These are our demands

Today the U.S. Government is held randsom by a vocal minority who are placing their ideology above the greater good. I applaude the passion, I really do, but something feels a bit short circuited about the whole affair. I’m not really interested in talking about that but the one sided nature of the argument gives me the sense some kind of counter demand must be shouted back to our now defunct congress. The precedent has been set that legislators will not perform their civic duties when they cannot get their way. Again, I do not write this to debate the merits of one side versus the other because frankly both political parties that strangle our nation are damned and they inflict upon its citizens a slow rot from within. People like to equate corruption in politics to cancer but what is happening to us feels more like a virulent strain of H.I.V.

I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Libertarian. I am not a Socialist. I am none of the things that pundits love to typecast in order to pre-emptively discredit anyone who does not tow the party line. I am a new kind of American that is weary of hard lines that dictate how I should vote. You cannot marginalize me with the application of a simple label. You will be forced to address my grievances with critical thought and real solutions. You cannot blame the other guy because by doing so you have absolved yourself of all responsibility as an American citizen. Once you have done that, there is no discussion to have and I kindly ask you to find the door.

It saddened me to see the Occupy movement become little more than a whimper. Of course I’m angry that the special interests were able to wage a successful propoganda campaign which cut it off at the knees. I am more angry at those who were the strongest proponents of the movement. With no unified message and no clear voice to make all of our grievances visceral for the majority who sit on the fence, fearful of losing their meager comforts and desperate to echo the voices who calmly say “Everything is ok”. The problems are overwhelming, I get it. There are simply too many things going wrong and they are all intertwined in a spaghetti mess that makes it nearly impossible to find where the fault lies.

The GOP has provided the rest of congress with a list of demands before they will fund the government. I now retort with my own list of demands. My demands are not directed just at the GOP, they are directed at the entire congress of the United States. They are directed at the president. They are directed at the business leaders who now fund our legislators and they are directed at anyone who votes. Let this be the vox populi for our generation. As I have stated I have no partisan agenda and my demands are beholden to no political platform and no ideology and so people of every political persuasion should have no issue with with what I am asking for. My desire is to see the United States government represent the will of the people and to become an apparatus of our collective desire for quality of life and so called inalienable rights.

The first four demands are not negotiable and must be addressed immediately before we can move forward as a democractic nation. Put bluntly these are demands that existing law is observed and enforced. The remaining demands for change should naturally follow but I acknowledge that they will take time to phase in.

 

1. Amend the constitution to state that only a living, breathing, human being enjoys the rights and privileges of citizenship in the United States. Dismantle the farce that is Citizens United which allows corporate entities to dump unprecedented money into political campaigns. This practice has allowed special interests with deep pockets to sway legislative agendas and override the will of individual citizens whose voices are being ignored because money is a far more persuasive political motivator. The fallout from this has been audacious deregulation that threatens the very foundations of our nation’s economic stability as well as our health and environment for the benefit of a minority elite class. The obvious pervasiveness of plutocracy in the United States is unsustainable and will provide the engine for the worst type of unrest this nation has ever seen. Couple this constitutional amendment with a clause that makes using private money to fund public election campaigns illegal and provide transparency requirements in order for this to be enforceable. Once elections can only be publicly funded it will open the political debate to people who do not come from wealth and it removes the advantage of special interests. This is our number one priority.

2. Enforce laws that prohibit public officials from receiving money, gifts, or promises of gifts in exchange for influence on the political process and on policy making (http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/I/11/201). This would mean and end to lobbyism which is the primary engine for special interests to override the will of the public. Create requirements for transparency that would make all of a public official’s finances a matter of public record.

3. Reinstate the affiliation restrictions that originally existed in the Glass-Steagall act and were repealed by the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act. It was this decision that allowed securities investment banks to merge with commercial banks and gamble with public money which in turn brought about the financial crisis in 2008 and has left the global economic system in shambles ever since. This is where “Too Big to Fail” came from and it should never have been permitted. Much of this legislation was put in place in the wake of the original financial collapse that we all know as the Great Depression. This has given select financial institutions far too much influence over the economic well being of the United States as well as the rest of the global community who rely on our stability for their own. It is not the government’s responsibility or domain to prop up failing private businesses with public money. Doing so incentives continued risky behavior which perpetuates our economic dependence on the financial elite. This is unacceptable.

4. Enforce the Sherman Anti-Trust laws. We all feel the pain of monopolies in our every day lives. Many of the household name companies were are all familiar with are all owned by a handful of mega corporation conglomerates. The consequences of this should be obvious but some of the more destructive effects of this are price fixing and the ever increasing disparity between wages and the cost of living. Companies that are not forced to compete have no incentive to innovate and without any check beyond their own bottom line there is no incentive to maintain quality conrol or social responsibility. This creates a scenario where public well being becomes secondary to profit margins. This has been demonstrated time and time again throughout our nation’s history. The most devastating example of this is the consolidation of media companies. Publications and radio stations and news networks have all been sucked up by a handful of politically motivated corporate entities and as a result journalism in the United States has been irreparably compromised which has breeded political corruption and the nuetralization of any incentive for self governance. A healthy democracy must have uncensored journalism.

5. Public elections must accurately reflect the will of the voters. The United States must implement Run-Off Elections (The Alternative Vote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y3jE3B8HsE&feature=share). This will allow us to break free of the two party gridlock we now find ourselves in. The benefits of having more than two parties sharing in policy making goes beyond fresh ideas. Currently there is not enough distinction between our two party platforms and when there is disagreement there is no incentive to compromise and no effective recourse for the public to replace officials who cannot or will not perform there duties. This would also eliminate the necessity of “voting for the lesser evil” which continues to disenfranchise voters who would otherwise become politicly engaged. A healthy democracy must have public engagement.

6. Enforce term limits for all public officials. Politics is not a career, it is a civic duty and therefore should incentivize all citizens to participate in the process. Permitting public officials to remain in office for no longer than 8 years would encourage new ideas and keep politicians in touch with the realities all private citizens must face. This would also serve to make the consequences of their policies more visceral as there is no promise of incumbency to buffer them.

7. Eliminate subsidies for public officials. Politicians should not enjoy additional privileges not available to private citizens. This includes benefits like government funded health care and immunities from the rule of law. This would also serve to keep politicians in touch with the realities faced by private citizens. This would incentivize politicians to enact policy that benefit everyone and not just themselves. The law should apply to every citizen equally.

 

This is the platform that all politicians should run on moving forward. This is the message the Occupy movement should have shouted. These are the demands that our citizens should make on the government if they have any desire to retain its tradition as a free democracy with any kind of moral authority. If these demands are not met then we will collectively face dark days ahead. One needs only look at historical precedence to see where the path we walk now leads. Only when these demands are met will the United States be exceptional once again.

What keeps me awake at nights

It’s 4:30 AM and in 3 hours I will be walking out the door to catch the bus down town to my job. I love my job. It pays the bills. I work in an industry that I love and can stand behind with good moral conscience knowing that I am doing some good by contributing my skills. I love my family. I am proud that I can provide for them adequately and we are able to live quite comfortably even if we are not worry free. My quality of life is good and I consider myself immensely fortunate. 

I awoke not long ago before I started writing this. I got up to use the bathroom which is pretty typical only this time I did not fall back asleep. Instead I lay in my bed facing the dark wall and considered all of the things that had gone wrong the day before. Is that not the time for such things? It is the time there is truly enough silence in the world around me to contemplate my purpose and take stock of my personal fears. Where had the world gone wrong? Something happened yesterday that gave me pause and made me think that I should reconsider how I interact with the world around me.

Those who know me have no doubt had to suffer through my online soapbox ranting at some point. I spend a lot of my time online reading articles and opinions to help me paint a broader picture of what’s going on in the world. Usually I try to share my findings with friends and family. I’m pretty sure most of them gloss over when I post my walls of text as I rail, dumbfounded at how they cannot possibly be outraged by the realities in which we live. I find it exponentially frustrating knowing that left to fate, things can only grow more dire and those who approach facts with apathy will soon find themselves bound by chains they cannot escape. I cannot do the same. Anxiety will destroy my body long before then.

I read an article yesterday regarding the recent government take down of the Lavabit email service. I urge people to familiarize themselves with this case as I expect there will be a lot more of this following the recent revelations regarding pervasive domestic surveillance. This news outraged me almost to the point of frothing and why shouldn’t it? We are seeing the dawn of a new era in the U.S. Where secret laws and shadow courts are becoming accepted and fascism is emerging into the open. What once made our nation a shining beacon of the ages is now a forgotten dream and a darkness rushes in to fill the void. I commented on the aforementioned article in an on line community that I participate in and was met with such extreme pathological apathy about my own outrage I felt as though the wind had been knocked from me. I was called a fearless armchair hero. It was pretty clear to me that this person was a troll but I couldn’t ignore an element of truth to the comment. To be fair to myself I don’t consider my political commentary to be simple blustering. I share information with the specific purpose in mind of educating my peers so that they can make more informed decisions. Clearly the media outlets have faltered in their responsibilities so it falls on private citizens to root out information between the rampant propoganda and make the truth known. I don’t consider myself to be of the tin hat variety either because as they say you’re not crazy if the sky really is falling. My purpose is to influence the outcome by starting a ripple. Perhaps that is not enough. I feel like my words fall on deaf ears any way so maybe the troll had something valuable to share.

So I laid awake in the middle of the night with no hope of returning to my unsettling dreams and I considered my options. I imagined what Abraham Lincoln would say if he saw what we had done to our government. Would he rub his hands together in envy wishing that he had tasted of the unchecked power that our politicians now abuse? Or would his heart sink in pure disappointment that we had taken something that he had cherished and worked so hard to preserve and tossed it aside like an old shoe that was no longer in style. Would Thomas Jefferson share my immense disappointment that we had fallen prey to the very things he warned us about in his writings? Over two hundred years later the monarchs are having their revenge. Did they know that we would eventually collapse back into the old system that we fought so desparately to separate ourselves from? Have they been biding their time all these centuries?

I consider my options and contemplate my weapons. I grew up observing that the pen is indeed a mightier weapon than the sword. How do I use this in a world where both are used to obtain a desired outcome? I feel a growing pressure to use both myself but I also feel as if I now stand at a precipice. I know what awaits us at the bottom of that precipice. It’s a misery most of us have never experienced. There has to be a better way. I appeal to man’s enlightened ideals that there simply must be a better way to step back from this damned precipice.