Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “PACs”

Campaign Finance Reform Now!

If I heard correctly, those advocating fiscal responsibility wasted $6 billion on ridiculous adverts, flyers that are trashing our streets and that the tax payers now needs to clear up, and various other shallow tactics. Living in California, I have been spared the assault that took place in the swing states. I spend a lot of time with You Tube in the background. Either the Prop adverts have been few, or I am not distinguishing them from the epic lyrics of Nightwish and Nickelback.

But this past week, I have been exposed to a number of campaign ads and they are, to be honest, demeaning, embarrassing, and insulting. The majority of Americans will vote for the same party candidates because of class, religion, or any of a number of acceptable reasons. The undecided (and I remain unconvinced that they really are) are either apathetic and therefore not listening to ads: or genuine thinking individuals who do not deserve to be exposed to such drivel. 

Now is the time to reform electoral finance while we remember how bad it is. Two models come to mind and, I admit, it says a lot about the writer that his sources are the NBA and English soccer.

In the English Premier League, once the most competitive in the world, two soccer clubs have been bought by billionaires who have pumped money into the clubs, allowing them to outbid any other club for players and pay two or three times the salary. Naturally, they have assembled teams that no one else can compete with. In fact, their reserve teams could beat most opponents. This fine game, the bastion of civilization, has been reduced to market forces, and has lost its soul.

Ironically, in a clear sign of socialist America, the NBA allows teams to spend a salary cap. If they choose to spend it on 2-3 superstars or create a ‘deep bench’ (many good players), that is for them to decide.

Each candidate should be given a clear amount of dollars they can spend that can enable them to have balloons at their conventions and launch a limited media campaign. The rest of their efforts should focus on serious debate, Q&A, honest information dissemination, and speeches.

 Money should be provided through taxes:  no candidate should be in a position to be bought by big business, corporations, trade unions, or individuals. PACs should be sent packing.

It is too easy to avoid serious debate and open scrutiny of a candidate’s policies, to be distracted by slick unaccountable ads. Many thinking Americans were simply worn down by the sheer barrage and noise.

Let’s make the change now. 2016 is just around the corner.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. His next novel, Unwanted Heroes, is due out in early 2013. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

Creating Coalitions Pt. 2

Following on from Monday’s post, I have been summarizing Mark Bittman’s excellent article in the NYT. Mr. Bittman stresses the realization of “an oligarchy in this country, one that uses financial strength to gain political power, one that fights and bullies for its “right” to make money regardless of the consequences to the earth or anything on it.

Exxon will do all it can to prevent meaningful climate change legislation; Cargill and Pepsi will fight any improvement in agriculture or diet that threatens their profits; Bank of America would rather see homeowners go under than discuss changes in financial structures. And so on.”

Mass movements have begun to emerge as one method to break this ring of influence and the Occupy Bank Transfer Day is an outstanding example. To organize at both the personal and local level can have a resounding effect. 

The second focuses on voting. Very few Presidents, our present one might be an exception, initiate change. Again, Mr. Bittman: “Does anyone believe that Lyndon Johnson wanted to combat racism, or that Richard Nixon cared about American troops or Vietnamese citizens? No: they were forced, respectively, to support civil rights legislation and to begin ending the Vietnam War. Forced by masses of Americans marching, yelling, demonstrating, sitting in and more — Americans driven by their conscience, not by profits.”

This makes the organization and coordination of huge numbers of citizens absolutely critical. We need to identify politicians who are willing to shun corporate money and pressure in favor of reflecting the needs of their constituents. This is so much more difficult than taking several million dollars to support your campaign.

We can sit around and complain of the blatant undemocratic process of corporate sponsorship of politicians or we can focus on establishing a list of candidates that are true to their principles and will rely on mass support from the street. The alternative is to create our own big interest PACs, and this has its own scary elements to it.

