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Deep-pocketed politics has no place in our county races

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 5:00 a.m. CDT

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To the Editor:

We have had ample time (three decades in fact) to examine and quantify the viability of supply-side or trickle-down economics. The final word is nearly universal. Only philosophical hard-liners cling to this disproven economic theory. The vast majority of serious, clear-eyed economists agree, concentrating the bulk of wealth in the hands of a very small minority has a stagnating effect.

The supply-side theory turns a free-market economy literally upside-down. For a society’s economy to grow and thrive the unimpeded flow of capital is absolutely essential. Henry Ford had the right idea: to provide workers with enough earning power to purchase the product they help manufacture.

THAT is how the American middle or consumer class has driven the global economy ever higher. These last 30 years of wage stagnation and wealth concentration have brought the world to the brink of global economic catastrophe. And, in turn has given rise to an even more insidious problem.

I am certain some of you, my friends and neighbors, share my concerns regarding the corrosive effect money has on our political system. Previously, the environment in which campaigns were run was marginally polluted. But, the ill effects of large contributions were kept in check by attempts at reform and ethics legislation at the national level and in statehouses across the country.

The McCain/Feingold Act of 2002 was one such attempt. This landmark piece of legislation enjoyed wide bi-partisan support and was signed into law by George W. Bush as HR2356 introduced by Chris Shays (R-CT) and co-sponsored by Patrick Meehan (R-PA).This was an attempt to limit the influence of large private donors.

However, our tenuous hold on what Lincoln called “a government of... for... and by the people” was broken Jan. 21, 2010. On that date, the radical, right-wing, activist Justices of the United States Supreme Court virtually pronounced the death of our democracy. Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justices Aledo, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas held that corporations are essentially people and money is essentially speech.

This has rendered our federal government paralyzed by ideologues and corporate toadies who answer not to the people, but to their deep-pocketed corporate overloads. One may argue people don’t have to blindly follow the saturated media messages. They can inform themselves, make their own decisions. I agree, that’s true. But, let’s face it, most don’t. And, that is why advertising is a multi-billion dollar a year industry.

You may ask why should these broad national issues concern us in Grundy County? Well, I had occasion to visit the Illinois Board of Elections website and found one of the candidates seeking election to our Grundy County Board has raised more than $40,000 for his local campaign this year alone.

Most of these campaign contributions are revealed to have come from his own company, Merc Strategy Group LLC. But, other contributions to Mr. Mercadante’s campaign come from individuals and companies in Texas, Arizona, Florida, California, and Virginia.

As a candidate who claims to be running to foster “transparency in government,” the shady nature of his campaign finances causes me to question his motives.

Is Curt Mercadante going to serve the residents of Grundy County OR grease the skids to some sweetheart deal for an out-of-state entity OR is this elected position simply a springboard to higher political aspirations?

Whatever the case, I find it offensive that Curt Mercadante would spend more than the average Grundy County household earns in a year to hold a position that pays only a couple thousand dollars a year. Perhaps it is not so ironic that the chickens of these broad national issues have come home to roost in our quiet, little, agricultural county.

Politics have long been a rich man’s game. The quaint notion of an individual serving as a citizen legislator for a short time suggested by some of our founding fathers expired before many of them did.  Understand, I am not so cynical as to suggest everyone in politics is corrupt and untrustworthy.

Indeed, I greatly admire anyone with the courage to expose themselves under the lens of public scrutiny in this, the “Information Age.” I merely suggest OUR responsibility to make a well-informed choice in the voting booth is critical and, as it happens, much easier than ever before.

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