A Democratic Opportunity


A Democratic Opportunity

It’s not often We the People have an opportunity to vote FOR something that would, if enacted, expand our own fundamental power, our own authority, our own right to decide.

No matter how great any political candidates may be (from President down to city councilperson, or maybe up to city councilperson), voting for a person to represent us doesn’t directly expand our own power and authority — only to whom we’re handing over our power and authority.

And most local and state ballot issues where voters directly decide (i.e. taxes, same sex marriage, death penalty, marijuana) address only economic or social issues — not political power.

Many ballot issues that do in some way address political power concerns seek to reduce citizen power (i.e. appointed vs elected public officials, 4 year vs 2 year political terms, privatizing/corporatizing a public asset, etc.).

Every so often, however, there is a ballot issue protecting or widening fundamental political ground rules (i.e. the 2011 Ohio referendum ballot issue protecting collective bargaining for workers and the 2012 Ohio redistricting campaign that would have created fairer political districts) — that would maintain or expand the political power of all individuals.

Issue 32 in Cleveland Heights is a democratic opportunity that would, if enacted at the federal level, dramatically widen citizen power. It’s a chance where voters can directly weigh in on fundamental questions that voters are never given in our system of government an opportunity to directly decide:

• Should human beings and not artificial legal entities like corporations have inalienably constitutional rights?

• Should political money be defined as political speech?

Issue 32 would also create an annual city-sponsored hearing inviting the public to testify on the impact on our City, our state and our nation the political influence by corporate entities and big money in connection with the most recent election.

Issue 32 is a chance to directly send a message to our state and federal elected officials — that we join with 500 (and counting) other communities across the nation calling for an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ending corporate personhood and money as speech.

Many other impediments exist for real self-governance. Permitting We the People to define the limits of political contributions/spending in elections and the role of artificial legal entities like corporations in our society are, however, significant democratic steps.

Vote Yes on 32. Democracy for You!

Remembering Larry Goodwyn

One of the key books that expanded my awareness of democracy was his “Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America.” 

Richard Grossman and Ward Morehouse of POCLAD (Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy) would often mention his works in our semi-annual retreats, which helped in developing the focus that let to planting the seeds of the current Move to Amend democracy movement to end corporate personhood and money as speech

RIP Larry.

From the article linked below…

“Goodwyn pushed students to recognize that by his measure Americans have never realized authentic democracy, not even close…Goodwyn believed the principal asset for ordinary people trying to gain voice and influence in politics is their common experience—the knowledge they acquire from everyday life or inherit from family and values, even folk wisdom. Elites may acquire their knowledge from books and learned professors but most folks get theirs from life itself….He never promised happy endings, but his radical optimism did assert that ordinary people are capable of changing outcomes and far more ready and willing than elites will acknowledge.”

Remembering Larry Goodwyn
by William Greider


“Democracy shutdown” is worse than government shutdown

“Democracy shutdown” is worse than government shutdown: Letter to the Editor
October 18, 2013
Plain Dealer, Cleveland

As wasteful, painful and embarrassing as the government shutdown has been, it pales in comparison to the democracy shutdown – that is, the immobility and stagnation of government to represent the public interest. The disconnect between what the public wants and what laws and rules we have widened over the decades 
as corporations have acquired never-intended constitutional rights and money has been defined constitutionally as “speech” – thus, in both cases, beyond the reach of
meaningful public regulation and definition.

Government shutdowns stop funding for many federal services and place many government workers on furlough. Our democracy shutdown has transformed our entire system of government into a corptocracy and plutocracy – government ruled by corporations and the 1 percent.

While the government shutdown has ended, the democracy shutdown will continue until we amend the U.S. Constitution to end never-intended constitutional rights for corporations and constitutional protections of money as free speech.

Greg Coleridge,
Cleveland Heights
Coleridge is coordinator of the Ohio Move to Amend network.

