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Over the years, U.S. politics has been more akin to a slapstick comedy than an uplifting tale. That’s why Reddit political humor is the perfect place to get a healthy dose of reality. Sometimes the only way to cope with the sad truths of our current government is to both cry and laugh.
The Reddit political humor community mocks all aspects of the government. But the Zero Theft Movement (ZTM) would like to focus on the rigged layer of the economy. We’ll check out r/PoliticalHumor to see how its community members utilize comedy to bring awareness to the dangers of crony capitalism.
(as of 07/2020)
On Reddit, political humor has proven to be quite the hot topic. The subreddit ranks in the top 500 most subscribed. You will find a diverse selection of submissions and ‘joke formats,’ including ironic twitter posts and satirical cartoons.
Academics have long debated whether the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) operates as a global cartel. In 2018, OPEC owned nearly 80% of all oil reserves in the world. Are U.S. citizens paying artificially inflated prices for oil? See what your fellow citizens have uncovered..
The Rigged Economy in Reddit Political Humor
Reddit political humor occasionally calls out crony capitalism. These submissions, while not the most popular, often surpass 100 upvotes. We thought this a great opportunity to show some of the posts we thought hit or maybe missed the mark.
Humor is obviously a matter of personal preference, so we’ll be talking less about the posts’ humor and more about the validity of the points each makes.
Reality of How a Bill Becomes a Law
Humorous (to us) in its blunt portrayal of the legislative process, this cartoon from the Reddit political humor community cuts to the heart of the issue.
NPR conducted an interview with Mark Lipton, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, who was examining the relationship between corporations and politics. “But I think that they [lobbyist efforts] definitely play a part. They [lobbyists] literally – they write legislation at times. They write the questions that are asked at hearings, you know. And so, you know, they have influence and I think that it’s important that we also bring some light to that sort of, you know, a world that isn’t so obvious.”
|For a potential real-world example of a massive corporation or its lobbyists writing legislation that gets passed by the government, check out this New York Times article on corporate efforts to change the language of the Dodd-Frank Act (a key measure to regulate the high-risk trading that contributed to creating the 2008 financial crisis).|
The storied magazine The Atlantic published an article entitled “How Corporate Lobbyists Conquered American Democracy.” It claims, “…business lobbying has built itself up over time, and the self-reinforcing quality of corporate lobbying has increasingly come to overwhelm every other potentially countervailing force…rather than trying to keep government out of its business…companies are now increasingly bringing government in as a partner, looking to see what the country can do for them.”
When corporations have significant influence over legislation, they can sometimes decide on the rules and regulations, what’s legal and illegal. Lobbying can create situations where corporations can lawfully break free markets and unethically maximize profits often at the expense of the public.
More money allows corporations to have an even bigger budget to spread around to government officials. Thus, a vicious cycle continues–exactly what ZTM is working to end.
Lobbying = Bribery in a Suit? Winnie & Reddit Political Humor
Reddit Political Humor’s got it right. The Pooh cartoon on lobbying is the name, bribery is the game.
Corporations would not get away with directly depositing money into lawmakers bank accounts, of course. Because of this ‘roadblock,’ they have funded a multi-billion dollar industry created to legally, though often unethically, influence lawmakers’ decisions.
Companies pay six-figure salaries to lobbyists (often ex-regulators of the same industry they now lobby for) for them to influence Congress members. At its worst, lobbying can devolve into bribery. For example, a corporation can quite literally buy a congress member’s vote.
Illegal, but effective.
Corporations can bypass the law through non-monetary forms of compensation. Hotel accommodations, transport, meals, and so on. Ultimately, an exchange occurs. Even if it’s not in the form of actual bags of money, as depicted in the diagram below.
Rather than bills getting passed based on their value to the public, lawmakers can sell out in order to fund their lavish lifestyles. In a sick way, we—the everyday people—are paying for big corporations to steal from us. Think back to the vicious cycle we mentioned before. We didn’t emphasize this point then, but we feel we need to explicitly call it out.
Our money goes to the corporations.
Then, corporations pay the lobbyists.
The lobbyists work to persuade government officials to pass or reject laws that break the free market. The outcome does not always go in a corporation’s favor, of course.
