by E.L. Christianson Jr.
We fake democracy and we fake some bizzare concept of 'justice'. At some point, the citizens of this country will wake-up and see the truth. The national security state is so entrenched, that it will be difficult to forsee what will happen. Is there some way for citizens to peacefully take control or will violent revolution be the only way?
According to political scientist Larry Diamond, 'Democracy' consists of four key elements: "1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections. 2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life. 3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens. 4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens".
We don't have fair and free elections in this country because the two major parties are the only parties allowed to be heard during the election cycle. The two parties have created 'rules' that preclude others from being heard, rules to ensure their candidates have guaranteed success in the ballot box. See accompaning article about Ralph Nader being barred from debating or even watching the debates.
As Louis Brandeis once professed, "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
What we do have is a situation where, as Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz points out, the richest 1 percent of Americans now own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.
At the same time, In the U.S., more than 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year. 35% of the homeless population are families with children, which is the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. 23% are U.S. military veterans 25% are children under the age of 18 years. (source) Clearly we have concentrated wealth and do not have a democracy !!!
For our own benefit, we can start a peaceful move toward citizen control by fixing our elections. The first and easy step is to open the election process to people outside of the democratic or republican party. That's not to exclude a candidate because they are members of the democratic or republican party, only to allow others to participate, legitimately. We citizens need to, on a local and state level, regain controll of who is on the ballot when we vote. Given the fact that most people are unhappy with the current system as it mal-functions, it makes sense that elections include all candidates who want to run for every office on the ballot... including write-in candidates. The laws/rules must be changed regarding the way we conduct our election process.
The way we count the totals needs to be inclusive also. It is not just the one winner moving forward as if there was nobody else on the ballot. And, the electoral college needs to be eliminated.
When we reach the point that more people identify themselves as outside of "the two major parties" it is obviously time to include those 'independents' in the election process. (see chart included herein)
Unfortunately we were not able to 'elect' Ralph Nader. Dennis Kucinich would have been good. But, that's the past. We have a candidate today who we can endorse with enthusiasm, Jill Stein. Let's make the necessary changes to bring her to the white house.
America Held Hostage
to Two-Party Failure:
Government of, by and for the Corporations
By Michele Swenson ------- Truthout
Washington rhetoric waxes Orwellian in proportion to inside-the-Beltway disconnect around cause and effect of the US economic crisis. Ranging from the Ryan Budget - "kill Medicare to save it" - and some Democrats - "cut Medicare and Social Security to save them" - to claims that deficit reduction (not jobs) is "what the people want," to the "greed is good" creed that assigns entitlements in the form of taxpayer bailouts to wealthy financial institutions that take for granted the ability to shift risk for their liar's loans and speculative transactions. "Austerity" and "shared sacrifice" are Washington code for preserving tax advantages and privilege for the wealthiest, while transferring private debt and risk to the public, onto the backs of the working/middle class.
Phil Angelides, chair of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, notes that 24 million Americans lack work and nearly $9 trillion in household wealth has vanished since the 2008 economic crisis. The commission's January report detailed "the recklessness of the financial industry and the abject failures of policymakers and regulators that brought our economy to its knees in late 2008."
Writes Angelides, there is "no correlation between who drove the crisis and who is paying the price." The disparity of wealth is stark, as "compensation at publicly traded Wall St. firms hit a record $135 billion in 2010." He notes that, in the face of overwhelming evidence of the causes of economic catastrophe, Wall Street and its allies are revising history, e.g., Republicans like Paul Ryan ignore the fact that "our federal budget deficit has ballooned more than $1 trillion annually since the financial collapse." Instead of confronting the real causes of the deficit, budget shortfalls are conflated with "the long-term challenges of Medicare" as an excuse to shred the social safety net. Rather than rein in widespread lending abuses, Republicans seek to weaken the authority of the new consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Economist Joseph Stiglitz calls out the titans of finance, who continue to make mega bonuses for their companies' mega losses, even after they set the global economy in a tailspin and shifted all risks for their unregulated credit default swaps onto taxpayers. He describes a nation of, by and for the 1 percent that enjoys 25 percent of economic benefits, largely purchased by Washington lobbyists. The Republican (Ryan) budget plan would cut $5.8 trillion from government spending over the next decade and reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, while increasing next year's Pentagon budget by $17 billion. The highly touted Bowles-Simpson proposal for deficit reduction is a recipe for a weaker economy, warns Stiglitz, as it will decrease jobs, and in turn, decrease revenues. A primary means to decrease the deficit is to increase jobs, a goal that ultraconservatives wrongly equate with large tax breaks for the wealthy - so-called "job creators" - never mind that the Bush tax cuts failed to provide jobs over a decade.
