Brett Ramsey has served as a full-time political science instructor at Austin Peay, Democratic candidate for TN state representative, and owner/agent of an insurance agency. He currently serves as an adjunct political science instructor and owner/instructor of a new venture he created called "College Preparedness Program. More information can be found at www.collegepreparednessprogram.com.
I know almost every article I write has something to do with people not paying attention, voting against their own interests, or just simply making irrational decisions. Well, I've decided this blog is going to be completely devoted to those things, because people just simply make no sense to me whatsoever. And yes, I realize that is very strange, because I am a person. I just simply cannot fathom why the vast majority of Americans continually and purposefully make each and every day more difficult for themselves while a very limited, few continue to distance themselves from society in virtually every way, except perception.
Elizabeth Colbert Busch just lost a special election for a South Carolina U.S. House seat to Mark Sanford. Mark Sanford is a former governor of South Carolina, who was forced to resign after details of his extra-marital affair came out. Prior to this revelation, however, Sanford was known be extremely tough to work with legislatively, despite the fact that his own party maintained majorities in the state's general assembly throughout his governorship. Colbert Busch, meanwhile, has been heavily involved in business for 25 years in the state, with much of her experience being in trade, and has never served in public office before. I don't know about you all, but some of the most common complaints I hear about members of Congress are that they're out of touch with reality because they've been there too long, they're a bunch of criminals, and they won't put their petty differences aside to actually do something to help most Americans. So, the people of the first district in South Carolina just elected Sanford, with his long political track record of being uncompromising and polarized, a very publicly embarrassing and unethical affair, and as luck would have it, fresh off some time in court because of a trespassing violation filed by his ex-wife. Doesn't seem like the rational choice, does it?
We live in a world of smoke and mirrors, though. We see what we're told to see, and we buy what we're told to buy. Sanford was lagging far behind Busch in recent polls, so he resorted to the tactic of pitting the election against Nancy Pelosi instead of Busch, because of her unpopularity, and it worked. I have a Windows cell phone (Samsung Focus) that I got for free. It performs absolutely every function that an iPhone or Android phone does. Despite this, most people still pay hundreds of dollars for these latter types of phones, because they're told to do so by advertisers and peers. Look at our clothes. Most of us buy shirts that actually have the logos of the companies printed across the front and/or back of the shirt and nothing else. So, we're paying more than we would for lesser known brands, and we're providing the companies the service of free walking advertising. One of the absolute worst things that we do is when new products come out, and people line up to be the first ones to own it, no matter the cost. If nobody lined up, the companies would be forced to drop the price immediately, and everyone would save money. As consumers, we're the ones who are supposed to set the rules, but we've become so brainwashed by advertising that we feel like we must have whatever's new, no matter the cost.
The result of our decades of poor decision making can be viewed quite easily by watching the video at the bottom of this page. 40% of Americans possess 0.3% of all the wealth in the country. 1% meanwhile hold over 35% of all the wealth. Actually, the top 20% alone hold almost 90% of all the money. Just think about that for a second. In this supposedly great country with a strong middle class where everyone's supposed to have equal opportunity, 40% of us have almost nothing. The income disparities are bad too, and are easily accessible via the IRS's web-site, but it's the wealth disparity that really shows how much we've hurt ourselves for decades by allowing the wealthiest to become wealthier by convincing us that they're looking out for our best interests as "job creators." Stop buying into all the hype, and really think for yourselves. I don't get paid anything to write this, while others are paid millions to convince you otherwise. What do I have to gain other than wanting my country to be better, more informed, widely prosperous, not just continue to line the pockets of the elites.
Here's a link to a study with a plethora of wealth statistics (http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html), and the video is below. I encourage you to share it with everyone you know.
Many of you may have heard about the recent Flying J/Pilot Oil rebating scandal that involves our governor's brother and quite possibly the governor himself. Those of you who haven't heard about this, or don't know many details, are not alone by any means. In fact, the scandal itself is not so much the subject of this particular piece, but rather the lack of coverage of this story.
A friend of mine posted a story from Forbes.com (http://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2013/04/19/fbi-says-billionaire-jimmy-haslam-knew-of-pilot-flying-j-fraud-secret-recordings-expose-jacking-the-discount-scheme) because he, like many of us, couldn't find a decent article covering this story in any local or state media outlets. Aside from the scandal itself, this lack of coverage is quite disconcerting. Why is a serious story involving one of the most powerful and wealthy families in the state of Tennessee cheating customers out of millions of dollars not front page news? And when stories are printed, why are there no details about the situation involving the company in which Governor Haslam holds an undisclosed interest?
For those who may not remember, Governor Haslam's very first act of business as incoming governor was to issue an executive order to end the policy of governors disclosing their wealth and their holdings, so as to make sure the citizenry can be aware of any potential conflicts of interest. The governor would later go on to put some of his holdings into a blind trust, though his shares and overall interest in Pilot Oil, which owns Flying J, has never been disclosed, so we honestly have no idea if he might even be involved in this scandal himself.
But I return again to the original question of why this story is receiving such spotty, incomplete coverage. Could it be that the family is simply so powerful that they're above normal scrutiny that applies to most of us? Are media outlets potentially afraid of showing the family in a poor way that might result in lost ad revenue? Is there fear of backlash from the Governor himself that might result in limited access? Since Jimmy Haslam owns the Cleveland Browns, is the NFL possibly using its influence to make sure one of its owners is protected?
The responsibility, once again, falls on our very own shoulders as residents of Tennessee. We should never have let the governor get away with his executive order, and we should not allow his brother to act like he's better than everyone else and that the laws we all have to follow don't apply to him. The wealthiest of Americans already have more privileges than most of us will ever know and could ever dream of having. At the end of the day, though, many of them continue to try to find a way to stick it to us a little more for the sake of even greater profits.
When are we going to wake up and hold people accountable for their actions, no matter who they are or how much money and influence they possess? The power should be and always was intended to be in the people, not the purse. We must take back our power now, before it's too late.