Hearing prompts calls to curb corporate campaign influence
By Robert Higgs, cleveland.com
Hearing prompts calls to curb corporate campaign influence
By Robert Higgs, cleveland.com
It happened again. For the fifth time in our nation’s history, we have a President of the United States who received fewer popular votes than his opponent.
As if we needed more political developments to question the legitimacy of our political system, we can now add to the growing list a President claiming a mandate to implement his agenda who lost the election by 2.86 million votes.
This issue for many is all about the individual persons who actually won and lost. It shouldn’t be. The larger, more fundamental issue is about democracy. It’s about the credibility and legitimacy of our political system.
The fundamental question is very simple: should citizens in the United States have the right to have their individual votes count equally when electing their President? Yes or No?
While Congressional Committees are now investigating the threat posed to our elections by the Russians, including possible hacking of private emails, every citizen should be hacked off by the proven threat to democracy on full public display every four years by the built-in system for (s)electing the President: the Electoral College.
Never mind a possible single wall built between Mexico and the U.S. in the next four years, multiple walls were erected in our own original Constitution to keep We the People outside our own government and governance.1 Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jay and other of our nation’s “founders,” fearing the potential political power of “the rabble,” had little interest in establishing anything approaching a real democracy.
The Electoral College is one of those walls. A relic of the immoral and heinous slavery era of our nation, the Electoral College was included in the Constitution to protect the political power of southern slave states when electing the President. Since slaves had zero rights, including the right to vote, an actual democratic national popular voting system would threaten the institution of slavery.
A nifty alternative was proposed by southern slave masters counting the “votes” of states over those of citizens, with each slave counted as 3/5ths of a real person when determining the number of proportional “electors” representing that state. This inflated the political power of slave states, protecting the barbaric institution. Democracy, like many slaves who resisted their inhumane treatment, was tarred and featured. Little wonder that four of the nation’s first five Presidents were from slave-dense Virginia.
Adding to the dismay was the requirement that each state, regardless of population, would receive an additional two electors — representing the number of Senators of each state. The democratic distortion was in full display (or decay) before the ink dried on the parchment of the original Constitution.
The sordid link between the Electoral College and slavery transcends its birth. Rutherford B. Hayes was the second loser of the popular vote to become President. Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden in 1877. Twenty electoral votes were “unresolved.” The (s)election of Hayes as President was determined by a special commission, controlled by the CEO of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and made up of Supreme Court justices and members of Congress. A deal was struck, The Compromise of 1877: Hayes would receive the 20 electoral votes if he agreed to pull federal troops from the South. This put an end to Reconstruction and the launch of Jim Crow racist laws. Those same troops were shifted to put down the first national labor strike in 1877, resulting in the death of over 100 strikers. Other troops were sent to fight the “Indian Wars” in the West, which stole land and created a different form of enslavement – Indian Reservations.2 Thank you Electoral College!
A few years ago Donald Trump said: “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”
Views can and do obviously change when the shoe is on the other foot – or in his case Tweets are coming from another smartphone. It’s not surprising that Electoral College outrage is so partisan. It’s the same with gerrymandering. Those doing the line drawing to benefit their political party and marginalize the other party always think it’s fair, even if the drawing paints a democratically damning picture. The Electoral College is, however, a nonpartisan assault on real democracy.
The major pillar of the Electoral College defense is the argument that it provides balance in ensuring political voice and power to rural and unpopulated communities and states. The point was made, for example, that the entire 2.86 million popular vote advantage of Clinton came from just California and New York and, thus, a popular voting system would in effect be determined by wishes, wills and whims of these two coastal states.3
Numbers can be parsed, of course, in ways to make exactly the opposite point. Texas, with its 38 electoral votes, can be claimed to have determined the national election. Given that Trump received 74 more electoral votes than Clinton, it can be asserted that it was the wishes, wills and whims of the Lone Star State alone that determined the final outcome.
There’s a reason that no other nation on the planet self-identifying as a “democracy” or “democratic republic” has anything like an Electoral College. Why? Because it violates the basic democratic principle of “one person, one vote.” Every vote should count and be weighted identically. Under the Electoral College, voters in small states have greater power per person than in more populous states due to every state, regardless of population, automatically receiving two electoral votes. It’s simple math.
Smaller states also have disproportionate power in the U.S. Senate. Gerrymandered congressional districts result in one political party (Republicans at the moment) having far better representation in the House of Representatives than their number of registered party members would warrant in state after state. If you add in the rights of minorities from majorities (be they individuals or institutions) inherently protected by the U.S. Supreme Court, a solid argument can be made that the constitutional scale is tipped well away from the right or power of popular, majority rule.
