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 “Super PAC”

America Gets Punk’d – Roger Ingalls

Have you ever wondered why so many federal laws are passed that favor large Wall Street-partnered corporations while little gets done to protect or improve the well-being of real people? Essentially, it comes down to who is drafting the bills that get introduced to Congress.

Most Americans have a very rudimentary understanding of how an idea or proposal becomes law unless they’ve extended their studies on the subject. A few may remember the simple sidewalk diagram, shown below, that steps us through how a bill becomes law; however, many more of us will recall getting educated by the cool Schoolhouse Rock song I’m Just a Bill.

The process of how a bill becomes law isn’t an issue. Our real focus should be on who is behind the introduction of a new bill, who is writing it and where do they come from. These more pertinent issues (questions) aren’t normally discussed in school or often mentioned in mainstream media. We wouldn’t want the general populous becoming too educated, now would we?!

Below is an interesting flowchart describing how a bill is written in today’s corporate-dominated political climate. Call it Bill Drafting 101.

This flowchart highlights one of many reasons why we need campaign reform. Aides that have worked for or associated with a corporation should not get hired by politicians that have accepted contributions from that corporation or its funded special interest group (PAC, Super PAC or similar). There should be a five year conflict of interest waiting period.

American Idol finalists Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez getting Punk’d by Ashton Kutcher on MTV would be funny but Americans getting punked by politicians and their financial sponsors is criminal.

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.

Five Years Ago

I realize that my post on Monday was critical of Barack Obama and in particular his decision to allow a Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, to work for his reelection. Some friends have commented that this might not be the time for a a supporter to be criticizing the President during the Republican primaries, but it is hard to keep the faith when that faith demands blind followers. I want a candidate who is accountable to his/her constituents and willing to talk and listen to their feedback.

I have never met President Obama and know no more than his books and our objective media reveal (yes – intended!). But something in his grassroots campaign resonated with me: the hope, the honesty, the optimism.

That campaign kicked off five years ago last week. This might be a good time to remember why we got energized half a decade ago.

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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).

Super PAC, Super Disappointment

I have been following the Republican primaries with righteous indignation, just the ticket on the commute to work over the fog-hugging Bay Bridge. Today (Wednesday at the time of writing), Mitt Romney is confident that, despite losses in key states to Rick Santorum, he will win the primaries, because he has the money to buy TV ads.

Really? Not because he attracts the party faithful through his stirring speeches, articulate exposition of policy, his vision and personal principles?

But this seems to be a glimpse of the future political landscape, where money rather than grassroots support, will decide who rises (or floats) to the top.

Those of us on the moral left will point out that our candidate won the elections against considerable odds by rallying hundreds of thousands of people to donate $25, a meaningful contribution for many. We rallied on street corners, in town hall meetings, and across the Internet.

So I am rather upset to hear that President Obama has sanctioned the forming of a Super PAC – Priorities USA Action. Campaign Manager, Jim Messina essentially told us that the President doesn’t like flip-flopping like this, but has to be realistic and anticipate the media assault waiting for him when the real election campaigning begins.

I know that there is a mixed reaction among the faithful. Many are relieved that reality has kicked in before it is too late. Better to accept the future scenario now and do what must be done to ensure four more years.

But other, myself included, have sighed deeply. Did it really have to be this way? Can we not have the courage of our convictions to believe that we will win because our message is right, our vision in tune with what needs to happen, and that Americans are smart enough to treat this like a general election and not a reality show.

Matea Gold and Melanie Mason, have written a great article in the LA Times: Obama’s embrace of ‘super PAC’ will test his base of donors. Worth the read.

I stand as one of the disappointed, but it won’t stop my commitment to reelecting President Obama. I know what the alternative is (whether Romney, Santorum, Paul or Gingrich), and I begrudgingly know how they can win.

I remain stunned that so many people, only a few months into President Obama’s first term, were actually blaming him for the state of the economy, as though none of the economic carnage and greedy abuse happened prior to his election.

Super PACs have no place in politics. They should remain on the Comedy Central where they belong.

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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).

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