The Freeware Hall Of Fame

United States Myths - and their realities

By Rey Barry

"Corporate political contributions aren't bribery"

They're not when "bribery" is the crime defined in law. When the cost of campaigning went through the roof legislators made political contributions to buy influence legal.

The giving of money and gifts to politicians in hopes of influencing their decisions and getting them to throw their weight around by log rolling is perfectly legal in America so long as it's recorded on a report the public has theoretical access to.

That's a big step over what the US used to have. Influence used to come through birth, friendship, and class alliances backed with money, all largely untraceable. We still have those but today the greater influence is money. At least money is more democratic.

Often it's easy to spot. Whenever government does something that flies in the face of reason, common sense, and fairness, one or more contributors bought that.

In the days before Political Action Committees, ordinary citizens mattered to legislators. They often took our side to protect us from predators. Among the laws passed in those days long gone, states enacted Homestead Exemptions which shielded our home from being seized by a creditor.

Then came business associations and PACS to lobby, make political contributions, and tell their members who to funnel individual contributions to. Not long after, consumer contracts began showing up with Homestead Exemption waivers. Give up your homestead exemption or no product or service. So today in the US it's nearly impossible to get into a hospital without waiving the Homestead Exemption.

Every single day bankruptcy courts were open in 2005, 8,000 Americans filed for bankruptcy. Individuals and couples, not businesses. Well over half those bankruptcies had one cause: medical bills. Outrageous, horrendous, inflated medical bills. And nearly all those people lost their homes because they had to choose between waiving their Homestead Exemption or not getting essential medical care. Thanks to PACS, the legislators they bought, and the log rolling that makes it work.

In 1973 the hospital maternity charge for my first child was $800. In 1978 the charge for the second child was $1200. Today that same basic service costs $12,500. If anything should go wrong, bills quickly climb into the hundreds of thousands. Even with health insurance the remaining debt is often way outside what can possibly be paid out of the wages here. Hello bankruptcy, goodbye home.

Last example. In TV advertising there will often be a line, a few lines, or huge paragraphs of mouseprint flashed momentarily on the screen, tiny letters mostly unreadable that contain essential information. You think the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission don't know it's unreadable?

Mouseprint is the compromise forced on the FTC when, once upon a time, the FTC tried to enforce truth-in-advertising. The advertisers and their PACs paid to have pressure brought to bear. The compromise was that no law ever said truth has to be readable and let's leave it that way.

Same thing on the printed page. Look at any detailed credit card agreement. Mouseprint, convoluted language, no paragraphing, often tons of extraneous matter going on page after page after page, with essential details buried.

An anti-consumer scheme like that would be stopped by the FTC unless someone in the White House or with seniority in Congress got on the phone and told the FTC to let it be.

Reportable contributions allow pressures like that to be traced. More insidious are the exceptions to what's reported.

For one example, if a legislator is absent from a vote or misses a critical committee meeting because someone who wants him to miss it sends him to Club Med that week, only a few people ever know.

Completely legal and a common thing. Virginia even has a name for it, "Miller Time," in honor of state Sen. Nathan Miller who left town to miss a key committee vote. He was SO obvious about it he became a public embarrassment to his party.

Choose another?

Introduction - How these myths began
"The US separates church and state"
"Justice will triumph"
"We have self-government"
"You cannot be forced to incriminate yourself"
"Americans have free speech"
"Americans have free radio and TV"
"No man is above the law"
"The best is yet to come"
"Abner Doubleday originated baseball"

The name Freeware Hall of Fame is Service Marked by Rey Barry (rey at
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