The fundamental democratic “unit” in our country is the human person (or in the case of elections, voters), not “the state” or “substate” like such as individual states, counties, cities, wards, or precincts. It should be irrelevant, therefore, how many states, counties, cities, wards or precincts presidential candidates won, but only how many eligible human votes they received. That’s how winning candidates are determined for Senate, House of Representatives, state elected office, county elected office, mayor, councilperson, even ward precinct committee person. Governors in all 50 states are elected by popular vote. Should not the same be true for the governor of all states – the President?
It’s only the Electoral College that permits losers to be winners.
If this were as fair as its promoters suggest in choosing a President, it would be a relative breeze to develop an equivalent Electoral College-friendly system at the state level to elect, say, U.S. Senators. Compared to the months it takes for state officials every decade to create gerrymandered congressional and state senate and representative districts, designing such a system would be a relative cakewalk. Winning the greatest number of counties in their a state with rural counties weighted more heavily would elect U.S. Senators regardless of the state’s overall popular vote. Why hasn’t it happened? Because no politician or “Blue Ribbon Commission” could sell it to the public.
Winning when losing broadens and deepens the ever-growing legitimacy crisis of the Presidency in particular and U.S. political system in general.
The hallmark of one person, one vote as the mechanism to determine outcomes transcends politics to include virtually every civil society organization. Even “Dancing with the Stars” honors one person, one vote in their annual faux electronic elections. You can’t get any more culturally legit!
There are very few moments when fundamental flaws in governing institutions are so blatantly revealed. This is one of them.
The challenge will be to address fundamental democratic constitutional flaws amidst responding to scores of anticipated horrific public policy proposals from the Trump Administration.4 It’s what the Move to Amend (www.movetoamend.org) campaign to abolish corporate constitutional rights and money defined as constitutionally-protected free speech faces in the coming years.
It’s the same old story for people of conscience: deciding where to strategically place their strategic time, energy and resources. Should we focus on electing or unelecting public officials? Should we advocate for better laws and regulations? Should we organize for long-term structural and institutional change?
The answer is, of course, some of each. They’re all needed. They all, if understood as a package, reinforce one another.
Despite the in-our-faces contradiction between the myth of one person, one vote that we’re raised to believe our nation upholds compared with the reality the Electoral College presents, little activist energy exists for a constitutional amendment campaign to abolish this antidemocratic arrangement, despite an Amendment being introduced in late 2016 by former Senator Barbara Boxer.
Abolishing the Electoral College is more likely to occur as part of a larger package of constitutional “Democracy Amendments” in the future. This will require that citizens continue organizing a larger “democracy movement” which undergirds many current social, economic, political and environmental efforts. As a reaction to the evaporating myth of democracy in our country, there is growing dedication to a democracy movement capable of successfully pushing a package of “Democracy Amendments.” It could be a reality much sooner than we think.
In the meantime, there is an alternative strategy that would neutralize the Electoral College and its democratic distortions. Ten states and the District of Columbia have already passed legislation awarding their respective Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. These states and DC account for 165 electors. If additional states with a cumulative total of 105 electors take the same action, the Electoral College would, in effect, be trumped with one person, one vote becoming the means for deciding the next President.
Being hacked off about the Electoral College is wholly legitimate. Our task is to convert that anger into positive vision, engagement and common action on behalf of an electoral system with democratic integrity.
1 A list of undemocratic Constitutional provisions has been itemized in an earlier POCLAD article, A U.S. Constitution with DEMOCRACY IN MIND, http://poclad.org/BWA/2007/BWA_2007_MAR.html#3
2 Human Rights for Human Beings, Not Corporations,
3 The word “coast” is constantly used in this and other contexts not as a geographic descriptor but as a form of derision. “The coast” infers being on the edge or fringe, compared to being mainstream, or the center. The Midwest is authentic or real because it lies in the “heartland.” Interesting how those who use the word “coast” with such derision never use it when describing, say, Texas, with considerable coastline on the southern edge or fringe of the nation.
4 There would have been many horrific policies, though in some cases of a different set, deserving of immediate reaction and resistance if Clinton had been elected.
