06 1 / 2012
The New Yorker – Oct 10th 2011
State for Sale by Jane Mayer
I read this article a couple of months ago and although it captured my attention I had been unable until this time to comment on it. I’d like to start by saying that I in no way understand all the dealings of politicians. I haven’t voted in years and luckily have the excuse that as I move so often I’m never sure of the political environment in which I currently live. Also I should mention that I am not American. I lived in Canada for a few years but not recently. I am simply commenting on what I have read in this particular article.
Ms Mayer’s article about Art Pope had me infuriated. I was constantly having to put it to one side and take a deep breath. Like I mentioned earlier I am not an expert in politics or in the way of life in the United States. I also happen to be a very emotionally charged person and react firstly with my emotions before using reason. It’s probably a good thing it took me this long to put this together.
There was a ruling in the Supreme courts which as I understand it allows for unlimited funds to be spent by corporations on campaigns. As far as I am concerned politics and money has never gone well together. When I think of people backed by copious amounts of money I think of recently toppled dictators and their palaces that are currently being ransacked. Didn’t President Bush come from money? Enough said.
I’m not completely against Republicans. I want to make that very clear. There are aspects of their campaign that I agree with. However, this article about Art Pope has soured me against Republicans, mainly because they are letting him buy a state. Ms Mayer quotes Mr. Pope as saying that “Most of the efforts that I or my company have supported have been to get the message out on the issues, so that voters can make an informed choice.” The only problem with this statement is that the money being given to those that Mr. Pope and his company support has been used in defamatory attacks on the characters of his rivals. I don’t mean the usual name calling, but genuine attacks that can be construed as exceptionally equivocated.
I appreciated the point that Ms. Mayer attempts to make in that is there then no worry that candidates who have more money would drown out their peer candidates? Mr. Pope’s response to this is that he has more ‘faith in the electors’ than that. With all due respect, people have in generalized terms a herd mentality. This is just the way it is. Even for those who want to make an informed choice and use newspapers, television and the internet as their medium will find themselves consistently confronted with the candidate who has the most to spend on such advertising. Unless someone were to make an effort to search out alternative information sources the everyday information that is provided can be easily manipulated to the fears of the common man. I am not saying that we all follow blindly, however even in my case I was not aware of the magnitude of influence that such people as Art Pope have on campaigns and politics. I can guarantee you it has been an eye opener.
Ms. Mayer continues the article mentioning Mr. Pope’s admiration of John Rawl’s “A Theory of Justice” (which I have personally never read), that argues “equality of opportunity”. However Mr. Pope does not agree with Rawl’s belief in redistributive justice. This would mean transferring wealth to the needier of society. Why does Mr. Pope disagree with this? Well apparently wealth is a just reward for talent and hard work and all Americans have a fair chance at success.
So basically, if you’re poor you just haven’t tried hard enough. I would also like to ask Mr. Pope which definition in the dictionary he would use to describe his use of the word fair. Would it be ample? Promising or likely? Or perhaps adequate? Did the world become a fair place while I was asleep? Is there no discrimination or prejudice left in the world? Until that time comes how can the perusal of wealth be fair?
The article also comments briefly on a study done by an institute favored by Mr. Pope saying that ‘the poor live better than the picture most liberals like to paint’ and that most people who are in that wealth bracket are there due to self-destructive behavior. I won’t even go into that last comment, because quite frankly it doesn’t even deserve a response it is so single mindedly characterizing the poor. I would just like to say that it is most likely true that the poor in the States have a roof over their heads, a microwave and even a TV. I don’t doubt that! What are they comparing the poor in the States to? India? Africa? Seriously? Do you want to be put in the third world bracket? I knew the economy was flailing but that seems a bit excessive. The fact that there is a roof over these people’s heads shows that the government is trying to care for these people and not leave them to send their children off the search through garbage dumps like in India. I’m certain that would not look well on the news.
After all this, I find out that Mr. Pope has basically inherited his money. I understand that his father worked hard to get where he was and that he was able to pass such a fine legacy to his children is wonderful, but how can someone who was born with a silver spoon sit back and say that if you’re not making enough money it’s because you aren’t working hard enough?
I had a discussion with a colleague of mine about this article to see what his view would be. When I mentioned Rawl’s theory and that Mr. Pope disagreed with the redistribution of wealth my colleague agreed with Mr. Pope. (I found out after the conversation that he is a Republican supporter). My colleague argued that what Mr. Pope is talking about is the very essence of capitalism. Everyone has a shot at the American Dream. You don’t make it, tough break. Try harder next time.
I’d be interested to hear what other people’s views on this are. Perhaps I am too liberal. I give to several charities but also understand there is only so much they can do. The world won’t change overnight. John Mayer had a point with his song, “Waiting on the World to Change”. I stand back and hope that when the time comes and I have the power to change something I will be able to. And that people like Art Pope won’t write another check and prevent it from changing to a view that isn’t his own.