by Sam Sholi
With Congress’ approval rating at a resoundingly low 9% amongst American citizens according to a survey by Public Policy Polling, it can be assumed that the American people have finally become conscious of the fact that the U.S’ political system, or at least those within it, no longer work in their interests.
Now that Congress is less popular than traffic jams, head lice, cockroaches and colonoscopies (according to the same survey), one can’t help but wonder what has driven Congress to appear so incompetent and to be subject to such an intense level of dissatisfaction amongst U.S citizens.
The answer is clear – the major influence of corporations, lobbyists, and wealthy campaign donors has resulted in ensuring that a vast number of American politicians are now nothing more than mouthpieces for the highest earners and biggest businesses in America. This problem is compounded by the U.S Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United V Federal Electoral Commission in 2010, where it ruled corporations have the same First Amendment rights as people and therefore can make unlimited campaign contributions during election campaigns.
The Center for Responsive Politics (a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit research organization dedicated to tracking money in U.S politics and its effect on elections and public policy), cited that statistically, even in the most competitive cycles during congressional elections, on average the candidates who spend the most on their campaigns usually win eight of 10 Senate contests and nine of 10 House races. The evidence conclusively proves that the defining factor in deciding who sits in Congress no longer bears any relation to your ideology, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, or whether you are a liberal or conservative. It’s all about the money!
The effect of this has been disastrous. The fact that these politicians are predominantly elected because they can afford to run superior election campaigns means that sometimes American congressmen and senators will be elected despite being simply unfit to do their job. The most notable example of this being how last year Congressman Scott Desjarlais (TN, 4th District) was re-elected – a Republican who was disgraced during last year’s congressional elections for having multiple mistresses and requesting one of them to have an abortion, despite running his campaign on being a pro-life, pro-family values candidate. Of course, Dejarlais spent more money than his rival for his seat.
The second problem that arises under this current system is the fact that several U.S politicians are no longer acting based on their own instincts, but for their donors. Is it really a coincidence that Gun rights groups have given more than $17 million in individual, PAC and soft money contributions to federal candidates and party committees since 1989, yet we still have failed to see any serious gun-control measures despite public outcry for it after every mass shooting in the last 25 years?
The only way to avoid this problem will be to introduce a 28th Constitutional amendment that not only overrules the decision in Citizens United, but also prevents an elite class of donors being able to exercise their current entitlement to effectively buy the country’s elections through excessively high campaign donations. In order to achieve this, the amendment must contain a provision to make it illegal for corporations to directly or indirectly give money to any politician, and a provision which places a cap on the amount politicians can raise from any individual.
But if so many congressmen and senators are under the influence of corporate interests and wealthy donors, then why would they accept such an amendment? The answer is that they don’t have to. It is possible to bypass Congress. If two-thirds of the State legislatures (whose members are not as heavily influenced by money) call for a Constitutional Convention then it will become possible to pass the amendment.
This presents a real opportunity for America to take back its democracy. But as was the case with the success of the 1960s civil rights movement amongst African-Americans, if this amendment is to be passed then there will need to be a movement with leaders (like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X) that can inspire a mass movement of people to stand up for that change.
But in order for that to happen, America must first undergo a revolution of consciousness and wake up to the fact that a vote at the ballot cannot compensate for the erosion of a democracy.
Sam Sholi is currently studying law in a university in the United States
No matter where we look these days, we find an obsession with debt and the deficit. We hear on a daily basis that the deficit will ruin our economy, turn us into Greece and drown our grandchildren in crushing debt. How true is this understanding?
I am not an economist but I was founder and C.E.O. of a successful corporation for over 25 years. From a business point of view, debt is merely an obligation or liability to pay or render something to someone else. A problem emerges when investors lose faith in the debtor’s ability to repay the obligation. A company, similar to a country, sells bonds to provide working capital. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a bad thing for Chinese or European investors to buy U.S Treasury bonds. It demonstrates confidence in our nation’s economy.
Furthermore, the country’s wealthiest 2% tell us that any day now investors will lose faith in America’s ability to pay its bills. They warn of a run on Treasury bonds similar to what happened in Greece and see inflation skyrocketing. These scare tactics fail to recognize that the United States is not Greece and we have many safeguards in place since the Depression of the 1930’s. In addition, we overcame the Great Recession of 2008-9 thanks to a strong Federal Reserve, a competent President and a Congress that actually did its job.
Unlike Greece, we have our own currency and all of our debt, both public and private, is denominated in dollars. These dollars are not backed by gold but the full faith and credit of the Federal Government. Theoretically, our government can never run out of money because currency is physically manufactured on an hourly basis. Most citizens are unaware that currency printing began in 1861 to fund the Civil War and has always kept our economy solvent. This fact of life often leads to the following question: “If the government prints money to pay its bills won’t that lessen the value of the dollar and lead to runaway inflation?”
