This country is in need of a revolution, not the shoot-em-up kind but a civilized, quiet and peaceful revolution of thought. It’s time we woke up and realized we are being used by money mongers and power brokers to suit their purposes and their purposes are not OUR purposes. Americans have a common enemy and it isn’t each other.
Our national priorities are way out of whack. People are angry and I don’t blame them. They are angry about crime, they are angry about wars, they are angry about jobs being shipped overseas and they are angry about the cost of healthcare. Unfortunately all this anger has produced few solutions because while those who have the power to make changes are aware of the anger, they keep choosing solutions that benefit the wrong people. Our anger is justified but our aim is off. We are shooting each other instead of the real enemy. You want an enemy that can unite us? Look no further than Wall Street where you’ll find Big Banks, Big Pharma, Big Oil and more.
It is in the best interests of these money mongers and the power brokers to keep us fighting with one another because as long as we are at each other’s throats we aren’t watching them. Americans have to wake up to the fact that we are all being used so Big Pharma, Big Oil and Wall Street can get bigger. Business in America is hauling in record profits and conventional wisdom says that when that happens they will share the wealth by creating more jobs. Not! Instead, they are paying their executives more and providing greater dividends to shareholders all the while laughing at you and me for fighting over the scraps they leave behind. Boy are we stupid. Look what’s happening to our institutions.
- AARP started out with good intentions and became a non-profit insurance broker.
- The American Red Cross started with great intentions but now suffers from executive bloat and seems to exist to employ highly paid leaders.
- Hospitals started out to serve patients and evolved into competitive organizations whose sole purpose is to stay compete and grow. Healthcare is not the goal, growth is.
- Pharmaceutical companies began as organizations bent on treatments and cures for critically ill patients and have become monstrous money factories that produce drugs, devices and treatments that generate huge profits and leave the rare but deadly diseases to founder because they are not profitable enough. And…have you ever thought of this. Treating diseases is much more profitable than curing them.
- Insurance companies are supposed to help pay for medical expenses and that’s good, but most people can’t afford the insurance and sometimes they can’t afford the co-pays for drugs or hospital or clinic visits.
- And finally, big corporations complain about high taxes and not being able to compete, yet many of the biggest pay no taxes at all and still move offshore. They lay off thousands of good American workers in favor of hiring mostly unskilled, and low paid foreign help who will work with no benefits, few if any safety regulations, long hours and in some cases child labor is used.
And that list is only the beginning. And…you know why it’s like that? It’s because all of those I listed own our City councils, state legislatures and the U.S. Congress along with Mayors, Governors and Presidents. We have the best leadership corporate America can buy.
We need a good and thorough house cleaning, a deep cleaning that gets the grime, dirt and dust out of every nook and cranny. We need a totally new approach to electing our officials and then keeping them accountable. There’s no shortage of issues to address, but for our purposes here, I will discuss just a couple.
Issue Number One, Campaign Finance Reform
- I have been preaching campaign finance reform since the turn of the century and before and the Citizens United Decision makes it all the more necessary. Citizens United is a recent supreme court decision that in effect says that corporations and unions are “persons” just like you and me and therefore are allowed to donate money to political advertising through Political Action Committees (PACS). Politicians will tell you that contributions have no effect on how they vote. Right, and there really is a Santa Claus. Think about it, if you donate $500 to your favorite politician, you’ll get a nice thank you note and maybe a call from the candidate. If you donate $5,000 you’ll get a meeting with the candidate and he or she will listen to you for a moment, but if you donate $100,000 you likely will get a few favors a meeting or two and priority treatment anytime you call. You might even get your picture taken with the candidate.
Money buys access and access means you will be heard and if you are heard you have some influence…you cannot be ignored. Corporations are not people. A real person is someone with a birth certificate who is the product of the coupling of a man and woman. I say that people should be allowed to contribute to campaigns if they are registered voters and can show a certified birth certificate. There is not a corporation in the world that can do that. Once that becomes a criterion for donations, politicians will quickly ignore corporations and begin to listen and respond to their real constituents. We must overturn Citizens United.
But there’s so much more. First – our campaigns are too damn long. We’ve just ended a 16- month process that led to the election of Donald Trump. I don’t know about you but I don’t need 16 months to decide who to vote for. Besides 16 months of lies, counter lies and more lies have the effect of demoralizing and polarizing the whole country. Americans are at each other’s throats because of the acrimony between candidates. So here’s what we ought to do:
- Shorten all political campaigns to three months. No one needs more than that to make up their mind.
- No campaign contribution should exceed $1500 per voter per election, period. The amount could be given to one candidate or to many, but can only total $1,500.
- Disallow wealthy people from spending their own money on campaigns (they, too, would have to depend on the $1,500 contributions). No one should have the power to buy a political office.
- Eliminate “Soft” money contributions (phone banks, people to make calls, pizzas etc.)
- Require that debates follow strict National Forensic League (NFL) debate rules (read more about the NFL http://www.nflonline.org/AboutNFL/YearbyYear )
- Require that debates be non-sponsored events on public broadcasting. In real debate,s the speakers question each other.
- Require incumbents (and their staffs) running for re-election forgo the pay and other perks of their office while campaigning.
- Eliminate the congressional franking privilege (free postage) during campaigns
- Make incumbents pay for their own trips to and from Washington during their campaigns.
- Change the law so that officeholders must pay into social security like everyone else.
- Eliminate speaking fees for members of congress. Why do we have to pay them to tell us what they did while being paid by taxpayer dollars?
- Require all office holders to have the same health coverage as anyone else.
- Set term limits for all political offices.
- Set term limits for the justices of the Supreme Court.
We need to clean house and start with a clean slate where elected officials are answerable to the voters not to corporations. Special interests own our political system and we will not have government of, for or by the people until we run the big money out of campaigns and make politicians pay attention to voters.
Issue Number Two, Elections and Gerrymandering
- Next, then, we have to totally revamp the way we elect our representatives. Gerrymandering is a process whereby the majority party in any state can determine the boundaries of a congressional district. Nearly every time it is done it favors the party in power and a representative of their party wins the congressional seat. That’s wrong. The constitution sets districts by virtue of population (today it is about 700,000) while the number of people can increase — the number of elected
representatives is set at 435 (The senate has a much easier formula, each state can have two senators and they are elected by the entire state, not by district).
The house was set up that way so that representatives could more accurately reflect the views of the people in their district. For example, in Minnesota, the eighth congressional district is made up of iron mining communities and the port of Duluth. The issues there are much different from the 7th congressional district almost directly to the west of the 8th. The 7th district is almost entirely agricultural and tourist – much different issues than the 8th.
Senators, on the other hand, represent the entire state and have to find a balance in the issues from all 8 congressional districts.
Gerrymandering is not only unfair it is really contrary to the intent of the original constitution which seeks fairness in representation. So, in my humble opinion, Gerrymandering should be outlawed in favor of population only, not which political party the population is likely to vote for.
It is unlikely I will get much argument on the need to clean house from the average American. The argument will come from the money mongers and the power brokers. They are the ones who have much to lose if we start changing the system. The professional influence peddlers, money launderers and bullying power brokers will fight change tooth and nail. They don’t want you to decide who wins and who loses without their massive meddling. What will happen to big pharma, the oil industry and Healthcare if they can no longer buy favorable legislation? I can tell you what will happen. For the first time in a very long time the American people will control their own government. For the first time in a very long time elected officials will have to answer to the people. How refreshing.
And that, my friends is the truth.