Four Ways the Current Campaign Finance System Affects Your Life and Pocketbook.
1. Fuel Prices-- The dependence by both political parties on campaign contributions from Wall Street and the wider financial community inhibits any Washington willingness to regulate speculation in oil futures by entities that, unlike the airlines and the shipping companies, have no need for the fuel itself. Congressional investigators, according to The New York Times, estimate that this sort of speculation adds as much as 40% percent to the per-gallon price of gasoline; Forbes Magazine estimates the surcharge at 80 cents a gallon. According to Congressional testimony, 90% of the oil trades made daily are for pure financial play. With this much at stake, pressure from these campaign donors for the status quo is understandably extremely intense—and the likelihood of change until that pressure is relieved by a Constitutional amendment is minimal.
2. High Food Costs -- As with fuel speculation, which by driving up costs for fuel and fertilizer also pushes up the price of food and other goods and services, financial institutions far removed from the actual food business are allowed to speculate in food futures and, in fact, provide the vast bulk of the commodities trading in them. How much of your food bill is higher than it would be because of the “financialization” of food by index funds is debated. Critics such as Timothy A. Wise, director of the Research and Policy Program at the Tufts University Global Development and Environment Institute, make a compelling case that it is voluminous. Some food relief organizations believe that in many areas of the world people are starving because basic foods have been priced out of range, and not simply by the growing demand for them. Under the current campaign finance system, the possibility of meaningful Congressional regulation of food futures trading is small, to say the least.
3. Usurious Credit Card Rates -- In some cases, interest rates exceed 30% annually. Again, look no further than the hugely generous sums of campaign cash going to politicians of both parties from the big banks and credit card companies.
4. Plummeting Home Values -- The sub-prime crash is almost universally attributed to the 1999 Congressional repeal, prompted by the urging of Wall Street campaign donors, of large portions of Glass-Steagal Act regulations that had been put in place in 1933 to curb various conflicts of interest and risky investment practices viewed as the precipitators of the Great Depression. The self-dealing and emphasis on mortgage derivatives that followed the 1999 deregulation had their inevitable results: dramatic losses by both millions of homeowners and by banks and the insurance companies that had guaranteed the banks’ loans. The financial institutions promptly received trillions of dollars in protection by the federal government. Homeowners continue to struggle.