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Monday, March 7, 2011

A New Party?


The two current political parties -- Republican and Democrat -- have allowed themselves to become part of a system that seduces them into supporting special privilege, access, and power to people who can afford to “pay to play”.  Neither party is able to break this cycle.  In fact, the use of foreign funds for election campaigns, of lobbyist funds for junkets and parties, of PAC funds to win close electoral races, of inside information that enables some to prosper, and of a revolving door that sets some up with cushy jobs after their terms are over -- all of these maneuverings have negatively affected our system of government.  It stinks, and everyone knows it, but they are unable - or unwilling - to do anything about it.  The Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, allowing corporate entities to overwhelm our elections process with third party ads, has essentially put a stamp of approval on this destruction of our democracy. 

Unless something drastic is done, we will never see a change in this mess.  Something drastic must be the advent of either a new political party, or a coordinated Movement, that will harness some of the upset and anger of the Tea Party movement and merge it with the outrage of the Union Protests in Wisconsin.  Can it be done?  Who knows, but it’s worth a try.

What might be the platform of such a party?  I offer the following elements as a starting point:

1)    Amendments to the Constitution:  in order to change the basic structure of our system
--Term Limits for Congress and the Courts
--Balanced Budget,  line-item veto, and 2/3s vote for raising taxes
--Disallow all corporate entities from contributing to campaigns; only small contributions and fed. Funds allowed; maximums imposed on every race and on individual contribution amounts
--No more earmarks
--Disallow funds as emoluments or gifts from lobbyists to legislators 
--5-year restriction on former government employee lobbying or consultation
--Disallow congressional rules that require other than majority vote on legislation or procedures
--Congress may not exempt itself from laws it legislates
--Ordinary citizens shall be involved in auditing and oversight of all governmental entities
--Add petition by the people as a way to have Congress call a constitutional convention. 
--Involve ordinary citizens in non-political commissions to re-structure districts based on population.

2)    The primary focus of this new Party must be on the branch of Government most neglected by our system: the People of The United States in whose name the Constitution was established in the first place, and about whose rights the first Ten Amendments clearly speak.  Amendment X particularly speaks of the people as having powers not already delegated to other governmental entities. Amendment XIV extends the people’s power in that no State may abridge the privileges or immunity of citizens; may not deprive any person of life, liberty or property and demands due process and equal protection be available to all citizens.  Amendments XV, XIX, XXIV and XXVI protect the right of citizens to vote.

    Although the constitution refers to the people in the context of governmental branches, it does not set forth a specific check that they have as an entity on the other branches.  For that reason, constitutional amendments are necessary to allow citizens to serve inside all areas of government.  Once that is done, legislation can be used to define and expand the role of citizen advocates/representatives.

    This new party must not allow the government of the people, by the people, for the people to perish.  Therefore, this Party must advocate for the right of citizens to be on the inside of governing.  They must be EVERYWHERE their tax dollars are being spent.  Every government-supported or contracted entity must have ordinary citizens involved in their operations in some way: as advisors, as auditors, as members of boards, commissions, committees, etc.    The time has come for this “representative democracy” to expand its representation so that ordinary citizens are advocating for other citizens at every level of  government.
    Thus, the name of this new Party ought to be something like:  “The Peoples’ Party” or “Citizens’ Party.”

3)    This new party must concentrate its efforts on attacking the current locus of power and corruption that is capturing our lawmakers, dismantling governmental protections for ordinary people, and taking over the management of our government entities through their use of corrupt monetary power.   The right wing radicals have unfortunately thrown a veil over this center of power, and blamed government rather than the barons of Wall Street, Multi-national corporations, and financial entities, for the scary economy that we find at present.  They are wrong-headed and their bamboozling of the people is contemptible. 

    Let’s be clear:   since about 1980, there has been a Plan afoot to make the rich richer; to take over political power so that this could happen.  It started quietly in 1980, when the administration of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush “began a massive decades-long transfer of national wealth to the rich.” (Roger Hodge, The Mendacity of Hope ).  It is incredible that right-wing Republicans have tried to convince us that government has engineered a massive transfer of wealth to middle and poorer classes through programs that address human needs, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Health Care Reform. As with too much of the rhetoric of the far right, this is hogwash.  The flow of wealth is entirely toward the rich.

    Consider points made by Bill Moyers in an article titled: “The Rule of the Rich”:
    A)--between 2001 and 2008, about 40,000 US manufacturing plants have closed, and six million factory jobs have disappeared over the past 12 years, representing more than one in three manufacturing jobs.  The free market at work?  No, wage repression at work!
    B)--since 1980, while the economy continued to grow for most of that time, the average income for 90% of all Americans increased by just $303 in 28 years.  A small percentage at the top level -- maybe 2% -- benefited handsomely, and continue to do so in hard economic times.
    C)--that fraction at the top earns more than the bottom 120 million Americans; by 2007, the wealthiest 10% were taking in 50% of the national income;
    D)--while sales fall, and lay-offs continue, profits in big corporations are rising, and there is a profit accumulation that is obscene in many cases.  As the chief economist at Bank of America told the NY Times: “There’s no question that there is an income shift going on in the economy.  Companies are squeezing their labor costs to build profits.”
    E)--an article in a recent Wall Street Journal described how the super-rich earn their fortunes: with overseas labor, selling to overseas consumers, and managing financial transactions that have little to do with the rest of America.
    F)--the rich have formed their own financial culture increasingly separated from the fate of the rest of us.  Little wonder “that so many of them are hostile to paying more taxes to support the (ever-crumbling) infrastructure and the social programs that help the majority of American people.”
    G)--all of this is the outcome of thirty years of policy decisions about tax law, industry and trade, and military spending; policy decisions  paid for by the 1-2% who used their vastly increased wealth to assure that government -- under Republicans and Democrats alike -- did their bidding.
    H)--the ratification of this plan came in Jan. 2010 when the Supreme Court in Citizens United ruled that corporations are equivalent to “persons” who have the right to speak out during elections by using their wealth to purchase political ads.  Our government and our elections have been bought off by a Plutocracy, which is the rule of the rich; political power controlled by the wealthy: the privileged few who make sure that the rich get richer and that the government helps them in that Plan and Mission (could also be described as an Oligarchy).

    This newly proposed party of the People (or Coalition of Progressives) must never be taken in by the Plutocrats.  Power and privilege never give up anything without a struggle, and a People’s Party must be willing to enjoin that struggle.  More thoughts next time…