I am a 31-year old with a Masters degree in Architecture who runs a branch of a family-owned business. My grandfather moved to America with almost nothing and started the business which has now been passed down through two generations; I come from a background which stands for hard work, honesty, and justice. I own my own home, I pay my taxes, and am recently married. I am also a member of the Political Strategy working group at Occupy Albany. Occupy is not a political party, and we don’t claim to have all the answers. We are a group of ordinary citizens that are fed up with ‘politics as usual’ and we are trying to bring light to issues we do not feel have been sufficiently addressed.
One belief that we share is that the voice of the people in our ‘democracy’ is drowned out by the unfair and corrupting influence that big corporate money exerts in our politics. I had not been a political activist before this movement, but have been galvanized by the idea that we the people can root out this problem if enough of us stand up and fight. To give some examples of how corporate money affects us, as everyday citizens, I’d like to share some realizations I’ve had recently:
Corporate Tax Dodging: As a taxpayer, I was pretty angry when I found out that I paid more taxes over the last three years than 30 of the Fortune 500 corporations combined, while many of these same corporations spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying our elected representatives to protect their interests, including industry specific tax breaks and tax loopholes. To share a few of the most egregious examples: Boeing, General Electric, PG&E, and Verizon paid no corporate income tax in the US between 2008-2010, yet those same four corporations spent over $261 Million lobbying during that same time period.
What taxpayer, regardless of party, could not be steaming mad about that?
Big $ Healthcare Lobbying: Watching the nation debate healthcare, I wondered why our elected officials were having such a hard time agreeing on fixing a healthcare system that, with skyrockets costs and bureaucracy, has gone so clearly awry. The numbers are telling: from 1998-2011, the healthcare industry spent over $4 Billion exerting their influence on Washington through lobbying alone. Evenly divided by the 535 members of congress, that is about $7,700,000 lobbying dollars per representative from just the healthcare industry.
Is it any wonder we cannot get the health care system fixed considering the level of monied influence being exerted on our representatives by groups with a vested interest in continuing the inflated flow of healthcare spending?
Wall Street $ in our Elections: Why has our government not been able to get to the root and meaningfully reform our financial and banking systems after we were essentially forced to shell out almost $600 Billion in bailouts and make trillions in emergency loans to save the country from an economic tailspin? The data for the 2008 presidential elections paints an eye opening picture: for Barak Obama’s campaign, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, & Citigroup were in the top six groups of campaign contributors. The top five for John McCain were, in order, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, & Goldman Sachs. Lobbying spending from the financial sector jumped nearly 50% between 2006 and 2008 and reaching a high of just over $100 Million last year.
How can our representatives make the hard decisions needed to address some of the most critical issues of our time when, to raise the money to get re-elected, they will be beholden to the very people they should be regulating, and once elected they are subject to extreme lobbying pressure from those same groups?
Given the nature of the current system, can we rely on our representatives to do what is in the best interest of the people they were elected to represent? At Occupy Albany, we think that we must go much further than voting. If we the people can unite around issues that affect us all, we can affect real change. Political Strategy working group meets Saturdays at 1pm at Academy Park – Check the info table for exact location.
Originally posted to the Times Union Blog