Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Restoring the American Dream – Part III


What Happens When Corporations Run Our Government?

What you get is plunder. And I have to say this, the American people have to understand that there is a huge difference between free market capitalism, which is a good thing because it makes us more efficient, more prosperous, and more democratic, and the kind of corporate-crony capitalism which has been embraced by this White House.” – Robert Kennedy, Jr. (5/2/2004) [Note: The reference to the White House in this quotation was directed at the Bush administration at the time, but it even exists to a certain extent in the present administration as well.]

The Bottom Line. We must get private contributions* out of politics. Private contributions in politics are among the main reasons why Congress puts corporations and special interest groups first and the people last, even though it is the people that they are supposed to serve first and foremost. That is the root of all the bad legislation and lack of control that allowed our capitalist system to run amok and bring this country into financial ruin. That is the cause of the huge gap in income and wealth between the top 1% and the bottom 99%. That is the cause of outsourcing virtually all of our major manufacturing processes, most our job losses and most of our home foreclosures. So, getting private contributions out of politics is the major imperative. And it means, not just getting the private contributions out of the elections, but also out of all politics. As long as people and corporations are allowed to contribute to politicians, those politicians will forever be tainted with acting in the interests of those contributors and not our country or the private citizens they are elected to represent.

*In this context, examples of “private contributions” include the transfer or promise of transfer of any item of value to or from any member of Congress, OR his or her staff or family (within the third degree of kindred). Items of value include, by way of example and not limitation: monetary considerations, property, gifts, trips, airfare, accommodations, meals, speaking engagements, stipends, fund raising events, political advertising, surveys, petitions, get-out-the-vote campaigns, employment, personal favors, or services, including the drafting of proposed legislation for a Congress member or his or her staff, or the providing of information not in the public domain that might be financially beneficial or politically advantageous to either the Congress member or a lobbyist, consultant,or adviser. However, this provision would permit volunteer campaign workers who perform routine office tasks in direct support of a candidate for office for prescribed periods of time during an exploratory period, the primary campaign, and the general election. For management, consulting, and advisory campaign positions, the Congress member must pay the prevailing rate for such positions on the open market.

How Might This Be Done? There are several ways to accomplish this. Unfortunately, given the present state of our country and our democracy, some of them may not be feasible.
  1. It could be done on a voluntary pledge basis, but this would have no force of law behind it to motivate individuals to adhere to it. It is still worthy of consideration as an interim measure pending a more acceptable, permanent solution.
  2. It could be done through adding text to the oath of office that every office holder must take, stating that they have not accepted and will not accept anything of value while in elective or appointed office or while under consideration for any such office. This might be somewhat cumbersome, but it might still be worth pursuing.
  3. It might be possible to accomplish this through Congressional legislation. However, with the symbiotic relationship that exists between personal contributors and politicians, and the lack of cooperation between the two parties presently in power, it is highly unlikely that Congress would ever pass such legislation. Any such legislation would have to be based upon federally provided campaign funds that would be equal for every candidate for federal office, would be based upon the population and geography of each state district, and would require more extensive use of the Internet and public service television coverage to conduct campaigns.
  4. It could be done with a Constitutional amendment, but such amendments must originate either in Congress or in the state legislatures throughout the country. Because virtually all elected representatives accept contributions of some sort, this, too, may be virtually impossible.
  5. Or, it could be done with a combination of these items, starting first with the pledge for incumbents, the oath of office for newly-elected or newly-appointed individuals, then legislation and Constitutional amendments.
However, there is one particular, rather radical step that we can take right now, starting with the primary elections for Congress this year.  Here's how it would work:

Hit Them Where It Hurts! We all know that Senators and Representatives freely ignore those people and those issues that they choose to ignore. They are blind to major problems that are right before their eyes and turn a deaf ear to anything that they don't want to hear. But there is one way to really get their attention. The one thing they cherish most highly are their seats in Congress. They value these seats so highly that they are willing to compromise their principles to secure them and their moral values to keep them. Their greatest fear is the loss of their positions in Congress, and the power, status, and prestige that go with them. If they fail to deliver democracy back to the American people, the people they are supposed to represent, then we will act against them – in full electoral force

Here Is Our Challenge to Congress. Congress must show good faith to the American people and make whatever changes are necessary to get items of value totally out of politics forever. Except for a Constitutional amendment, they must make any legislation or other action effective October 1, 2012. Candidates for office will be allowed to expend any monies they have raised up to that date, but mus not accept any more contributions or other assistance of value. They must also include a plank in their respective party's platform to submit a Constitutional amendment to the American people not later than June 30, 2012. If they fail to accomplish this by the aforementioned dates, the people of American will be strongly encouraged to reclaim their democracy through other means, some of which are described described below.