Economists tell us that when the government prints more money, investors may start to expect higher inflation down the road and this may push down the value of the dollar.
However, if these results do take place that would actually help rather than hurt the U.S. economy, right now. The fear of higher inflation would discourage corporations and families from sitting on cash, while a weaker dollar would make exports more competitive.
Generally speaking, our deficit is the result of higher spending and reduced tax revenue, caused primarily by a drop in personal income and the cost of two wars and necessary social programs. It is ironic that the scare-mongers of the debt menace are the very people who have benefited the most from our existing economic system.
From Mark Fernald via email
Grassroots Solutions ((www.grassrootssolutions.com), a national
political field organization, is looking for dedicated individuals to
join its New Hampshire Democratic Canvass Team 2012 and go
door-to-door to talk with New Hampshire voters in Manchester and other
areas in New Hampshire about the upcoming election.
Maybe you are a student with no afternoon classes, a parent whose
children are off to college, or someone who works the night shift in
your current job but would like to earn extra money. If you are at
least 18 years old and enjoy talking with people about important
issues that affect their lives and the lives of their families and
community, then we are interested in hearing from you.
This is a fantastic opportunity for someone looking to gain experience
in the world of politics. It is a fast paced and dynamic job in a
Presidential election year.
The pay is $12.00 an hour and you have the potential to gross over
$2,500 between now and the November election. You will be paid either
by check or direct deposit every two weeks.
Bilingual English/Spanish would be an advantage. Experience on a
political or issue advocacy campaign would be great, but if you don’t
have any, we will train. This is a temporary, full-time job (3-7 days
You and your canvass partner will be expected to travel by car to
neighborhoods assigned to you each day, walk door to door, engage in a
conversation with voters, and record the results of your conversation
in an iPod mobile app. Professionalism is a must, as is the ability
and willingness to talk with a diverse group of people.
Accuracy, attention to detail, and honesty in reporting the results of
your day’s work are essential. Previous campaign or advocacy work
experience would be a plus, as would experience using computers and
devices such as iPods. Training will be provided.
The position starts immediately and continues through the end of
October. We work 7 days a week. Most shifts are around 6 ½ hours long
— 5 ½ hours of which are spent talking to voters — in the afternoon
and early evening. You and your canvass partner will meet with other
canvass teams as a group at the beginning of your shift, and will get
back together at the end of your shift to record your data.
It would be great if you could work every day, but we know that’s not
always possible. We do, however, expect you to commit to work at least
three full days per week.
If you are interested, please apply online at
No emailed resumes, please! You will be given the opportunity to
attach one during the online application process.
Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you!
The New Hampshire Canvass Team
As seems par for the course, the Massachusetts Senate race between Tea Party supported Republican incumbent Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, comes down to race. As always, when one takes the time to turn their jaundiced eye in the direction of the racist whoops and hollers, what is found is a vacuous, empty shell of a candidate. Considering the fact that Elizabeth Warren scares the absolute bejeezus out of Wall Street, you’d think that Brown’s campaign might reflect the great minds that money supposedly can hire to dream up some nefarious defense of run away capitalism. But, as usual, the corporate capitalists prove that its really hard to find a way to defend a system that will screw over the very people whose support you need.
And we hate to say as usual, but yes, as usual, lacking the ability or the will (may alienate their base?) to come out with anything close to intelligent argument, the campaign resorts to race jealousy, old affirmative action scripts and of course, just plain ignorance, as mhasegawa on the blog FortLeft shows here:
Who knew that the Massachusetts race for the United States Senate – and maybe for Democratic control of the entire Senate – would come down to race? When I wrote about this last May I thought this was a one-off remark and since it didn’t move the polls, I figured the whole thing would die. A lot of people who are part Cherokee didn’t register for many reasons including fear of being targeted if they were open about Native American ancestry.
But now Scott Brown has made Elizabeth Warren’s race the centerpiece of his campaign. He has decided that the path to re-election is to question Warren’s family heritage. He has not produced any proof that her having “checked the box” made any difference in her tenure at Harvard Law School. On the other hand, Warren has produced people, including Republican Charles Fried, to say either they didn’t know or if they did it made no difference. Where’s the beef, Senator Brown?
“When someone tosses out venom and inaccurate statements, they must be answered,” he said. “This will pass legal muster, I am confident of that. The doomsday scenario that the city will have to pay legal costs is a red herring. The statement that is based on politics is also a red herring. I could care less whether this hurts me politically; I’m more concerned about whether this hurts my moral compass. To me, this is an important first step for this council and this city.” [bold ours]
This said by a city councilman at a meeting of the Worcester city council on which a new Responsible Employer ordinance was voted on this week. The ordinance will specifically focus on contractor bid jobs for the municipality. The words reflect a moral courage that we need to see more often. As Mr O’Brien states, doing the right thing often has nothing to do with getting another vote, opinion polls or the endless chatter of the media. Instead when one sits in a position of government, with the power to decide on their city’s future, they must consider the residents of that city. Mr. O’Brien did.
