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What Confronts Us: The 1%
The most glaring evidence that demonstrates our lack of Congressional representation is that our Congressional leaders are among those very same %1. Listed below are the names, party, state represented, and average net worth of the 100 most wealthy members of Congress, with Barack Obama and some members of his administration (as of 2010) also included, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, found at OpenSecrets.org (registration at OpenSecrets.org is necessary to download all of the data):
|Name||$ Average Value||Name||$ Average Value|
|Darrell Issa (R-Calif)||448,125,017||John McCain (R-Ariz)||16,017,639|
|Michael McCaul (R-Texas)||380,411,527||Parker Griffith (R-Ala)||16,011,017|
|Jane Harman (D-Calif)||326,844,751||Nan Hayworth (R-NY)||15,905,120|
|John Kerry (D-Mass)||231,722,794||Jeff Sessions (R-Ala)||15,842,033|
|Mark Warner (D-Va)||192,730,605||Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas)||15,008,544|
|Herb Kohl (D-Wis)||173,538,010||Cynthia Marie Lummis (R-Wyo)||14,822,011|
|Jared Polis (D-Colo)||143,218,562||Shelley Berkley (D-Nev)||13,662,359|
|Vernon Buchanan (R-Fla)||136,152,641||John Linder (R-Ga)||13,100,002|
|Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif)||101,123,032||Steve Kagen (D-Wis)||12,536,047|
|Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa)||99,057,011||Jackie Speier (D-Calif)||12,517,035|
|Alan Grayson (D-Fla)||93,896,519||Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo)||12,225,513|
|Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)||85,572,116||Tom Price (R-Ga)||12,204,367|
|Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn)||73,151,590||Johnny Isakson (R-Ga)||11,975,057|
|Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif)||69,046,622||Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)||11,553,036|
|Bob Corker (R-Tenn)||59,550,022||Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill)||11,457,530|
|James E. Risch (R-Idaho)||54,088,026||James M. Inhofe (R-Okla)||11,288,027|
|Kenny Marchant (R-Texas)||49,340,275||Alan B. Mollohan (D-WVa)||10,289,506|
|Gary Miller (R-Calif)||46,008,028||Ben Nelson (D-Neb)||10,180,548|
|Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)||42,900,594||John Fleming (R-La)||10,172,792|
|James B. Renacci (R-Ohio)||42,060,709||John A. Yarmuth (D-Ky)||9,608,004|
|Nita M. Lowey (D-NY)||41,210,018||Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo)||8,894,512|
|Mike Kelly (R-Pa)||34,612,518||Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)||8,883,112|
|Trent Franks (R-Ariz)||33,925,002||Rob Portman (R-Ohio)||8,804,534|
|Richard A. Berg (R-ND)||33,562,590||David B. McKinley (R-WVa)||8,777,538|
|Diane Lynn Black (R-Tenn)||31,272,522||Al Franken (D-Minn)||8,747,525|
|Hillary Clinton||31,197,005||Henry Brown (R-SC)||8,613,510|
|William M. Daley||28,706,089||David Dreier (R-Calif)||8,496,043|
|Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY)||28,605,505||Michael N. Castle (R-Del)||8,448,083|
|Tom Petri (R-Wis)||28,106,012||Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala)||8,341,022|
|Richard L Hanna (R-NY)||27,837562||Jeffrey M. Landry (R-La)||8,205,506|
|Mitch McConnell (R-Ky)||27,213,024||William Flores (R-Texas)||7,924,008|
|Blake Farenthold (R-Texas)||26,654,549||Wally Herger (R-Calif)||7,535,509|
|Claire McCaskill (D-Mo)||26,511,109||Jim Cooper (D-Tenn)||7,472,020|
|Ron Johnson (R-Wis)||22,949,507||Barack Obama (D)||7,316,006|
|Steve Pearce (R-NM)||22,639,007||Dave Camp (R-Mich)||7,292,073|
|Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn)||22,538,024||Steven Chu||7,270,518|
|John M. Spratt Jr (D-SC)||22,213,007||James L. Oberstar (D-Minn)||7,185,039|
|Scott Rigell (R-Va)||21,969,526||Joe Manchin (D-WVa)||7,177,543|
|John Hoeven (R-ND)||21,622,050||Scott Murphy (D-NY)||7,129,030|
|John Campbell (R-Calif)||20,731,033||Jon Runyan (R-NJ)||7,053,008|
|Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine)||19,348,026||Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio)||7,043,518|
|Kay R. Hagan (D-NC)||18,750,305||Adam H. Putnam (R-Fla)||7,028,012|
|F. James Sensenbrenner Jr (R-Wis)||18,730,850||Allen Boyd (D-Fla)||7,007,506|
|Bill Foster (D-Ill)||18,196,011||John Garamendi (D-Calif)||6,948,503|
|Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI)||18,107,502||Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio)||6,947,528|
|Christopher J. Lee (R-NY)||17,849,160||Evan Bayh (D-Ind)||6,892,012|
|Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn)||16,626,008||Ron Wyden (D-Ore)||6,847,018|
|Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)||16,597,062||Harry Reid (D-Nev)||6,806,026|
|Fred Upton (R-Mich)||16,288,608||Walt Minnick (D-Idaho)||6,745,530|
|Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)||16,251,135||John Tanner (D-Tenn)||6,650,026|
Does not this evidence speak for itself? Could the challenge that we confront together be any clearer? Now we must decide our needs and our course of action.
Super PACs: How to Address Their Impact
Many might see a major flaw in the second clause of this amendment, which is that, under current law (which a new form of Congress could change), organizations will still be able to indirectly support candidates and issues by funding media through Super PACs with contradictory or even deceptive messages. They will still be able to expend many millions in this effort. How can we defend ourselves against this?
Since we cannot rely on the Supreme Court to remedy this absurd empowering of corporations as persons, we must begin to invest in a social evolution that will counter this destructive force in our nation. I can see no other way, and I suggest that organizing around the simple principles of the Constitutional amendment proposed here can foster a message that speaks to the clarity of our needs and which offers the promise of building a common bridge with many of those who may seem divided against us. We will need to devise and maintain social communication systems, maximizing the use of internet information sources, forums, and email lists, reflecting the complex social evolution which already exists and which we intend to further create and maintain, a social evolution which will highlight and emphasize the corporate attempts to interfere with our needs and divert our hopes: Sometimes we cannot avoid, unfortunately, that the choices of others results in our common need to promote a head-to-head clash of class and cultural values.
Passing this amendment will probably be the most difficult task our nation has taken on since our revolution. However, it is obvious that it is time for us to stimulate and manage our social evolution and I believe that these essential changes suggested above can provide the new evolutionary foundation that we need in order to begin to turn this great battleship of our nation around and head it in the direction of peace and prosperity for all. This accomplishment will not likely take place by some forms of great leadership or momentous historical events, but instead we will bring about these changes that we need by one person having a conversation with another, and then another and another.
Citizens United: Is It a Real Threat, or Is It the “Tar Baby?”
Contemporary analyses of the state of our democracy—or, perhaps more accurately, our potential for democracy—are generously and creatively depicted in such books as Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer’s The Gardens of Democracy, and Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein’s It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, as well as other recent and pending books by economists and political science scholars offering us seemingly endless but accurate views and characterizations of our economic and political conundrums. We are awash in depictions of what is not working.
