The "Occupy Wall Street" protests
The occupiers have it right. Here's a follow-up plan
Finally, after years of government mismanagement and corruption, outraged Americans have taken to the streets to protest. For years, anger has been seething over corruption in the U.S. government that has permitted jungle rules capitalism to take over the country's economy. The effect has been disastrous, and the only solution is to break the unholy alliance between capitalists and our national legislators and executives. The Wall Street occupiers are protesting against inequality and unrestrained capitalist greed. Many steps need to be taken to correct these evils, but the crux of the problem, the first step to redemption of our nation's democracy, lies in the words election campaign financing.
It's time to turn the street protests into gains: The best possible result will be to toss out the party-straitjacketed, moribund and corrupt Congress in November, 2012 and replace all its party politicians with reform-minded independents. Their first reform must be to get private money out of elections, so that our representatives will be free to tackle the financial misdeeds of the capitalist class and its instruments: banks and financial markets.
Donation of election campaign money is the means by which benefactors now own our American "public servants" and get them to dance to their tune. It is the main reason that Congress refuses to prevent the excesses of the banking industry and the financial markets. Even before the unfortunate Citizens United Supreme Court decision in January 2010 which opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate money in elections, moneymen behind the political parties ensured that our Washington congressmen and senators understood who buttered their bread. We have reached a point where our main political parties and the politicians who belong to them are incorrigibly corrupted by large money gifts given with the understanding that the recipients will protect the donor's interests. The only solution to this outrage is to throw the crooks out.
Our citizens have the right to vote for one reason: To select who we want to represent us in Washington. The flip-side of this is dismissing those representatives who abuse our trust. The time has come to emphasize the latter: In November 2012 we the voters have the ability to cleanse the Congress of corruption. The mission is simple: Reject the crooked political parties. Vote out every Republican and Democrat, and elect independents who are committed to get money out of election politics by instituting public funding for campaigns.
No task could be simpler than this. If a majority of Americans are offended at our politicians taking money for their own benefit (re-election) in exchange for special considerations for the donor in Congress, if we think this is corruption and abuse of power, then these crooks are out of office by simply voting against them. It's a decision that's easy to take, each one of us individually. We should see the 2012 election as a referendum on corruption in Congress, where the question is simply, "Do you want to continue the wholesale corruption of Congress?" If yes, you vote for a Democrat or a Republican. (It doesn't help to vote in a new Democrat or Republican. The party will quickly assure the corruption of the new representative.) If your answer is No – you'd like to have a (relatively) honest Congress – you vote for an independent candidate committed to cleaning up the mess.
(This plan has the additional benefit of breaking the congressional deadlocks based on partisan squabbles, which have paralyzed Congress for years, making that body functionally moribund, each party unyieldingly opposing every initiative of the opposing party and judging every action in terms of its effect on the next election. Read what Mike Bloomberg had to say about this back in 2007, when he was (not) running for President: Bloomberg on party gridlock.)
Of course, electing a non-partisan Congress is only the first step. But it's a necessary first step. Then we will expect our (relatively) honest Congress to deal with a system of public financing of elections (perhaps requiring a constitutional amendment) to remove this opportunity for corporations to reward politicians. Next, the independent Congress needs to deal with with such issues as speculation in stock exchanges which have become gambling halls rather than places to negotiate investments, and banking practices such as the "fractional reserve" banking scheme and the role of quasi-governmental guarantee agencies such as "Fanny Mae," along with the operation of the Federal Reserve Bank. Misdeeds in all these entities (and, of course, in Congress itself) contributed to our recent financial crises, yet Congress has taken no significant steps to change their operation. The new independent Congress will know that if they don't make real progress on these issues in their first term, they will quickly be out on their ear.
And, if I had my way, we'd make "representative" and "senator" temporary jobs, not careers. A short term limit, four years for a rep and six years for a senator, sounds about right. And forget a pension. Their salary should be set by a committee of randomly picked lower-middle class citizens, none of whom earn over the median income level. And a lot of other democratizing changes. . .
The Wall Street protestors are right to identify the financial markets as the symbol of the worst evils of capitalism. We have seen lately the rise of a type of venture capitalist whose ventures are simply risky get-richer-quick schemes, rather than support for industry. A capitalist system needs capitalists, but their function in the system must be to sustain the economy by productive investment. Our tax code is written to encourage this. But the disease of greed has infected our capitalist class, which has turned from solid investment to speculation in paper, so that they no longer serve their useful function but act as a destructive force in our economy.
What, then, should the Wall Street occupiers do? They will decide, but I humbly offer the following suggestions.
1. Take the opportunity now to organize, with the goal of replacing the Congress in 2012 (unfortunately, only one-third of the Senate can be replaced, but some of those remaining may get the message), with concrete tasks for the new independent Congress such as outlined above.
2. The winter is coming. Use your present platform to publicize the program. Then go home and put the energy that has been built up through this experience into the campaign for an independent Congress.
3. Don't be fooled by party sweet-talk. The Democratic Party is most likely to try to butter up radicals by promising reform. Don't believe it. Both parties have shown that they are approximately equally corrupt. Reject both ruling political parties and elect independents. It's the only way to achieve change.
4. This is perhaps unnecessary to say, but "Don't form a Party." Be a movement, but not a Party, lest ye fall for the same temptation that has corrupted the old parties. Wouldn't it be great if in the end the election of representatives is truly about ideas and not about party power.
Who's doing what on the web?
Three cheers for the Wall Street protesters. Here's to further success!
Google a phrase like "fire congress" to find many active web sites that are urging the same thing: Get rid of all incumbents in Congress. Beyond this they have various agendas, but let's take one step at a time.
"Kickthemallout.com" is a useful site, whose emphasis is on reforming banking (close the Fed and revoke the "fractional reserve banking" concept) and on passing a constitutional amendment denying legal "person" status to corporations. (This site is given as an example. I don't endorse all its aims.)
© 2011 H. Paul Lillebo