The Real Question: Campaign Finance

One of those three-panel images of Clinton, Trump and Sanders -- a real tarot card spread if I ever saw one.

One of those three-panel images of Clinton, Trump and Sanders — a real tarot card spread.

I am watching and listening with bemusement as both alleged pundits and many everyday Joes bash Bernie Sanders for making promises he cannot keep. One among them is free public higher education.

I respond to that by telling people that I attended SUNY Buffalo, which had an English department to rival that of any private school, for $550 a semester. My parents, who are still walking around using their educations, attended Brooklyn College in the early 1960s, paying a $5 registration fee per semester, plus books. It was not easy to get in; you had to do things like read and write and maybe have a talent to share.

Bernie is not making a promise he cannot keep. He’s trying to keep a promise that was made a long time ago. He understands that WE — you, me, our parents, our grandparents and their parents — paid for the public higher education system, which was intended as a point of access, not as a bargain education for the super wealthy.

Perhaps we could also pay for medical care for everyone if we stopped paying pharma giants $5000 a day for the privilege of people dying, or paying a doctor $50,000 to perform a laparoscopic spleen removal. It’s all a matter of priorities.

But that’s not what I really came to talk about. I want to mention something about how politicians buy office, paid for by people to whom they ultimately owe their lives. In that bargain, they get the illusion of power, the companies and individuals who pay them get the power, and you get ripped off.

People are asking how Bernie Sanders might get the megabucks of what amounts to bribery out of the electoral system. He doesn’t have a plan, people are saying. Congress won’t let it go through; they’re Republican and too invested.

I don’t really care. I think that people are missing an obvious point, which is that to do any of this, there has to be awareness of the issues, and real conversation about the issues. Then there are many means to implementing the change, starting with voters choosing not to respond to these candidates whose coffers are flooded with money from Wall Street and the death (as in drug) industries and many others that would just as soon harvest your body and sell off your organs if they could.

What this money-driven system is giving us is corporatism: the merger of a right-wing government and corporate entities, who act solely on one another’s behalf. In that arrangement, those who used to be known as citizens are reduced to what amount to subjects and slaves. Do you think that corporate leaders who make $80,000 a day while their employees struggle and their customers don’t get what they pay for actually care about you?

If you don’t have the feeling of fresh, cool oxygen flowing into the political discussion in the form of Bernie Sanders’ voice, I would question your awareness of political history even in your own lifetime. I have also noticed that those who are angry at Sanders are the same people who resent the fact that society might take care of its least fortunate, which is an ever-swelling population.

The real question in all of this is not what is Bernie Sanders going to do about fixing how political office is bought and sold; the question is: what are you going to do? How are you going to help?

That’s not just a real question — it’s the only one.

9 thoughts on “The Real Question: Campaign Finance

  1. Linda Roller

    For a decade, I’ve talked to anyone who will listen about the corrosive power of big money in politics, using the old Molly Ivins line about folks “dancin’ with them what brung ya”.

    Just for fun, I calculated what I paid at the University of South Carolina as an out-of-state student in 1973. The actual cost of the tuition was $445 a semester. In today’s dollars, this is about $2400. And it is light years from the crushing burden our children carry.

    By the way, that education is still hard at work, and will be, God willing, for decades to come. The country got a good deal on that. But they have bargained in bad faith with students for some time. I cannot believe that this country does not have the capacity to educate its people and to heal them when they are ill. So, I must believe that somewhere we lost the will to do so.

    So for me, Bernie Sanders is the only option in this election cycle, and you are right, Eric — it is a breath of fresh air. Thank you, Eric, for pointing this out in your clear and concise style — and for spurring one more person beyond merely voting right, to actually doing something. Well done!

    1. Eric Francis Post author

      I graduated with just one $2000 loan that my dad got sick of existing and paid off. Because of that I was free to begin a shitty-pay but fantastic experience professional journo career at age 22, and an independent journalism career at age 25, which has led directly to this day.

  2. Bette

    Thank-you for saying this, Eric. It IS corporatism, & evidence of its tentacles & efforts show up in Canada as well, like a creeping parasitic fungus.

    A bit of history: Before “inflation” ( which is really debasement of the currency, is it not?), when I went to University in the 1960’s, tuition was $200/year for a full load of five courses, forty dollars for one course at Summer School. Tuition is many multiples of that now, & a genuine liberal arts education which requires serious thought & scholarship is virtually impossible to find. Our universities have largely become places to create job-fillers & do research to benefit corporate interests, while the costs to students just escalate. I used to edit papers for students, & the literacy levels I was seeing, even in those doing postgraduate degrees, were appallingly low. The basic foundations just weren’t there.

    I firmly believe that Bernie’s vision is possible, & essential. Sadly, no matter how many vote for him, it seems unlikely that the system would allow him to be the Democratic candidate. He is so terribly inconvenient to those who benefit from the status quo.

    So many have heard his message & come to love & trust him. I wonder what would happen, should the nomination be maneuvered into going to Clinton, if Bernie were to run for president as an independent?

    I can honestly say that for the first time in my fairly long life, I wish I could vote in a U.S. election. I hope that everyone who can will do everything they can to change things.

  3. Bette

    One last note: We know that real universal health care IS possible, & it’s not perfect, but it works, & people needn’t die because they can’t afford medical care, or lose their home due to medical bills. We see periodic attempts to privatize parts of our system, i.e., pay & get to the front of the line, but Canadians are mostly quite vigilant against such initiatives. So far.

  4. nedi

    I graduated from college in 1978. I was fotunate enough to be able to live at my parents’ home and commute across town each day to attend a branch of my state’s public university system. The total cost of my four-year degree – excluding gas and food – was approximately $2400. I paid for my own education by working part-time, and by making the payments on a relatively small loan my dad took out to cover costs that I didn’t have the cash to pay for up front. All I can say is that I marvel at how expensive a college degree has become. Regarding my degree: it enabled me to enter a field that has fit me like a glove for all of these years – computer programming.

  5. Mary

    I have come to accept that I might just be a socialist — if indeed supporting Bernie’s policies means just that. Fine. Call me whatever it is you will … I will work tirelessly for a democratic system in which my vote is equal in weight to everybody elses’ including the wealthy, for free education, public financing of health care and the bankers spending time in prison, for all their crimes … and for Citizens United overturned. Go Bernie or whomsoever leads this charge.

    I applaud you, Eric, for your fearlessness here. Makes me incredibly happy that others speak out for all of us. Thank you all.

  6. Deborah

    I don’t regret supporting both Obama runs as I felt he was the right energy to break the Bush curse and hold a mirror to our White Supremacist Patriarchal nation. It was a good start, but turns out he’s not any where near the secret muslim socialist they said he was, more’s the pity. You’re right, Eric, it’s all about awareness followed by action of the people. Bernie says it’s not about him, guess that’s why he’s so uncomfortable working within a rigged system. I’ve dreamed of a Sanders/Warren combo for well over a year now …wouldn’t that be just the ticket?!

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