However, few fundamental solutions have been offered, except, perhaps, variations on a Constitutional amendment to turn back the money spigot that appears to gush even more now, thanks to Citizens United. Yet, for all of the anguish unleashed by Citizens United, the additional millions apparently donated as a result of that Supreme Court authorization may, in this current election, be more related to cyclical political events (see NY Times Magazine, How Much Has Citizens United Changed the Political Game?, July 22, 2012, by Matt Bai; may require a subscription.), rather than specifically legalistic opportunities. Each of us are required to do our own research and contemplation of this issue, if we truly believe that Citizens United, that placing the gilded crown upon the corporate principality is literally the last straw afflicting us, the ultimate evil which must be addressed. My own research and contemplation indicates that, while Citizens United and corporate personhood is of great offense to many concepts of humanity, decency and even the most abstract concept of democracy, it is actually only one of the many historical events in our nation that have propelled our own corporations to ascend their individual thrones, re-instituting what amounts to an aristocratic hierarchy that we thought we had left behind us in England, following the success of our American Revolution and the writing and ratification of our U.S. Constitution. However, that perspective almost amounts to ancient history, leaving us now with the common task of writing our own new history, addressing our own needs left unmet by our social and legal structures.
Recently, Bill Moyers interviewed Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on his experience in Congress as an Independent, and in great detail about the extent that money determines what happens in Congress. (A link to the transcript of the Moyers-Sanders interview can be found here.) Senator Sanders has many years experience in Congress and a history of committing himself progressively to almost every significant need our country has. When Moyers ask him with regard to the effect of money on Congress and how can the system change “when you have the fox in charge of the henhouse?”
Sanders replied, “Well, the immediate political solution is a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The longer-term solution is…we need public funding of elections, which I think is probably the most important thing we can do politically. Billionaires cannot and should not be allowed to buy elections.”
I suggest that we can too readily become distracted by the all-too-real obscenity of granting the equal rights of persons to corporations, because if we were able to suddenly remove the ability of corporations to directly influence our electoral process, how would that suddenly cure our critically ill Congressional system, how would that cure the endless need (or desire), under our current system of campaign donations, of our Senators and Representatives dialing-for-dollars with thousands of lobbyists, for placing campaign fund raising as their number one priority instead of visiting with and listening to the needs of their constituents, how would that end the endless Senate filibusters, the broken records of dysfunctional discourse, etc., etc.: It wouldn’t. Yet, the investment in a Constitutional amendment to specifically free us from the tyranny of corporate control of our government would take billions of dollars and millions of human-volunteer hours. To what end? We each have to answer that question for ourselves, although we might all benefit more from an enlightened discussion of the corporate issue, the Citizens United issue, and the alternative opportunities that this Voters’ Rights and Representatives Amendment offers. We also must each answer for ourselves whether or not an all-out investment in overturning Citizens United would amount to a great deception to appease us into accepting that small victory, while all else remained as the status quo, while the rest of our broken Congressional system remained the same.
In addition, we must always evaluate our own political positions from the perspective of the socio-political relationships we have invested in. These relationships, for anyone involved or concerned about politics at any level, are extremely important, both in terms of what we think is possible, and our perception of what our friends, family, and colleagues might think is possible, or a worthwhile investment. Our socio-political relationships have a major impact on how we think and act, and it is imperative that whenever we are contemplating making a major investment, whether of our time or any other resource, that we attempt to discern exactly what is motivating us, what is potentially determining our consciousness. For people who have made a life long commitment to politics and to representing people and ideas, this form of self-evaluation in order to attempt to discern our cognitive bias—because we all have a cognitive bias—is absolutely critical for us in order to evaluate what we are attempting, what we believe is possible, and what is likely to lie behind our motivation. For most of us, perhaps, behaving in a manner which does not have the potential to threaten or embarrass any of our significant social or intimate relationships on any level may likely be a key factor in why and how we decide to act—or not to act. So, as much as I have the highest regard for Senator Bernie Sanders—and I wish he lived in my state so that I could vote for him—I must question why he actually believes that we should take on a Citizens United Constitutional amendment rather than taking on all of the issues that are directly involved in how money affects our political process.
