Cleveland Heights “Democracy Day” public hearing testimony

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Eighteen people testified on a wide range of subjects which were connected to corporate constitutional rights and money defined as free speech.

TESTIMONY OF GREG COLERIDGE AT 3RD ANNUAL “DEMOCRACY DAY” PUBLIC HEARING
Cleveland Heights, Ohio / January 21, 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we celebrated earlier this week, later in his life expanded his message and work beyond race. He identified what he called the giant triplets of evil: racism, materialism and militarism. I believe if King were living today, his triplets would be quintuplets. Added to his list of evils would be classism and corporatism.

By classism, I mean the growing gap between rich and poor – with its devastating social, economical, environmental, and political impacts – including the ability to translate growing individual economic wealth into political power.

By corporatism, I mean the growing role of corporate entities to influence our entire culture – including the political authority and so-called rights to mold elections, laws, regulations and even judicial decisions.

More than a tad of attention has been paid recently to the practice of Cleveland Hts. council members feeding themselves to the amount of $12,000 annually. I’m not going to belittle this concern, only to offer some perspective. Over the past several years, our city has seen the state of Ohio cut its funding annually by $2.5 million.

Cleveland Heights and other Ohio municipalities that have seen severe cuts don’t donate or invest to politicians or have a legion of lobbyists compared to the wealthy and corporate interests – who gorged themselves on a 6.3% income tax cut (which will benefit the wealthy disproportionately) as well as enacted tax deductions for business owners in last year’s state budget. There were no new increases to sales or severance taxes on oil and gas drillers. And while not a budget measure per se, the Ohio legislature froze requirements for utility corporations to meet modest renewable energy standards. A quick peek at recent campaign reports of Ohio’s leading legislators explain much of the reasons why.

Top donors or investors to Ohio House Majority Leader Cliff Rosenberger include First Energy Corporation, Chesapeake Energy Corporation, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, Ohio Coal Association, American Electric Power Corporation and Duke Energy Corporation – as well as some of the richest individual Ohioans (follow the money).

Top donors or investors to Ohio Senate President Keith Faber include basically the same entities, in a slightly different order and in most cases just larger amounts of cash (since afterall he is head of the Senate).

We not only have in this country a criminal justice system but also a political system in its most brutal form inflicts “capital punishment.” In the case of the later, if you don’t have the capital to invest in elections and lobbying, you will be punished. In the case of Cleveland Heights, the yearly affliction has been  $2.5 million.

That happens to be 208 times as large as $12,000. So I respectfully suggest that for those who have called for ending 12 grand worth of council meals, they spend maybe not 208 more times but certainly at least some time – as well as the rest of us —  working to end the $2.5 million in city cuts from the State of Ohio – which isn’t based on sound public policy but is due to rather (take your pick) basic power politics, capital punishment, legalized bribery, pay to play, or the golden rule (i.e., he or she who has the gold, rules).

Ultimately our growing hybrid plutocracy and corporatocracy that is silencing the voices of an ever growing number of people won’t fundamentally change unless we change not this or that elected official, law, regulation or edict, but change the basic constitutional rules that have anointed money as equivalent to free speech and corporate entities (corporations and unions) as legal persons with inalienable rights.

Martin Luther King said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

While there are more Americans than ever who understand that corporate personhood and money as speech thwart democracy, justice and peace, there is still too much silence from too many people – afraid to be seen as impractical or unrealistic by calling for amending the constitution.

Much the same was said of the abolitionists, suffragetts and populists who, in the later case, had the audacity to call for direct election of senators (vs appointed by state legislators). History proved their vision, understanding, and persistence correct.

I firmly believe history will prove this cause correct as well. King said the universe bends toward justice. The Move to Amend movement is, I believe, on the right side of that arc.

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