Contacts: Lois Romanoff, 216-231-2170, email@example.com
Chris Stocking, 440-376-8400, Christopher.Stocking@gmail.com
Diane Karpinski, 216-921-2474, firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Coleridge, 216-255-2184, email@example.com
For immediate release, December 8, 2016
Cleveland City Council passes ordinance calling for U.S. Constitutional Amendment on corporate power and money in elections; creates biennial Democracy Day
[Cleveland, OH] Cleveland City Council Monday night passed an ordinance calling on Congress to enact a Constitutional Amendment ending constitutional rights for corporate entities and to money being defined as free speech. The ordinance also establishes an every-other-year “Democracy Day” public hearing that will address the impact on the City of political contributions by corporations, unions, Political Action Committees, and Super-PACS; the first to be held in May, 2017
The Cleveland Move to Amend (MTA) campaign, part of the national Move to Amend movement that is proposing the Constitutional Amendment, had submitted last summer more than 5000 valid signatures by volunteers required by the City Charter to place the initiative on the ballot.
“We thank Cleveland City Council for taking a position on this important national issue,” said Lois Romanoff, co-chair of Cleveland Move to Amend. “We feel local public officials need to oppose the growing corrupting influence power corporate entities in our society and big money in our elections. It’s clear from the recent election that voters believe government has been captured by interests who don’t represent people without money or power.”
“We urged City Council to place the citizen initiative on the ballot for voter consideration rather than simply enact the initiative, said Chris Stocking, co-chair of Cleveland Move to Amend. “We feel these issues are important enough to have not only Cleveland public officials take a position, but Cleveland citizens. A ballot measure would have given us the opportunity to broadly discuss with the community the many problems connected with corporate power and large campaign contributions from the super wealthy.”
“While we had hoped Cleveland City Council would have permitted our initiative to go to the ballot, we look forward to working with them to hold the first biennial Democracy Day public hearing next May,” said Diane Karpinski, member of Cleveland MTA. The hearing will be an ongoing arena to shed light on the problems of and alternatives to corporate constitutional rights and the rights of unlimited money being spent in elections.”
“Hundreds of communities across the nation have already enacted municipal resolutions and/or ballot measures in support of this Constitutional Amendment,” said Greg Coleridge, Move to Amend Ohio coordinator and Director of the NE Ohio American Friends Service Committee. “Twenty two communities in Ohio have, to date, taken a stand — 12 via municipal resolution and 10 by the ballot, including this past November with 82% of Shaker Heights voters and 77% of South Euclid voters.”
Citizens in Brecksville, Chagrin Falls, Cleveland Heights, Defiance, Kent, Mentor, Newburgh Heights, and Toledo previously passed a similar ballot initiative while the communities of Athens, Barberton, Bedford Heights, Canton, Dayton, Fremont, Lakewood, Lorain, Oakwood Village, Oberlin, Oxford, and South Euclid passed city council resolutions supporting the Move to Amend-backed Constitutional Amendment.
Move to Amend support the We the People Amendment, HJR 48. It’s co-sponsored by 22 U.S. Representatives.
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Trump up: “to devise deceitfully or dishonestly, as an accusation; fabricate.”
The 2016 election was one massive and long trumped up affair – full of deceit, dishonesty and fabrications. The perpetrators were both major Presidential candidates and their campaigns, although it more often than not seemed the very phrase was coined upon hearing and seeing Donald Trump on the campaign trail over the last 18 months.
It’s critical to understand the social, economic and political context of the election; the lessons learned from his campaign; the inherent economic and political flaws of our system that led to his rise; and the implications for people dedicated to peace, justice, democracy, nonviolence and sustainability over the next few years.
What follows are 10 reflections based on the above.
1. There’s always a context for any event that should be identified for better comprehension. In the case of the 2016 election, there were a number of significant economic, political and social realities.
Economic context: Large sections of our nation, particularly the Midwest, haven’t recovered from the deindustrialization following the movement of manufacturing abroad, especially to Mexico and Asia. Large sectors of the economy have seen massive technological changes with machines replacing workers. A cause and result of these changes have been the gradual “financialization” of the economy since the 1970’s (and most rapidly since the late 1980’s) with money from the financial industry shifted from the “real” economy where companies produced goods and services toward financial “products” and short-term speculation in anything yielding greater returns. There was no significant recovery from the Great Recession in many parts of the nation despite what many politicians and media pundits kept repeating. Economic anxiety, job loss, wage stagnation (despite increased worker productivity), decline of benefits, rapid increase in the rich-poor gap of wealth and income, expansion of welfare payments, increase of the national debt, and overall inability to have a voice in the economic direction of lives and communities are just a few of the impacts.