I have discussed this issue with people who have a great deal of experience in the political life, at the formal level, and at other levels, and it appears to be self-evident to any discerning individual that many people would consider the kind of Constitutional amendment I am proposing here—the kind of effort that Senator Bernie Sanders believes we should take on after we take on Citizens United—would be a highly radical action, one that takes the challenge to the status quo to a much higher level than simply (if that word is at all appropriate, in this context) taking on Citizens United or corporate personhood. It is necessary to consider this perspective especially since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has, these last few months, repeatedly accused President Obama of being a radical for suggesting that we overturn Citizens United with a Constitutional amendment.
Which brings me to a fundamental practical concern: I can readily agree that removing the political cancer that Citizens United and corporate personhood exacerbates could be a very worthwhile thing to do, an effort worth at least some of a return on the investment. However, from a practical, political organizing perspective, a perspective that takes into account first and foremost the kinds of united energies and major resources required to bring about major social change, such as a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and corporate personhood, I am deeply concerned that two things would result from the success of that specific form of Constitutional amendment:
1) Many people—perhaps even most—would then feel that they had invested in a major accomplishment, and suddenly the necessity of taking the next most necessary step of removing, as Senator Sanders (and others) says of really removing the money problem, i.e., “…we need public funding of elections, which I think is probably the most important thing we can do politically…” would no longer feel as important to many people because, at a practical, emotional level, many would feel that they had made their effort, that they had made their contribution, and now it was time to get on with their lives and let “someone else” handle the next issue.
2) Even if many people believed and felt that taking that next step was necessary, would we still have access to the great groundswell of consciousness and overwhelming feelings of necessity that so many feel at this time? I feel and think that we would have essentially exhausted our major resources for political change for a long time to come, and, because of that, the removal of the overall issues underlying Citizens United and corporate personhood would leave us with very little actually accomplished, in terms of our need for a Constitutional right to vote, and the cancerous presence and impact of money still finding its way to the heart of our system as the major motivating factor in the actions of our Congress. And, implicitly, I can hear the voices of many in Washington crying out, “What do you want now? We gave you what you wanted!” We’ll, we might be able to get that part of what we wanted, but we would not really get what we needed.
And there may be another political horror potentially lurking behind a Citizens United amendment: The current Supreme Court.
Some months back I began to research the issue of the Court’s history and potential for reversing a Constitutional Amendment. There is no precedent for such an intervention. I wrote to one noted legal scholar for his opinion about the potential authority of the Court to intervene in an amendment. He replied, “if the Court held the amendment you describe unconstitutional, it would be the end of the Court as we know it.” Which prompted the thought and my reply, “The Court, as we know it, in my view, already ceased to exist with Bush v. Gore,” to which he responded, “I take your point. That case was not a legal decision and is the best example of the Court’s overreaching.”
The extreme views of Justices such as Thomas and Scalia evoke the same degree of concern in me as some of the intentions of radical Islamists: They both offer ill hope for our freedom, peace, and equality. A specific concern began to arise for me after reading Douglas Linder’s What in the Constitution Cannot be Amended? Linder raises the issue of the final clause in Article V., a clause added on the “last business session of the Philadelphia Convention, September 15, 1787,” and ominously, added without debate or objection, perhaps the only clause subject to such extreme reverence or inhibition: “and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of it’s equal Suffrage in the Senate.”
I have no formal legal training, except for seminars I took many years ago in the early 1970s in preparation for counseling people on their rights under the Selective Service Act (the draft). I also had the benefit of many hours of tutoring, along with my fellow defendants of the Camden 28*, from Carl Broege, David Kairys, and Marty Stolar, three attorneys who assisted most of us representing ourselves, while also representing a few of us who chose counsel. I suspect that at least in some instances, like any class of conceptualization, one can acquire some natural or heuristic sense for how to think as other classes of scholars have thought. The law appears to me, perhaps also due to its roots in human antiquity, in contrast to recent innovations such as genomics and quantum mechanics, much more readily accessible. (I also must recommend Grant Gilmore’s, The Ages of American Law.)