Ten Reflections on the End of the Government Shutdown and Raising the Debt Ceiling

1. The major issue which led to the October 1 partial government shutdown was the Affordable Care Act (ACA) / “Obamacare.” A small number of members of the US House of Representatives affiliated with the “Tea Party” wing pushed President Obama hard to negotiate on reducing or delaying the ACA despite the fact it had been passed by both the House and Senate, signed by the President and upheld by the US Supreme Court. The President said he would not negotiate, thus the stalemate.

2. House members who pushed for changes to the ACA/Obamacare were emboldened because of two structural changes governing elections. The first was increased “gerrymandered” federal congressional districts drawn by state officials to favor one political party. The creation of “safe” political districts reduced the need to promote more moderate positions or seek compromises. The second reason was the 2010 Citizens United vs FEC Supreme Court decision, which expanded the ability of wealthy individuals and corporations to create their own groups (i.e. Super PACs and 501c4 organizations) to support candidates and issues independent of political parties. Thus, the influence of political parties through campaign contributions to incumbents who deviate from the party position was lessened as Super PACs and 501 c4 groups spent huge sums of money to promote issues, which bolstered specific candidates.

3. The national debt and deficit are major problems. The debt ceiling had to be immediately raised. However, fundamental solutions must be found to significantly reduce the ever-expanding debt. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent in interest payments from taxpayers to individuals, corporations and nations holding US Treasury bills, bonds and notes.

4. The end of the partial government shutdown and rising of the federal debt ceiling should not in any way end our interest in these issues. December 13 is the new deadline for producing a compromise federal budget for 2014. The government stays open through January 15. The next debt ceiling deadline is February 7. There will be intense negotiations between Democrats and Republicans and between Congress and the President during the next several months.

5. The negotiations will not focus on Obamacare/ACA but rather the federal budget – in particular budget cuts. Major targets will be earned benefit programs of Social Security and Medicare (which we pay into), as well as Medicaid. These programs provide vital income and services for tens of millions of people. Also likely to be discussed as either part of or separate from the budget negotiations will be cutting corporate tax rates.

6. Not likely to be discussed during the negotiations will be the major causes or spike in spending and explosion of debt over the last decade: massive cuts in taxes for the wealthy and war and military occupation spending (including funding hundreds of foreign military bases and huge overpriced and unneeded weapons systems like the F-35 fighter jet). Another major cause of the recent debt increase was the federal stimulus package and bank bailouts following the economic recession/depression following the 2007-2008 financial collapse. This led to huge increases in unemployment, resulting in less federal revenues (from income taxes) and more expenses (for unemployment insurance).

7. It’s essential that we communicate with our federal elected officials during the next three months – often. The messages should be: “Hands Off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” “Cut Military Spending.” “End Tax Cuts on the Wealthy.” “No Corporate Income Tax Cuts.” Also needed are public, visible actions. This is especially challenging as we move into the time of year of bad weather and the Holidays. Nevertheless, education, lobbying and public mobilizations are the best tools we have to express our views to those who will be making these decisions, supposedly on our behalf. Contact the President, Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown and your US Representative (see contact information below).

8. There is a “third way” to address our budget and deficit woes besides spending cuts and tax increases. It’s democratic control of the US monetary system. Private banking corporations create most of the money in our nation when they issue loans – in other words, banks create money as debt. We have licensed banks to create our money, which is then lent to the US at interest. The US Constitution grants Congress the authority (Article 1, Section 8) to create the nation’s money. Economist William Hixson says, “The very idea of a government that can create money for itself, allowing banks to create money that the government then borrows, and pays interest on, is so preposterous that it staggers the imagination. Either everyone in government in charge of the procedure is lacking in intelligence or they have been bought and paid for by those who profit from their skullduggery and their infidelity to the public interest.”

9. Our national debt could be significantly reduced, if not eliminated, through the creation of inflation-free and debt-free US money – as promoted by the American Monetary Institute. Congress should be told to explore not just budget solutions or tax solutions to our budget and debt crises, but also monetary solutions. We need real monetary reform that makes money creation a public, not a banking corporation, function.