Political context: The combination over many years of the inability to be heard by elected representatives of both major political parties, government bureaucrats, and regulatory officials on the one hand and growing visible political corruption – evidenced by the relevant Clinton Foundation pay-to-play emails — shifted in the minds of many of a perception that the political system is fixed to benefit “the establishment” to a reality. Huge investments of campaign contributions to established political candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, by the super rich and “special interests,” beginning in the primaries, worsened by the Citizens United vs. FEC 2010 Supreme Court decision, added to the sense of outrage. The belief of many Trump supporters that turned out to be false was the charge that there was massive voter fraud by the Democratic Party that funneled legions of undocumented immigrants to the polls and organized the same individuals (mostly inner city African Americans) to vote multiple times. What was fact was voter suppression where multiple states erected barriers for certain groups of individuals (i.e. people of color, low income, students) from voting and purging individuals from voter rolls.
Social context: The public re-emergence of xenophobia against Mexicans (who were supposedly stealing domestic jobs from US citizens) and Muslims at home and abroad, racism against African Americans (including President Obama), sexism against women (including Hillary Clinton) and homophobia against the LGBTQ community were fueled by Trump and the right-wing media in response to widely felt cultural “political correctness” (but what others called simple anti-prejudice) throughout large segments of the white community. Many whites saw the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and for basic human dignity as a threat to the police and to law & order. Many from rural areas and “fly over” parts of the country felt the bi-coastal “liberal establishment” ignored or mocked them. US national “pride” was seriously tarnished by Russia’s Putin, ISIS, China, and Syria’s Assad who crossed the US imposed “line in the sand” without consequences. Working people and whites were angry, frustrated and desperate.
2. Donald Trump possessed just the right combination of skills and traits to connect with disaffected whites and working people. He was well known in cultural, economic and political circles, was comfortable in communicating directly through the popular media, projected himself (the consummate business insider) as the political outsider, was exceedingly confident in his ability to accomplish anything and repeated ad nauseam about “winning”— boosting the hopes and morale of people who felt on the economic, political and social defensive over the last decade or more. Trump provided the unequivocal and confident voice these individuals didn’t have.
3. Several of Trump’s strategies and tactics were an assault on basic democracy principles.
4. The major corporate “mainstream” media is in partly responsible for Trump’s ascension. Media over exposure of Trump was 24/7. The corporate press, whether supportive or antagonistic, couldn’t help themselves. Trump and the corporate media needed one another. Major corporate “mainstream” network and cable TV and news dailies have seen viewers and readers plummet. His simple, stark, controversial and often-bizarre statements produced massive ratings and profits for the major corporate press, which is primarily in business after all to make a profit – whether that’s done by covering news objectively or sensationalizing statements or event. A Trump Presidency is a dream come true for the corporate press. While not per se “the press,” Facebook in particular also played a role in permitting unedited a flood of “fake news” stories to appear in their newsfeeds – a disproportionate share of which either supported Trump or attacked Clinton. As a side note but related, the corporate “mainstream” media almost completely ignored anything from the two major alternative parties and their candidates – Libertarian and Green.
5. Key promises made during his campaign will be impossible to deliver. There will be no Mexican wall with the Mexicans paying for it. The physical and financial implications of such a project are monumental. Manufacturing plants with hundreds of thousands of jobs will not return stateside. Those few that may will employ far fewer workers due to automation. Trump’s commitment to support working people in general, however, must be questioned given his history of unjust treatment of workers at his own companies. Hillary Clinton will not be locked up. ISIS or the next manifestation of extremists will continue to resist those opposing Western occupation of the Middle East. His suggested requirement that all Muslims in the US carry a special ID card noting their faith is flat out unconstitutional. Serious efforts, however, will be directed at implementing other promises. These include abolishing Obamacare, deporting immigrants who are not citizens and have remained beyond their legal duration, and gutting scores of laws and regulations protecting workers, consumers, communities and the environment.
6. When it becomes apparent that Trump can’t or has no interest in delivering on many of his promises, especially those to improve the economy, blaming “the other” will quickly surface as it did during the campaign, most definitely when the next economic bubble bursts sometime during his administration, with the impact far more severe than during the Great Recession. African Americans, the poor and immigrants will be “trumped up” as the most likely targets for blame. This will strongly resonate with that part of his most loyal base that saw his victory as legitimizing hatred, bigotry and misogyny. Divide and conquer is a time-tested technique to prevent solidarity against oppression. Expect it to used over and over again. Knowing that their tenure may be short, expect to see laws proposed and passed that seek to reduce civil rights and liberties, disenfranchise voters and make it more difficult to organize. Of course another time-tested technique by those in power to distract from economic difficulties at home is warfare – expect his administration to stoke the flames of conflict in many regions of the world.