(*Note: I was born “Barry McKenna.” When I was 10, I was adopted by my step-father and my last name was changed to Musi, which was my name at the time of the arrest and trial of the Camden 28. In 1976, I reverted to my biological name, Barry McKenna.)
Which brings me to my second major concern about an amendment for overturning Citizens United (after the practical concern of still being left without real Congressional representation): the concept of state, and “What is a corporate body?” While there is ample legal precedent for Congress and the states to overturn Supreme Court decisions by the process of Constitutional amendments, I suggest that we must consider the following issue: A corporate body is an organization which has a legal identity, of which, a state is also qualified as such. The outrageous intervention of the Court in Bush v. Gore leaves me with the sense and fear that any court dominated by the values embodied by the persons such as Thomas and Scalia would have only a small trouble transferring such an “equal Suffrage” Article V interpretation to the corporate organization. I expect that many will disagree with that, and I cannot claim any expertise in the subject matter. However, I am very much concerned about this aspect of our Court’s history and values, and before any explicit and all-out formal investment is made in an amendment intended to overturn Citizens United, I suggest that as a society we would be at our most irresponsible and vulnerable condition to evade such consideration. As such, organizations such as MoveToAmend.org might be cautioned to consider such a discussion before their commitment and investment proceeds too far along into the process.
MoveToAmend.org supporters might readily object, and with reason, to their proposed Constitutional amendment being characterized as an amendment to overturn Citizens United. However, in the public discourse, many journalists, politicians, and social activists have come to use the term “Citizens United” as virtually synonymous with the issue of corporate personhood. This metaphoric device has been both convenient, yet sometimes inaccurate and confusing. Supporters of MoveToAmend.org’s Constitutional amendment proposal would be correct that Citizens United is not mentioned in their proposed amendment, but rather more specifically offers the following:
Section 1 [A corporation is not a person and can be regulated]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated]
Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.
MoveToAmend’s energized community has resulted in realizing substantial support from many communities and organizations. Their efforts are a reflection of the need and desire for “real change,” the kind of “real change” that has been promised by more than a few candidates, but the “real change” has left us “short changed.”
There are good reasons and well-founded arguments to want to take the issue of corporate personhood on directly, to want to put a halt to the evolutionary dominance of corporations in our nation and throughout the world. However, if the real issue at the core of our needs is to have a government which truly represents the People, the 99%, then my reasoning suggests that we need to work directly towards that exact and specific need and goal, and not be sidetracked by a great social cancer, a great symptom of what ails us, a symptom that has grown insidiously and exponentially, relentlessly taking over the world stage with their chrome and glass monuments to corporate principalities, thrust ever higher and imposing, virtual world governments unto themselves, attempting often to emulate the very heavens and home of the gods.
I suggest that we need to understand where we have come from, we need to understand more clearly how we have arrived at our present condition, we need to appreciate that human society is but one example of infinite organic processes, albeit, in our human condition, extremely and especially complex organic processes. This complexity suggests that we have enormous challenges facing us. However, if we can acquire the vision to select, from the virtually infinite options of action theoretically available to us, a direction perceived by a clear understanding of our initial conditions, we will stand a much better chance of avoiding the virtually infinite chaos which can result from a small and seemingly inapparent difference in the assessment of our true needs and our true direction. In order to acquire this common vision, I suggest that we must first become more clear in how we have arrived to this condition. We must explore and discuss the many varied facets of our history, the history which planted the seeds of our future, which has come home to be realized as our legacy, an inheritance we must not avoid by attacking the symptoms, but instead get to our roots and transplant what will serve us, and leave behind and bury, perhaps with a proper monument and reminder, lest we forget from where we came.
