Tuesday, October 30, 2007

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

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I guess we do the only things we can do-- keep writing and talking and contributing however we can. I think the only thing that will wake up people like Pelosi and her henchmen, like Hoyer and Emanuel, is for some of them to get voted out. Some of them will have to be made examples of. They'll have to lose their jobs before they realize that people outside the Beltway live in a different country. That means it's a long process.

Something so obvious should not take so long but we're dealing with Washington. They live in denial of anything that might mean fewer dollars beinig slipped into their extra large pockets by Korporate
Amerika, just does not get very far very fast. Some progress was made in 2006 but it has to grow
exponentially with each election cycle. I just wonder if there is enough time left before it's too late for the country and the world.

I have my doubts about Sheehan but if she could knock out Pelosi, it would send a message, at least of some kind. Unfortunately, that message would be immediately spun as an exception or aberation. The media would be saying "well it's San Francisco, what do you expect
from those crazies."

So, the question becomes, which incumbents among the worst obstructionists and false Dems are the most vulnerable and most high profile whose defeat would send the most shockwaves and ring the
wake up bell the loudest. We need to have local and regional Democratic Primary Rebellions where Rahm and his minions get their asses handed to them. Local party rebellion against Rahm and his
picks. In a general election, perhaps some third party candidates who split the Dem vote and allow Repugs in might do it. I hate to see it but what's really the difference if a Repug gets in or a fake Dem gets in? At least Rahm and Chucky the Clown and those types might lose credibility and power within the Democratic party and then Progressives can take advantage of the opening. No? Meanwhile, supporting better Dems and getting more elected each time is the way to go.

-NOAH

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7 Comments:

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Steven Porter said...

I am pasting my response below in the form of a recent article. I speak as a former Democratic candidate for Congress in PA-03.



HAS THE AMERICAN DEMOCRACY DIED?
A distillation of the treatise
America’s Dying Democracy: why the Republican and Democratic
parties can no longer serve the people

