It’s Up To Us To End The Corporate Monarchy

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https://movetoamend.org/its-us-end-corporate-monarchy

The fascination of the 29 million people in the United States who watched the British Royal Wedding over the weekend transcended the pageantry of the event and star power of the celebrity guests. In part, the interest was also due to trying to understand the current role of the monarchy in British society.

British Kings and Queens no longer possess unlimited authority. Dictating and defining virtually every action within the far-reaching British Empire is history —  British royalty today are mere figureheads, soap opera-like curiosities to many to distract attention from the day-to-day problems of life.

While people in the US are no longer “subjects” to British Kings and Queens following the colonial revolution, it would be a mistake to conclude We the People have authentically assumed ultimate or “sovereign” power to self-rule.

It’s never been true and much less true today as corporations, which at one time possessed only those powers and privileges granted by We the People through corporate charters, have fought in the courts to win constitutional rights.

Corporations increasingly act like monarchs.

These never-intended rights have allowed corporations to capture our government and elected officials. The continual and far-reaching wedding of corporations and politicians takes many forms — most of which don’t make television and aren’t of the feel-good, Camelot variety. Their nuptial offspring have been laws that harm people, communities and the planet — adversely affecting health care, education, jobs, housing, trade, budgets, food, transportation, energy, the environment, taxes, finance, and more.

If We the People are to be real rulers, then we have to end corporate rule.

Move to Amend is the only organization that not only takes on the undemocratic, unjust and unsustainable role of corporate personhood, we do something about it — specifically working for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate constitutional rights.

That’s what our We the People Amendment with its 56 co-sponsors in the House of Represenatives, and hundreds of nationwide resolutions and ballot initiatives, and hundreds of other organizational endorsements are all about.

We seek to end corporate monarchy.

To be legitimately politically independent beyond the reach of corporations, government or big foundations, Move to Amend must be economically independent. We must rely for the vast majority of our funding from people like you — dedicated to ending corporate rule and creating authentic democracy. 

Support Move to Amend. We are still $80,000 short, and we need everyone to pitch in — now! Even better than a one time donation is a pledge to invest in the movement to amend by making your donation monthly.

Royal weddings may be fascinating. But it will take many more than the 100,000 people in the streets who gawked at the royal union to royally volunteer your time, energy and resources to divorce corporations from government and governance.

That’s a disunion worth not only watching, but being a part of! Join us!

Thank you,
Greg Coleridge
Outreach Director, Move to Amend

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Flint’s Water AND Democracy Crisis

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A growing number of residents are demanding not simply the resignation but the arrest of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder over the ongoing water contamination crisis.

Snyder declared a state of emergency last week for Flint — only, however, after learning of an investigation of lead contamination of the drinking water had begun by the federal government. Lead when ingested in water, paint and other sources is connected to permanent health problems including memory loss and developmental impairment.

Flint’s water problems began after Snyder’s appointed emergency manager switched Flint’s water source  to the polluted Flint River from Detroit’s water system to save cash.

University researchers say the city could have corrected the problem by better treating the water at a cost of as little as $100 a day.  This inaction could now cost as much as $1.5 billion to fix the city’s water infrastructure, according to Flint’s current Mayor.

Flint residents had complained about the quality of the water to the state for more than a year following the switch. Tests of water from individual homes revealed lead levels 7-28 times federal standards, which themselves are too high to begin with. Flint residents, a large percentage of whom are low income and African American, were ignored Governor Snyder’s chief of staff wrote an email to health officials admitting Flint residents were, “basically getting blown off by us.”

The decision to switch was made by an unelected emergency manager with ultimate power over the Mayor and City Council to run the city. The elected officials only had as much power as that emergency manager decides to give them. Their authority and pay is determined by the emergency manager. The mayor and City Council are, thus, employees of the appointed, unelected emergency manager.

These emergency managers can also sell off assets, break collective bargaining agreements, slash the healthcare benefits of retirees and overturn ordinances and create new ones.

“Emergency managers” appointed by Governors in response to financially distressed conditions in cities are becoming more common not just in Michigan but around the country. Of course, among the reasons for financially distressed conditions have been the unilateral power of corporations to pick up their plants and move wherever and whenever they want with no responsibility or accountability to the communities — a common occurrence throughout the former industrial Midwest. Another reason is due to state cuts in revenue sharing to cities and other municipalities imposed by states — as a means to save money and often, to cut state taxes, which disproportional benefit the wealthy, and corporations in that state. That has no doubt happened in Michigan. That has certainly happened in Ohio — as last year’s state budget attests with its 6.3% income tax cut and tax cuts for businesses.

So a crisis is created or at least exacerbated due to external conditions in a community. That crisis is then used to declare an emergency that demands drastic action, which entails appointed a person with the power to trump the authority of elected local officials. So much for democracy.

Flint’s crisis is certainly one of water. But it flows, if not gushes, into a crisis of democracy. The inability of Flint residents to elect their local leaders who have the authority to represent them and the power to protect their health and safety because of a state appointed, unelected “emergency manager” who is more concerned with saving money and selling public assets (i.e. privatization or corporatization) is a trend we must all become more aware of and be prepared to resist.

