Money versus votes

I wonder how many of our votes the Koch brothers and friends could buy directly, by offering, say, $1000 paid directly to voters for switching our votes in the midterm election? What would it take? $100? Maybe they don’t have to spend that much.

I must say I find it depressing news that we are becoming an oligarchy. Robert Reich, who writes on this page on Sundays, and Paul Krugman, he of the Nobel Prize, both use the O- word. Reich says that the Koch brother billionaires are buying democracy out from under us, single-handedly delivering the election to the Republicans. And now with the McCutcheon decision, our supreme court is helping them do it. (George Will, who also adorns these pages on Sunday, doesn’t seem concerned, but then he seems to have such low expectations)

Oligarchy is rule by a few (rather than the “we the people” of our founding document). In our case it is synonymous with plutocracy, in which the few are the very wealthy. And since that money comes from corporate profits, we can call it a corporatocracy.

Sounds ominous. But I’ve been pondering just why we should care if the economists are using the O- word for our country tis of thee? What is the relationship between our pursuit of happiness and oligarchy?

Part of it for me is in knowing that many less fortunate than I will be made worse off if the Kochs and their money triumph. But it’s more than that. It violates some basic meaning of my life.

Maybe it’s the image of these old, rich guys buying the election, having their way with us. It seems obscene, like rape. (As in that movie where a wealthy Robert Redford makes an offer they can’t refuse to a young couple for the favors of otherwise happily married Demi Moore.)

I’d like to think—we used to think, didn’t we?—that money and power had limited ability to influence things since after all we voters have the final say. And we wouldn’t vote for something just because a rich man told us to. We’d tell him to stick his billions where the sun don’t shine, or other colorful imperative. The bottomline we were interested in was that the rich and powerful have to come to us for permission to run things. So they can’t run things in ways we don’t want.

I know, naive, right? But it was a common sense that we were, it seems to me, taught in school along with other basic arithmetic such as two plus two equals four. Greatest good for the greatest number. Which is the way it ends up if people vote their self-interest.

But it seems like I’m living in a country where that commonsense doesn’t exist anymore. Where even the have-nots , those sick and tired of government (which is rather like saying you’re sick-and-tired of your right leg) are welcoming, or at least not resisting, the Koch money and its influence.

Recently we read that the Kochs and allies have decided to use their money to reverse government support of the widely hailed good sense of green energy. Green energy is not logical for the very wealthy, who make their money on fossil fuels. And the tone of the article reporting this is: Oh,oh, watch out. What chance will green energy stand against all that green?

What I stand to lose if Big Money triumphs is not (probably) my personal comfort but a basic logic of my life. As if two plus two no longer equals four.

In theory we can still tell the Kochs to shove it. We still have the vote, last time I looked. All the money in the world cant buy an election if we the voters refuse to be bought. The Kochs and friends can’t do it without our help. They are absolutely depending on our forgetting which side our bread is buttered on.

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