With the public’s approval rate of Congress dipping below 30% and President Bush’s numbers not much better, it seems clear that the people are discontented with the way the government is being run. Many have questioned whether things can ever improve, and if we can take election turnout figures as an indicator, half of the public doesn’t even bother to vote.1 In fact, a recent University of Michigan study indicated that only 21% of the American people trust their government.2
That distrust has been deservedly earned over a considerable period of time. From the scandals of Watergate to the lies about the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, from Iran-contra to the debacle of the 2000 election, from the false claims of WMDs in Iraq to the sexual misconduct of present-day members of Congress, the American people have had little to feel confident about where Washington is concerned.
In 2006, voters hoped that their discontent would lead to changes in policy. After all, the elections swept the Democrats back into the majority in both houses of Congress largely because the public expected the Democrats to do something to end the Iraq War.3 But with impeachment “off the table,” in the words of House Speaker Pelosi, there has been little the Democrats have done except to profess opposition to Bush on the one hand and to give him everything he has asked for on the other.
To Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, it really hasn’t made much difference which major party controls Washington. The war in Iraq, the lack of affordable health care, global warming, insecure borders, the insolvency of Social Security, the outsourcing of jobs, etc., etc., seem to go on regardless.
Perhaps it is time for the American people to realize that our current system of government has compromised the democracy beyond the ability of either major party to restore it. That is because both major parties no longer have as their primary goal the welfare of the American people. The masters they really serve are the special interests which fund their campaigns.
When the Supreme Court in the Buckley vs. Valeo decision of 1976 allowed the unlimited expenditure of money in campaigns because it equated money with free speech,4 the floodgates were opened for ever-increasing contributions. The funds of the wealthy and well-connected and the enormous resources of corporate America poured into the election process to the point where billions of dollars now have to be raised by the candidates in each election cycle.5
As a result, virtually every congressional candidate regardless of party seeks and accepts huge contributions from special interests in order to win or retain seats. And every industry is involved in the act of political pay-off: oil, pharmaceuticals, energy, defense, automobiles, labor—you name it, they participate. It is an impossibility for average citizens who give contributions of $50 or $100 to garner the influence of special interests whose contributions are in the millions.
So the wealthy are served first—often to the detriment of the public, as is the case in Iraq where the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about gets hundreds of billions of dollars in war contracts while our troops and innocent Iraqi civilians continue to suffer injury and death.6
Virtually the same scenario exists for every major issue from health care, where the insurance and pharmaceutical industries profit at the expense of the public’s well-being,7 to Social Security and taxes, where laws continue to protect corporations and wealthy Americans whose wages are above $100,000 annually.8
To compound the dilemma of our democracy, the media, one of whose functions is to expose the abuses of government to the public, has often been strangely silent. Perhaps that is because the media itself has been consolidated into fewer and fewer hands to the point where once independent voices have been eliminated by large media corporations. In 1983 the number of separate companies controlling the flow of information in America was fifty. Today it is fewer than ten. Moreover, some media corporations have substantial conflicts of interest. General Electric, for example, owns the NBC family, and General Electric is a major defense contractor whose profits in part stem from the fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps the media are also silent because they are the principal beneficiaries of the money spent in campaigns. The short, often mindless 30-second sound bytes which run incessantly in the days and weeks before elections bring billions into the coffers of the media. To a very real degree, the free press itself has been a willing participant in the sale of the democracy.9
Finally, the decline of American public education from World War II to the present has made our citizens less capable of the critical reasoning needed to understand the degeneration of America’s democracy and far less inclined to investigate it.10
If Congress would agree to pass legislation mandating the public funding of federal elections, the sale of the American government to special interests could be stopped in its tracks. This, of course, would require the foxes to relinquish control of the chicken coop—not a likely scenario.
Another alternative would be for a small but critical mass of 10,000 or so citizens to modestly fund the congressional campaigns of 5-10 unaffiliated independents who pledged to work first and foremost for the benefit of the people as opposed to the special interests. Contributions of between $100 and $500 to these candidates from just those few citizens might elect a small but critical caucus of true public servants dedicated to restoring the democracy. In close House or Senate votes, this caucus might command enough power to “horse trade” on issues such as the end to the Iraq War, or lifting the wage cap on Social Security taxes, or passing HR 676, the bill for universal health care.
Is it a likely scenario? Perhaps not, but right now, to save our democracy it may be the only game in town.

Steven Porter, Ph.D.
Fall, 2007






Footnotes

1. School of Public Policy, University of Maryland study (June 2007) by Hugo Lopez, Karlo Barrios Marcel, and Emily Hoban Kirby. The 2006 figures indicated that in the 18-29 age group only 25.5% of eligible voters actually voted. The percentage in the 30+ age group was 53.7%

2. http://www.usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa062500a.htm .

3. “Exit Polls—Bush, Iraq Key to Outcome.” CNN 11/8/2006. (http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/08/elections.why/index.htm).

4. U.S. Supreme Court: Buckley v. Valeo, 425 U.S. 1 (1976) (http://www.caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us+vol=424) .

5. Center for Responsive Politics, “Top All-Time Donor Profile.” (http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.asp?order=A) .

6. Center for Pubic Integrity, “Windfalls of War.” (http://www.publicintegrity.org/wow/resources.aspx?act=total) .

7. Center for Public Integrity special report, “Drug Lobby Second to None,” Washington (July 7, 2005). (http://www.publicintegrity.org/rx/report.aspx?aid=723).

8. Citizens for Tax Justice, “Bush Tax Cuts after 2002.” (http://www.ctj.org/html/gwb0602.htm) .

9. Ben Bagdikian, “The Media Monopoly.” (Boston: Beacon Press, 1983); Eric Alterman, “What Liberal Media.” (New York: Basic Books, 2003).

10. Steven Porter, “Wisdom’s Passing: the decline of American public education since World War II and what we can really do about it.” (New York: Barclay House, 1989).

 
At 12:05 PM, Anonymous sphinx said...

Howie, I just stumbled upon your blog.

Thank something akin to God for it in it's irreverence.

