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Forum Post: A Stampede to Amend the Constitution and Get Big Money Out of Politics

Posted 3 months ago on July 4, 2014, 5:57 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5866)
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A Stampede to Amend the Constitution and Get Big Money Out of Politics

Friday, 04 July 2014 09:19
By Ben Cohen, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/24700-a-stampede-to-amend-the-constitution-and-get-big-money-out-of-politics

In civics class, we still teach our children that American-style representative democracy is a model for the world to imitate. But in practice, our government has become a broken system of corrupt lawmakers and crony capitalism. It's time to either change the lesson plan or fix the government.

Wealthy special interests use lobbying and campaign contributions to buy access and influence in the halls of Congress and they use that access to advance their own self-interest.

For example, in 2003 when Congress passed Medicare Part D to provide prescription drugs to seniors, pharmaceutical companies spent over $100 million to ensure the final bill barred the government from negotiating prices with the drug companies. As a result, taxpayers foot the bill for bloated medical costs while drug companies rake in billion dollar profits. Meanwhile, the congressman who sponsored the bill, Rep. Billy Tauzin left Congress for a seven-figure salary with the largest pharmaceutical lobbying firm. The story is the same for defense spending, the financial industry, big agriculture and big energy. Companies invest billions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions in order to secure even bigger profits.

The root of our current crisis extends back to the 1970s. In 1971, future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell issued a memo in response to several environmental and consumer protection laws encouraging corporations to organize in order to protect their interests. He writes: "Business must learn the lesson . . . that political power is necessary; that such power must be assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination."

In the aftermath of Powell's memo, the number of firms with registered lobbyists in Washington ballooned from 175 to nearly 2,500 a decade later, and trade organizations like the Chamber of Commerce doubled in membership.

After Powell was named to the Supreme Court, he wrote the Buckley v. Valeo decision that equated money with free speech and paved the way for the democracy demolishing 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which concluded that if corporations are people and money is free speech, then corporations should be allowed to spend an unlimited amount of money in order to influence elections.

While the candidate with the most amount of money does not always win, that's not the issue. Many corporate political action committees make significant contributions to both political parties. The unfettered role of money in politics doesn't give one party an advantage over the other; it ensures that big donors dominate the national conversation and maintain unprecedented access to lawmakers. As a result, we get laws that heavily reflect corporate interests not public interests.

There is only one way to restore our government of, for and by the people. We need to amend the Constitution to say: 1) Corporations are not people; 2) Money is not free speech.

That's why I've started a petition on steroids. Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of people legally stamping messages like "NOT TO BE USED FOR BRIBING POLITICIANS" on dollar bills in order to build the movement and support for a constitutional amendment. Every stamped dollar will be seen by an estimated 875 people over two and half years. As more and more stamped dollars enter into circulation, we will create a mass visual demand of support that Congress cannot ignore.

So far, 17 states and over 600 municipalities have passed resolutions in support of an amendment, over 160 members of Congress support an amendment strategy and this summer, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will hold a floor vote on one proposed amendment.

One of the greatest features of Americans is our ability to self-correct. We've amended the Constitution 27 times before - to end slavery, extend the vote to all citizens regardless of race or gender, popularly elect senators and lower the voting age to 18. It's time to amend the Constitution again to restore one person, one vote and end the system that Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) described as "legalized bribery" and that has degraded our democratic republic.

Copyright, Truthout.

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[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5866) 3 months ago

Dennis Kucinich on the Iraq Crisis and What the US Can Learn from Sweden's Political Diversity

Friday, 04 July 2014 10:45
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/24783-dennis-kucinich-on-the-iraq-crisis-and-what-the-us-can-learn-from-swedens-political-diversity

Former U.S. congressmember and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich speaks to Democracy Now! while in Sweden to observe the political festival Almedalen Week, which brings together people from all points on the political spectrum. Kucinich says the United States needs a similarly inclusive political process. "You come here and you see so many different political persuasions represented, and our politics back at home are monochromatic," Kucinich says. "We need to awaken those sentiments in America and one way to do it is proportional representation." On the crisis in Iraq, Kucinich says: "If we learned anything from our experience, it should be that interventionism is not the wave of the future." Kucinich served in the in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 to 2013, and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: And we end today's show with a very familiar voice in U.S. politics, here at the University of Uppsala in Visby, Sweden.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. We're broadcasting from Visby, Sweden, from the largest Swedish island of Gotland, where Almedalen is taking place. That is this mass gathering of tens of thousands of people of every party debating the issues of the day, sort of like a political convention in the United States except all of them together and more.

So, we're joined by Dennis Kucinich. That might surprise some of the people who are listening and watching right now, the former congressmember who lives in Washington right now. What are you doing in Almedalen?

DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, I found out about this amazing event here, and I had to see it for myself. Can you imagine where people of every political persuasion come together in an open space, freely discussing and debating in a sense of joy, like a festival? And the thinking is very deep. And it's consequential. I believe that what's happening here has the potential to catch on all around the world, in terms of improving the level of political dialogue and enabling people to try to find a way to reach common ground.

AMY GOODMAN: Joy in politics, you said?