A few weeks ago, I bemoaned the idea of ‘playing their game,’ but now I am not so sure that we can create a sustainable framework whereby politicians are elected and held accountable by their voters.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Void the Senate – Roger Ingalls

Do we really need a Senate and a House of Representatives?  Considering the economic disparity between politicians and the masses (out of touch mindset), legislative gridlock, and general impotency of Congress, having two chambers may be a waste of resources.

picture from citizen.org

Refresher: We have 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 Senators. States with larger populations have more representatives. Each of the fifty states has two Senators. In theory, Reps champion the causes of their local constituents. If they don’t, the voting public can give them the boot quickly because the election cycle occurs every two years. Senators are elected for six years with the intent of focusing on the good of the nation as a whole. Elected for longer terms, they can make decisions without influence from short-term public opinion. The two-chamber system has inherent checks and balances because both the House of Reps and the Senate must pass a bill or resolution before it goes to the President for approval or veto.

The nation’s political system has changed considerably since the Founders defined it two-hundred years ago. Over time, State’s rights have given way to Federal control. Also with endless funds given to politicians from special interest groups, Super PACs and similar organizations, our elected officials have become agents for these large money giving entities. Since both chambers are working for the highest bidder and not representing the voting public nor watching over the health of the nation, it is now legitimate to examine the necessity of the two-chamber Congress. Do we need a Senate and a House of Representatives that panders to the same group?

Since both chambers are essentially doing the same thing (and not necessarily the right thing), it’s time to get rid of one of them. Let’s eliminate the Senate. Each Senator costs approximately $3.5 million when considering salary, staff and overhead expenses. By giving pink slips to all of them we could save $350 million. This is not a lot of money compared to the overall U.S.budget but they are now redundant dead weight so give them the axe.

Keeping the House and booting the Senate would give the voting public a fighting chance. The House Reps must, at least somewhat, consider the public’s opinion because the election cycle returns every two years. Also, with the Senate gone, State’s rights may come into play again and allow regional governing inline with the will of the people without retribution from the Federal government.

Obviously, this is a tongue-in-cheek post. Eliminating the Senate would require a Constitutional Amendment. A majority of Senate would have to vote to fire themselves and that isn’t going happen. But I do hope this post points out the monetized-ridiculousness and bastardization of our political system.

The two-chamber system no longer represents the people nor does it protect the nation as originally conceived and defined in the Constitution…it now only serves deep pocket interests.

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Occupy Protest: The Demands – Roger Ingalls

Mainstream media is finally starting to cover the Occupy Protests but their reporting follows a common theme, “it’s a protest without a real purpose or demand”.

Well…here are the demands:

1)      Create a nationalized commercial bank to fund small businesses based on the prime lending rate plus overhead costs. Bank personnel wages and salaries must be similar to government or military pay grades. Most jobs in America are created by small business (70 to 80%). This will create jobs by providing affordable money to small business. The current Wall Street Institutions benefits from selling financial products back and forth to each other and therefore have little interest in small business lending.

2)      Reinstate the business and personal tax rates and codes (including write-offs and loopholes) used in the 1960s. This was a period of prosperity for both the general population and the business community. These tax rates will balance the budget without compromising public services and will stop the transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich that has taken place since the early 1980s.

3)      Create a nationalized commercial bank for home ownership based on the prime lending rate plus overhead costs. This will revive the American dream, bring affordable money back to the housing market and separate housing finance from the risky investment banking practiced by Wall Street.

4)      Allow Medicare buy-in for all people regardless of age. This will provide affordable health care for more Americans. It will also bring needed funds to Medicare because the young and healthy will be participating along with the elderly (costs are spread).

5)      No individual person (real or artificial), company, corporation, PAC, Union or special interest group can donate more than $1000 to a political candidate. Organizations cannot be created for the purpose of funding candidates. Organization with multiple business units or multiple businesses owned by an individual or common group of individuals can only make one collective political donation of $1000 per candidate. This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

6)      No artificial person, company or corporation can advertise in support or opposition to a candidate (directly or indirectly). This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

7)      Political advertisements, candidates, PACs, special interest groups, supporters and opposition groups of ballot issues must maintain an easy-access website that clearly identifies financial contributors. This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

8)      No lobbyist can aid a member of congress unless they have not lobbied in the preceding six years. This will remove the influence big business and special interests have on politicians.

Keep the faith, spread the word and keep fighting…it’s a good fight!

-Roger Ingalls

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Roger Ingalls is well-traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

 

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