 
At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few things: The approval numbers of Congress are well below 30% at this point. Some polls put their approval numbers at 11%. The public funding of elections is essentially a form of socialism at its core. About how much of the public's money should candidates receive? What should the qualifiers be? (You could find a scenario where 20 people run for each office if its on the public's dime). Additionally, if 5-10 independents run for a public office, that will not be enough to unseat an incumbent, as the independents will split portions of the vote among them, which may result in the highest vote-getting winning a plurality rather than a clear-cut majority. How can anyone claim to speak for a majority of their constituents if they win less than 50% of the vote? 3rd party candidates tend to act as spoilers nowadays, as the two-party system has been so deeply entrenched since the 19th centry. Sorry if this sounds like rambling, but I think they are worth considering.

 
At 9:03 AM, Anonymous IMSmall said...

THIS SEA OF INCOMPETENTS

The willow weeps, but not as much as I weep for my country,
Perhaps the fate of mankind will depend on the Chinese--
The world has many mouths but sparse depleted is the pantry,
And how can one survive amongst incompetents as these?

´Tis not lack of ability that makes my brethren fail,
But lack of good priority and laziness (alas),
For all go seeking money over hill and over dale
Expending so much trouble heading off each other´s pass.

It stirs up straw-dog issues that cannot amount to much,
Each riling himself up about another person´s wrong,
Invading other countries never fearful of a putsch
When evil "homeland" forces grow domestic shady strong.

My country fails excessively to turn the other cheek
But hardly seems to fail to turn away its moral eye
While snide subversive forces plot in secret and oblique,
Yet not too secret which is cause sufficient for to cry.

 
At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Steven Porter said...

I would like to respond to the comments of "anonymous" to my article.

First, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, perhaps I did not express it clearly--or maybe you just misunderstood. I did not mean for 5-10 people to run for a single office. I meant that we ought to elect between 5 and 10 truly independent people to Congress, people who would form a caucus against the two major party votes which are currently for sale.

Whether or not such independents would be elected by majority or plurality in any district is quite unpredictable. I think that argument is an obfuscation of the present prostitution of our government.

As to how many people would run "on the public's dime," that would also not be many. It takes an awful lot to get onto a congressional ballot. It takes many people getting many signatures. And it takes even more energy and time to campaign. There would not be many more seeking office than presently seek it now. In PA-03 there are already 4 democrats in the primary. I cannot imagine more than that on any ballot in the general election.

And as to the cost, it is miniscule when compared to the costs of crooked government. One can easily set a limit on spending. Having run for this office, I can tell you that you can run a very decent campaign for about $1.00 for each constituent. A congress person represents about 650,000 people. Limiting spending to $650,000 per candidate and having the media insure that each person on the ballot got a certain amount of unpaid air time and perhaps also limiting the time during which a candidate could campaign are all elements which would work to make the system honest at very, very little expense.

In fact, using the numbers above, if just $50 of tax money ALREADY PAID BY EACH TAXPAYER would be set aside each year for publicly funded elections, we could fund at least 4 candidates for every federal, state, and local office without the sale of our government to special interests. That would mean setting aside about $17 per tax bill per year for local, state, and federal bills. I don't know about you, but my taxes were in the many thousands of dollars. I think state, local, and federal governments could get along with $50 less of my money and devote that money to clean government.

Consider an honest government which was not manipulated into Iraq, or which passed HR 676, the health care bill, or which lifted the cap on Social Security so that the wealthy pay what the rest of us pay. The savings would be in the trillions of dollars, not to mention the lives.

There is NO EXCUSE for avoiding this easy solution to the illness which has destroyed our democracy, NO EXCUSE BESIDE STUPITY AND GREED.

But here's my offer, Anonymous. Let's try it for a reasonable period of time, say two Presidential election cycles. If after 8 years of clean government, we found that the present system is somehow better, we could create a sunset clause to the law and go back to business as usual.

My guess is that after 8 years, opposition like yours would be laughed out of the room.

Dr. Porter

 
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