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As North Carolina endures the absurd, never-ending ad blitz of a U.S. Senate campaign, here are two quick, must reads that explain: 1) just how far out of hand the wholesale sell-off of our democracy to the top 1% has gotten and 2) what we ought to be doing about it.

Number One is a great, interactive post from the the Center for Public Integrity entitled “Who’s buying the Senate?”  If you follow the link, you can check out a partial list if who is paying (sort of anyway) for the remarkable flood of thousands of junk TV ads (there have already been nearly 50,000 of them on TV  in North Carolina (not including local cable and many other media).

Meanwhile, Number Two is this editorial from yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch that tells you what we ought to be doing to rein in this situation and reclaim control of our democracy – namely, pass the “Democracy for All” amendment that would reestablish the constitutionality of limits on campaign finance.  The editorial is entitled “While America sleeps, plutocrats are stealing its government.” To quote:

Thanks to a series of wretched decisions by the Supreme Court, effective political speech now belongs only to those who can afford it. What’s more, donors can easily keep their names secret.

The court has ruled that money is a form of speech that cannot be abridged. But as Justice John Paul Stevens wrote so succinctly in 2000, upholding Missouri’s campaign finance limits, “Money is property; it is not speech….”

Given the sordid record of the Rehnquist and Roberts courts on campaign finance issues, Democratic Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Michael Bennet of Colorado saw the obvious solution as amending the Constitution to make it clear that democracy is not plutocracy. But that requires the cooperation of the party that benefits from the status quo. When Mr. Udall needed a Republican co-author for an op-ed commentary about his amendment, he had to go Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who retired from the Senate in 1997.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other agents of the plutocrats are couching the vote on SJR 19 as a free-speech issue. Mr. McConnell appears to think that the public will be fooled, or that it doesn’t care. He went along with Majority Leader Harry Reid’s, D-Nev., plans to spend this week debating the amendment.

Don’t be fooled. This is not about free speech rights. It is about property rights, specifically whether those with the most property should have the biggest say in the way government is run. Without enough money to hire consultants and staff and to barrage voters with television ads, candidates for federal and statewide offices — and increasingly, local offices — have virtually no chance of being elected.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

Tax the rich 2The good people at Too Much, the online newsletter of Inequality.org have another sobering but powerful article this week. The rather amazing and disturbing finding: the wealth of the average American family is up over the last 25 years, but the wealth of the median family has actually dropped. If this finding leaves you scratching your head, it boils down to the fact that the rich have become so rich that they’re dragging up the overall average even though typical families are faring worse. This is from the article:

The growing wealth of these affluent, the new Fed data show, is driving up America’s average family net worth. But straight averages can mislead — and even deceive. If nine people each have zero net worth and a tenth person holds a fortune worth $10 million, the average person in that 10-person group will be a millionaire.Medians, by contrast, tell us more about how everyday people are truly faring. At the median point, half the people in any distribution have more, half less. In 1989, the new Fed Survey of Consumer Finances details, the median — most typical — U.S. family held $84,800 in net worth, after adjusting for inflation.

In 2013, America’s most typical families held only $81,200, 4 percent less.

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(Image: AFL-CIO / paywatch.org)

Just when you thought things couldn’t get much worse on the American inequality front, you encounter reports like the new “Executive Paywatch” report from the AFL-CIO.

Click here to check out the website — it includes a section in which you can view CEO pay by state. And while the top guys (and they’re almost all guys – 67 out of 69) in North Carolina aren’t as obscenely wealthy as they are in New York or Texas, the gap remains huge; the ratio of CEO pay to that of the average worker in North Carolina is 108 to 1.

 

 

 

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Blue slipIn case you’ve lost count, today is Day #289 on the Richard Burr Blue Slip Watch. It’s been nearly ten months since President Obama nominated federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to fill what is the longest-standing vacancy in the federal court system in North Carolina’s Eastern District. Unfortunately, as we have reported repeatedly on this site, Burr is blocking consideration of May-Parker unilaterally and refusing to say why. It’s a disgraceful situation that is made only worse by the fact that May-Parker would be the first African-American and only the second woman to serve on the federal bench in the Eastern District in its history.

And speaking of inexcusable behavior by North Carolina elected officials, commentator Marena Groll of ENC Weekly did a great job this week of skewering Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly over the state’s worst-in-the-nation tax policy changes.

And speaking of the state’s misguided economic policies, Read More

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David Koch

Conservative plutocrat, David Koch

It’s no secret that America’s economic inequality continues to metastasize at a remarkable pace. Still, when one actually takes a moment to look at and consider the vast holdings of the nation’s richest families (and the avarice often represented therein) it can take your breath away. For some cases in point, check out the following article entitled “A Third of a Trillion for Three Families,” by tax lawyer Bob Lord for the website Inequality.org.

“How concentrated has America’s wealth become? In the not-so-distant future, if current trends continue, a mere handful of Americans will together hold over $1 trillion in wealth. Read More