Insights and Lessons of the Federal Spending Bill

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President Obama signed the massive $1.1 trillion, 1600 page annual budget bill on Tuesday. It should have been designated a national day of morning for what it contained.

It’s difficult to decide what was more sickening – it’s insane and inhumane spending provisions or “riders” attached to the bill completely unrelated to spending, which would have had a much more difficult time passing if they had to be debated on their own merits by Congress with the public’s fully awareness.

Special criticism is warranted for several spending measures of the bill. These include cuts to pensions for retirees, Environmental Protection Agency reductions of $60 million, a $93 million cut to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program (although allocated funds can now be spent for potatoes thanks to efforts of the potato lobby), and $133 million less for education. Funds for mass transit, which reduce ozone-destroying pollution and save tens of billions in road repairs, saw no budget increases.

What didn’t stay the same was Pentagon spending. Roughly 55% of the entire $1.1 trillion will be devoted to the military – for ships, planes, tanks, bombs, bullets, drones, bases, installations, wars and occupations to keep the US Empire at full strength. The donut effect of our society will be the further consequence – fortifying the periphery while the center collapses.

The spending side of the budget bill is militarily counterproductive, economically inefficient, and morally repugnant.

Ah, but those are only the spending related measures. Two non-spending riders were also included – passed by Congress and signed by the President.

The one rider shifts Wall Street losses from risky derivatives to guess We the Taxpayers. Derivatives aren’t investments in real things – products, services or companies, but rather casino like bets, for example, on the rising or falling interest rates or prices of commodities. The largest 4 US banks (JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs) are on the hook for at least $250,000,000,000,000 (250 trillion dollars) of these derivatives. Following passage of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform measure, many derivatives were unshielded by taxpayers. But Wall Street lobbyists worked tirelessly to influence Congress to shift all of these previously unshielded casino financial bets to the protective umbrella of you and me via the public Federal Deposit Insurance (FDIC) program if and when these derivatives implode – which is a good bet since many derivatives are based on the rising price of oil.

US Senator Dick Durbin in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis said on an Illinois radio station, “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”

It might be easy to discount such words, refreshingly honest as they were by any federal public official, since Durbin is a Democrat – despite the fact he was a high-ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee,

It’s harder to ignore the words of Stanley Fischer, the current Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve — which is more beholden to banks than to the public. In unscheduled remarks last week at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Fischer said, “I thought that when Dodd-Frank started, that the banks would not succeed in influencing it, having lost all the prestige they lost…Boy, was I wrong.” Yes Stan, you were wrong.

Even the editors at Bloomberg news, about as pro-business as any publication in this country, called the Wall Street bailout rider “A New Threat to Financial Reform.”

And that takes us to the second rider of the budget bill. It concerns a topic that is never far removed from the consciousness of Washington politicians – money in politics and elections

The spending bill included a meteoric rise in allowable political investments (mistakenly called “contributions”) from individuals to political parties. The degree of the increase wasn’t to keep up with inflation (at, say, 2-3%). Nor was the final increase 10%, 25%, 50%, or even doubling the previous limit. Way too low. The new “limits” are now 8 times the old ones – from $194,400 to $1.5 million over a two year election cycle. Eight times the previous limits.

This makes the Democratic and Republican parties and by extension their candidates even more beholden to the voices and interests of the super rich and less inclined to listen and respond to the interests of low- and moderate-income people. Those would just happen to be coincidentally the majority of actual voters who are seeing wages stagnant, income decline, prices rise, debts soar, and good jobs replaced by lousy ones. These realities are even more acute, of course, for youth and people of color. Since the Supreme Court has concluded that money is speech, those with money will be booming their views, wants and needs even louder and more forcefully that ever before.

It’s easy to get lost among the mind-boggling large numbers and plethora of programs of this spending bill. However, there are 2 important lessons that must either be learned or reinforced by what culminated on December 16 when President Obama signed the spending bill.

The first is that this bill is a crystal clear example in both its spending and non spending provisions, may be more so than any in modern times, of the disproportionate power and rights between the superrich and corporations on and the vast majority of the public. It provides fresh evidence of what Princeton and Northwestern professors concluded in the first ever comprehensive scientific study, published earlier this year, on who governs in our society. Their conclusion was that “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” In other words, the United States is not a democracy, but rather an oligarchy or corptocracy.

The second lesson, innately related to the first, is that the old ways of working for change must be rethought. Focusing on changing or retaining a single candidate, or addressing single issues or trying to change single laws, or single regulations that seek to address a single problem, help a single community or a single constituency is singularly ineffective.

We must work to form coalitions that unify people, places and problems around solutions that address underlying roots – solutions that if implemented will make it easier for all of us working on whatever election, issue campaign, or regulatory reform to be effective. That what Move to Amend seeks to address – root causes and structural injustices and inequities. Abolishing corporate “personhood” and money defined as “free speech” can liberate all of us as we seek peace and justice in all its forms.