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Facts, figures and fools with money

What diesel fuel is to tractors facts are to journalists. Diesel is expensive; facts, for the most part, are free. Moreover, facts are all over.

So if they’re just about everywhere and usually free, why aren’t more facts used? Oftentimes politics takes the upper hand. In fact, if the facts cannot be bent to support the political side of an argument then most are dumped in favor of ideology.

For example, while demagogues demonize illegal immigrants and political leaders use the usually poor, mostly hardworking and, yes, here-illegally group as election fodder, few admit the obvious truth: “That America’s 13 million-plus illegal immigrants are here to stay,” according to recently released study by the non-partisan, non-profit, independent think tank U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute.

Why? Simple math, says the institute. First, it’s logistically impossible to gather 13 million people – the populations of Los Angeles and New York City combined or Illinois alone – in one place to house and feed while arranging deportation.

If such an exodus could be organized, according to the study, it would require “166,666 buses, more than 13 billion gallons of fuel and about 48 million pounds of food (around 195 million meals) simply to transport them to the nearest border.”

That solution, the institute suggests, will not – cannot – ever be implemented. As such, “it’s probably time to consider how to integrate… this population into mainstream America. One benefit” of this idea – politicians, are you listening? – is that “13 million new taxpayers could net America more than $50 billion a year in tax revenues.”

Short of an economic miracle that provides jobs to encourage foreign nationals to remain home, immigration reform will continue to be an oxymoron, an easy-to-kick football that politicians will punt down the road to win elections. And that’s a fact.

Of course, money is the real lard that greases elections and few firms know more about lard, grease and elections than our nation’s biggest chicken grower, Tyson Foods.

According to recently released figures compiled by the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tyson spent $611,937 in the first quarter 2010, noted the Associated Press April 26, “to lobby the government on ethanol policy, diesel tax credits and other issues.” (In 2009, Tyson spent $2.5 million to lobby Washington.)

Wanna’ bet the big poultry and red meat feeder and packer wasn’t lobbying in favor of “ethanol policy (and) diesel tax credits”? Didn’t think so.

By the way, the “other issues” Tyson lobbied your reps and senators on, according to the AP, included “immigration (and)… a trucking pilot program with Mexico.”

Fact is Washington influence peddling is as old as Washington itself. A Jan. 21 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, however, promises to raise that reality to a new level. In the 5 to 4 decision, the Supremes ruled government restrictions on corporate campaign contributions unconstitutional.

The ruling, explained a lobbyist to the New York Times later that day, “will put on steroids the trend that outside groups are increasingly dominating campaigns. Candidates (will) lose control of their message. Some of these guys (will) lose control of their whole personalities.”

What, they’ll turn into bigger chickens?

Poultry aside, the now-90 and about-to-retire Justice John Paul Stevens labeled the court’s decision to treat corporate speech the same as human speech a “grave error.”

“The difference between selling a vote and selling access is a matter of degree, not kind,” Stevens admonished his fellow justices.

Stevens is dead-right; the price of that access and those votes will climb as citizens with facts are replaced by corporations with money. And that, too, is a fact.

© 2010 ag comm


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