7. The administration of the self-described political “outsider” will include many political and economic insiders. That’s what happened with Barack Obama as his campaign’s economic advisors were replaced with Wall Street insiders after his election but before he took office. Expect those with direct ties to Wall Street and the military industrial complex to assume key roles in his administration. Long time right wing Congresspersons and Senators with a demonstrated track record of promoting policies harmful to women, working people, and people of color will be prominent voices surrounding him.
8. It’s going to be a very difficult period for a majority of individuals in the US (and many abroad), but most brutal for women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and even working people – many of whom voted for Trump. We must build unity domestically and internationally around issues and constituencies. Those targeted, especially individuals from communities historically oppressed, must become the main voices that the rest of us listen to and legitimately work with. Much of our support work will need to focus on resisting proposed economic, social and political policy assaults. This means mass education, advocacy and organizing, including amassing power through mass lobbying, mass public demonstrations and strategic forms of civil disobedience.
9. Since the President, the House and Senate are now all in Republican hands and the Supreme Court likely to remain “conservative” following the appointment of the open seat by President Trump, those dedicated to justice, peace, democracy and sustainability can’t depend on government for protection. We must resist the horrors to come by building truly independent, diverse and democratic mass movements. However, we must be extremely wary of being co-opted by the Democratic Party, which is where social movements historically have gone to die. The Democratic Party largely ignored or was sometimes even hostile toward mass movements when in power, be it Occupy, Black Lives Matter, many environmental campaigns and Move to Amend. Many who previously focused on the electoral arena will now gravitate toward movements now that they possess virtually no formal power. Social movements should be open to those from all parties (Democrats, but also Republican who voted against Trump in the primaries and many who may have voted for him in November who will come to oppose his policies), but only if they commit to principles of justice, peace, democracy, nonviolence and sustainability. Movements for change cannot be co-opted.
10. It will not be easy, but it’s imperative that people of conscience to not simply respond to harmful proposed laws and regulations. There must also be an intentional commitment to exposing the fundamental contradictions of our political and economic systems. Donald Trump lost the popular vote, yet will become President because of one of numerous profoundly undemocratic provisions of the U.S. Constitution – the Electoral College. Our political and economic systems are fundamental unsustainable. The environment is headed toward a profound collapse. Relations between blacks and whites and between men and women have further deteriorated. The Trump years will hasten these crises, forcing more than cosmetic changes to be considered. They will provide openings to examine and advocate for multiple avenues to democratize our society in all its forms – constitutionally, politically and economically – from the local to the global. They will widen the awareness of how corporate constitutional rights violates basic democratic self-governance. They will create the space to reveal how our banking-controlled, debt-based monetary system contributes to the plunder of the planet and climate change. They will further expose the entrenched racism and patriarchy in our culture and institutions. They will widen and deepen the local building of alternatives that individuals can control which meet basic needs without relying on large-scale institutions. And they will cause serious reexamination of the US military, economic and political role in the world. It will not be easy to counter the “trumping up” that will surely come in all its forms that seeks to distract, distort and discombobulate. Keeping our “eyes on the prize” to (a) resist the multiple assaults to come, (b) promote profound structural alternatives and (c) build local alternatives that meet immediate needs must become our direction as we lay the groundwork for a just and sustainable transformed society that comes next.
2014 – QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON INDEPENDENCE AND MONETARY REFORM — VIDEO
Skip to 2:21:50 for the start of the question and answer session on how Scotland can change the banking and monetary system — not only in their own country but in setting a model for the world in democratizing money creation
1927 – BIRTH OF PAUL VOLKER, FORMER CHAIR OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE BOARD
QE3 (the third round of Quantitative Easing – the creation and distribution of money by the Federal Reserve, which went largely to financial and other corporations) is the “most extreme easing of monetary policy” that he could ever remember. “Another round of QE is understandable – but it will fail to fix the problem. There is so much liquidity in the market that adding more is not going to change the economy.”
2016 – LABOR DAY IN THE UNITED STATES
Begun by President Cleveland in 1894 as a means to distract attention and break solidarity of US workers from workers around the world that celebrated worker progress and activism on May Day (May 1).
The enactment of the National Emergency Employment Defense (NEED) Act, HR 2990 in the last Congress, would create 7 million jobs. The jobs would focus on repairing our nation’s infrastructure. The debt would not need to be raised. Taxes would not need to be imposed. Funding from any other public program would not have to be shifted. Public creation and circulation of U.S. money is all that would be required. Just as the colonists did when fighting the British. Just as President Lincoln did during the 1860 when creating Greenbacks. Just as economists proposed under the “Chicago Plan” during the 1930’s to President Roosevelt to move the nation out of the Great Depression.
