Nation on the Take by Potter and Penniman

book jacket with political button red white blue and subtitle in itNation on the Take: how big money corrupts our democracy and what we can do about it by Wendell Potter (New York Times bestselling author of Deadly Sin) and Nick Penniman

Alas the rascal that seems to reserve the same books I am reading, thus preventing a renewal so this will have to be short and sweet. You laugh, but I think I can do it.

The Preface sets the tone of the book:

We were drawn to collaborate on this book out of a common sense of love and heartbreak. Love for our country, heartbreak for what is happening to it. . . . Our grand 240-year-old project of self government has been derailed, replaced by a coin-operated system that mainly favors those who can pay to play.

This is not what our American predecessors bled for, not just during the Revolution but during other wars, as well as during money moments of protest and resistance.

Some of the chapter titles show a little dark humor as well: Oligarchy, Gridlock, Cronyism for chapter 3; Too Big to Beat for 4; Fuel Follies 6; Fat Wallets, Expanding Waistlines 7; and more.

An easy guess on the “Expanding Waistlines” is the problem of obesity in America.  The book is full of details about things, for example, the amount of money by the “beverage” industry lobby increasing from $22 million to $58 million. And points out that contributions increased as well.

There are charts of things like the “Top 20 Recipients of Food & Beverage Contributions” on p.154. A handy pie chart to the side breaks it out by visual of dem vs. repug, and the dems only get a small slice of the pie. John Boehner appears to have gotten the most at $231,485.

In the chapter called “Enough to make you Sick”  (p. 180) there is extensive discussion of Formaldehyde  (poison) that in furniture and other uses in products causes health problems. Oftentimes used for no particular reason as I recall from another book. Anyway, the point of the story is industry action and EPA counteraction, and lobbying , and claims of massive layoffs if regulations were put in place.

Executives from La-Z-Boy, Ashley Furniture, and other companies met with House Speaker John Boehner and TEN rank-and-file Republicans and Democrats to request that they sign on to a letter pressuring the EPA to fold. They got what they wanted. Members of the House who sent letters including Doris Matsui, a California Democrat, and Alan Nunnelee, a Mississippi Republican. Senate Republicans Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Roy Blunt of Missouri and Democrats Mark Warner and TIM KAINE of Virginia also sent letters. The furniture executives and lobbyists had reported meeting with all of them except Kaine. All the correspondence echoed the industry’s concern that requiring the companies doing the final wood lacquering to test their products would be redundant. They maintain that test show the lamination process seals in the formaldehyde. (p. 180)

So it looks like our soon to be Vice President (please not Mike Pence) rolled over and was a industry pimp. Funny too that his name is not in the index. Guess his just giving the Democratic response to W in 2006 didn’t bump him up on the authors radar.

Under the “It’s Fixable” chapter the discuss eliminating campaign contributions from lobbyists and mention the crook Jack Abramoff for peddling influence because, well her was a crook, but he crossed some mythical line that you theoretically can lobby or  pursue campaign contributions, but not both. Also some people are lobbyists but aren’t called that, they are “consultants” or some such.

[Theoretically,] the “cooling-off” period “for former House members and senior Hill staffers is a year former senators and staff must wait two. Former members of Congress can pass the time during their cooling off periods by lobbying the executive branch, or state and local officials. And of course they can easily get around the lobbying bans entirely.

Some members of Congress want to permanently jam the revolving door. In 2014, Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation that would institute a lifetime ban of lobbying for former members of Congress.  (p. 206)

But of course, since there is only one way to make change to Congress, by convincing them to do it for themselves, NO CHANGE CAN EVER HAPPEN, because they have been honing the rules for decades to keep themselves in power and never allow any direct action of the people like the referendum power in the states, to force them to introduce the referendum and allow the nation to vote.

The very best chapter, maybe because it is directly relevant to me because I have multiple sclerosis, was the chapter titled “Drugged,” For decades the price of pharmaceuticals has been excessive but apparently our government, that can take down dictators, cannot say NO to Big Pharma. I have ranted on about socialized risk and private profit, and non-negotiable prices, unregulated industry, and so on before. This chapter has quite a few notable charts and comments and details not usually found in other books. Like the unexpected mention of the possible Veep Tim Kaine as a sucker for industry lobbyists.

A very informative book, naming names, which I always like. And giving specific details about who was doing what when and why and even some examples of good fixes for problems but of course, they could not get past the Republican goal of NOTHING SHALL PASS during a democratic president’s terms in office.

Though I suppose if Obama said that tax breaks would be given to anyone earning over $250,000 who bought some assault weapons and high capacity magazines, they might bend there will to support that. The reason I set the bar so high was cause (a) all the Cliven Bundy’s got theirs already, and (b) they might get worried if the poor have something more powerful than pitchforks to come after them. Just like everyone was GUNS GUNS GUNS until they realized that meant The Black Panthers could legally own weapons just as easily as the KKK.

The only criticism I have of the book is that it is a touch dry in the writing. And every sentence is packed. It is like being stuck in front of a tennis ball tosser, the words keep coming and coming before you have a chance to take a breath and grasp the meaning. Not an easy read but informative. And alas, the “fixes” they propose are completely unrealistic because they all require Congress to so something and that will never happen. They need to do more detailed, system analysis, as to how the citizens can wrest the control of Congress back from the lifetime tenured politicians that have been screwing us for decades with no consequences.

It is all very well to say stop the lobbying and the campaign contributions, but they off absolutely not functional method by which that can ever happen. Not for ANY OF THE PROBLEMS they discuss. Because at the root of it all is GREED. Never altruism. Especially the Republican party who for reasons I will never understand, hate their fellow citizens. They begrudge the people the most slightest assistance while 382 of Congress members are millionaires.

Someday I will have to read about the psychology of hate, and whatever the opposite of altruism and compassion and empathy are, and see why the Democrats [used to] manage to give a damn about workers, and the Republican/Conservatives NEVER have.


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