It is easier to destroy than to build democracy. Concerted assaults on democracy over four decades serve the ends of those who deem it their right to rule and reign: Republican religious ideologues and acolytes of Milton Friedman economics. Disaster capitalists precipitate crises by running up huge deficits (during the Reagan and Bush one and two regimes), followed by demands for balanced budgets and deficit reduction, as a means of drastically cutting domestic spending and gutting public education, government jobs and public pensions and shifting all wealth upward.
The political right has laid waste to democratic principles by sabotaging elections and the economy and auctioning government to the highest bidder. Some rightists deem it a "citizen's duty" to challenge the legitimacy of the "ruling regime" by refusing to obey the law - i.e., "destroy the nation to save it." Certain issues should be advanced "for the purpose of prompting a constitutional crisis," pronounced law professor Russell Hittinger. The 2000 Supreme Court majority selection of George W. Bush reset the bar for challenges to the constitution, as did Citizens United vs. FEC in 2010.
The 1994 Gingrich revolution ushered in the large-scale sell-off of government to corporate interest groups. Corporate lobbyists were invited to write legislation to eradicate regulations for worker safety, labor rights and environmental protections - the so-called "Project Relief" part of the Republican agenda. Simultaneously, Republican House Whip Tom DeLay ("The Hammer") pressured corporate political action committees (PACs) to contribute solely to the GOP, reasoning, "People that are pro-free enterprise should support people who are pro-free enterprise."
Jill Stein for President !!!
US Green Party candidate Ralph Nader barred from site of presidential debate
By Barry Grey ------- World Socialist
5 October 2000An official of the Commission on Presidential Debates and three police officers blocked Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader from entering the site of Tuesday night's nationally televised debate between Democratic Vice President Al Gore and Republican Governor George W. Bush.
Nader, who has obtained ballot status in almost all 50 states but has been excluded by the commission from participating in the debates, was attempting to enter the auditorium at the University of Massachusetts in Boston as a spectator. He had been given a ticket by a sympathetic student from Northeastern University.
As soon as he got off the bus en route to the auditorium he was met by John Bezeris, a representative of the commission, and three police officers. Bezeris told Nader, “It's already been decided that whether or not you have a ticket you are not welcome in the debate.”
Bezeris brushed aside Nader's insistence that he had no intention of disrupting the debate, and the Green Party candidate was forced to leave. “I was excluded on political grounds and no other considerations were communicated,” Nader said later. He added, “I didn't expect they would be so crude and so stupid. This is the kind of creeping tyranny that has turned away so many voters from the electoral process.”
The ham-fisted action by the Commission on Presidential Debates underscored the arbitrary and anti-democratic methods that characterize not only the presidential debates, but the electoral process as a whole, which is skewed to maintain the monopoly of the two parties of the corporate establishment. The police action against Nader makes a mockery of the democratic pretenses surrounding the debates.
The commission is composed of representatives of the Democratic and Republican parties and financed by big corporations. It has ruled that only candidates who register 15 percent or more in public opinion polls are eligible to participate in the three nationally televised debates. This arbitrary criterion has the intended effect of excluding Nader and other third party candidates.
Nader, Reform Party candidate Patrick Buchanan and Libertarian Harry Browne have all sued unsuccessfully to force the commission to allow them to participate in the presidential debates.
As Nader was being barred from the debate venue, some 10,000 demonstrators were protesting outside the hall, most of them denouncing the debate commission and demanding that the Green Party candidate be allowed to participate. Some 30 protesters were arrested. The previous Sunday Nader spoke at a rally in Boston attended by 12,000 people.
The barring of Nader outside the debate venue shed light on the proceedings inside the hall. The Democratic and Republican parties span a narrow political spectrum from conservatism to extreme reaction. Tuesday's debate demonstrated once again that official politics in the US marginalize any critique of the status quo that raises, even in a limited way, the domination of the political process by big business. As for a socialist alternative—it is simply proscribed.
But there are many signs of public disaffection with the two-party system. Voter turnout has declined by 25 percent over the past four decades. Tuesday's debate attracted a smaller television audience than those in previous presidential campaigns. The support for Nader, particularly among younger people, is a reflection of growing discontent with the Democrats and Republicans.
The very fact that the debate commission reacted as it did to Nader's attempt simply to watch the debate is a measure of the fear in ruling circles that the two-party monopoly that has served it so well for so long is losing any base of mass support in the population at large.
As the Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist Web Site have made clear, we have fundamental differences with the program of the Green Party, which combines certain reformist demands with economic nationalism, and do not support Nader's candidacy. At the same time we strongly oppose his exclusion from the debates. As a matter of democratic principle, Nader and all other candidates who have obtained ballot status to compete in the elections should have equal access to the media, to the televised debates and to all other political forums during the election campaign.
WE ARE MORE INDEPENDENTS THAN REPUBLICANS OR DEMOCRATS -- Forty-two percent of Americans, on average, identified as political independents in 2013, the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago. Meanwhile, Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span. At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years but down from 36% in 2008.
