Testimony at Brecksville Democracy Day

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February 23, 2015
Human Services Center, Brecksville, Ohio

I bring greetings from the Move to Amend Ohio Network. Thousands of Ohioans have signed the Move to Amend national petition calling for a constitutional amendment to declare that only human beings, not corporate entities, possess inalienable constitutional rights and that We the People should have the right to regulate money in elections. There are 16 Move to Amend affiliate and partner groups in Ohio. Six communities have passed city council resolutions. Five other communities besides Brecksville have passed ballot measures, including Newburgh Heights, Cleveland Heights, Mentor, Defiance and Chagrin Falls. More than a dozen other Ohio communities are in the process of taking similar action. This is a growing movement across the nation.

Why is it growing? Simple. More and more people of all beliefs, parties, places and races understand that our government is broken because the system is fixed – fixed as in rigged to benefit the super duper wealthy and corporate entities.

A recent Harpers Index documents that the percent of Americans who believe their government is “on the side of average citizens” is 12, while “on the side of corporations” is 73.

An academic study this past fall examining 1779 public policy issues from 1981-2002 concluded our government is more of an oligarchy than a democracy.

Sixty-five per cent of Americans are dissatisfied “with the U.S. system of government and its effectiveness”.  That is the highest level of dissatisfaction that Gallup has ever recorded.

Our government has been captured. You don’t need a PhD in political science to know this. The voices of average people who aren’t super rich or aren’t at the APEX of a corporate entity are drowned out. If money is speech, then those with no money have no speech.

But yet, the madness continues. The Supreme Court ruled last year in the McCutcheon case that federal laws limiting aggregate political contributions/investments to $117,000 is a violation of that person’s free speech. Not to be outdone in the oligarchy department, Congress passed legislation last December raising individual contribution/investment limits to political parties by 800% from a measly $194,000.

One could focus on any number of arenas to demonstrate how corporate personhood and money equals speech not only devastates our democracy but our communities.

Take banking.

The FIRE (Finance, Insurance & Real Estate) sector is #1 of all sectors in federal political contributions/investments – totaling $499 million according to the Center for Responsive Politics in 2013-2014 – far and away the leader. Lawyers and Lobbyists were chumps at only $148 million, the Health sector totaled $138 million, Labor $137 million. It’s been this way for some years.

What have the mega banks received for their political investments over the years?

√ Elimination of regulations separating commercial and investment banks – which triggered explosive financial speculation, the 2008 financial implosion and widespread housing foreclosures – negatively affecting communities across the countries

√ Bail outs with out tax dollars – despite massive political opposition across the political spectrum. Main Street, Side Streets and community banks were not bailed out.

√ Use of taxpayer bail out money to purchase other banks to become even larger and even more too big to fail

√ Avoidance of Justice Department indictments and criminal prosecutions – unlike the period following the collapse of Savings & Loans.

√ The continued ability to print money out of thin air and loan it to the government at interest – try doing that in your basement and see how long that lasts

√ Weak regulations following the 2008 financial collapse

√ And legislation passed last December guaranteeing that if trillions of speculative derivatives by the mega banks go belly up, you and I will bail them out thanks to FDIC insurance. If that means there’s not enough FDIC money to cover our own insolvent bank accounts — too bad.

Self-rule, self-determination, a representative democracy, and direct democracy are all mere illusions so long as corporate entities are deemed persons and money speech.

It’s way past time We the People take back our country. It’s way past time to amend the Constitution to end corporate personhood and money as speech.

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