TAKE BACK THE POWER!
by Burt Liebert
It isn’t as if we haven’t had lots of warnings. Newspapers, magazines, books, television, the Internet––we’ve been threatened for years about climate change. And if we haven’t experienced it personally, we’ve certainly been reading about it: This past year this country suffered the worst outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded. Midwestern farmers were unable to plant on time because of flood-ravaged, soggy soil. Floods devastated areas from Australia to Pakistan. Texas and parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico experienced record heat, drought, and burned-over land. Crop failures menaced France, Germany, Russia, and Australia. Much of the United States sweltered in a record heat wave.
Of course, we are doing something about it. We are installing solar panels and wind generators. We are insulating buildings. We are setting goals: Numerous countries, even some states pledge to generate X% of energy from renewable sources by the year X. That’s all very good and comforting––until we look at the skyrocketing demand for energy in the next few years. Even while some parts of the world are suffering mass starvation, in China, India, and other parts of Asia, and to some extent all over the world, the global economy is lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into the high-consumption middle class. With all the effort we are putting into sustainability, the carbon count in the atmosphere continues to rise, (393 at this writing) and extreme weather is becoming normal.
So where does our country stand? We are acting as if we were the last generation to occupy the planet. Proposals abound to eliminate environmental protections. We are squandering hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and uncounted amounts of the earth’s precious resources on pointless, brutal, unending, unwinnable wars. Then, to “balance the budget” we fire police and fire personnel, along with school teachers and librarians.
Unemployment hovers over 9% nationally. Government subsidizes profitable corporations and continues low taxes for the super-rich. More and more wealth is in a few hands. This great nation of ours is becoming a banana republic without the bananas.
With Bin Laden captured and killed, we had an ideal opportunity to declare victory and bring the troops home in triumph. But the wars go on as if nothing had happened.
So what can WE do? We can write to a Congressperson, autograph a petition, send money to progressive organizations, carry a protest sign into the streets. There’s nothing wrong with that, except it’s not making a difference. The movers and shakers in this country, those who inhabit the corporate board rooms and executive suites, couldn’t care less what you and I think.
Why is this happening to our country? Are we simply following some inexorable law of life: societies, like individuals, appear, grow to their point of greatest accomplishment, then fade inevitably into senility?
I refuse to believe that! People come from all over the world to study at American universities, to be treated by American doctors. They marvel at (and sometimes envy) our personal freedom, our quality of life. There is too much greatness in this land of ours to kiss ourselves off as senile.
So why are we allowing all this bad stuff to happen? Jessie Unruh, a California legislator of a bygone era summed it up perfectly:
MONEY IS THE MOTHER’S MILK
That’s it. Money. Pure and simple. The American people have given control of economic and political life to a small cadre of super-wealthy, super-powerful, super-greedy individuals, who are using their power to further their own selfish interests, at the expense of you and me and America. By the power of the “campaign contribution” (actually a bribe) they have captured the Congress, the President, even a politicized majority of the Supreme Court. We have done what President Eisenhower warned us not to do:
WE HAVE GIVEN OUR POWER
TO THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX
And in its insatiable greed, it is destroying us.
As long as private money is putting public officials in office, there is little chance of significant improvement. Our fifty-dollar campaign contributions will never match the five-and-six-figure payoffs of the corporations. Even an act of Congress can be wiped out by five Supreme Court justices. Of course, we need to keep writing to elected officials, signing petitions, carrying that banner through the streets. But to make a serious difference, to make a dent in the hitherto impenetrable wall of protection employed by the powerful, we will need stronger ammunition. We need
A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Here is a rough draft:
ANY CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES MAY RUN FOR PUBLIC OFFICE BY CIRCULATING A PETITION TO PLACE HER OR HIS NAME ON THE BALLOT. ANYONE RECEIVING 10% OF THE REGISTERED VOTERS IN THE DISTRICT SHALL BE CONSIDERED A CANDIDATE.
