Greer McVay’s Web Log (BLOG)
Volume 1, Issue 18
November 16, 2010
At this stage of my life I have a thirst for all things politically incriminating. Let me rephrase that; I have an insatiable lust for information that would begin to explain the inexplicable. It is inexplicable to me that any American citizen would have support for and advocate on behalf of the current Republicans or corporations, whose sole purpose is self-enrichment at all costs. Casino Jack and the United States of Money is a must see documentary for absolutely everyone. It chronicles the rise and fall of Ï‹ber lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But more importantly, it illustrates the role of lobbyists in the American political process and it artfully depicts an array of political figures who succumbed to the inducements of a system designed to reward the wealthiest among us at the expense of everyone else.
The biggest challenge to politicians who aim to do the right thing is that they are up against an opponent whose resources know no bounds. The limitless checkbook of corporations makes it virtually impossible for anyone or anything to derail their agenda, which is obtaining more money. Barack Obama emerged on the scene with honorable intentions, but he is up against a machine that has had a 250 year head start. He is trying to change a system whose creators and sponsors built into that system a structure that cannot be dismantled without an uprising from you and me: the voters. The Citizen’s United Supreme Court case gave corporations everything they need to influence our democratic election landscape. That is, everything they need except the right to vote. However, from the looks of the 2010 midterm elections, they have now even bought our votes. Obama is one of the few people fighting the good fight. However, a one-man battle cannot emerge victorious, especially if he must capitulate on every issue in order to remain a viable adversary. Obama alone is unable to make substantive changes to the system because too many powerful people profit from maintaining the system as it is.
In Casino Jack and the United States of Money, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, serves as the ringleader of Congress who, simply put, was caught trading votes for campaign contributions. He controlled which bills reached the floor and which did not. He was the most prominent member of a band of ideologues, most of whom emerged from the College Republican50s over the course of the last 35 years. They chant the republican mantra of deregulation, tax cuts and smaller government ad nauseum.
Standing out like a sore thumb is the incredible lack of depth to their justification for why they believe as they do. At no time does anyone offer an explanation of why deregulation, lower taxes or smaller government is a panacea to what ails the country. In fact, the opposite is painfully apparent. If a republican lawmaker could or would ever rationally explain how we all benefit by not holding corporations to healthier standards, they might find less opposition to their mission. Instead they maneuver and manipulate people, money and votes to drive political schemes that only serve them and a few close allies; and they conjure up 501(c)(3) organizations as fronts for complex money laundering operations. Their only support comes from those profiting alongside them, those gullible enough to believe their lies or those who are driven enough by wedge issues to not care about their own self-interests. Any thinking person could see through the hyperbolic façade if they chose to embrace reality instead of spending time looking for President Obama’s birth certificate.
The subjects of this documentary appear to be wholly committed to the notion of “conservative” principles. Make no mistake, these people are not conservative. None of their actions are consistent with their rhetoric or the Christian principles they proclaim. Jesus would not have prevented children born with “pre-existing conditions” from accessing healthcare or health insurance. Nor would Jesus apologize to an oil company who had dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico thus depriving thousands from pursuing their livelihood. But that is the genius of this film: it shines a spotlight on the blatant hypocrisy of many members of congress while highlighting their compensation for turning their backs on the American public. Director Alex Gibney, brilliantly describes an unimaginable world of influence peddling, as he illustrates Abramoff and company’s exploits in the Marianas Islands and within the Indian gaming industry.
Casino Jack and the United States of Money floods my mind with many questions. Among them is who will actually watch this movie? More to the point, if Republicans, Tea Partiers and even Independents watch this film, will they dismiss this criticism that the political Right justly deserves? Will Right Wing viewers of this film ever realize that they have been duped by moneyed elite who swap favors for power and more money at the expense of the middle and working classes? Will people ever accept that they are very unlikely to ever become one of the nation’s top 2% of the income earners; and therefore, stop voting for people who make policies that they ignorantly think will someday benefit them? Does the Right see any connection between the lies they’ve been fed and the reality that drives our national policies? It is a shame that the practices that are so commonplace in the nation’s capitol are so very transparent and easily observable if only you are willing to see the truth. Why do so many people choose to look the other way when glaring evidence of bribery and corruption slaps them in the face?
Clearly, Jack Abramoff was the proverbial tip of the iceberg. He was a small drop of water in an ocean of corruption. The film, the film’s special features and the film with the director’s commentary is worthy of five hours of your time. I truly believe that anyone who uses Netflix wisely, after watching this film, would consider themselves current on the issue of our time: Campaign Finance Reform. Once you see Casino Jack and the United States of Money you will never watch Fox News, or even MSNBC, the same way again. Today’s debate about extending the “Bush tax cuts” or “repealing healthcare reform” will take on new meaning when juxtaposed against the financial incentive of those advocating those policies.
Many in Congress have a vested interest in your not seeing this movie. Whether Tom DeLay and others beside Abramoff and Rep. Ney (R, Ohio) go to prison is still to be determined. But even if the Capitol building with all its inhabitants, Republican and Democrat, was suddenly converted into a penitentiary, the corporations would only double down on the next class of Congress. If I believed anything about how Barack Obama would approach his presidency, it was that he would have cast light on the unsavory underbelly of the Washington Beltway. That brutal honesty is the change I believe America thought it was voting for. We need an Obama who will not relent on the reforms that America needs; and bring aboard more like him. And if President Obama cannot or will not lead his own charge, then bring on someone else who will. America needs that change…and that you can believe in.
Note: Check out the documentary and the feature film
Casino Jack and the United States of Money is a documentary directed by Alex Gibney
Casino Jack is a feature film starring Kevin Spacey, Jon Lovitz and Kelly Preston opens in theaters December 17. It is already receiving Oscar buzz.