Archive for June, 2010

GOVERNANCE, 6-17-10

Thursday, June 17th, 2010



Congress, according to recent polls, has been given a ~  9% to 25%  positive rating by its constituents.

That’s us – the constituents!

An enormous percentage of those polled in recent years believe Congress fails to represent them!

We elect these same people, under the same terms, over and over again and bitch about their lack of attention to our problems.
Why expect them to act differently?  The system we allow won’t permit it.

Even when they come into office with the best of intentions the system (which we allow) eventually corrupts them. They succumb to peer pressure, party dogma, special interest requirements for campaign funding in order to remain in office.

We need a different system of governance.  One that is accountable to voters rather than to special interests and party doctrine.
And, particularly, one that allows elected officials to represent their constituency without fear of sabotage by a shadow power structure should they stray from doctrinaire paths.

PAC’s and Lobbies don’t vote.  Nor do corporations.  But they buy influence.
This is not news.   We are all aware that money buys influence among our country’s leaders.   Party affiliates respond to this.  Legislators vote with their pocketbooks.  They have to or they won’t remain in office. I  they fail to accede to special interests, they will face a well funded opponent next election cycle that will.

We, the voters who bitch about lack of representation , are the ones that allow this to happen.

It’s a lethal manner in which to run a country.  Witness the current state of affairs.  We elect legislators that legislate in favor of special interests and we bail out their failures with tax money – time after time.   Which means we no longer have the necessary money to pay for things the country needs like universal health care, infrastructure – roads, bridges, etc,  entitlements – Medicare, Social Security,  education programs, green programs to treat environmental concerns and climate needs, and so many other things .   Instead our taxes go to pay for failed policies.

This is also not news.

The Obama campaign, for example, has offered much political commentary over grassroots donations under $200.   But the fact is that ~ 75% of his campaign money came from donations over $200, from special interests and corporate sponsors and individuals that expected to buy influence.   The McCain campaign was even more indebted to special interests for its funding.
This must stop.

Public funding is one answer.

Funding public electorate entirely with taxes – no gifts, no gratuities, no donations in any amount.

What would that cost?
$50 per registered voter per election cycle would yield more than $6B toward this effort.  The total cost of the 2008 election cycle for all campaigns is the most ever spent during an election cycle and, according to the WSJ, amounts to a little over $5.4B

Public funding of campaigns would probably require an amendment to the constitution, and there are several such efforts currently in the  works. The out come of such efforts is problematic as there would have to be broad puiblic support to amend. Legislators would see this as tricky and would stonewall to protect special interest’s campaign contributions.

The accepted means of placing such an amendment before Congress would require 2/3 of both houses of Congress to propose an amendment, or 2/3 of states to call a convention and 3/4, or 38 of the 50 states to ratify.

Special interests would sabotage this effort with all their powers as their ability to buy influence in Congress would disappear.

Accountability is another answer!

No more “Impeachment is not on the table” for those who see fit to exceed ethical and legal boundaries!
Elected officials need to expect to account for their actions for their own as well as for our protection.

Parliamentarian style of government is another answer:  Some have suggested a Parliamentary system of governance which would allow  several parties to be seated in congress according to the number votes they receive in a primary election.  If the blue party gets 15% of votes, the Orange party gets 7%, the Black party gets 3%,  these party’s delegates are seated in Congress with respectively, 15%, 7%, and 3% of the seats.   That would effectively neutralize the top heavy influence of party dogma where the seats are mostly held by the two major parties.  A legislator could represent his constituency without fear of being shunned by Congress.

Under this system, a Vote of No Confidence could be used when a legislator acts irresponsibly.   He would have to compromise his policies in order to garner enough votes among the various parties in the House in order to overcome a No Confidence vote, or loose his position.

Sound familiar?
It happened recently in Italy. The newly elected leader was unable to overcome a No Confidence vote and was fired after 20 months in office!   Not 8 years.   He wasn’t allowed to destroy the economy of his country.   He was summarily removed.  No single party determined whether or not he could remain unaccountable.

Britain has a Parliamentary system as do many other countries.

Of course there are problems with this system.  Parties lacking plurality can join to overcome a voter majority.  Witness Israel where the moderate candidate with a plurality of votes was overwhelmed by ultra right parties joining force to form a majority, leading to the current ultra right administration in Israel rather than the moderate government the voters chose.

Direct Democracy versus or in combination with representative democracy.  In a direct democracy, citizens vote directly on issues.  In a representative democracy citizens elect representatives that vote on the issues.  Some countries such as France, Switzerland, Ireland combine the systems for example, changes to the constitution can be decided by popular vote on  a given issue kind of like the initiative process which is used in our system.

Initiatives and referendums are important checks on the legislative branch.  They can be an effective means to bypass representatives that refuse or are unable to act on important issues.   Initiatives have their own problems for example, their wording can be misleading.  They can be passed with no provisions for funding.  They can be passed with no organizational procedure to examine costs or ancillary effects of passage.   Once filed, there is no provision to alter language should the need arise.  Unlike candidate campaigns, there are no limits to contributions to initiatives and referendums so large donations can exert tremendous influence to outcomes.

There is no provision for referendums at the federal level and a constitutional amendment would be required to to allow them.  There are such provisions in 24 states constitutions.

Other ideas?

The Greenbacker

SOCIAL SECURITY, 6-7-2010

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Has anybody read the June 7th issue of the Nation?

Specifically, an  article by William Greider titled Whacking the Old Folks.

In his article, Greider talks about the seasonal attempts to eliminate Social Security by neo-cons.
The usual suspects;  Pete Peterson et al. attempt periodically to dismantle this refuge for old folks.   Neo-cons see Social Security  as a frightening  attempt to foist socialism on America’s free marketeers.

Social Security is a big thing to retired folks, some of which have no other income.  ‘ Too bad’, you say.    ‘They failed to plan for their future.  Not my problem!’

But it is.   Do we need more homeless on the streets of the wealthiest country in the world.  Eliminate SS and the streets would be awash wit hold people.

Also consider;  Social security is not an entitlement.   It is a pay as you go device paid for by each individual at tax time through the mechanism known as FICA. Greider refers to it as an involuntary bank account.   It’s a required retirement fund payed for by each individual over their working years designed to be drawn upon at retirement time and provide a minimum income to citizens in their waning years.
And Social Security is well funded, with over $2.5T at the present time.  Enough to enable it to continue as is  for at least the next 30 years.

So if  SS is not an entitlement,  is well funded and stable, and provides a paid-for-up-front retirement account to old people that at least to some extent, keeps them from being on tax-paid welfare should they become indigent,  why is there so much animosity from conservatives like Peterson and his ilk?

And why even worry about these conservative whiners?   SS has successfully staved off their slings and arrows  in the past.   Why can it not be expected to do so in the future?   After all, destruction of SS was tried in the past and failed, notably, the Bush II attempt to privatize SS.

We have a liberal administration at the helm at the present time that may be expected to look out for its constituency, many of whom are current SS recipients that support this administration.

SS is a New Deal artifact that has taken on icon status.   One would would expect a Democratic administration to be fully aware of this and be interested in protecting this iron-clad icon which,  if disturbed, may be expected to rain down fire and brimstone on the heads of those unwary and unthinking agents of change.  Right?

Read Greider.
He offers evidence that SS may be used as a trade off to garner Republican support  for “significant tax increases to reduce government red ink”.

It is certainly something to watch for and be aware of should his concerns be real.

The Greenbacker