Monday, October 12, 2015

The Lobby is Full

This week is awash with one story over another of the power and influence of lobbyists.

The first story was about Climate Change and the faux front group that was designed to obfuscate the facts behind climate change and conceal Big Oil's role.

Then we have the Oil Industry pushing for repealing a ban on U.S. Exports.

Or the pushback against fraud and further duplicity when it comes to the dangers of toxic chemicals that another front group under the name of science (love the company name - ChemRisk totally irony not an oxymoron)  that created false data and information regarding varying chemical products.

Then we have the tobacco industry and their influence peddling at home and especially abroad against the realities of science and health that comes from smoking.  And we can thank the Chamber of Commerce for often being behind whatever junk, science or otherwise the money men wish to peddle.

We have real estate laws and the issue of affordable housing. The lawyer in Seattle whose influence and significance marks the skyline like the builders he represents.  A Harvard degree makes it all taste better when swallowing the bullshit they dish out.

The NRA.  Well moving on

How about teaching facts such as using the words "worker" vs "slavery" to describe the selling and ownership of African immigrants into U.S. texts. Well there is more ways to misrepresent and alter facts and information which does put into question how common is the core? How much influence regarding testing is bought by the Publishing and Testing firms?  Well that fad lasted barely two years and we are back to the states and their rights to misinform and poorly educate their population and then just blame the Teachers union.

Misinformation about climate change is distressingly common in the United States — a 2014 Yale study found that 35 percent of Americans believe that global warming is caused mostly by natural phenomena rather than human activity, and 34 percent think there is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether global warming is even happening. (In fact, an overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change is here and that it is caused by humans.) One way to stop the spread of this misinformation is to teach children about climate change.

 The Next Generation Science Standards offer one guide for doing so. Developed by a committee of scientists and education experts and honed by teams in 26 states before their release in 2013, the standards set forth a variety of scientific practices and concepts for students from kindergarten
Middle school students should understand that “human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature.”

 In high school, students should learn that human-caused environmental changes, including climate change, “can disrupt an ecosystem and threaten the survival of some species,” and they should be able to use climate models to determine the rate of climate change and its possible effects.

Fifteen states, including New Jersey, California and Kentucky, have adopted the standards, as have about 40 school districts in other states. Some states that have yet to adopt them, including New York, already have standards that incorporate climate change. In September, Alabama adopted standards that differ from the Next Generation Science Standards but still require students to understand how humans contribute to changes in climate.
Other states continue to debate the issue.
In Tennessee, for example, new science standards now under review call for high school students to “analyze data linking human activity to climate change” and to “design solutions to address human impacts on climate change.” At the seventh-grade level, however, they require students to use data “to engage in argument the role that human activities play in global climate change.” That standard appears to be in line with Tennessee’s 2012 law allowing teachers to help students “review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”

 That law was widely seen as supporting the teaching of evolution and climate change as controversies rather than as settled science.
Children today stand to inherit a climate severely changed by the actions of previous generations. They need to understand how those changes came about, how to mitigate them and how to prevent more damage to the planet. Schools can start by adopting science standards that deal extensively with human-caused climate change and that accurately reflect the scientific consensus.

The reality is that we are run by a cabal of lawyers that are called lobbyists. We are peddled to, lied to, manipulated and bullied to comply and to the bidding of Big ***fill in the blank***

It wasn't always that way.

How Corporate Lobbyists Conquered American Democracy 
The Atlantic
Lee Druham
April 20 2015

 Something is out of balance in Washington. Corporations now spend about $2.6 billion a year on reported lobbying expenditures—more than the $2 billion we spend to fund the House ($1.18 billion) and Senate ($860 million).

It’s a gap that has been widening since corporate lobbying began to regularly exceed the combined House-Senate budget in the early 2000s. Today, the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be everywhere, all the time.

For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public-interest groups together, large corporations and their associations now spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business. The self-reinforcing quality of corporate lobbying has increasingly come to overwhelm every other potentially countervailing force.

One has to go back to the Gilded Age to find business in such a dominant political position in American politics. While it is true that even in the more pluralist 1950s and 1960s, political representation tilted towards the well-off, lobbying was almost balanced by today's standards. Labor unions were much more important, and the public-interest groups of the 1960s were much more significant actors. And very few companies had their own Washington lobbyists prior to the 1970s.

 To the extent that businesses did lobby in the 1950s and 1960s (typically through associations), they were clumsy and ineffective. “When we look at the typical lobby,” concluded three leading political scientists in their 1963 study, American Business and Public Policy, “we find its opportunities to maneuver are sharply limited, its staff mediocre, and its typical problem not the influencing of Congressional votes but finding the clients and contributors to enable it to survive at all.”

 Things are quite different today. The evolution of business lobbying from a sparse reactive force into a ubiquitous and increasingly proactive one is among the most important transformations in American politics over the last 40 years. Probing the history of this transformation reveals that there is no “normal” level of business lobbying in American democracy.

 Rather, business lobbying has built itself up over time, and the self-reinforcing quality of corporate lobbying has increasingly come to overwhelm every other potentially countervailing force. It has also fundamentally changed how corporations interact with government—rather than trying to keep government out of its business (as they did for a long time), companies are now increasingly bringing government in as a partner, looking to see what the country can do for them.

 If we set our time machine back to 1971, we’d find a leading corporate lawyer earnestly writing that, “As every business executive knows, few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders.

 If one doubts this, let him undertake the role of 'lobbyist' for the business point of view before Congressional committees.” That lawyer was soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., whose now-famous “Powell Memorandum” is a telling insight into the frustration that many business leaders felt by the early 1970s. Congress had gone on a regulatory binge in the 1960s—spurred on by a new wave of public-interest groups. Large corporations had largely sat by idly, unsure of what to do.

 In 1972, against the backdrop of growing compliance costs, slowing economic growth and rising wages, a community of leading CEOs formed the Business Roundtable, an organization devoted explicitly to cultivating political influence. Alcoa CEO John Harper, one of the Roundtable’s founders, said at the time, “I think we all recognize that the time has come when we must stop talking about it, and get busy and do something about it.” This sense of an existential threat motivated the leading corporations to engage in serious political activity. Many began by hiring their first lobbyists.

And they started winning. They killed a major labor law reform, rolled back regulation, lowered their taxes, and helped to move public opinion in favor of less government intervention in the economy. By the early 1980s, corporate leaders were “purring” (as a 1982 Harris Poll described it). Corporations could have declared victory and gone home, thus saving on the costs of political engagement. Instead, they stuck around and kept at it. Many deepened their commitments to politics.

 After all, they now had lobbyists to help them see all that was at stake in Washington, and all the ways in which staying politically active could help their businesses. Those lobbyists would go on to spend the 1980s teaching companies about the importance of political engagement.

 But it would take time for them to become fully convinced. As one company lobbyist I interviewed for my new book, The Business of America Is Lobbying, told me, “When I started [in 1983], people didn’t really understand government affairs. They questioned why you would need a Washington office, what does a Washington office do? I think they saw it as a necessary evil. All of our competitors had Washington offices, so it was more, well we need to have a presence there and it’s just something we had to do.” To make the sell, lobbyists had to go against the long-entrenched notion in corporate boardrooms that politics was a necessary evil to be avoided if possible.

To get corporations to invest fully in politics, lobbyists had to convince companies that Washington could be a profit center. They had to convince them that lobbying was not just about keeping the government far away—it could also be about drawing government close.

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