The way it is

We’ll start with this, where Paul Krugman tells us succinctly that we’re probably not going to get a decent health care reform plan at all, and if we do, it will be less good than Richard Nixon offered Democrats thirty-five years ago. Why? It’s the corporate cash, stupid: Democrats are possibly more beholden to it than Republicans (Republicans being a more natural ally of business interests). With an army of lobbyists ready to blast Congress, and a war-chest of billions in corporate cash ready to blast the airwaves and man the barricades with outrageous misinformation (and a public primed to hear it through a lifetime of conditioned responses to broadcast advertising)… the good guys, trying to get any meaningful reform that big business doesn’t want anyway, have an uphill battle.
Professor Krugman certainly doesn’t urge giving up the fight, but notes that merely electing one good-looking, telegenic President, even with healthy Democratic majorities, doesn’t mean squat: probably years of siege warfare would be required.
I tend to agree with Professor Krugman, but I have one key reform that will pass Constitutional muster, and make everyone’s lives a bit more aesthetic too. I propose that all federal political advertisements be banned from broadcast airwaves. That’s really the place that most of the money raised by politicians is used for anyway, and with cable, the internet and direct mail, there are plenty of other effective, less expensive ways to reach voters. Broadcasting is not a free speech issue… it’s a privilege of sorts, and just as Congress (or the FCC) can ban foul language or nudity from broadcasts, but not from newspapers or cable or the internet… it can ban what IMHO is infinitely more toxic to this society than foul language or nudity, the plethora of lies, ill-will and all-around “bad-karma” known as broadcast political advertising. Business should actually like this, as political ads have to get a favorable rate and time-slots, and drive up rates for other advertisers. Of course, they won’t like it, insofar as it makes their immense campaign contributions far, far less valuable… in other words, they won’t be able to buy and own Congress like they do now. Which is the point.
While it probably won’t stop the kind of overt pandering to American royalists, such as defense contractor General Electrichiring Jenna Bush Hager for its NBC division’s “Today” show, or the ceaseless fawning those like Dick Cheney by those like the Chris Wallaces of the world (as noted by Glenn Greenwald’s highlight reel of the Beltway Village nepotism… it just might help. A lot.
The life blood of all of these icky practices is free-flowing corporate cash keeping the current crew (both parties) in office, just as the life blood of our economy is cheap, imported petroleum (and it remains no coincidence that the first regime to sell its oil only in euros rather than dollars–Saddam Hussein’s– was removed by American might, while the two who threaten to do it– Iran and Venezuela– are in American cross-hairs).
How to pull of the above key reform, on which the rest turns? Well, step one, which Professor Krugman has done, is to identify and diagnose the problem. Step two is to lay out a solution, which I have done. From here, the question is whether some kind of groundswell can build for this reform. In this society, public good has come to mean squat: nothing happens if it is not in someone’s personal, parochial interest. Not sure I can solve that here, but maybe we can find someone in whose interest this is.
Until then, if we don’t solve the particular problem (broadcast campaign ads warping the system in every way) we can expect business as usual (and I do mean business) for a long, long time, even after “the system” has long since crashed under the weight of its own dysfunction.