For more information on the NEED Act, go to http://www.monetary.org
1943 – DEATH OF RICHARD MCKENNA, FORMER PRESIDENT, MIDLANDS BANK OF ENGLAND
“I am afraid that the ordinary citizen will not like to be told that the banks can and do create and destroy money. And they who control the credit of a nation direct the policy of governments, and hold in the hollow of their hands the destiny of the people.” (From a 1924 speech)
1948 – BIRTH OF BILL BONNER, FINANCIAL AUTHOR
“The entire world economy rests on the consumer. If he stops spending the money he doesn’t have on things he doesn’t need we’re done for.”
1951 – BIRTH OF WILLIAM BLACK, AMERICAN LAWYER, ACADEMIC, AUTHOR AND FORMER BANK REGULATOR
“The best way to rob a bank is to own one.”
1867 – BIRTH OF JP MORGAN, JR, BANKER
Morgan was instrumental is providing financing several nations during World War I, including loans and other financial support to France, England and Russia. Accusations were made that this financial commitment led him to influence the Wilson Administration to enter the war.
2006 – STATEMENT OF NOURIEL ROUBINI, US ECONOMIST
Roubini warns the International Monetary Fund about a coming US housing crash, failures of mortgage-backed securities failures, bank failures, and a major recession. His work was based partly on his study of recent economic crises in Russia (1998), Argentina (2000), Mexico (1994), and Asia (1997). His warnings proved to be correct.
2013 – DEATH OF ALBERT BARTLETT, EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER
“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” [Note: Exponential growth requires exponential resources – which are finite. If we have no energy, we have no economy. Also, exponential growth is mandatory under a debt-based money system since exponential natural resources must absolutely be plundered to produce endless stuff to sell to pay off the endless compounding/exponential interest connected to the endless debt. Multiple crashes are inevitable.]
1999 – DEATH OF HERBERT STEIN, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS
“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”
[Note: Sounds like our current debt-based money system – an unsustainable system which can only continue if more debt is issued, which happens by banks when they issue loans and purchase treasury bonds, bills and notes]
1801 – DEATH OF ROBERT YATES, POLITICIAN AND JUDGE
“I can scarcely contemplate a greater calamity that could befall this country, than be loaded with a debt exceeding their ability ever to discharge. If this be a just remark, it is unwise and improvident to vest in the general government a power to borrow at discretion, without any limitation or restriction.” – Brutus pseudonym, probably Robert Yates
1828 – BIRTH OF LEO TOLSTOY, RUSSIAN WRITER AND SOCIAL REFORMER
“Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal, there is no human relation between master and slave.”
1890 – BIRTH OF MARRINER S. ECCLES, FORMER CHAIRMAN AND GOVERNOR OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM
“That is what our money system is. If there were no debts in our money system, there wouldn’t be any money.”
2015 — 11TH ANNUAL MONETARY REFORM CONFERENCE, SPONSORED BY THE AMERICAN MONETARY INSTITUTE
The conference brings together some of the world’s most serious advocates of real and achievable monetary reforms. http://www.monetary.org/2015-ami-monetary-reform-conference
“The banking disaster, created and facilitated by false economic and monetary ideas, used by some very bad people, actually poses a real danger to the survival of the species. We must transform the ongoing disaster into an opportunity to achieve real and lasting monetary reforms for mankind. These are the reforms indicated as necessary by decades of study and centuries of experience…
“The main cause of the problem is using debt in place of money when the banks make loans, as our present system does. That single error, allowing banks to control our money system, promoted by those really trying to block monetary reform, and by some economics professors trying to keep their salary checks coming, is all it takes to wreck any monetary system, and begin the insane concentration of wealth, into exactly the wrong hands, as we now see in our society! The conference shows why money must be created by our government and spent into circulation on infrastructure, healthcare, and education. The conference highlights recent important moves in that direction by key people, and institutions, around the world.
“We have a once in several generations’ opportunity to fix an obviously flawed money system that is causing so much pain and hardship among a growing section of our people. It is clearly time to fix our monetary and banking system! Come and find out how, and the role you can play in that process.”
