Thursday, May 26, 2011

You the lobbyist for nonviolence

What the heck is a lobbyist? Oh, we know--it's one of those low-profile functionaries whose job it is to ask an elected official for support for legislation favorable to them. So, some guy waits in the--yes--lobby and asks to see the Congressman for a few minutes. When he gets his audience, he gives the House member a brochure of talking points, asks him to read it when he gets a chance, and to please support H.B. 7209, which would streamline licensing of interstate trade for grain futures. After he makes his pitch, the lobbyist walks to the next office of the next elected representative to make another call.

Right. Just some quiet and boring background activity to our humming, efficient, federal government, conducted by modest guys in boring, faded suits. Well, they actually make out pretty well. The average liberal arts professor with a doctorate in the US makes less than $80,000, while the average lobbyist earns close to $100,000. That is boosted greatly once a lobbyist leaves the nonprofits and government service behind and gets an office on K Street, then commanding annual salaries starting at more than a quarter $million--or, in the case of former Congress members, often in excess of a $million.

All this raises some questions, one would hope.

When are salaries incentives to work hard and when are they straight-up bribes for votes in the revolving door between industry and government?

Why are the salaries so huge?

How does this affect our democracy?

How does this affect our taxes and services?

How does this affect our security?

How does this affect our economy?

Who benefits?

Just one brief example is the $70 billion military aid pipeline to Egypt over the years, largesse voted for annually by Congress. Was it to benefit the Egyptian people? Hardly, it kept Hosni Mubarak, loyal to US interests, in power for three decades, a dictator who jailed journalists critical of him and tortured dissidents. But that aid was not just for Mubarak. The deal was that he would spend it on enriching the war profiteers, according to a story from Inter Press Service:

Specifically, the aid money pays for U.S.-designed Abrams tanks assembled in suburban Cairo under contract with General Dynamics. Boeing sells Egypt CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters, Lockheed Martin sells F-16s fighter jets, Sikorsky Aircraft sells Black Hawk helicopters. Lockheed Martin has taken in 3.8 billion dollars from Egypt in the last few years, General Dynamics 2.5 billion dollars, Boeing 1.7 billion dollars, among many others.

To make sure it is as corrupt as possible, the man hosting Major General Mohamed Said Elassar, assistant to Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the Egyptian minister of defense, last year when the Major General came to Washington, was former US Republican Louisiana Congressman Bob Livingston, also former chair of appropriations. If we read about this chicanery in another country we would snort up our sleeves at the obvious flaunting of influence and erosion of democracy.

We need you to be a lobbyist for nonviolence, for clean government, and an end to the fleecing of the taxpayer by those who wrap themselves in the American flag to conceal sacks of riches that result in oppression and bloodshed all around the world. Voting is the first baby step of democracy. Call, petition, write and visit elected officials. Help organize citizen demonstrations at their public appearances. Show them that the citizen lobby can work too. The war system has the money and we have the potential people power, if we decide to use it. They will continue until we stop them. Just say no to all military aid to anyone.

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