DENNIS KUCINICH: Yeah, absolutely. There should be. I mean, the fact that we don't have that is a testimony to our disconnecting ourselves from our own hearts, what it is we desire. You know, life should not be a funeral march to the grave. We should have the capacity for being able to lift up not just public dialogue, but lift up each other in a greater cause of nationhood. And so, when you see the kind of internecine conflict that happens in the United States—the partisan divide, the dichotomous thinking, the separation from each other—there is a different thing happening here in Sweden at Almedalen, which is a sense of a common bond as citizens with a common purpose for the nation. And people come together here. And the thing that impresses me is how quickly on the street you can get into the deepest discussions that have consequence. And so, that's why—you know, having been here only for two days, I've had a chance to meet people from every level of society, decision makers as well as citizens, and there's a sense that things matter in these kind of discussions, which are direct, relatively low-key, nonconfrontational, matter-of-fact. And behind it is—what animates it is a sense of commitment to each other and to the nation.

AMY GOODMAN: Proportional representation is really the name of the game in Sweden, right? Anyone who gets—I think it's 4 percent of the vote, can be represented in Parliament. Can you comment on this? It's a growing movement in the United States.

DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, it should happen. So, it's really, you know, a step towards democratization, so that points of view that are held in the general populace are not squelched because they don't reach some numerical significance that we call a majority. You know, majority politics are all very interesting, but what's happening in the United States, with an increasing—increasingly blurring the differences between the two parties, there's a hunger for alternatives, and there's a hunger for those alternatives to find a means of inclusion into the process. So, certainly, you know, that's one way to do it. And we need to broaden our discussion in America. When you come here and you see so many different political persuasions represented, and our politics back home are monochromatic—I mean, increasingly. It's grey, and you can't really tell the difference. Here, you can. But at the same time, there's a common commitment to the nation. We need to awaken those sentiments in America. And one way to do it is proportional representation.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Kucinich, the issue of Iraq? I mean, for many of the years you were in Congress, this was a battle, not only all over Iraq, but a battle in Congress.

DENNIS KUCINICH: It was, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you feel needs to be done right now?

DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, we have to recognize that the American people were lied to. Our country was taken into war against innocent people, and the consequences have been disastrous for the people of Iraq, who perhaps had a million extra deaths during that period, the destruction of their country, for the people of the United States, who saw their own men and women led to their deaths or grave injuries, and at a cost of perhaps anywhere from $3 [billion] to $6 billion long-term. This thing was a catastrophe.

And if we learn anything from our experience in Iraq, it should be that interventionism is not the wave of the future. We need to reassess this whole idea that somehow we have the right to intervene in the affairs of other nations. And we have to put away the pretense that we do it for some higher principle. The fact of the matter is we went after Iraq for oil. And the fact of the matter is that the United States has degraded our role as a great nation by attacking this nation that had no capacity to attack the United States and no intention of doing so, that didn't have anything to do with 9/11, didn't have weapons of mass destruction. It wasn't a mistake, Amy. It was a lie.

So, what about Iraq today? Iraq today, we have to stop the games that our government is playing of subterfuge, of duplicity. The double game that's being played in Iraq is a violation of what America should be about. And as we should be honest with people, we should be straightforward in our international policies. But we seem to be constitutionally uncapable of doing that. And that's a problem. That's a problem that involves a broad national discussion, involving people at every level, because the consequences of our continued interference in the internal affairs of nations is to create blowback, as Chalmers Johnson and others have written, and to create the conditions where America will always be at risk in the future of a loss of our ability to be able to meet the needs of our own people and of leading the planet toward destruction, because this planet that we have—you can talk about global climate change, but war is a form of ecocide. This planet that we have is not guaranteed to us. If we are faithful stewards of the planet, we also have to be mindful of our capacity to create peace, that we cannot imagine that peace will be created of itself. We have to be architects of peace. We have to be—we have to change our relationships with nations so that America is no longer a nation above nations, but a nation among nations. And I think that if we take that approach, we won't find ourselves trapped in situations where we really violate the basic wisdom that our founders gave us in saying, "Beware of foreign entanglements." And we have entangled ourselves willfully, duplicitously, and America is better than that.

AMY GOODMAN: Former U.S. congressmember and former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, yes, speaking with me here at Almedalen Week on the island of Gotland in Visby, Sweden, where over 25,000 people have come to attend this unique political open-air festival. That does it for Democracy Now!

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by Ihippy (47) 3 months ago

THIS IS AN EXCUSE!!!! The people creating problems are embedded in our system. The people who create our fiscal policies, the people who create our national security policies, law enforcement policies, immigration policies. Politicians are masters of redirecting blame. Whether it's the "other party", lobbyist, Big Money and campaign finance, liberal conspiracies, back-woods tea party groups. Blame blame blame blame blame. It's all a load of complete and total bullshit. The problem is that spoiled rich dicks run the entire show, inside and out. They point the finger at each other but they all play golf on the same course, eat at the same restaurants, invest in the same companies. As long as you're fighting some made-up battle, they don't have to deal with you. This is no different.

[-] 2 points by wickerman (62) 3 months ago

Wish I could vote this one up more than once. Be sure that the battle we are fighting is the real battle.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5866) 3 months ago

Ten Myths for the Fourth of July

Friday, 04 July 2014 10:03
By Ray Raphael, History News Network | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/24781-ten-myths-for-the-fourth-of-july