A lot of working men and women nowadays are wondering how and why the nation’s financial manipulators—including Wall Street bankers, stockbrokers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers and others–seem to have an inside track to our U.S. senators and representatives.
For example, the “too big to fail” banks accepted billions of dollars in so-called “stimulus” money from our government. Then they thumbed their collective nose at the government’s suggestions they use that money to help out people who are losing their homes to foreclosures that were brought about by shady practices of the banks in the first place.
Meanwhile, the insurance and pharmaceutical companies mounted a campaign of lies and deceit against President Obama’s health care proposal, which resulted in watered-down health reform of somewhat questionable value.
The fact is that corporate America can get things done in Congress that are harmful to the nation’s middle class because it has paid for “access” to our elected representatives in Washington.
“Access” is a nice tern for “buying votes,” which is what corporate American does through the expenditure of millions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying fees.
In 2009, the six “too big to fail” banks—Bank of America, Citigroup, Inc., Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo—spent nearly $28 million on lobbying the federal government. Also in 2009, the top officers of those companies paid themselves a total of nearly $82.5 million in compensation.
The total lobbying expenditure for the entire financial sector last year was $3.5 billion. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce alone spent some $123 million for so-called “access.”
On the other hand, labor unions spent less than $10 million last year lobbying on federal issues. The unions are nonprofit; they simply don’t have the money.
The controversial ruling on campaign finance by the U.S. Supreme Court in January allows corporations to spend freely on political ads leading up to elections. The decision invalidates a part of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform law that sought to limit corporate influence.
“The Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics,” said President Obama. “It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”
Lawyers for corporate America will argue that the ruling also applies to labor unions.
That’s true, but so what?
While ruling gives unions the right to spend unlimited money, labor doesn’t don’t have unlimited money. They only represent about eight percent of the workforce.
The corporations already outspend organized labor by a 5 to one margin in campaign contributions. With this ruling, they’ll now be able to outspend us by 50 or 100 even 1,000 to one.
And now you know why corporate America continues to hold all the aces, and probably will for some time to come.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Steve Vairma is president of the Colorado Council of Teamsters.