Use Your Clout and Vote Them Out! If Congress fails to pass the legislation required to accomplish the items described above, and if you care anything about our democracy and its future, then we need to hit them where it will do us and the country the most good – at the ballot box. The power elite may have a huge advantage over us when it comes to money, but we have a huge advantage over them when it come to voting. Because of that, we can and will reclaim our democracy if we follow the rules below.

Suggestion #1. Spread the word to everybody, especially the 20% who are unregistered, the 23% who vote rarely, and the 22% who vote intermittently. Their votes will not only count in this and future elections more than ever before, but they will be especially critical now, because they will be voting on reclaiming our democracy from the power elite who have taken it from us.

Suggestion #2. Flood every member of Congress with e-mails, letter, tweets, phone calls, and petitions, calling for immediate legislative reform to get private contributions out of politics entirely (not just a reversal of the Citizens United ruling), including legislation to remove any congress member who violates these reforms, once implemented. Inform them that, if they do not actively support these reforms and put the will and interests of the people ahead of their personal interests, those of their party, and those of their financial backers, that they will be voted out of office one by one, even if it takes twelve years to do so.

Suggestion #3. When it come to voting in the PRIMARY* elections, let's put our vote where our convictions lie, and vote for anybody BUT a Democrat or a Republican. Vote for the best of the third-party or independent candidates – just NOT a Republican or a Democrat. (The ONLY exception to this should be a candidate who has pledged to actively support efforts to restore our democracy by getting private contributions out of politics entirely.). Do not consider this to be a “wasted vote.” It is a vote FOR DEMOCRACY, and that can never be a wasted vote. And it is a vote AGAINST CORRUPT POLITICS. A vote for a major party's candidate is a vote in favor of the status quo and against democracy.. In that sense, a vote for a major party candida can be seen as a wasted vote, because it just helps maintain the present corrupt system of politics and government.

*In the GENERAL election, it is still preferable to voter for anybody but a Democrat or a Republican. However, there maybe some situations where the voter might feel they must vote for “the lesser of two evils” to avoid the possibility of electing considered to be
extremely undesirable.

Suggestion #4. If there are only Democrats or Republicans on your ballots, do not vote for either of them, UNLESS they too have demonstrated good faith in returning democracy to the American people and have pledged to take an active role in getting private contributions out of politics entirely..

Suggestion #5. Help get the vote out, especially those who either don't vote or only occasionally vote.

  1. Form neighborhood groups, if you don't already have some. Meet on a regular basis to discuss this issue earnestly, honestly, and openly. Explain why it is important to you, to them, and to our country. Ask each member to bring at least one new member to each subsequent meeting, to broaden your base.
  2. Explore and possibly join efforts with other like-minded civic organizations in your area to further broaden your base, increase your power, and lend more public credibility to your efforts.
  3. Form a telephone bank and place calls to people in the neighborhood. (You can get listed phone number of your neighbors at WhitePages Neighbors by keying in your own address.)
  4. Offer to help people get registered and volunteer to drive them to the polls on election day if necessary.
  5. Keep a log of all people called and any commitments made, to ensure that they are met.
  6. Follow up with calls on election day to determine last-minute questions or problems.
Suggestion #6. Continue this for each election until Congress enacts the necessary legislation to restore to American citizens the democratic republic that our founding fathers established for usIn any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. – Theodore Roosevelt

Will This Work? Will this process alter the outcome of the coming Federal elections? That all depends on how well received this process is, how dedicated people are to regaining their democracy, and how much they want to root out corruption in our government. Our point here is to demonstrate how dissatisfied the American people are with the state of affairs in our country and with the complicit involvement of our government in depriving us of our democracy. If our elected officials refuse to act in good faith, then we will have to respond at the polls and, if we get the strength we know is out there, we will gain a few responsive seats in Congress and serve notice to any of the survivors that they may be next.

Onward and Upward. There are many, many more critical issues that need to be addressed and resolved. However, this proposal addresses the one serious problem that is at the root of almost all of other major problems that we presently face. Please continue to work on those as well. And keep this strategy in mind if the Congress fails to act on them as well as this particular issue.

"I believe democracy to be of all forms of government the most natural, and the most consonant with individual liberty. In it no one transfers his natural rights so absolutely that he has no further voice in affairs, he only hands it over to the majority of a society, whereof he is a unit. Thus all men remain, as they were in the state of nature, equals". – Spinoza

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