Bob Franken

King Features Column

(As usual, the arrangement with the syndcators means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)


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Anyone who questions the danger to this nation where public support is essential should check out a widely read August memo from GOP consultant Bill McInturff, who warned of the growing “lack of confidence in our political system and its leaders,” or look at the polls, like Gallup’s Sept. 27 installment, which measured 81 percent of respondents dissatisfied with the way government is being run.

The numbers are so overwhelmingly negative that perhaps a double negative is appropriate: We Can’t Do Nothing.

Standing by, watching society slide down the tubes, paralyzed by the politics of moneyed special interests while waiting to vote in the next election — it may not be enough. So, if we shouldn’t do nothing (this is fun!), and it’s time for action, what action? What are the choices for those of us who have gotten used to wallowing in the apathetic complacency of disgust?

Confrontation? It’s the new old thing. Taking it to the man. But, as we’ve seen in the massive protests in Madison, Wis., and elsewhere, our elected officials sometimes seem impervious. Even if a few are recalled, their cuts and successful union-busting advance the schemes of the powerful corporate leaders who financed their campaigns. And when a small group raucously takes it to the streets where it counts — that most important street of all, Wall Street — they certainly are aiming at an appropriate target. After all, it is the real seat of government, the nation’s capital capitol, which exercises control over the symbolic seat that they’ve bought and paid for in Washington. But remember, the powerful exercise massive power, so participants are manhandled by police and are pepper-sprayed. Even so, the protest movement is moving out a bit … spreading not just to the Brooklyn Bridge but to a few other cities. Good start.

Here’s another idea that hits our rulers where they live: BOYCOTTS. First of all, right off the bat let’s emphasize that any action needs to be legal. Just like violence is absolutely wrong, withholding taxes also is silly. What good is serious jail time when those who deserve it, the ones at which you’re aiming, go scott-free, floating above the law because they effectively command the lawmakers? So now the same question: Boycott whom? The answer is anybody you want, or any business you prefer.

Let’s suppose you are among the liberals, for instance, who are very angry at the Koch brothers. Charles and David Koch have been exposed as ultra-right billionaires who have contributed millions to candidates who further their anti-union/regulation/social-services/tax/progress agenda. They also control Georgia-Pacific, which puts out products such as Lycra and Stainmaster carpets, and paper consumer goods with brands like Dixie plates, Brawny paper towels and Angel Soft toilet paper (pause for juvenile jokes).

But let’s be equal-opportunity haters. We’ll make sure conservatives have their own target: Who better than Warren Buffett, a man who has sent them into a tizzy by calling for higher taxes on rich people like himself? His Berkshire Hathaway empire includes Benjamin Moore paints, Fruit of the Loom (more immaturity here?) and GEICO. So boycotting Buffett is so simple even a caveman can do it.

This would be separate from any businesses one avoids because of their shoddy practices. All of these behemoths pretty much have their way because they can field a lobbying army fueled by campaign contributions. In other words, money talks. But withholding money talks, too.

It might scare them into ordering their public officials to actually think of the public, which would grease the way for candidates who would offer more than another double negative: The best of the worst.

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