NO CANDIDATE FOR ELECTED OFFICE AT ANY LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT, OR CONTEMPLATING RUNNING FOR PUBLIC OFFICE OR OCCUPYING PUBLIC OFFICE MAY ACCEPT ANY GRATUITY, WHETHER IN CASH OR OTHER VALUABLE CONSIDERATION, OTHER THAN PREVIOUS CONTINUING LONG-TERM EMPLOYMENT.
NO PERSON, INSTITUTION, CORPORATION, OR OTHER ENTITY MAY GIVE OR OFFER TO GIVE ANYTHING OF VALUE TO ANY PERSON CONTEMPLATING RUNNING FOR PUBLIC OFFICE, RUNNING FOR PUBLIC OFFICE, OR OCCUPYING PUBLIC OFFICE. VIOLATION OF THESE PROVISIONS SHALL RENDER ALL PARTIES SUBJECT TO PENALTY, INCLUDING FINE, IMPRISONMENT, OR INELIGIBILITY TO HOLD PUBLIC OFFICE.
THE CONGRESS, THE VARIOUS STATE LEGISLATURES, AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS SHALL APPROPRIATE FUNDS NECESSARY TO CONDUCT POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS AND APPORTION SUCH FUNDS EQUALLY TO ALL CANDIDATES. NO MONEY, OTHER THAN THAT SO APPORTIONED, INCLUDING THE CANDIDATE’S OWN, SHALL BE USED TO CONDUCT A POLITICAL CAMPAIGN.
But won’t financing all those campaigns suck up a lot of tax money? Yes, of course it will, but the Corporate Barons discovered years ago that money invested in politics pays off handsomely, from those nice, juicy no-bid military contracts to look-the-other-way environmental policy. It’s time for us taxpayers to learn that lesson, make the investment, and reap the benefits.
It won’t be easy. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress, then ratification by 38 states. The Corporate Barons will fight it tooth and claw, for it takes away their power. We can’t begin to match the truckloads of money they will pour in. Nevertheless, we have the advantage.
WE HAVE THEM OUTNUMBERED!
Americans are fed up with a government that operates only for the benefit of the few, and can outvote the Barons once we spread the word. Once we take back our power, we can make our elected officials work for us. We can find a job for everyone who wants to work. We can restore education to the high priority it needs to keep the nation strong and prosperous. We can bring the troops home and help to reverse climate change. We can gain a fair wage for a day’s work. We can save endangered species and support our parks and libraries. We can protect people’s homes from conniving bankers. We can clean the air we breathe and the water we drink. Every public service organization needs to come on board, for this is THEIR fight. Whatever the cause, this amendment is prerequisite for success.
We will have to generate an extensive public education program to inform the voters of the importance of this issue and to let every Congressperson know that staying in office will depend on voting for this amendment. We need to conduct town hall meetings all over the country, to send emails, make telephone calls, write letters. We need to spread copies of this pamphlet among our friends and family, at the shop or office, to our bridge club and golfing partners. Most important, send these to other states, to friends in Kansas, Uncle Joe in Wisconsin, Cousin Linda in Ohio, to grandma and grandpa in Florida.
THIS WILL BE A GREAT LEAP FORWARD FOR DEMOCRACY!
Is taking such a huge step just one impossible pipe-dream? Of course it is! But the United States of America is a pipe-dream. A group of colonists with only single-shot, muzzle-loading ball-and-powder muskets facing down a contingent of British regulars––what a dream! But they made it stick. They chased the British out of the area and created a new nation––a nation without a king! Without a dictator! A nation where the people elect their own leaders!
Today that nation is drowning in a sea of greed and corruption. That puts the ball in our court. We can let the dream die, or we can revive it. I vote to revive it.
This message may be freely copied and
distributed to others.
A nation operating under this amendment is portrayed in the novel Out of the Cage. A description of the electoral process is in Chapter 31, pages 209-211. Out of the Cage is available from:
3747 Redwood Circle
Palo Alto, CA 94306
$14.95 + $5.00 S&H