Monday, March 10, 2014

Comcast handing out cash in US Congress.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

When my mother was alive she used to complain about the TV license she had to pay every year. At that time it was about $150 and it is the fee people had to pay to receive the TV, radio and online services of the BBC----without ads. The license costs  £145.50 today.  The total income from license fees was £3.6562 billion in 2012 and £597.3 million or 16.3% of that was provided by the Government through subsidies for those over the age of 75. The license fees made up the majority of the BBC’s total income in 2012-2013 according to Wikipedia.

When she came to visit me here in the US it didn’t take long for her to change her mind. She was initially impressed that I had some 200 channels until she realized I only watched about 6 of them, as most were junk. From morning to night we are bombarded with mindless and manipulative ads on television.  She really got the gist after trying to watch a movie on a Friday evening with ads coming about every three to five minutes and at times showing the very same ad in succession. It drove her to bed, I left before her having experienced it many times already.

This media here in the US is pretty much private; in the hands of a few giant corporations. Comcast, the largest US cable company is attempting to become even bigger by acquiring Time Warner Cable Co. and must convince the representatives of Wall Street in Congress not to block the deal. As both parties represent the interests of the 1% this is not complicated, Comcast simply has to bribe the right people and it has the money to do so.

Comcast is spending lots of money in Washington.  In 2013, it spent $18.8 million lobbying, more than any other corporation barring Northrop Grumman that makes weapons of mass destruction that puts Northrop and Comcast in the same business really. Executive VP David Cohen, is the company’s chief hand slapper. He is also a good friend of Obama being invited to a state dinner honoring French President Francois Hollande on February 11th.  That is to be expected, after all, Cohen and his wife raised $500,000 for Obama’s 2012 election. Obama has ”…made no secret of his affection for Cohen.” says Business Week in its March 10th issue.* Last November the Cohen’s held another fundraiser at their home for Obama. “I have been here so much…”, the president tells the guests affectionately and with a little humor, “…the only thing I haven’t done in this house is have a Seder dinner…..But they have been such great friends, and I’m so grateful to them.”. I’m sure this association with the most influential political representative on the planet doesn’t affect policy does it?  I’m sure not, Obama goes to church, and I’m sure Cohen attends a synagogue; it wouldn’t be ethical.

Comcast is so intent on providing the American people with honest, affordable information that the company has increased its lobbying staff from 42 in 2003 to 107 today.  Five former members of Congress are lobbyists for Comcast.  This is a popular retirement path after these folks have served the corporations well as legislators. In 1974, 3 percent of retiring members of Congress became lobbyists, “Now 50 percent of senators and 42 percent of congressmen do.”, wrote Mark Leibovitch in his book, “This Town”.

So my mum was convinced a TV license was a good deal as it allowed a little more freedom for artists for one thing and she could watch a show all the way through without interference. The BBC also produces some great movies as well as period pieces and nature shows.  I am not arguing that the BBC is the “people’s station” as it is the voice of British Imperialism.  But it is different and anyone that watches TV can see that, plus, it has no ads and $200 a year is worth that.  Cable here can cost $160 a month. I decided to get rid of it, got a set of rabbit ears and wifi and stream my movies. I save over $100 a month and can avoid the crap.

The conservative nature of US TV, when it comes to sex and politics especially but not violence, is revealed when compared to the BBC in my opinion, and let’s not forget, I think the US (mistakenly?) bombed the BBC offices in Baghdad during the US invasion there and the station became known in some circles as the Baghdad Broadcasting Company.  That’s how provincial and conservative the US media is.

I recall reading articles in the Wall Street Journal some years ago attacking the BBC as a monopoly “unfair” competition through taxpayer funding. Murdoch jumped on that bandwagon too as Sky B was a competitor.
and therefore guilty of

Most Americans are disgusted with the criminal nature of US politics where everyone and everything is for sale.  We have, as Michael Ruppert once said, the best democracy money can buy but even that is not the case.  We cannot escape the manipulative and dishonest media that every minute of every day treats us with contempt and simply as sources of revenue. The less we know about the world the better for the David Cohen’s, Warren Buffets and the rest of the 1%.

For me, a huge obstacle to social change in the US, ridding ourselves of what really amounts to a destructive and parasitic ruling class is not that we don’t know what they are but that we cannot do anything about it; that we can’t change city hall.  And at least we have certain rights and freedom’s others don’t.  But freedom is more than being able to ride your Harley without a helmet.

What is missing in US society is the political and artistic presence of the working class (or middle class as some refer to it). More accurately the wage worker, the average Joe, the people that make the damn society work, create its wealth and have fought its wars.
We have no political party so David Cohen’s guys always win.  The 1% has differences there’s no doubt, but not on the fundamentals, that profit is paramount and in crisis it is the working class that pays.

Comcast, as BusinessWeek points out, “…gives millions of dollars to both parties through its political action committee.”  This is one major obstacle and one that workers and the middle class must change; we have no political party of our own and they have two.  No matter who we vote for, and some 138 million people correctly chose not to vote for either of the 1%’s candidates in the last presidential election, their guy always get’s in. We can’t beat them with money; as capitalists, they have more of it.  But we have numbers, and we also, in the form of existing unions, have the structure to wage an economic and political war on our own behalf, in our interests as wage workers not coupon clippers like Cohen.

We demand:
A ban on all lobbying, paying politicians for votes.
No cuts, no to austerity increase infrastructure spending to create jobs
Build an independent political party of workers, the middle class and the poor, no corporate funding, a workers politician on a workers wage.
Public ownership of the mass media, finance industry, energy, transportation, health industry and the major corporations that produce and distribute the necessities of life.
Production for social need not profit.

* Congress Never Has to Wait for the Cable Guy BusinessWeek March 10-16th.

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