Modern Plutocracy

In the U.S. Senate, one Wyomingite is worth sixty-six Californians. If you live in a heavily populated state, you may not like it, but for better or worse, that’s the way it is. It’s in the constitution. That’s what the founding fathers intended–a plutocracy.

The worse part comes in when a small group of Senators can hold any meaningful change in policy hostage through cloture and filibuster.

Constitutional compromise and filibuster.

The constitutional compromise of 1787 attempted to resolve conflicts between small states and large ones regarding fair representation in the new U.S. government. The larger, more populated states favored proportional representation by population . The smaller states favored equal representation. The representatives compromised by providing for a bicameral form of government. All states would be equally represented in the Senate and proportionately represented in the House of Representatives.

Of course it didn’t take long for our representatives to understand that one could procedurally undermine the spirit of that compromise. In the early days of Congress a representative or senator could single-handedly filibuster or debate a bill without any limit in an effort to stall a vote.

The House eventually changed its rules on debate in 1842, but the Senate still allowed unlimited debate until 1917 when it changed its rules to invoke “cloture” (to end debate) with a two-thirds majority. Because cloture was rarely invoked due to the high threshold needed to pass, the Senate, in 1975, changed the rule to require a three-fifths vote (60%) to end debate. For more on famous filibusters see this article.

So what’s the connection between constitutional, disproportionate representation in the Senate and the cloture rule? Simply put, the cloture rule, even the more liberal 60% rule, creates a tyranny of the minority, a modern plutocracy, rife with corruption.

The health care reform bill passed in the Senate in 2009 is a great example. The final vote on cloture, to end debate and vote on the bill was 60-39. (Ohio Senator Voinovich (R) was opposed but did not vote.) Remember, this is the bill that the insurance companies love, the one that will allow them to raise their rates at will while taxpayers will pay for those too vulnerable to pay; the version without the public option.

Using the 2000 United States census results for simplicity, the no votes for watered down health care represented about 35% of the total population of the country.

Without the votes of  Blue Dog Democrats (Republicans), like Max “The Insurance Salesman” Baucus, Blanche “Union Buster” Lincoln, Joe “The Best Reason to Vote for Nader in 2000” Lieberman, Bill “The Extortionist” Nelson and a couple of others, there would be no health care reform whatsoever.

It’s cheaper to purchase the votes of a few.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that a corporation can get more bang for its buck buying off a few “mavericks.” Refer back to the graphic in the Washington Post. Note that Max Baucus had the 4th highest amount of campaign contributions from the “health care” industry at $3,902,881.00. Lieberman came in 11th at $2,560,496.00;  Lincoln in 15th at $2,123,458.00; and Nelson in 34th at $1,266,766.00.

The “health care” industry must think that running an election campaign in Montana is an expensive proposition. After all,  they were willing to spend over $6.07 per person in Montana to get Mr. Baucus elected. Contrast that to Barbara Boxer who only received 38 cents per person.

As the cartoon suggests, the whole nation is taking it up the ass.

What does this have to do with your money? Health care reform was nothing more than a bailout of the “health care” industry. The law requires ordinary people to buy health care insurance, so it guarantees a market in which rates will continue to skyrocket. Ordinary people will also foot the bill for those too poor to pay into the system by paying more taxes. Once again, you get to support rich assholes by guaranteeing their profits and subsidizing their losses.

The real travesty is that rich assholes (banks, insurance companies, defense contractors, private prison corporations, etc.) can always thwart reform with a few well-placed bribes in the Senate, where you don’t have to have a majority vote to kill reform.

Recent attempts to reform the cloture rule in the Senate failed. What else is new? Seriously, do you really think that politicians would ever reform a rule so lucrative–a rule that could make any of them king for a day? Besides, that’s the way the founding fathers wanted it.

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