Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Oligarchy That Is America

As everyone knows by now, the US is an Oligarchy. We have a professional class of plutocrats who think they know better than we do about what we want and don't want from government. They've created a system that makes us dependent on them. They have, in fact, created the means by which they can bribe us with our own money. They've created a surveillance state and are awaiting the opportunity---be it real or manufactured---to impose a police state. But first, we'll have to demand it. "Do what" you say? We would never demand that government impose a police state on us. Well, yes we would, and here's how.

Imagine a situation where crime, especially violent crime, has gotten out of hand. No place was safe. Imagine an economy where good paying jobs were hard to come by because there were more workers than openings. Towns and cites were overpopulated. As a result, people were willing to take less and less; worker associations were either too impotent, too politicized, or too afraid do anything, and most were working hand in glove with employers. People became frustrated. They started protesting. Before long these protests turned into riots and looting became rampant. The only relief was public entertainment like sports.

The infrastructure had been deteriorating as a result of decades long neglect to the point of no return. There were more and more external threats to the nation, and those threats were spilling over the borders. Politicians didn't know how to handle the situation. Along with that, increased immigration; most of it illegally, was causing an ever greater stain on the economy along with the diseases they brought with them. Taxes rose as a result, and there seemed to be no end in sight. The government was corrupt and worse, it was simply an accepted fact. Previously, they at least tried to hide it. Not any more. Most don't even bother to try. They were bought and paid for by a handful of very wealthy individuals. Of course, the politicians continued to talk like the public's opinions mattered; like they were a part of the working class, but they weren't. They were to far removed from the same concerns of the ordinary masses to understand what their lived were like.

Pretty soon things became so bad that the people started demanding change; the the government do "something". The people knew the Republic was no longer their own. So, a few stepped forward and provided an end to chaos. They provided law and order and economic stability. Think I'm talking about some fictional scenario? Nope. What I just described was Ancient Rome during its late Republic period; the same Rome which we modeled our political system on. This was Rome just before the arrival of the Caesars. So don't think for a moment it can't happen here or that we're so different.

So, what do we do? Well, we can do nothing and see what happens. Maybe we'll get lucky and something or someone will save us, but don't count on it. If there were, we'd be the first Republic in history to do so. In addition, historically speaking, democracies and Republics are actually pretty rare. If we look back to the end of World War II, there were only around 26 democracies in the world. Today there are approximately 86, which is actually pretty good, but they still fail, even today. Now, I have a trivia question for you. Ready?

The US has been involved in "nation building" since the end of World War II. We've pumped tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars in helping build the majority of democracies around the world. So, how many countries have based their new governments on the US model? The answer is zero. Absolutely none. Surprised? Want to know why? It's because we have a rigged election system; a "winner-take-all" form of government. Only two sides---Democrat and Republican-- are represented, and if you're not a member of one or the other faction, then you're out of luck; your views aren't represented. Talk about taxation without representation!

For the rest of the world's democracies, the preferred form is based on the British Parliamentary system of government which allows for everyone to have a voice in government even if your party doesn't win because it allows for multiple parties to be represented on a percentage basis. Naturally, it has its flaws like any other government, but it is at least more balanced than the American System when it comes to everyone's voice being heard.

I'm not necessarily advocating for a parliamentary form of government. I'm just pointing out the obvious since the majority of Americans are registered as Independent (about 44%), and have been since around 2005. Since both parties control board and commission appointments (which is typically allotted based on the number of seats held), it means that the majority of Americans aren't being represented. If you happen to be a registered Democrat or Republican, and your candidate lost the election, it means that your opinions aren't being considered either.

So, what can and should we do about that? Well, I have a few suggestions. First, we need to impose term limits. The Founding Fathers never intended that we should have career politicians or even political parties. In fact, they'd be appalled that we. They were strong advocates of the "Citizen Legislator"; someone who comes to the state legislature or to Congress with a limited mandate, completes their term, returns back home, and someone else takes their place.

