Do the Poor Need a PAC?


The most powerful political force at work in America today is not the voters or the politicians or even the myriad budget problems we, as a nation, face. It is, quite simply, the power of lobbyists and their political action committees, known as PACs. These groups decide who will be elected and which laws will be enacted through the blunt force of money and huge organizations.

These PACs represent nearly all special interests in America; from the medical professions, to farmers, to the retired, to the chemical manufacturers, to pro and anti- abortion believers, ad infinitum. These organizations funnel money into political campaigns for the sole purpose of gaining leverage to insure that their interests, no matter how narrow, are constantly considered in all facets of legislation and budget negotiations.

This situation, while wonderful for the PACs, makes keeping our laws fair and our lawmakers honest very difficult. There is seldom a method of determining just how a law or budget item came to become important to our representatives. Was it because the action being taken is, in fact, truly important to all Americans or did the money and power of lobbyists convince them to act? Does the legislation being considered benefit all or just a select powerful few?

Finally, are the truly disenfranchised represented, in any form, by PACs or any other group of lobbyists? Are those whom I've repeatedly described as the most powerless to protect themselves represented in any significant way in Washington?

The short answer is "No". Ever since the right wing of the Conservative movement in America succeeded in making the word "Liberal" into an accusation and swear word, rather than the descriptive form of a particular political philosophy it is meant to be, the poor in this country have become the scapegoats of all of our nation's ills.

The result is that if the government wishes to reduce the budget, they attack the tens of billions of dollars going to the poor and elderly, not the hundreds of billions going to business and the wealthy in corporate welfare and undeserved tax shelters. When the crisis de jour is crime, they attack the actions committed by the lowest classes of America, usually drugs, and ignore or attempt to legalize the pollution, the unemployment, the dangerous products manufactured and the outright fraud the wealthy perpetrate in the name of profits. When the perpetually self-righteous complain about the violent crime in America, they first blame the poor and lower classes for being lazy and criminally inclined while ignoring the statistics showing a drop in crimes reported across the country. They also fail to note the massive cuts in budgets for education, school lunches and Head Start programs at both the federal and state levels, not to mention the failed "War on Drugs" which has consumed so much of our money in the form of law enforcement and vastly expanded prison facilities. They also praise Wall Street for the huge gains of the stock market while ignoring the suffering caused by the lay-offs and lack of benefits business uses to expand its bottom line and value.

Okay, you may say. What can we do to level the playing field for the rest of us? We're not rich or powerful enough to afford to buy our own Congressman, so what should we do?

My suggestion is this: Let's form a PAC of our own. We will found a movement in this society to show that all of us must share the good and bad times in our economy, that being poor or disabled or elderly is seldom a choice one would make and should no longer be considered the crime the right wing demagogues have made it.

In the next issue of this column, we'll discuss what a PAC such as this should stand for and what it should strive to accomplish. If you have suggestions that will help move this discussion forward, I can be reached through this paper or at jcannon@concentric.net. If you want to just quote your favorite ultra conservative talk show, save yourself the phone bill. I'm not interested.

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