April 26, 2013

Horse 1470 - Making Donations To "Win On Principle"

Sometimes I get asked via email to make comments on other articles. Sometimes, those articles come from odd places.

Today in the Senate, a funny thing happened.
We fought on principle, and we won on principle. You know why?
... Because 3 U.S. Senators didn’t listen to the “do something” caucus and the hand-wringers parading as leaders in Washington. Instead, Senators Cruz, Lee and Paul circulated a warning prior to the last recess saying they would (gasp) filibuster any legislation that would undermine our God-given, fundamental right to bear arms. It just so happens that this God-given right is enshrined in the Constitution.
... We have a play book, ladies and gentleman: fight and win.
Thankfully these fresh faces in the Senate get it.
You know who else gets it? The Gun Owners of America. From the beginning, GOA was standing up tall to defend the Second Amendment on principle – not in a game of political gamesmanship and endorsements of Democrats. They were crystal clear the whole time and led other groups, some of whom get more attention and prominence in the debate, in their direction.
-  Erick Erickson, Red State, 17th Apr 2013

Firstly, it's worth noting that RedState makes no bones about the fact that it is a right of centre website. It even states that it is "conservative" in the primaries and Republican in general elections. That is not at issue here.
I'm even willing to lay aside the fact that I really hate the Second Amendment because the consequences of its continued existence, ie. the number of people killed and injured as a result and all the associated costs, both economic and social, far outweigh any utility it might confer. However, to purport that defenders of the Second Amendment "won on principle" is going a bit far - not when other things prove otherwise.

Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Company are the two largest publicly traded gun manufacturers in the United States. When President Obama took office, their aggregate market capitalization was about $230 million. Today, it’s nearly $1.5 billion, an increase of 552 per cent. There have been dips along the way: drops in value followed Aurora, Tuscon, and Newtown. But the trend upward has resumed—since Newtown, their aggregate market capitalization has increased by 7 per cent.
- The New Yorker, 18th Apr 2013

All but three of the 45 senators who torpedoed gun control measures in Congress on Wednesday have received money from firearms lobbyists, according to new analysis by the Guardian and the Sunlight Foundation.
Documents also show the NRA saw a surge in donations to its lobbying arm in the months following Newtown – registering a record $2.7m in cash during January and February. Further disclosures showing the scale of its recent donations, particularly to politicians in the House of Representatives, are expected on Saturday.
- The Guardian, 18th Apr 2013

It's pretty telling about what sort of "principles" are in operation here. If all but three, ie 42 senators have been paid off by firearms lobbyists, can the United States even be held up as a democracy?
"Democracy" comes from two Greek words: Demos meaning people and Kratos meaning power or rule. Democracy should mean rule by the people but clearly something else is at work here.
Of course, it would be incredibly naive to think that politicians aren't bought off and/or wooed all the time by lobbyists. No doubt there is probably an anti-gun lobby (though probably not as fervently backed or as cashed up) which also engages in paying off politicians via "donations" but again, this is scarcely what you call a democracy is it?

If anything, the fact that people can openly buy the votes of politicians should be seen as downright scandalous. Call it a donation if you will but even a quick glance of Black's Law Dictionary gives the definition of bribery as the "offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in charge of a public or legal duty" which is precisely what's gone on here.
The thing is that it's no secret that this is how Agriculture subsidies work in the US, how manufacturing works, how defence contracts are awarded; it just goes on and on.

If such a thing were to happen in Australia, I'd like to think that something were done about it. Rightly or wrongly the fact that The OzCar affair came to light, at least gives us the illusion that this might be cleared up here. We'd hope that the Australian Federal Police or someone like ICAC would look into this sort of thing, though really to what extent there are kickbacks and donations made to political parties is more likely cloak and dagger stuff.
If you hand over a brown envelope with cash to a Minister of the Crown, then that's bribery. If however you were to give your money to an official of a political party, then that is not.

It's scary when you consider that roughly $10bn a year, flows from Government coffers at both Federal and State level to corporations. It's not a difficult leap to suggest that power is linked to the size of one's wallet; I think we're all perfectly aware of this when we saw the Mining Companies bully the Federal Government when it came to the Resource Super Profit Tax, which was changed, and the demonstration of that bullying power with a $22m ad campaign.

One person; one vote. It's a nice ideal. Sadly, I don't think that it exists in Australia; it's just that we're not as brazenly public when it comes to the largesse bestowed on "Honourable" members of parliament as they are in the United States; but don't worry, we're probably not that far behind.  Maybe the word we're looking for is not "Democracy" but "Argentocracy" or, rule by money.

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