And then there were four. There are now -- because the mainstream media doesn't count the non-corporately supported candidates -- four candidates left in the Republican battle for the presidential nomination.
It used to be a bit taboo in commentary to call candidates "corporate" but that was before the now two-year-old Citizens United decision eliminated all pretense that candidates can remain independent of the multinational special interests that fund them. U.S. PIRG's release this week of their "dirty thirty" list of corporations who actually pay more to purchase policy from the nation's elected officials then they pay in taxes, just further proves the point.
And now it seems -- although some say there's still time for Rick Santorum or Ron Paul to launch the political equivalent of a Hail Mary play -- the Republicans have only two candidates from which to choose.
The choice comes down to the humiliated former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives accused by his second wife of possessing the moral fortitude equal Uncle Ben's instant rice fiber content -- though no one should need further proof that Newt Gingrich is morally unfit to serve as president than his distinction as the lone Speaker to be fined and sanctioned for ethics violations while holding that office -- and one of the wealthiest persons ever to pursue the presidency as he protests that he's like the common man. Mitt Romney insists he's ordinary even as he refuses to produce his income returns so folks can figure that out for themselves.
The U.S. faces fiscal challenges unseen by anyone still alive in politics. And whether President Obama's challenger is Gingrich or Romney, neither will actually represent the people should they win.
In real terms Romney's estimated 270 million dollars in net worth is a far cry from Gingrich's approximately 3 million dollar annual income, but the differences they experience in lifestyle and challenges from the average American make these men's qualifications virtually the same.
And when government officials are plucked from a class other than those they serve, their ability to adequately represent the people decreases in direct proportion to the epic disparity in wealth and experience.
For proof I offer the latest Housing and Urban Development definition and corresponding regulations dealing with the homeless. No HUD regulations should go into effect until the chief administrators -- started with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan -- have lived in homeless situations. A little less than a year ago, I had the opportunity to hear some of Secretary Donovan comments on homelessness in Washington, D.C. He spoke to a group of homeless advocates Congresswoman Judy Biggert brought together for a showing of the film documentary On the Edge, which tells the story of several homeless families. In his opening remarks, Secretary Donovan expressed that he's uniquely suited to his job because as a young man he passed by homeless people as he traveled back and forth to school.
HUD's new definitions of homelessness, which went into effect on January 4th, prove that administrators need to do more than see homeless folks to adequately define and deal with them.
HUD's definition of homelessness may not sound like a big deal. But homeless shelters and housing providers will not be eligible for funding unless they obey the agency's strict definition of homelessness and shun anyone who does not meet the proscribed criteria. They also must prove that the homeless person has satisfied these criteria. A few weeks' living on the streets and Secretary Donovan would know that faking homelessness to gain entry to a shelter is absurd notion for anyone who isn't mentally ill. And if a person is mentally ill and faking it for assistance, the regulations get even more ridiculous. See, housing subsidies for individuals and families with mental health needs are not available to anyone who is not homeless when they apply. Even though they may qualify for the subsidized housing based on all other criteria -- income and diagnosis -- they cannot enroll in a program for safe supported housing unless they first find themselves on the street or in a shelter.
It sounds like the homeless will get "first dibs on housing" but it really just cycles severely at risk people into and out of homelessness. It also keeps the number of people considered to be in need artificially low by not counting at risk populations until they've lost virtually everything.
If an appointed homeless advocate like Secretary Donovan can misstep because he's unaware of the challenges impoverished and marginalized folk face, how much more out of touch will political multi-millionaires -- who deny the public's right to scrutinize them for worthiness -- be when it comes to representing all but a few Americans who share their wealth and means.