Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Sun Media: Power to the Wealthy Elites!

CORRECTION: In ENDNOTE **, I speak about how the Liberals never really overcame the pull of wealthy donors, even with a cap on donations. When writing this I failed to remember that many of the important, heavy restrictions on corporate and union donations didn't come into being until the early 2000s. - July 23, 2011

Well, I've been reading the July 10, 2011 edition of Winnipeg's biggest tabloid, the Winnipeg Sun*. On good ol' page 11 we have an ever so enlightening Sun Comment, "Au revoir to vote subsidies". The basic premise is that slashing vote subsidies is an a-okay idea. The reason? As substantive as most things written in it's UK inspiration and namesake, it goes...

As we argued here a year ago, and it was obviously clearly heard by the Harper Conservatives, the voter subsidy had to end the moment the Tories secured their majority.

And now it will end, by 2015.

The BQ's final quarterly cheque under the old scheme of $2-per-vote, and the last payment from the 2008 federal election, totalled $703,364.

That's a lot of cash to hand to traitors.

However, if it had to rely on party donations from the separatist faithful, as it soon will, the Bloc would have died out years ago.
Because public financing of campaigns aided a party many Canadians don't like, that proves it's a bad idea. That's it.

There's a few other lovely insinuations. The BQ is an incompetent fundraising entity and their supporters are stingy. What isn't dealt with is how working class much of the BQ's base was and, as such, how they were less likely to have the deep pockets of Harper's country club Conservative networks.

Which gets to the real problem. Parties base their policies to cater towards those who own them. In Canada, where votes directly lead to money, parties cater their policies more towards voters (a cap on contributions to parties also helps)**. With this connection severed, parties will become more distant from most voters and instead concentrate on a narrower slice of fundraising networks filled with upper middle class and affluent donors. This may be a dream come true for Harper's country club Conservatives, but it's a disaster that'll leave Canada's working class in the dust, politically speaking***.

As Thomas Ferguson would say (while describing the utterly dysfunctional state of American politics):

Fundamentally, the problem of money and politics is very simple: campaigning is costly, much more costly than classical democratic theory has acknowledged. Some way has to be found to pay for it. We may take it as an axiom that those who pay for the campaign will control it. So the choices boil down to just two: either we all pay a little, through public financing of campaigns, or a relative handful of the super-rich end up controlling the system because they pay for the campaign.
While a lower cap how on much parties can use during campaigns broadens influence, so that even middle class donors can have considerable sway, the problem still exists in Canada and will worsen thanks to Harper's destructive move, cheerlead by that trash tabloid known as the Sun.

ENDNOTES
*I read a complimentary copy; it'd really pain me to support that paper directly.
**Mind you, this system realy never completely overwhelmed the deep-pocketed donor pull. Throughout the 1990s the Liberal Party was still quite centre-right, with it's massive austerity program.
***Though a similar, perversely deep-pocket dominated system left America's working class in the dust financially as well.

4 comments:

  1. Gustav Nelson20 July 2011 18:25

    It's also a bad idea because your money inevitably goes towards supporting a party you don't agree with.

    Also, the Conservatives have relied vastly upon smaller donations from a larger pool of middle class Canadians. And to top it off, a person can only donate a maximum of $1000 dollars, not quite the top dollars that the "Country Club Elites" are drowning the Conservatives with.

    Also, parties cater to win votes, which is why Jack Layton is making steps to come closer to the "center".

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  2. Gustav Nelson = italics

    "It's also a bad idea because your money inevitably goes towards supporting a party you don't agree with."

    "Your money"? Last time I checked, taxdollars aren't earmarked on the basis of what individual paid them, so there really is no way to determine where "your money" goes. We can determine where our money goes, and some of it goes to programs/parties/causes some of us personally like or benefit from and other dollars go to places that some of us personally dislike. So is the dilemma of civilized society.

    "Also, the Conservatives have relied vastly upon smaller donations from a larger pool of middle class Canadians. And to top it off, a person can only donate a maximum of $1000 dollars, not quite the top dollars that the "Country Club Elites" are drowning the Conservatives with."

    From my post: "While a lower cap how on much parties can use during campaigns broadens influence, so that even middle class donors can have considerable sway, the problem still exists"

    The fact that millionaires can't donate hundreds of thousands of dollars directly to campaigns still doesn't negate their influence. It's pretty likely that upper middle class to rich donors will be a lot more prevalent on a Tory donor list than in the population at large and there'll certainly be a gross underrepresentation of working class and working poor Canadians. As well, the wealthy have the resources to follow up on their donations with direct demands.

    While the Alliance was and the CPC is better at getting middle-middle class donations than the blue Liberals (who were really reliant on corporate donations), that doesn't mean that the problem of the affluent having more sway than the poor disappears.The Conservatives were, after all, the party of mainly middle class to upper middle class Canadians in 2009 (and I suspect with the drift of some blue Liberal voters to the Tories in 2011 that it's even more so now).

    "Also, parties cater to win votes, which is why Jack Layton is making steps to come closer to the "center"."

    Median voter theory is full of holes.Most voters don't have well-defined,stable, and consistent opinions on many policy issues. Due to a variety of factors, it's rational to be politically ignorant. The media plays a fairly substantial role in determining what the "issues" are and what's the "centre". Furthermore, good campaigns can paint their party's ideology as "the centre" regardless of what most people believe (the Harper gov't, after all, didn't move left when it became apparent that most Canucks don't support corporate tax cuts).

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  3. Gustav Nelson21 July 2011 21:21

    "So is the dilemma of civilized society."

    Not so much a dilemma as it is a problem seeing as how it's other people thinking they know how to spend your money better than you can.

    "The fact that millionaires can't donate hundreds of thousands of dollars directly to campaigns still doesn't negate their influence."

    How so?? Your argument is that money = control. If no money, then your argument isn't valid.

    "there'll certainly be a gross underrepresentation of working class and working poor Canadians."

    You make the false assumption that working class and poor Canadians don't share conservative ideals.

    "Furthermore, good campaigns can paint their party's ideology as "the centre" regardless of what most people believe "

    Propaganda is a powerful tool.

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  4. "Not so much a dilemma as it is a problem seeing as how it's other people thinking they know how to spend your money better than you can."

    I'll take paternalistic taxes over Somalia anyday, thank you very much.

    "How so?? Your argument is that money = control. If no money, then your argument isn't valid."

    Because $1000 is still money and disproportionat amount will still come from those with high-incomes, who also have a better ability to hassle politicians after elections to get there worth out of donations as well.

    "You make the false assumption that working class and poor Canadians don't share conservative ideals."

    The two poorest districts in Canada (Vancouver East and Winnipeg North) don't vote Conservative. As well, at least in 2009, NDP and Green voters were most likely to make less than $40,000/year while Conservative voters spanned from middle class to upper class.

    "Propaganda is a powerful tool."

    Which is why those who can buy it hold quite a bit of power.

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