Yes, â€œRogers & Meâ€ is a play on Michael Mooreâ€™s 1989 documentary, Roger & Me. Itâ€™s a fitting title, keeping in mind both the premise of Mooreâ€™s filmâ€”GMâ€™s outsourcing of 30,000 Flint manufacturing jobs in the 80sâ€”and Rep. Rogersâ€™ (R-MI) failure to contribute to the stimulation of Michiganâ€™s economy.
Thatâ€™s a story for another day, though. Rogers is a stone in the ocean at the will of a rolling tide, just a small part of a much larger process at play. So letâ€™s talk about structure, and letâ€™s simplify.
The political tide is such: legislation is brought by the politician; the politician is brought by campaign funding; campaign funding is brought by wealthy donors. Therefore, our legislation is (in)directly paid for by these wealthy donorsâ€”an exclusive group of economic elites. There are some exceptions along the way, but generalizations can be helpful sometimes.
A lot of people make the argument that Obama ran a highly grassroots presidential campaign, relying almost exclusively on contributions from individuals, rather than organizations. What this argument refers to, however, is a loophole in which organizations are permitted to raise funds from individual donors who often have a vested economic interest in the success of said organizations, which really isnâ€™t much different from organizations donating money themselves (Plus, many online donors in the election were untraceable.)
Goldman Sachs was Obamaâ€™s second largest donor (though often reported separately as â€œindividualâ€ donations) in the 2008 presidential election, slipping him just under $1 million. It should come as no surprise, then, that the higher-ups at Sachs have received no real punishment for their exposed criminal activity related to our economic meltdown, have received handsome bonuses amidst the recession, and have been put in place to do the same thing to us again in the future.
In other words, the election was collaboratively bought, and a major player was Goldman Sachsâ€”a company thatâ€™s not only uninterested in the public welfare, but ferociously preys upon it. And as a result Obama has been repaying them for the win ever since.
Closer to home, Mike Rogers also shows us the inadequacy of our current campaign finance structure. Mainly through its political action committee, AT&T has given Rogers nearly $40,000 throughout his career, as he supports legislation that is both beneficial to AT&T and harmful to democracy.
One reason AT&T funds Rogers is because he fights hard against net neutrality, though he claims to be for it by distorting its definition. Real net neutrality can be defined as â€œthe guiding principle that preserves a free and open internet,â€ but Rogers proposes guiding principles that would do just the opposite. He wants Internet service providers (ISP) to regulate a new tiered structure of the internet.
It is uncertain exactly what ISPs might do with this power, if itâ€™s granted to them. Access to certain content might become limited, or they could charge more money for faster serviceâ€”the inevitable result would be crippling to small businesses and individuals who depend on an open internet for the free exchange of information (itâ€™d be like Applebeeâ€™s using rollerblades to race the Travelerâ€™s Club, who are of course using a pogo stick).
That aside, ISPs would be able to discriminate against any customer they want to, including political candidates, competing ISPs, and any blogger out there they feel like slowing down. This is what we get when we allow corporations to have a voice in our elections, and simply reversing last yearâ€™s Citizens United ruling will do nothing except take us back to a system where they can loophole their way to buying politicians and reverse-Robin-Hooding us.
As Obama repays Goldman Sachs with our money and Rogers repays AT&T with our internet freedom, we become silent observers in our own political process, and it plagues every issue weâ€™re faced with. From here we need to discuss real campaign finance reform, like the Fair Elections Now Act. Or we could all buy stock in AT&T and Goldman Sachs instead. Just make sure to sell before the bubble bursts this time.