Those who voted against the measure threatened that it wouldn’t stand up to the courts and of course end the world as we know it.
“Before the vote was taken, Mrs. Lukes spoke against it, saying the council would in effect be managing competition for city construction projects by limiting the companies eligible to bid on them to union shops.
She contended that the ordinance will increase the costs of city construction project by 20 percent to 30 percent.
“To what extent does free enterprise exist?” Mrs. Lukes asked. “This is bad for taxpayers, it’s bad for business and it’s bad for this country. This is more of a political decision than anything else.
“We are taking a vote that is going to lose in the courts,” she added. “I expect the courts to throw this out. The taxpayers seem to lose all around in this process.”
Ms. Laken has a point. As construction company’s practices now do not resemble anything like the union’s and do not favor worker’s interests, yes, they might have some catching up to do. But, that has to do with prioritizing business strategies. Unions demand that companies, in exchange for stable, trained and well managed workers, agree to certain sets of standards in their operational priorities. Sure cost adjustments will be required, but large companies fit to bid on commercial projects generally aren’t going to suffer the small monetary gains in order to possibly reap advantage.
The model that Ms. Laken draws upon as calling unions uncompetitive — which she does when one considers her claim that now that the tables are shifted, the non-union shops no longer have the competitive edge; that edge is based on priorities. As a municipality that represents all people and must have within its logical interest, the financial welfare of all, then worrying about the bottom lines of businesses is not her business, especially when protecting wealth accumulation of the few over the benefit of the many — the residents she supposedly represents.
Ms. Laken uses the tired and worn-out claim that somehow looking out for the workers will not benefit employers. Threatening that companies could suffer a 20 -30% loss of business. While one can certainly dispute the figures, when Ms. Laken cries about a “free market” to whom shall it be free? Then one wonders, what interest would a representative of workers in a city have above that of the workers that make up the majority of their electorate? This begs the question on all levels of the public interest. Why would any civil servant believe that policies that benefit the few, especially at the expense of the many constitute worthy policies?
When this country has suffered nearly a quarter century under deregulation and now has started to reap its results, how can anyone of reasonable mind continue to support such “free market” ideology, the very ideology that has soiled this democracy.
The issue at dispute in this city council meeting encapsulates the attack on all working people that has caused the erosion of the value of a workday for all from waitresses to teachers, to mechanics to office workers. Workers have taken on the chin the stagnation of their wages and the simultaneous rises in the cost of living. Strangled by the false prophet of supply-side, Laffer Curve driven economics that intentionally benefited the chosen few, workers have had enough.
Attempting to claw through by leveraging their lives and hopes of bank offered credit, continuing to have faith in the educational system, taking on debt sometimes larger than a first house mortgage, suffering a pock-marked safety net and an increasingly unavailable healthcare system, workers have had enough.
Then along comes someone in a city council to belly-ache about the businesses. Along comes a presidential candidate that sneers at the masses like so many ignorant peasants. Workers have watched and sat quietly at home, thrown out, removed, disposed of, laid waste and left to rot on unemployment checks, as their source of sustenance moves off the continent or into oblivion; a shell of flaking bricks and crumbling mortar.
Workers have struggled alone, in silence, like champs, like martyrs from the most extreme religious sect, long hoping for redemption from something, even if it has no relation to the hell of earth. Struggled with the pain of cancer eating their bodies, struggled with their bodies screaming in pain, rotting away with no relief. Turned away by blind bureaucratic bodies designed for profit and not for care, they suffer alone and do not blame the system they grew up to believe in; the system of free enterprise.
They never blame the businesses, protected by petty politicians and plundering plutocrats. Plutocrats who with the politicians as their soldiers, point the finger back at the worker and tell them, “Find your enemy within, it is not us.” while they have their hand on the noose on every worker’s neck. Plutocrats hire those who will work for less so they can profit more and when those not hired express anger, the plutocrats point their finger, “Find your enemy within, its not us.”
And so it is, the man from another country, the weak, the hungry, the jobless, the ones less able to fight back.
Now that has finished as well. Finally workers have begun to figure out, to learn that all of us together are workers, whether born here, whether a woman or a man. Workers know that the sick were workers too, could be workers in the future. Workers know the hungry is a worker without a job, the family has workers that need jobs, that need sustenance and when all workers fight together, in unison, against the forces of the plutocrat, the worker wins.
Read the entire article in the News Telegram.