Nitrofurantoin is an antibiotic used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs). About 6 to 8 million Americans contract the infection per year. The drug appears on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential medicines, and has been on the market since 1953. According to a Financial Times report, pharmaceutical company Nostrum Laboratories increased the price of a bottle of the drug from $474.75 to $2,392. Join the Zero Theft Movement to find out if long-standing antibiotics are experiencing price hikes…
Bailout People, NOT Corporations
COVID-19 has obviously had massive ripple effects that went beyond the serious health concerns. The economy, for example, is in a recession, with unemployment rates reaching historic levels at one point.
The government, seemingly in response to the strain the pandemic had caused, passed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. $2 trillion. No relief package has come close to that amount.
Nevertheless, hundreds of billions of taxpayer money (our money!) went to bailing out massive corporations. Cruise lines established offshore to avoid U.S. taxes. Hotels whose executives have been using their funds for stock buybacks.
The relief money was supposed to go to paying workers.
Not all corporations used that money to support their furloughed workers. Robert Reich, author of The System: Who Rigged it, How We Fix it, tweeted: “United will lay off its workers after receiving a $58 billion taxpayer-funded bailout.”
The obvious question: where’s the money going if it’s not going to United’s employees?
As the cartoon posted by Reddit’s political humor community shows, corporations used their money (the $ stilts) to receive even more money through the bailout. Money to get Congress to sell out in order to make a greater profit, while the public has little to no aid.
Undoubtedly, the relief package should have gone to the citizens, not businesses that have either been managed poorly or only requested a bailout to buy back their own stocks.
How could this happen?
Repeat it with us: lobbyists.
Coronavirus Bailouts and the Revolving Door
Building on our comments about the coronavirus bailouts, we present to you the Public Citizen tweet above.
“A Goldman Sachs exec runs Treasury. A private equity kingpin runs Commerce. A pharma exec runs HHS. A coal lobbyist runs the EPA. An oil lobbyist runs the DOI. A Raytheon lobbyist runs DOD. A Verizon lawyer runs FCC. And you wonder why stimulus funds become corporate handouts.”
Reddit political humor has given us a prime example of the ‘revolving door.’
The revolving door refers to (1) legislators or regulators, after term completion, taking a position in the industry they oversaw and (2) industry lobbyist or executives getting appointed as the legislators or regulators of the industry they once worked for (and, perhaps, plan to return to).
Predatory foxes with chicken masks. We, the public, their clucking prey.
According to the Associated Press, the current administration has, in three years, hired “more former lobbyists to Cabinet-level posts than his most recent predecessors did in eight, putting a substantial amount of oversight in the hands of people with ties to the industries they’re regulating.”
There’s a clear and obvious conflict of interest that exists here, but ridiculously it persists.
Legislators and regulators should not vote based on what they believe benefits the public most. Not what will secure them a high-paying position as a lobbying leader in the future. Both the House and the lobbyists recycle the same individuals who are there purely to pass or block bills that unethically help their industry giants profit.
Reddit Political Humor says Goodbye to our Online Privacy
Another recent example involved the vote to reverse an FCC privacy rule. ISPs (internet service providers) now have the green light to sell our private data. We, along with Reddit political humor, must say our farewells to our internet privacy.
Without a doubt, this is an invasion of privacy, and transcends partisan politics. Our privacy has now become a commodity. ISPs (who have arguably rigged their market by stifling competition) can now profit by handing out our information to the highest bidder. Accordingly, that highest bidder will then devise marketing strategies to try and extract more money out of us.
Somehow, this happens in broad daylight.
Do you think the Economy is Rigged?
Ironically, humor can be the best way to really start taking a matter that once seemed insignificant, seriously.
The Reddit political humor community has its fair share of biting commentary on the rigged economy. Many more people probably have gained a greater awareness of crony capitalism. Nevertheless, Reddit political humor does not provide its community members with the knowledge to really effect change.
That’s where the Zero Theft Movement comes in.
The Zero Theft Movement does not have any interest in partisan politics/competition or attacking/defending one side. We seek to eradicate theft from the U.S economy. In other words, how the wealthy and powerful rig the system to steal money from us, the everyday citizen. We need to collectively fight against crony capitalism in order for us to all profit from an ethical economy.
Terms like ‘steal,’ ‘theft,’ and ‘crime’ will frequently appear throughout the article. Zero Theft will NOT adhere strictly to the legal definitions of these terms (since congress sells out). We have broadly and openly defined terms like ‘steal’ and ‘theft’ to refer to the rigged economy and other debated unethical acts that can cause citizens to lose out on money they deserve to keep.