[Note: the 12 annual conference is September 29 – October 2. More information at http://www.monetary.org ]
Why this calendar? Many people have questions about the root causes of our economic problems. Some questions involve money, banks and debt. How is money created? Why do banks control its quantity? How has the money system been used to liberate (not often) and oppress (most often) us? And how can the money system be “democratized” to rebuild our economy and society, create jobs and reduce debt? Our goal is to inform, intrigue and inspire through bite size weekly postings listing important events and quotes from prominent individuals (both past and present) on money, banking and how the money system can help people and the planet. We hope the sharing of bits of buried history will illuminate monetary and banking issues and empower you with others to create real economic and political justice. This calendar is a project of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee. Adele Looney, Phyllis Titus, Donna Schall, Leah Davis, Alice Francini, Deb Jose and Greg Coleridge helped in its development. Please forward this to others and encourage them to subscribe. To subscribe/unsubscribe or to comment on any entry, email firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s difficult to keep up with the many seemingly different ills facing us. What helps reduce frustration and increase understanding is when we’re able to group those with a singular root cause. It’s also empowering since the way to solve them many be similar.
Take the following recent problems over the past month that have been in the news – on food, immigration, education, energy, and jobs/wages/unions.
While very different problems, the root cause is pretty much identical – corporate power and rights.
President Obama in late July signed into law S. 764. Dubbed by opponents as the “Denying Americans the Right to Know,” or DARK Act, the bill nullified the laws of Vermont, Connecticut and Maine requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods. It also preempted the genetically engineered seed labeling laws in Vermont and Virginia which allowed farmers to choose the seeds they wanted to buy and plant. The law also struck down Alaska’s law requiring the labeling of any genetically engineered fish or fish product, passed to protect the state’s fisheries from contamination. To top it off, passage the DARK Act deters other states from following in the health, safety and democratic footsteps of Vermont, etc.
Over 90% of Americans support clear mandatory GMO labeling, yet President Obama defied overwhelming public sentiment despite his promises during his 2008 presidential run that he would support the labeling of genetically engineered food. It’s ironic when this bill was signed – a week after the Democratic National Convention – where the Democratic leadership portrayed themselves as leaders of the party of the people. Not quite.
Trade groups representing the Big Food industry like the Grocery Manufacturers Association and biotech corporations like Monsanto supported the DARK Act. According to OpenSecrets.org, Senators who had voted on a procedural vote in favor of the Senate bill received more than twice as much in political campaign contributions (or investments) from the agriculture lobby than those who voted against it ($867,518 for the supporters vs. $350,877 for opponents).
The President justified the DARK Act’s massive hijacking of local democracy on the grounds that the bill would create national standards for labeling of GMOs. The bill, “directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard,” The “disclosure standard” includes consumers having to scan a QR code on a food product to find out about genetically modified ingredients, or call a 1-800 number. There’s no certainly even these measures will happen for another 5 years.
So the national standards are at the lowest common denominator possible – providing much less protection to the safety of our food and health of our citizens.
The bill is just another example of how powerful corporations and moneyed interests have usurped what remains of our representative democracy.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced last month the end of using corporate prisons to house federal inmates. The DOJ made the decision after determining the facilities were both less safe and effective at providing correctional services than those run by the US government.
This is a step in the right direction. But the decision applies to a mere 13 DOJ-run facilities, which detain a small percentage of all those currently held in US. It doesn’t apply to state prisons – many of which like in Ohio are run by for-profit corporations. And it won’t affect prisons run by other federal agencies – including those that detain immigrants. These facilities will continue to be run by giant for-profit corporations, the two largest of which, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group, receive half of all their entire revenue from federal contracts.
The U.S. deports over 300,000 people annually and holds approximately 400,000 people in immigrant detention facilities across the country at an annual cost of over $2 billion. More people have been deported under the Obama administration than under the Bush administration. Part of the explanation for this is what’s known as the “immigrant detention quota” or “bed mandate” – a law passed in 2009 during a decline in the undocumented immigrant population to maintain a level of 33,400 beds on a daily basis (raised to 34,000 in 2013).
The quota system triggered an increasingly aggressive immigration enforcement strategy by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to fill the beds. Pressure increased to place most of the beds in corporate-run detention centers. CCA and GEO Group did their part by lobbying to expand the corporatized system and make sure they profited from imprisoning people. Those two corporations alone have invested more than $11 million in lobbying in recent years. Together, they operate eight of the ten largest immigrant detention centers. GEO and CCA combined operate 72 percent of the privately contracted ICE immigrant detention beds.
So while the DOJ announcement is a step in the right direction to close federal prisons, CCA and GEO have managed to continue locking down the bulk of their profits by ensuring that the “bed quota” system remains in force and that most of those beds of undocumented immigrants are in their detention centers.