The "defund-the-left" campaign was abetted by Virginia Lamp Thomas, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' wife, and a key staff member for then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who compiled a hit list of liberal groups and nonprofit groups. More recently, Virginia Thomas reportedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from groups that had expressed direct interest in the outcome of cases that came before her husband, including Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which struck down any limitations on corporate contributions to elections, sealing the Republican deal to crush democracy.
In the '90s, Democratic leadership, reinforced by such corporate-backed groups as the Democratic Leadership Council, turned increasingly to corporate money, away from working people. With both major parties in thrall to corporate money and influence, "we the people" has effectively become "the silenced majority," discounted voices sought out only for votes during election years, an increasingly futile exercise as big money buys candidates and outcomes.
The majority (53 percent) of Americans who opposed the 2010 extension of the Bush tax cuts watched in dismay as President Obama started with compromise and met his Republican hostage-takers more than half way. Neither did majority popular support result in passage of strong financial regulation, importation of lower-cost drugs or government-payer universal health care.
The fatal flaw of Barack Obama's presidency seems to be the compulsion to compromise with the likes of Norquist, bent on destroying democracy by "drowning government in a bathtub." The deficit in public investment imperils us more than the budget deficit, observes former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, citing tax revenues that are less than 15 percent of the total economy, the lowest in 60 years. Large reductions in federal taxes affect state and local revenues, placing more locales on the brink of bankruptcy - thus fulfilling Norquist's fondest wish for state bankruptcies and "bitter nastiness and partisanship" in state capitals.
The president's failure to lead by using the bully pulpit to educate about the true nature of economic crisis and recovery has resulted in Democrats' surrender to Republicans of the economic narrative around deficits, spending, taxes, health care etc. More than the Tea Party corporate shills, disingenuous rhetoric around the economy and the lack of any counter-narrative by the president discouraged voters from going to the polls in 2010 and will likely discourage them again in 2012.
In 1995, a highly secretive umbrella group of America's right-wing leaders, the little known
Council for National Policy Action, circulated a confidential memo urging members to push for a governmental shutdown in order to force President Clinton to cave to their budget demands. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana) was quoted: "This is our maximum point of leverage to insist that parts of the revolution are executed." The brief government shutdown that followed failed to achieve their goals. Republicans have willingly upped the ante, holding the country hostage to the threat of economic catastrophe in order to achieve their long-time goal of gutting all New Deal and Great Society programs, while codifying tax cuts for the wealthy. Americans are again being held for ransom in a naked high-stakes grab for total wealth and power.
The majority of people are hungry for a truth teller/leader, like Sen. Bernie Sanders. Instead, corporate media reloops the one-note deficit propaganda of the right-wing sound machine, not seeing fit to even mention The People's Budget, written by the Progressive Caucus. The People's Budget would eliminate the deficit sooner than either the proposed Obama or Ryan Budgets and raise a $31 billion surplus in ten years. It would end the main budget deficit drivers - the Bush tax cuts and Middle East wars; restore progressive income and estate taxes; add negotiation of bulk drug rates to Medicare and preserve Medicare, Medicaid Social Security; eliminate tax subsidies for oil, gas and coal companies; close loopholes for multinational corporations; and tax speculative financial transactions. All are goals supported by the majority of people.
Likewise, Medicare-for-All would contribute substantially to economic recovery. Reich writes that expanding the Medicare risk pool to include all healthy young and sick elderly would save $58 billion to $400 billion annually and sharply reduce the budget crisis, while also permitting negotiation of lower rates with hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Payment reform to reward quality not quantity care would provide additional savings.
Circular talk around the deficit short circuits meaningful action around the creation of jobs and financial and election reforms. Sorely needed to counter the corruption of money in elections are the Fair Campaigns Now Act, free media time for all serious candidates and other remedies such as instant runoff voting and reversing the notion of corporate "personhood." Humboldt County, California, passed a county ordinance in 2006 to prohibit nonlocal corporate contributions to elections and also asserting that corporations cannot claim the First Amendment right to free speech. Counties nationwide should follow the lead of a number of counties that have drafted ordinances to deny corporate personhood.
The two main political parties are failing to serve the people, both locked in a dance of dysfunctional political posturing in service of power. In a candid moment this spring, speaking to Charlie Rose, some New York Times correspondents acknowledged the sorry state of our politics: Tom Friedman remarked that we are trapped in a "corrupt duopoly." Crony capitalism is the norm in Washington, lamented David Brooks. Both expressed the wish for a reputable third party to break the Washington gridlock.
Now is the moment for voices that have been willfully ignored in recent years to come together to form a true grassroots movement to advocate for progressive change. Sponsored by over 100 groups led by MoveOn.org, "Rebuild the American Dream" house meetings across the country convened starting July 16 and 17, providing the opportunity for participants to begin writing a "Contract for the American Dream" to serve the people.
The time is a now or never to restore the promise of democracy stolen by the oligarchs.