10. Finally, our political system is broken because the system is fixed – as in rigged to benefit the very wealthy and corporations. It’s been this way for a long time and will exist forever and ever until the underlying political and economic ground rules are changed to benefit people without money and corporations. This is why AFSC has been involved for the last 18 years in educating, advocating and organizing to challenging never-intended constitutional rights for corporations — and why we are involved in the national Move to Amend coalition, which is building a national social movement on behalf of a Constitutional Amendment to end corporate “personhood” and the constitutional doctrine that political money equals political speech. While we focus on more sane and humane budget and tax priorities and real monetary reform in the legislative arena, part of the agenda should also be more long-term in the constitutional arena. Contact AFSC if interested in working with others on Move to Amend in your community.

Your president, senators and congress people need to hear from you today!!  Here is a quick reference for how to get in touch with them:

“Supreme” Causes for the Government Shutdown

The 2010 Citizens United vs FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision is partly responsible 
Following Citizens United, the US Court of Appeals in DC took the Supremes lead in a ruling called Speech Now vs FEC. The decision opened the door for nonprofits to raise unlimited political cash. The pro-corporate/free market Club for Growth has taken full advantage. Their role in the shutdown was spelled out in a recent Boston Globe piece

Organizing for the Right Rights


The August 24 Washington, DC rally marking the 50th Anniversary of the historic 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom featured literally dozens of speakers in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The themes of their reflections varied considerably.

Some speakers focused on looking back at the champions of the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, while others focused on those who are presently engaged in the struggle.

Some reflected on dreams and visions, others on cold hard facts and realities.

Some spoke about threats to civil rights and civil liberties, others commented on the threats to labor rights and to meeting basic economic needs.

And some celebrated the political and economic achievements, in particular of African Americans, over the last half-century, while others reminded us that in many respects economic conditions for African American are worse today. In other words, some addressed how far the movement has come, others how far we still must go.

Despite differing messages from different messengers, there was unanimity on many points by those who specifically referenced the horrific June 25 Supreme Court 5-4 decision gutting a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

• The Supremes blew it.
• The 5 “robed ones” on the High Court who voted to scrap Section 4 of the Act are out of touch with reality.
• Voting discrimination has not ended. If anything, voting protections should be expanded to states where proposed legislative barriers to voting are persistent
• Grassroots education and organizing is essential to pressure Congress to counteract the Court’s decision.

Several speakers went even further to advocate for a Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing the right to vote for all. As speaker after speaker proclaimed, the Voting Rights Act was one of the greatest pieces of legislation on equality in our nation’s history.

Former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) leader and current U.S. Congressman John Lewis, the only person to speak at both the 1963 and 2013 DC rallies, stated on the day of the decision: “What the Supreme Court did was to put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. [This] act helped liberate not just a people, but a nation.”

President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Sherrilyn Hill on June 25 said, “Today will be remembered as a step backwards in the march towards equal rights. We must ensure that this day is just a page in our nation’s history, rather than the return to a dark chapter.”

Within hours of the court decision, Texas, one of the states previously covered by Section 4 of the Act, announced it would immediately start enforcing a photo ID requirement for voters that had beenpreviously blocked by a federal court. North Carolina had recently passed asimilar voter ID law.

It’s not only southern states that seek a return to the dark ages of Jim Crow, poll taxes, and literacy tests. Reactionary legislators in many northern states have introduced similar legislation over the past few years. The Supreme Court decision puts the Voting Rights Act into a coma, unable to be fully utilized to protect the most cherished of rights for many – the ability to vote.

Unfortunately, speakers at the 50th Anniversary events as well as those who criticized the original decision overlooked ongoing threats to liberty and equality posed by equally disturbing Supreme Court decisions of the past – those creating and expanding inalienable constitutional rights for corporations and the declaration that political money is equivalent to political speech.