This clarity of our legacy, the roots of our culture and the seeds of both our genius and our madness, cannot be ignored, or else we will proceed in great ignorance and denial, and we will likely discover ourselves blindly facing an immovable wall, an evolutionary peak from which we can no longer evolve any further. I will begin to offer some perspective on our legacy and the significance of the corporation in Why This Amendment: Exploring our Deeper Roots.
One of the most important issues of our cultural and political roots and a source of America’s mythology, and rightly so, is the icon of the self-made man or woman, the small business creator who is an essential and honored figure in our history and our nation’s self-image. For many American’s, it is not easy—in fact, it may be impossible—to separate the small business creator and employer from the corporation. The roots of this aspect of our culture go very deep, and will be further explored in Why This Amendment: Exploring our Deeper Roots.
For now, it is important to grasp that simple description or icon of America’s small business and realize that there is also a major difference between being against something, in contrast to being in favor of something else. In this instance, we need to see that with a Constitutional amendment that focuses on the disempowering of corporate personhood we stand dangerously close to shaming, by implication, one of our nation’s most cherished symbols, the small business owner. We cannot afford to begin a major effort of social evolution and renewal with such a potentially negative emphasis. This is not to say that we should or need to ignore the dysfunctional socio-political evolution in our nation that has, in effect, created the virtual monster of personhood in the guise of multi-national corporate principalties: They are an abomination. However, rather than focusing on the great social, political, and economic wound these corporate principalities have infested us with, instead of focusing on the symptom, we need to focus on creating the new components of our Constitutional system that will directly empower us to directly begin to create the social, political, and economic systems which will support the 99%. We must have that clarity of focus and differentiation, or else, we will too easily be drawn into a conflict that promises the same old dead end solution, a solution that will not directly give us the literal representation that we need and deserve.
Taking on that position, argument, and Constitutional amendment means that a significant part of the investment of our socio-political energy and resources will be on the attack against corporate personhood, and that attack will draw a most powerful counterattack, likely leading with the symbol of America’s small business owners and the families which helped to build and sustain them. In contrast, the focus of the Constitutional amendment offered by OccupyThisHope.org is not on attacking anything, but instead, on empowering, finally, each individual adult citizen with a Constitutional right to vote and a Constitutional force which greatly enhances the likelihood of the People, finally arriving in our Capitol with real representatives, many of whom will be our equals, rather than members of the 1%. This would leave the 99%, if they were substantially in support of this Constitutional amendment, in a position where the major corporate voices would either have to remain silent—which is not likely—or else arguing for why a Constitutional right of our citizens to vote is a bad idea, and why the 99% are incapable of sustaining the emergence of intelligent and effective representatives, which would amount to a class war led from the direction of the 1%, placing a focus on themselves in a manner which might prove to be an embarrassment.
With that emphasis and differentiation made clear, there is one essential point that I must still address here before leaving the proposed amendment of MoveToAmend:
Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated]
Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
This clause, amended to our Constitution, would still give Congress and the 1% open license to enact whatever form of campaign financing legislation they desired. Without the explicit Constitutional prohibition of private contributions to Federal elections, we would have accomplished very little, in terms of changing the status quo and designing a means for the people to achieve real representation, rather than the same-old system of the 1% writing laws that suited their never-ending thirst for more money and power. Whether referred to as Citizens United, or the more specific proposal of MoveToAmend, achieving the demise of corporate personhood would leave us in the embrace of the Tar Baby, still struggling to convince Congress to pass real campaign finance reform.
