a much
smaller scale of plans and scams than the governor of Texas, who
in turn is lower down on the political power chart than major
league players in Washington, D.C.
If you make it to that elite cut in the nation's capital, you're financially set
Let's look at some examples.
Dick Cheney's most prominent political position was that
of vice president under George W. Bush from 2001-2009, but he's
been involved in politics as far back as 1969.
He was Assistant to the President under Gerald Ford and
later White House Chief of Staff.
He stayed in politics in various positions until George
H. W. Bush made him Secretary of Defense from 1989 to 1993.
Cheney shouldn't have been anyone's first pick to run
defense. He was a
Yale University flunkie who applied for and received five draft
deferments during the Vietnam War, insisting, "I had other
priorities in the 60's than military service."
Who didn't, Dick?
It's odd that a man who spent his entire
career working for the bloated government public sector would be
considered competent and capable of serving as a CEO of a
private corporation with no prior private sector experience.
Not when the candidate is
the Big Dick! From 1995 until he became vice president in 2000,
Cheney was chairman and CEO of the Fortune 500 company Haliburton and
received stock options and stock worth
in the tens of millions.
His severance package alone was worth $36 million.
He was supposed to sell
all his stock and forego any unexercised options in Haliburton
to remove all conflicts of interest once he became vice
Evidence suggests he didn't and it's actually an irrelevant
he was made CEO of Haliburton and handsomely overpaid in
exchange for what he could do for the company with his public
Haliburton's gamble paid off in spades. During Cheney's tenure as vice president, Haliburton was
handed billions in government contracts.
Some of these were no-bid contracts, so we can imagine
the prices Haliburton offered to the U.S. government were not
ultra competitive. As of
Haliburton's contracts in Iraq were worth over $10bn.
The U.S. taxpayer foots these extravagances.
What about the recent H1N1 swine flu scare?
As of May 2010, there have been only 3,642 confirmed
deaths from the virus in North America; worldwide, just 14,286.
By comparison, the Centers For Disease Control And
Prevention estimate that about 36,000 died of seasonal
flu-related causes annually in the United States during the
1990's. I never
heard of a flu pandemic on the horizon before the new milennium.
Nonetheless, with the swine flu threat so slight,
President George W. Bush called for emergency measures to
appropriate another $1bn for Tamiflu, a drug touted to stop H1N1
in its tracks.
Little mention or government spending was made on Relenza,
another drug that does the same job.
With good reason.
Tamiflu is manufactured by Gilead Sciences.
Bush's initial Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld,
once served as chairman of Gilead and still held stock,
valued at between $5-25m, at the
time of the "pandemic." He made
more than $5m in capital gains selling shares the Senate Armed
Services Committee, the Office of Government Ethics, and the
Department of Defense Standards of Conduct Office never required
him to divest when he took political office. Unknowing
American taxpayers were mugged yet again.
What we have today are corporatocracies,
not democracies. We
may have the freedom to elect officials from Party A over Party
B, but it doesn't make a whole lot of long term difference.
Both parties are in the same corporate pockets.
Who we freely and fairly choose just determines which
party officials get to personally enrich their and their
cronies' pockets. The
late Howard Zinn, the historian who wrote The People's
History Of The United States, wrote that "[The United
States] has been taken over by men who have no respect for human
rights or constitutional liberties."
When our leaders say they want to bring democracy to
Afghanistan and Iraq, it's a mockery.
How can you bring something to others you yourself don't
system might be better called a demockracy, a
government which offers enough freedoms and window dressing to
appear democratic but really has no genuine intentions of
serving its people.
How else can you explain that the United States had allocated
$315bn for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan up through September
2006 and more than $1tr since 2001 and yet leaves 15% of its
citizens without health care?
|The American people are still waiting for a return on their investment
Demockracies are sophisticated.
Vote-buying and bribes are illegal, but there are ways
around that. The
corporate owned and liberally-biased media can manipulate public
opinion to influence votes. This is very easy to do.
Most of us get our information about candidates from
mainstream television and newspapers.
Politicians can't be paid outright as a direct exchange
for performing a certain course of action for a corporate
backer. However, they can be rewarded legally with positions
and salaries they don't deserve years later.
Al Gore was given paid special advisorship positions
to Google and Apple.
No one knows exactly what the position is or what he does (if
anything) except get rich off stock shares and stock options.
Gore's net worth was hovering around $100m in 2008.
Before the 2000 election, he was worth between $1-2m.
It looks like Gore went to the same get-rich-quick
business school as Big Dick Cheney.
Our system at the heart isn't much
different from Communist China's. China is just more honest
about the way it's done. Over
there no one pretends to have multiple parties or be a
government for the people.
The right connections to senior party members give
businessmen access to opportunities not available otherwise,
almost exactly the way it works in the United States where these
under-the-table connections which make politicians and their
buddies uber-rich is never acknowledged.
Let it be said that not all democracies are
Politicians in low population countries not boasting a large
number of indigenous multibillion dollar multinational companies
would find it difficult to use their government connections to
pry megabucks out of the private sector.
Finland's top 100 companies, for example, only Nokia is
world famous. Finnish
politicians are still politicians and power in Finland still
corrupts, but without a sizable population and plenty of local
multibillion dollar businesses to sleep with, it's trickier to
sneak in hugely overpriced no-bid government contracts and bilk
the taxpayers for them. I'm
sure it happens, but on a much smaller scale.
Less developed corporatocracies, like
India, would better be described as deboughtcracies,
a seemingly democratic system but one in which voters can be
slavishly bought off to vote a specific way.
Deboughtcracies are still a more honestly dishonest
system than a demockracy.
The politicians in those systems tacitly admit they're
corrupt, just like our car salesman Lenny, something Dale-like
politicians (Rumsfeld, Cheney, Gore) never do.
They don't have to.
The same corporations backing the Dales' efforts for
demockratic positions own the media which keep these crooks
Just before the November 2008 election, a
collection of liberal A-list Hollywood celebrities banned together to
public service announcement imploring all of us,
sarcastically, not to vote.
How apposite that one group of highly overpaid people,
who make their livings pretending to be people they're not,
would encourage us to participate in the illusion of voting to
choose another group of highly overpaid people who make their
livings pretending to serve people they don't.
The wealthy actors challenged the viewer:
if you care about abortion, the financial collapse,
terrorism, literacy, ultra thin condoms, etc. you should vote, an implication that the
politicians who would be voted for to represent us were going to
solve all the aforementioned problems.
Maybe solving real problems is what
politicians do in democracies.
In demockracies and deboughtcracies, politicians create
the problems and then send us the bill.