These connections are real and salient, not forced or contrived. The education, advocacy and organizing to restore and expand the Voting Rights Act could naturally include education, advocacy and organizing to end corporate personhood and money as speech. And vice a versa.

Inalienable constitutional rights for corporations, which are legal creations of the state, were originally attainted by the corruption of the 14th Amendment, granting freed slaves due process and equal protection rights. The 13th (ending slavery), 14th, and 15th (the right to vote for African American males) Amendments were the three post-Civil War constitutional court decisions.

Corporate attorneys perverted the 14th Amendment; fictionally claiming its provisions actually applied to them as well as freed slaves. Following the 1886 Santa Clara v Southern Pacific Supreme Court decision, the courts began hearing distinctly more 14th Amendment cases related to the repression of newly granted corporate “rights” than repression cases of newly won human rights for freed slaves.

Corporations became “parasites” on the 14th Amendment “host.” In biology, a host or organism harbors parasites, providing them nourishment and protection. Parasites survive only so long as the host lives. Corporations have been shielding themselves by the 14th Amendment for 127 years, nourishing and expanding their power and rights by manipulating their host – resulting in the wide expansion of never-intended corporate rights through similar corporate perversions of many of the Bill of Rights

Concurrently, the 1976 Buckley v Valeo Supreme Court decision equaling “money as speech” provided its own set of protections to those who desired to translate their economic wealth into political access and influence. If money is speech, then those who have the most money have the most speech. This drowns out the voices of those without money.
The corporate parasitic perversion of our Constitutional Amendments has surely weakened them – threatening the very heart of protecting the inalienable rights for all.

The importance and significance of voting rights is diminished if corporations and money from a wealthy few profoundly influence what issues are on the political arena (i.e. those defined by powerful corporations with political influence) and which candidates run for office (i.e. those who can raise the most money). The power of the vote is further eroded if issues aren’t even permitted to be politically discussed and debated by elected representatives (i.e. keeping big box stores out of community-conscious cities and towns because to do so violates their 14th Amendment equal protection “rights” or forcing food producers in the name of protecting health and safety to list their ingredients because to do so violates their Bill of Rights right not to speak).

Those who seek to restore and expand voting rights and those asserting only human beings, not corporations, have constitutional rights and that money is not speech can find common cause on a number of areas:

• We are dealing with fundamental democratic, self-governing, self-determinationrights that must minimally be present for anything approaching a democraticrepublic to exist.
• An activist, unelected and unaccountable Supreme Court overturned democratically enacted laws and rules protected and expanding the rights of real human beings and those without money from having real political voices.
• We can’t simply react to seemingly never ending assaults to our rights. We have to affirm our “dreams and visions” by proactive proposals – whether legislative or constitutional.
• June 25, 2013 may very well become a political and organizing focal point for Voting Rights activists just as January 21, 2010 (the date of the Citizens United decision) has become for the Move to Amend campaign. There might be opportunities to cross link commemorations.
• Mass multiracial and multigenerational political movements must be build and maintained to pressure for change. They are how fundamental rights have been achieved in the past. They are how they will be restored and expanded now. While we need political friends inside Congress, the inspiration and perspiration for profound change must come from We the People in all 50 states. Grassroots activities must include educating, advocating, organizing (including mass actions), and institution building.

The NAACP during the next year has set restoring and expanding the Voting Rights Act as a major priority. They and others with similar goals are reaching out for allies. The NAACP and others are alreadyactive in organizing (including civil disobedience) in North Carolina against voter disenfranchisement and budget cuts through their “Moral Monday” campaign.

Working on Voting Rights is a complementary “democratic first principle” strategy to the quest of asserting human rights over corporate rights and money. It’s all part of a larger effort to organize for the “right rights.”

“We Have a Dream” as well – that of ending all impediments to the full liberation of all people.

Real people that is.