Today we have a professional class of politicians. In fact, they are a professional class of political plutocrats. If you're not a millionaire going into Congress, you'll certainly be one shortly after getting there. We need a constant turnover to ensure fresh ideas are being introduced and to minimize the level of corruption. At best, we should cap terms to 12 years. That's six 2 year terms for House Legislators, two 6 year terms for US Senators, three 4 years terms for the President and federal judges including the Supreme Court. As the late great Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn (D-TX), once said "to get along you have to go along" which is a polite way of saying you have to turn a blind eye when it comes to graft and corruption.

We need to eliminate lifetime salaries and perks. Once someone leaves office, their salaries end with their departure. No more salaries for life. No more free or taxpayer subsidized insurance or other benefits. Speaking of insurance, elected representatives should expect to buy their coverage on the open market just like everyone else, especially after they leave office. Alternatively, we could go to a single payer form of converge for everyone.

All US Citizens would get a basic insurance package through the federal government and paid for by a small corporate tax. Individuals could then opt to buy a supplemental plan for any special needs. This would cover all government employees, elected officials, and the general public (the only exemption would be military personnel). This would also enable small companies who can't afford to offer insurance to their employees to compete with larger ones who can. There should also be no more "double dipping" of pensions; retiring from one government job and then getting rehired to another just to pad your retirement income. Taxpayers should pick up the tab for personal security for certain individuals and their immediate family the first year after leaving office, but after that they should be on their own.

The vast majority of elected officials, upon leaving office, go to work as a lobbyist or "consultant" where they call on their former colleagues on behalf of corporations who already spend millions buying elections. Anyone who was elected to office should be barred from calling on their former pals for a minimum of ten years. While we're at it, any contact between a legislator and a lobbyist (or "consultant") should be an open book. Total transparency. There should be no sponsored trips on private jets, use of private or corporate owned property, memberships to clubs, etc. If the average citizen can't do the same thing, then neither should an elected official. While we're at it, the citizenry should have final say in any tax or salary increases for elected officials, as well as any increases in rates for public water and utilities.

We also need real campaign finance reform, which means eliminating "Citizens United" which allows corporations a blank check to buy any candidate or election they want. Campaigns should be privately funded by individuals. I would even go as far as to say openly funded without a cap. However, corporations are not people nor do they represent the opinions of their employees. The 1st Amendment was intended for flesh and blood people, not artificial entities.

We should also end the funding of partisan primaries by taxpayers. You read that right. Taxpayers pay the cost of Democrat and Republican primaries, but not so the primaries for third parties. They also ban registered Independents and third party members from voting in primaries, and yet their tax dollars go to funding those primaries.

Another problem we need to address is the restriction of third parties and Independents from running for office. Since Ross Perot's run in 1992, both the Democrats and Republicans have tried to keep anyone other than the status quo out of debates and away from the money. That needs to end. They should have the same access as the two corporate parties. Meanwhile, the media tries to ignore Indies and third party candidates; deny them any media access (pretending that they aren't "legitimate" candidates") or treating them as if they're a sideshow.

Along with stopping this media bias, is ending the unfair advantage Democrat and Republican candidates to the ballot access. Whereas Democrats or Republicans may need two or three signatures to get on the ballot, Indies and third parties candidates typically need hundreds or sometimes even thousands, depending on the office, to get on the ballot. That is clearly illegal and yet it persists. All candidates should have to meet the same requirements, and if it isn't, it needs to be challenged in court!

We also need to end partisan gerrymandering. Gerrymandering, for those who don't know, is where political parties divide up their districts so that the voter registration is favorable to their party. Both parties engage in the "wink and nod" form of electioneering. It basically guarantees reelection. Instead, a non-partisan body such as a university for local and state elections and the Census Bureau for federal elections should use blind data to redraw districts to match population changes. I wouldn't hurt either if the federal government became more decentralized and returned power back to the states.

We already have an Oligarchy at the federal level and its influence is increasingly felt at the state and local levels. Recent studies have shown that the ordinary citizen has near zero effect on legislation at the federal level and that's starting to be the case at the state level as well. Politicians follow the money, and that comes from the coffers of corporations and wealthy special interest groups. Even unions, who've lost their political clout decades ago, can't match corporate dollars (they're typically outspent $5 to $1). Meanwhile you and I have no one looking after our interests. Unless we make deep changes, and very soon, America will continue to drift further and further from being the democratic Republic our Founding Fathers envisioned for us with no way back.

No comments: