Thursday, September 13, 2012

What to do about American Politics

             There’s an old saying that we all have heard:  “Don’t fix it, if it ain’t broken.”  Well, it’s time to fix American politics, because, with Congress at its lowest approval rating since used car salesmen, actually far worse at about 10%, it is obviously broken, severely.  And, who in the heck are the 10% of those polled who think they’re doing what we ask them to do?  Did anyone want a Congress that can’t find a way to govern effectively?  The fact is that America has descended into a plutocracy (see Wikipedia:  The plutocratic form of government is the controlling form, now a worldwide epidemic in purported democracies, and is truly exemplified in American politics.  The surest sign of this is the Citizens United Supreme Court case wherein the majority of our appointed justices, supposedly exhibiting their vast judicial wisdom, ruled that corporations have the same free speech rights that we all have, as individuals.  Welcome to the age of the Superpac, where the largest corporations and richest individuals can apply their massive coffers of wealth to have their choices supported with endless ads and influence.

What does all of this mean to the average citizen?  It means that those who inhabit the corridors of power in our nation’s capital and in statehouses and legislatures throughout America are no longer beholden to us, the electorate, but to their management team, those who pay to have them elected by manipulation of the vote.  Independents stand no chance; the two major parties are equally corrupted.  Why?  Because what they say they stand for is not what they actually stand for, but rather a line to grab us and persuade us of the lie that they actually care about what happens to us.  I could give endless examples of the results of this situation, but I will simply note a couple of examples:
First, there is the ACA, the health care reform act, now law.  It does do a few things that are worthwhile, but, at the bottom line, it is an expensive solution which still mostly rewards the corporate interests in health care conglomerates, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies more than any citizen.  And, furthermore it doesn’t help about 50 million of the electorate who live without insurance, unless we consider Medicaid adequate health care assistance.  During the massive debates and committee hearings, polls were taken.  A majority of Americans preferred the Medicare for All option (i.e. single payer), and that was also preferred by a majority of doctors and other health professionals, although the AMA didn’t support it (pure politics there).  The proponents of this alternative were barred from even testifying in the congressional hearings, and, in some cases, actually arrested for protesting their exclusion.
The second example is the US Tax Code.  Where do I begin?  First, the actual governing regulation is nearly 16,000 pages of the CFR (Code of Federal Regulations), and then there are about 50,000 pages of administrative determinations and court set precedents which interpret the meaning of the 16,000 page code.  About 90% of the code represents a corruption of the federal income tax.  What do I mean by corruption?  What I mean is that the 90% is filled with benefits for tiny minorities of the electorate.  It is filled with corporate tax breaks, special exemptions for wealthy individuals and tax subsidies which unfairly tilt the playing field in favor of those who have bought the privilege of access to power.  The Republicans are fond of saying that our corporate tax rate is too high, and discourages business.  I say that’s a load of hogwash.  Check out the average effective rate of tax paid by the largest American corporations.  This effective rate is less than half of that stated in the code as the base rate.  Meanwhile, nearly every truly small business in America gets no breaks, except breaks which resemble the individual mortgage interest deduction which every American homeowner gets.  And, although this deduction is nice, the result of it is that most of us own homes which are more than we need, simply because the deduction makes it possible to afford more.  What happened to home values as a result of the bubble burst of 2007-08 and ongoing was exacerbated by this fact.  Without further belaboring the facts regarding the corrupted American Tax Code, I will simply say that in my opinion the ideal reform would be to completely trash it and start over from scratch.  But, as it stands, tax reform, for many reasons (Grover Norquist being only one of them), is not happening, and the chances of it happening are somewhere between slim and none.  Don’t hold your breath.
I believe that nearly every citizen knows that the system is seriously broken.  I have heard many proposals regarding the fixes that could be done, none probably without a Constitutional Amendment (as we cannot rely on the foxes to repair the henhouse).  A law can be changed.  A Constitutional Amendment can’t.
Here I will simply list some ideas of ways in which we could repair our electoral processes and governing processes to make them so that the result would be better governance.
1.      Campaign finance.  Make all campaign finance public finance.  Politicians can raise no money, and must use only public funds.  All candidates would be assured of equal media exposure at the expense of media. 

2.      Electoral College.  Eliminate this anachronism.  The president should be elected by a pure popular vote.  The majority rules.  I have heard the excuses not to eliminate this, but, to me, none of them hold water.  We don’t want or need political elites deciding who we should have a president, or the Supreme Court telling us. 

3.      Term limits.  Every elected official in any job, from President to Dog Catcher may only serve two terms in office, and the longest term may be no more than four years, or only one term of six years. 

4.      Election Districts.  The boundaries of election districts in all states should be determined by an independent board acting to preserve value of the popular vote, not the influence of any political party, such that each district is a simple geographic area determined without regard to the political sentiments of its populace. 

5.      Lobbying.  No one who has ever worked in a governmental position higher than the equivalent of G5 may ever serve in a lobbying capacity, for life. 

6.      Law making.  The rules governing law making, such as filibusters must be eliminated in favor of simple, effective rules that promise clean debates and prompt action or inaction.  This would include a rule prohibiting the inclusion in any bill (proposed law) of any amendment which contains matters not specific to the main theme of the bill (this is the primary reason as to how our tax law has gotten so corrupted). 

7.      Regulation.  Once a bill is enacted by the Congress/legislature, and signed by the President/Governor, the regulatory agency tasked with implementation must draft its corresponding regulation(s) within six months of the law’s enactment.  (The Dodd-Frank law passed to affect financial reform is now about two years old, and regulations are still less than half complete). 

8.      Mandamus.  Any citizen has the right to file a writ of mandamus to force a government official to act or explain which they aren’t taking action.  We now know that many on Wall Street were guilty of fraud and other criminal actions, and yet our Attorney General, Eric Holder, has steadfastly refused to bring charges.  In the 1980’s we had the Savings and Loan scandal, and there were more than a thousand successful Federal prosecutions of the participants in related criminal activities, most involving prison time.  Not one Wall Streeter has been prosecuted to date, remembering that Bernie Madoff was not a part of the criminological bubble building on fraudulently conceived and marketed derivatives.  Even the SEC has pursued only a tiny fraction of the obvious endemic transgressions.
There are still other things that could be done to change the way our governmental elected leadership does its job, but these are the ones that I tend to see as essential in eliminating about 90% of the corruption which is commonplace today.  We can never eliminate all of it, but much could be done and should be done to make vast and much needed improvements.
Until you and I decide to stand up against the tyranny which presently exists, it won’t matter who we vote for, or who serves.  They simply become a part of this massively destructive system that is wasting this country’s greatness and turning it south rapidly.  Think about it, how many of you have voted for someone who you considered to be the lesser of two evils?  Do you remember voting otherwise?