In late July, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), a charter school in Ohio, finally complied with an order from the state to turn over attendance records. At issue is whether 15,000 students are actually engaged in 920 hours of “learning opportunities” required each year to justify the more than $100 million it receives from Ohio taxpayers.
A preliminary look by the Department of Education last spring found that ECOT students spent, on average, only one hour participating in online work each day. Five hours per school day are required to reach the state’s minimum 920 hours of “learning opportunities” annually. ECOT maintains that the bulk of student “learning opportunities” take place offline, but there are no records to prove it. ECOT claims state law doesn’t mandate keeping such records, and has filed suit for “purposefully discriminating against them.”
ECOT has been a major beneficiary of laws and regulations regarding charter schools and, of course, a major beneficially of huge contracts. These are directly related to their political influence.
William Lager, ECOT CEO, made political contributions/investments of $2.36 million between 2000-2015. The bulk of these gifts have gone to House and Senate Republicans who’ve been defenders and cheerleaders for ECOT.
It’s been a darn good investment as these same cheerleaders and defenders are paying dividends to block any serious audit of the school’s books and present any claw back of millions of taxpayer dollars that seem to have been wasted.
As reported today on Cleveland.com, a Virginia wind-power development company, Apex Clean Energy, hopes to erect four wind farms in the northern Ohio. Two state laws, however, are preventing the company from committing to the investment. One of them is the 2014 legislation freezing for three years a mandate for investor-owned utilities to tap renewable energy sources. Two bills currently in the state legislature would extend the freeze on renewable energy standards or make them permanent.
Other states are rapidly moving ahead in wind energy. In Iowa alone, more than 3400 wind turbines generate 5700 megawatts of electricity – 28% of the state’s total electricity generation, the equivalent of 1.5 million homes. If you drive across Iowa or southern Minnesota, as I did recently, you’ll witness the future – hundreds of wind turbines. Wind energy developed roots in Iowa because there wasn’t much political influence from oil, gas and coal corporations.
Not so in Ohio.
Those industries have locked down the Ohio legislature with campaign investments, lobbying and funding for bogus science touting the wonders of “clean coal” and questioning the long-term sustainability of wind and solar energy generation.
This hurts our pocketbooks, environment and what’s left of our democracy.
The decline of organized labor has contributed to the loss of jobs and decline of wages – for organized workers to be sure, but also for nonunion private sector workers.
A just issued report from the Economic Policy Institute, timed for release near Labor Day, researched the amount of money nonunion workers would have earned in 2013 if union membership in the private sector stood at 1979 levels.
The report concluded that wages for men would have been 5% higher, or $2700 higher per year. For nonunion men with lower education, it would have been 9% greater, or nearly $3200 annually.
Why? Because unions provide workers collective power when approaching management. Without that collective power, or in the case on nonunion workers the threat of forming a union, workers have little leverage over job protection, wages, benefits and workplace conditions and input.
Of course the rules in our nation apply very differently to individuals wanting to join together to form a corporation compared to forming a union. To form a corporation, a group of individuals merely come fill out a form, pay a filing fee and voila, they are recognized by the state as a corporation. Being recognized as a union is much more difficult that merely filling out a few pieces of paper and writing out a check. The union certification process involves more hoops than circus animals must jump through.
It didn’t use to be this way. A separate piece of legislation at the state level had to be passed to form a corporation during the first several decades of Ohio’s history – which was similar to the process in every other state. The rise of corporate power before, during and following the Civil War changed all that. Now, it’s just about as easy to form a corporation as it is to get a dog license.
If it were as easy to form a union as it is to form a corporation, the power imbalance in our nation would tip much more toward the rights of working people and their families and communities. It’s a good lesson to remember on this Labor Day weekend.
These are just a few of the many issues and problems facing us, our families, communities, nation and world from the growing power and never intended constitutional rights of corporations. If won’t change one iota if all we do is prepare more in-depth reports of problems or simply try to manage the abuses by accepting that corporations have the same constitutional rights as human persons.
That has to change…fundamentally. The way forward is amending the constitution to end never-intended inalienable constitutional rights and the doctrine that political money is equivalent to “free speech,” as defined in the We the People Amendment.
Join AFSC, Move to Amend, and people from all over the country in this growing movement.
We summarize activities from the last two weeks here and share an interview with Imam Paul Hasan, AFSC committee person, and Greg Coleridge on the national Move to Amend Reports about their reflections on activities during the Republican National Convention. Listen to the Move to Amend Interview here.
Note: We are off the next 2 weeks