Space Coast Progressive Alliance

The Future of the American Experiment is in Your Hands
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 20:01

The Need for Clean Elections

Written by  Fred Markham
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In case we had forgotten who really runs government, 2009 has provided two pretty strong reminders. First the Wall Street collapse, a recession, a bailout, and finally a sneer from the banking & finance industries to the administration and the voters. (We're not supposed to use vulgar language in these blogs, so I can't share their real message.) And then of course there are the health care reform "debates".

First the economy. It didn't just collapse out of the blue ... this failure has been coming for years, fueled by billions of dollars of political contributions from the banking, finance and real estate industry. The current recession is just another in a long string of economic problems going back to the savings and loan crash and taxpayer bailout. Big political contributions first weakened, and finally eliminated Great Depression era protections, permitting the abuses that brought us to our current low state. Now, even after we've committed to stupendous national debts for their bailout, the banks and investment houses continue to lobby and contribute to Congress - using our tax money - to make sure Congress doesn't reinstate any real constraints that might spoil their future fun. You have to admire their brass - using our own tax money to remind us in humiliating fashion that they hold ultimate power over government.  Of course I don't mean to imply that it has ever really been different.

Now for health care. Daily we see political parties fighting to the death over major health care reform. Oh, the soaring eloquence! The passion! Oh, how our leaders draw themselves up to their full height in their concern for our well-being. It warms a citizen's heart to see them labor so intensely on our behalf. Until, that is, we realize that all this hot-blooded rhetoric is only theater; that they are only dabbling in the details, quibbling over half measures and substandard options, pretending that the major points haven't already been conceded to the pharmaceutical, health insurance and health products industries. In this debate we never hear about real alternatives that attack root causes. Medicare for All and National Single Payer plans, which would provide significant reform, are not up for discussion; the sacrilege of non-profit health insurance has never been considered; no discussion about reducing profits for insurance, which provides zero contribution to patient health. All of this debate provides an inspiring public display, but it is not about real reform. These debates address only the margins, the scraps that remain after the main players have feasted. Why? Political donations, of course. Hundreds of millions in political donations by health care special interests.

Ok, enough complaining. What can we do? More than 75% of us want national health care for all citizens: so how do we get honest government debate about real solutions?  We resent the arrogance of bailed out banks shoring up their bottom lines instead of reducing foreclosures and creating jobs: how  do we restore real regulation over the banking and finance industry?

First the bad news: unfortunately there is nothing we can do, given our privately financed political system. Thomas Ferguson's Golden Rule captures it -  "to discover who rules, follow the gold." Private investor blocs provide the money that runs government, and they get to say how it runs. End of story. Well, end of chapter.

There is some good news: we have them outnumbered! One percent of the population finances the private political system, which means the rest of us outnumber them 99 to 1. Since the Constitiution provides for one person, one vote, we only need to figure out how to focus our power. This will take some work.

Clean Elections is one system that can shift power into voters' hands. It is working today, electing state legislatures in Maine, Arizona and other states. It provides public campaign financing that allows candidates who are not rich and well-connected to run and be competitive. Clean elected legislators are independent of private money, because they don't accept any. They can work from their convictions and according to what their constituents want and need without special interest pressure.

Future postings on this blog will be primarily about Clean Elections. We will track the Congressional Clean Elections legislation (called the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA)). We'll report on progress in the states. We will also follow current political issues and try toconnect political outcomes to campaign donations. And we will discuss the possibility of introducing Clean Elections in Florida, perhaps as soon as 2016.

I hope you will log in and provide your comments as we follow the Clean Elections issue in the months to come.

Fred Markham
Space Coast Progressive Alliance
Clean Elections Committee Chairman

Read 19505 times Last modified on Saturday, 06 February 2010 17:29
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