Freedom Dollars
Last Frontier for the New Pioneers

by Eli Beckerman

May 12, 2003

Oligarchy  (ol·i·gar·chy) noun.
1: a government by the few
2: a government in which a small group exercises control esp. for corrupt and selfish purposes (1)

Operation Iraqi Freedom was a resounding success for the Bush oligarchy. Anyone who questions that is a traitor. Operation Iraqi Freedom was also a momentous failure for democracy, for justice, for the Iraqi people, the American people, and the people of the world. Anyone who questions THAT needs to consider the disastrous state of politics and democracy inside these United States.

That Bush's ride to power happened at the expense of democracy is very telling. That the further erosion of the rights of man is continuing unabated is horrifying.

Americans in 2000 demanded campaign finance reform, and seeing as how America is a democracy, they received campaign finance reform. Unfortunately for them, the reforms magnify the influence of wealthy donors and connected corporations. In a democracy, government reflects the wishes of its people. In the USA, government circumvents by any means necessary the wishes of its people. What, then, is the USA exporting to Iraq if not democracy? And if we don't have a people-powered government, what is it we do have, and how can we change it?

The United States of America, proud bastion of the free and the brave, is shamefully, in 2003, a plutocratic oligarchy. An elite controlling class made up of the wealthiest of the wealthy has overwhelming influence over American policy -- foreign and domestic. This means that the benevolent US government gives away billions of dollars in foreign aid -- more than a quarter of which go directly into weapons purchases and other military spending. American weapons manufacturers like Raytheon depend on such aid. This dreadful influence also shows itself in the very real budget crises that are unfolding in most states in the country. American corporations have been effectively and continuously transferring the burden of federal and state taxes to the American people. And just when the wreckage to federal and state budgets has drawn real blood, Bush and his cronies strong-arm more tax cuts for the rich through Congress, all the while throwing more money to the Pentagon and "defense" spending.

BusinessWeek's March 31, 2003 special report (2) on how US corporations are paying less and less of the nation's tax bill went so far as to say "a Byzantine tax code has created endless opportunity for well-financed companies to game the system." The report went on to point out how these same companies undertake massive lobbying efforts to create such a complex tax code and invest heavily in strong tax departments to maximize avoidance. US corporate taxes fell from 4% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 1965 to 2.5% in 2000. In 2002, US corporate taxes made up 1.5% of the GDP! And while federal budget disasters have shifted responsibility of necessities like health care to the states, with rather formidable costs, state taxes are much more regressive and have been trending even worse. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a report in January 2003 (3) which showed that nationwide, middle-income and poor families pay around 10 and 11 percent of their earnings, respectively, in state and local taxes. The richest families, on the other hand, effectively pay around 5% of their income in state and local taxes. Meanwhile, a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (4) demonstrates that state corporate income taxes have been falling both as a share of state taxes and as a portion of corporate profits. The same con-game of tax avoidance is paying off on the state and federal levels, and both of these "successes" are crashing down on the heads of the American people as we speak.

In such times, one might be worried that the noble people seeking office in order to serve the public are struggling to raise enough money to pay for prohibitively expensive campaign advertisements. But don't fret! Neither should you worry that the soft money bans are chilling the free speech rights of the wealthiest Americans. As The Washington Post reported on May 7, 2003, (5) the Democrats are finding ways around such inconvenient laws. While the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee can no longer legally accept unlimited soft-money contributions, the newly formed Democratic Senate Majority Fund sure can! And doubling the hard-money limit of $1,000 per election cycle to $2,000 means double First Amendment goodness. If all of this seems unfair to the Republicans, don't worry about that either. The GOP is setting up similar soft-money groups, most prominently the Leadership Forum. According to the same Washington Post story, the Leadership Forum was recently ordered by the Federal Election Commission to return a $1 million contribution from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The Republicans have also proven their talent in collecting hard-money contributions from "individual" donors. The recent lawsuit surrounding the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform bill has unearthed some documents from the 2000 presidential campaign, showing that over 500 people signed up to be Bush "Pioneers," promising to raise at least $100,000 from individual donors. A story in the May 4, 2003 edition of The New York Times (6) reports that the top 3 Pioneers were able to raise roughly $605,000, $588,000, and $430,000 each. Tom Ridge, Guarantor of the Security of our Homeland, raised over $250,000 for Bush. Actually, according to CorpWatch, at least 43 Bush Pioneers were given federal appointments. If this unabashed solicitation of aggregates of individual donors doesn't subvert the hard money limits on campaign contributions then nothing could. Indeed, Bush is brazenly upping the level of the ante for the Pioneer game, calling for $200,000 now that the individual limits have doubled.

While Bush & Co. hide behind the lie of patriotism, they are actively destroying the foundation for a healthy American society. Companies like Halliburton are the absolute worst -- making massive campaign contributions, abusing offshore tax havens, and engaging in business with the very countries that the State Department has pointed out as state sponsors of terrorism (Libya, Iran, and Iraq). This amounts to an anti-American trifecta. Furthermore, Halliburton stands poised to profit handsomely from the Iraq War, and has quietly gobbled up Iraqi oil contracts from the Army Corps of Engineers. Thankfully, for America and the world, Halliburton's former CEO has agreed to run again for Pres, er, Vice President in 2004. United We Stand, with the freedom to print and to spend Freedom Dollars.

Plutocracy  (plu·toc·ra·cy) noun.
1: government by the wealthy
2: a controlling class of the wealthy (7)

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Footnotes and Resources

1.  Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition  (back)

2.  "The Corporate Tax Game: How blue-chip companies are paying less and less of the nation's tax bill," by Nanette Byrnes and Louis Lavelle with Howard Gleckman in Washington and bureau reports, BusinessWeek, March 31, 2003 - http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/03_13/b3826058.htm (as of May 8, 2003)  (back)

3.  "Who Pays State and Local Taxes?" - The Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, 2002 edition, January 7, 2003 - http://www.ctj.org/itep/whopays.htm (as of May 8, 2003)  (back)

4.  "Closing Three Common Corporate Income Tax Loopholes Could Raise Additional Revenues For Many States," by Michael Mazerov, Revised April 1, 2003 - http://www.cbpp.org/4-9-02sfp.htm (as of May 8, 2003)  (back)

5.  "Democrats Initiate New 'Soft Money' Campaign," by Jim VandeHei, The Washington Post, May 7, 2003 - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A22631-2003May6.html (as of May 8, 2003)  (back)

6.  "Campaign Documents Show Depth of Bush Fund-Raising" by Richard A. Oppel Jr., The New York Times, May 4, 2003 - http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/05/politics/05DONO.html (as of May 8, 2003)  (back)

7.  Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition  (back)

America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Eli Beckerman is a Green Party activist.

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Published May 12, 2003
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