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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
25 Oct 2014
Premature Postmortems

Grantland Rice, a popular American sportswriter of the first half of the 20th century, gave us an often-… Read More.

18 Oct 2014
Recognizing Heroes in Our Midst

That terrifying Tuesday morning, now 14 Septembers ago, when terrorists connected to al-Qaida hijacked … Read More.

11 Oct 2014
Truly Right From the Start

In September 2002, before the Bush administration got its green light from a supine Congress and a full six … Read More.

When Money Speaks, the Truth Is Silent


Let's hear a round of applause. When this year's last negative TV ad has been aired and the last check, from an anonymous donor, has finally been cashed, 2014 — at a total price tag of close to $4 billion — will have been the most expensive nonpresidential election year in U.S. history. Pointing out the parity in total spending between the two major parties, some political pundits argue that we should not be worried about candidates collecting more and more campaign money from wealthy individuals and interests. These reassuring pundits, believe me, could not be more wrong.

Let me confess that I have some firsthand experience in raising political money. During my youth and early middle age, I happily, if not brilliantly, managed political campaigns, in which my duties often included asking wealthy people for money. It was then that I became a sort of "anti-Calvinist," convinced that God gave money to the least appealing and least interesting of her creatures. How many times did I endure — from a middle-aged white American born with a trust fund and powerful connections — a sermon on our urgent national need to restore up-from-the-bootstraps individual responsibility?

To raise $4 billion, political candidates generally do not spend a lot of time in the company of waitresses, hospice workers or truck drivers. No, to raise $4 billion, you mostly have to seek out and, yes, fawn over the wealthy. You flatter the rich and are careful not to laugh at their cockamamie idea that the surefire way to dramatically reduce inner-city poverty is to eliminate the taxes paid on capital gains.

This political year — according to the respected Center for Responsive Politics — though there has been more money raised and spent, it has come from fewer donors, which means that candidates are even more dependent on deep-pocketed individuals.

Big donors do not personally rely upon public education. They obviously do not live in public housing or depend upon public transportation or public recreation or public libraries. If public safety is underfunded, the wealthy can — and usually do — buy their own private security. They have little personal need for the public community college or the public health center.

Equality of opportunity is a nearly universal American value. But without good schools, adequate nutrition, accessible health care and safe neighborhoods for American families, there can really be no equal opportunity for American children.

As you may have noticed, these "public" causes did not get a lot of campaign attention, nor is there any real discussion, let alone debate, about the exploding inequality in our country when the share of the nation's income going to the top 1 percent has more than doubled since the 1980s, from 10.8 percent to more than 22.5 percent. When it comes to wealth, the top 5 percent of U.S. households — which, barely a quarter-century ago, controlled 54 percent of the nation's wealth — now have 63 percent of that total.

So what happened? Former Rep. Dan Glickman, a Democrat from Kansas who later served as secretary of agriculture, once candidly explained why his party had lost so much of its willingness to stand up for the little guys against the powerful: "Money has made it more difficult for Democrats to define an economic agenda that is different from the Republican agenda. We are taking money from the same sources." It's true; when money speaks, both the people and the truth are silenced.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at




1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... If I cared to ask some one for their vote I could probably be a fair canditate because I would have no problem asking rich people for money. It only has to come up in normal conversation, and i have never been able to work it in. I have never met many rich people but I am certain I fawned all over them.
I met this one good fellow called Rocky once, and he was the step father to the mother of a child friend of my child. So we went down to his home once on Lake Fenton. And he did own a nice house, kind of on an Island/pennisula where a parade of speed boats, and outboard motor boats constantly passed by. And when everyone left for a tour of the lake I sat on a high deck with our friend and nursed a beer. As boats passed by, and seeing all those upturned faces, I some times waved, and pretended to be the master of the mansion.
Now, this isn't much of a lake for Michigan, and having grown up on the Straits it did not impress me much as water, but it seemed like everything to those folks. And the mansion was a sort of a teapot tempest mansion, and the millionare would probably not make a blip on a millionaire scale, but in the eyes of the plebians, I was the emperor. So I waved, and I was him, and he was me. One young man stood up to my wave, and shouted: That is a sweet house! So II said: Ya; my wife and I just love it. And He replied: Man; You got it all going on! And I just smiled and waved; because I do, I mean, I do. Regardless of what the Rich man has, I have certainly have had enough.
People don't get any more security for the security they take from others. Poor people having only nothing to lose don't seem to worry much about losing it. The sort of treasure I have I couldn't give away. Some times my friends will ask me for my skills which is obviously not with people. Most of what I treasure money wouldn't buy because money wouldn't try. If I had my choice between a million dollars and the ability to play music; I'd play music. That poverty of spirit that make the mind crave material things does not much plague me. I have a vast junkyard, and tolerant neighbors. What I have makes my skill useful to some, and to me too.
I would like to find where De Tocqueville talked of the easy raport between the wealthy and the poor in America. Perhaps, then the gulf had not widened so between them. Perhaps the poor then could not look so easily with envy at the rich because they could still see them has human. Perhaps rich people could not look at the poor so multiplied that they could not see them as individuals with character and qualities unique to each. Perhaps the rich could then see that no one could pull themselves up with their boot straps without boots on their feet. Having bought shoes for charity from charities I can say that the poor are poorly shod judging by the shoes for sale second hand that I won't buy. People wanting to take from the poor must certainly have a false estimation of what they have. I talked recvently with an oral surgeon who told me of working in Philidelphia doing charity dentistry and seeing patients as teenagers who had not once in their lives seen a dentist, and all as a result of poverty. It is because we allow rich people not appraised of the reality of poverty in America to skew our elections, to slander Americans baselessly, and corrupt every office before it is filled that things are so hard on the poor. And poverty like wealth is hereditary, but an accident of birth is a fortune foretold. Poverty destroys more people than wealth only because more people are poor. Wealth destroys common sense and evidently drives people mad. Poverty brings out the brutality in humanity even while we advertize our morality and squawk about our culture and civilization. What have we learned of what history has to teach?
The security the rich deny to America they deny to themselves. No society can exist so divided as we are divided by wealth. Why for the sake of Capitalist principals and theory do we see ourselves ruined, and our pitiful form of democracy warped before our eyes. If to make government non-functional is a right of property that right of property is a death sentence on this society. Just as property rights once put this whole nation at odds in a great Civil War, today property rights makes revolution and civil war essential to our very survival. When the Supreme Court backs up these specious rights with their authority, they are the Tanney court all over again.
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:19 PM
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