Political Potpourri

March 22, 2012

There have been too many issues worthy of comment lately that I just can’t choose just one. So here’s an article full of mini-blurbs about topics that have been unfolding and getting some attention over the past couple of weeks.

The President Cannot Control Gas Prices

During the Bush administration when gas prices were high, Fox News commentators went to great lengths to emphasize that the President cannot do anything about gas prices. However, some of these same individuals are now implying or directly stating that President Obama shoulders the blame for rising gas prices. However, he doesn’t – and you can’t have it both ways. The only thing that a President can do to cause a slight, temporary lowering of gas prices is to release some of our strategic oil reserve. The President has done this once already and he may do it again – but probably not until closer to the election.

Gas prices are controlled by the world market and are overly inflated due in significant part to Wall Street speculation. Ironically, some of the same legislators who are complaining publicly about high gas prices also oppose legislative action to address the speculation that falsely inflates the prices. So, if you want to see gas prices come down, tell your Congressman/woman and U.S. Senators to support laws to crack down on speculation.

American Oil Production is Not a Magic Bullet

Despite what the media drama queens and kings say, oil production in the U.S. is actually up in recent years. But this doesn’t help our price at the pump because oil companies, many of whom are multinational corporations, sell the oil on the world market. Some people falsely believe that oil produced in the U.S. will automatically make our gas prices lower. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

The only way that U.S. oil production would definitely yield substantially lower gas prices is if we nationalized the oil and gas industry (i.e., the U.S. government took over and corporations were no longer involved). Then we could ensure that U.S. oil would be refined and sold at or near cost to American consumers without the cost inflation that comes from market speculation and oil corporations trying to increase their profits continually. However, if any elected leader even hinted at such a plan, many people would demonize such a proposal as Socialist and Anti-Capitalist. So, don’t look for anyone to propose this – ever.

But the reality is that even nationalizing the oil industry wouldn’t fix the problem as we can’t produce enough oil domestically to support our demand. We would still need to get about half of our oil through world markets to meet our demand. The ultimate reality is that we need to move toward energy independence through a broader range of methods of energy production.

Your Employer’s Religious Freedom Does Not Trump Yours

The founders wrote the First Amendment to protect the individual right to freedom of religion and speech for every citizen. It does not indicate that organized religions or employers should have more protection than individual citizens. Being an employer does not give you the right to impose your religious beliefs on others. This is precisely the type of outcome the First Amendment was meant to prevent.

The founders are surely turning over in their graves after the introduction of the Blunt Amendment that would have allowed employers to deny health coverage for anything about which they felt a personal, moral, or religious objection. Fortunately, this failed to pass in the Senate as it is clearly is not in line with the First Amendment. And, some of the state level legislative bills are horrifying invasions of privacy. For example the Arizona Senate bill that would force women to tell their employers why they were taking birth control pills. Owning a company does not give you the right to control the health, spirituality, or personal lives of your employees. This B.S. needs to stop.

Brownback Should Get Another Job

During the discussion surrounding the Blunt Amendment, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback stated in an interview that women whose employer chose not to cover birth control could just “get another job” if they wanted coverage. As if jobs are so easy to come by these days. Most people cannot just switch jobs at the drop of a hat nor should they be forced to do so because their employer doesn’t believe in birth control. If Brownback wants to see someone who should get another job, he should look in the mirror (and at his plummeting approval ratings). Hopefully, Kansas voters will help him switch jobs in 2014.

People With More Money Do Not Deserve More Speech

Many people did not realize the gravity of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that essentially equated money with speech and stated that corporations and wealthy individuals could not be limited in their political spending because this would violate their right to free speech. This has resulted in ridiculous, unlimited donations to Super PACs that support candidates. It has also created a negative advertising monstrosity that is exasperating for many everyday individuals.

Our leadership positions should not be for sale. The data clearly shows that, in nearly every case, the candidate with the most money behind him or her wins the election. This decision has cleared the way for wealthy individuals and corporations to virtually install whomever they want in office by throwing tens if not hundreds of millions into their campaign machine. Advertising generates name recognition and/or negative associations through negative advertising. Unfortunately, both these variables drive voting behavior.

Plus, there are no truth in advertising standards for political ads. These groups can (and do) say whatever they want even if it is a distortion or a complete lie. Ads for consumer products are governed by laws requiring truth in advertising. We need a similar set of standards and laws requiring truth in political advertising in order to purge the airwaves of the negative crap we see around elections.

We Deserve Better

We must stand up as citizens and say no to this corruption of our democracy. Our personal freedom and liberty should not be directed by anyone – not an employer, not an organized religion. And, we should not allow unlimited money from the rich to sway elections.

Change takes time but everyone needs to lend their voice to ensure that it happens. Tell your elected officials when you disagree with the ongoing shenanigans. Assume everything you hear from a broadcaster or politician is a lie or half-truth. While some in the media do a good job and some politicians represent issues fairly, you never know who is honorable these days. It is sad to say but there is so much B.S. being presented that it is important for all citizens to adhere to my newly proposed motto, “Don’t Trust, Just Verify”.

  • Melissa Carlson

    Great motto. I suppose it was my early training as a journalist, but I’m never satisfied with a single source. I’ve heard both Kansas senators lie at so-called “public”
    forums (I’ve had to pay to view Pat Roberts), but it really irks me to see their b.s. in constituent newsletters. See Moran’s recent “Kansas Common Sense – Questioning Labor Secretary about DOL Proposed Youth Farm Rules.”

    In his newsletter, Moran misrepresented his
    entire encounter with Secretary of
    Labor Hilda Solis regarding child labor laws. Very similar to the falsehoods
    his party fed farmers about the EPA, Moran seeks to incite outrage against the
    Obama administration saying, “basic tools like a battery-powered screwdriver or
    a pressurized garden hose” would be prohibited. Updating 40-year old laws to
    reduce the number of children injured by predictable and preventable incidents
    is not “an unprecedented overreach.” 

  • MJinOP

    Btw, I was on the steering committee of KC Move to Amend in the early days before people saw how “exasperating” (good word choice) Citizens United would become. If anyone wants to know more about efforts to negate the decision with a constitutional amendment, the national website for Move to Amend is a trove of info. Common Cause/Amend 2012 is another good one.

  • Alan

    I wish you had been elected and Moran not.

  • Great observations, Melissa. And, thank you, Alan. I also wish I would have had the opportunity to serve as our U.S. Senator. We just can’t solve the problems we face without honest discussion of the facts and objective evaluation of options. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to get much, if any, of this these days.