UnitedRepublic.org has organized a portion of their web site, listing numerous proposals for Constitutional amendments, with most focusing on the issue of Citizens United or corporate personhood. Unfortunately, virtually all of these proposals authorize Congress, in various but often similar ways, to regulate campaign financing, except for the Simmons amendment proposal, which offers virtually the same Congressional protections and mandates as the amendment proposed here at OccupyThisHope.org. As with MoveToAmend.org’s proposal, the remaining proposals listed on UnitedRepublic.org will still leave us vulnerable to whatever Congress decides is in their best interest, rather than by finally banishing all Federal campaign contributions for Congressional elections by the Constitutional amendment proposed here at OccupyThisHope.org. In addition, although UnitedRepublic.org has apparently provided a valuable service by offering summaries and links to the various amendment proposals, UnitedRepublic.org has still not responded with any offer to add the proposal from OccupyThisHope.org. Instead it appears that the site whose title is “Idiot’s Guide to the Amendments”—itself, far from an appellation of respect—may actually be a stalking horse for their own proposal (there is evidence in an email received from them), a proposal from the owners of UnitedRepublic.org offering to bring us the hope-for holy grail of resolving our Congressional dysfunction. We will have to wait and see.
I have intentionally left out any mention of campaign contributions for elections for President for two reasons:
1) With the ratification of the Constitutional amendment proposed at OccupyThisHope.org, a great precedent will have been established, and a new culture of Congressional elections will begin with this amendment. Executive leadership is legally defined by both its responsibility and capacity for leadership, and implicitly by both the day-to-day examples Presidents establish, and the historical legacies they create. We currently have a system of voluntary presidential campaign funding which, for example, John McCain honored and adhered to in the 2008 election, but Barack Obama chose not to participate in. With the ratification of the prohibition of private contributions to Congressional candidates, future presidential candidates, under the current voluntary funding system, will either clearly establish their values and their willingness to maintain an example of campaigning with integrity, or their thirst for buying their way into office with as much private funding as they can get their hands on. Their decision would offer a clear example of the kind of values and leadership they would provide, if elected. That example would speak for itself.
2) The Constitutional amendment as currently proposed at OccupyThisHope.org is more than a simple clause or two, and contains many issues that will generate substantial debate. The addition of mandatory inclusion of presidential funding will add unnecessary additional substance to an already comprehensive proposal. With the rationale offered in part 1) above, it seems self-evident that including presidential campaign funding to this amendment is both unnecessary, and a potential burden to an amendment that is already comprehensive in terms of our fundamental needs.
Work is the Fundamental Issue
Work is a need on the minds and in the bodies of millions of people in the United States and around the world. It very naturally comes to our minds as an issue of a job, employment, a means of obtaining income: Are we with or without a job?
Yet, work is also a term that applies in many ways directly to both abstract systems and concepts, and to practical but complex systems. In one abstract sense, work is the only way to manage the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Without work applied within specific types of systems, order decreases and equilibrium increases. This may sound somewhat counter-intuitive—I know that it still has that potential because, somewhere within a part of me, an alarm is often triggered that identifies order with domination and repression, and equilibrium with peace and tranquility. However, the concepts of order and equilibrium can also be used to describe systems that provide the necessary means or structure of our support, and the extremes of apparent equilibrium can disguise the application of totalitarian authority. This is not to say that our whole human national system can be analyzed or modeled by means of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It can’t because our social, political, and economic system is not a closed system. However, at the same time, there are not an infinite number of inputs to the system, although our human national system is vast and extremely complex. Yet, we can benefit—perhaps it is even necessary—by considering our human national system as a complex system of energy, because it is self-evident that we exert and consume a great many different forms of energy. So, instead of allowing our economic discourse to be clouded by the illusion that our economy is some type of simple machine that can, for instance, be maintained by trickle-down contributions from the consumer expenditures and investments of the %1, we must more accurately envision our whole human national system—and not just our economy—which includes our economy, as a highly complex system which requires a higher level of conceptualization and much greater attention to maintenance than our mass media and Congressional representatives and candidates for election would prefer us to believe.
We have access to many thousands of creative and intelligent minds, people more than willing to contribute their education and experience to re-building our nation. Those who currently claim to represent us in Congress have no diplomas or degrees which authorizes some expertise in devising real solutions to our needs, the needs of the 99%.
Work is also, with or without a job, what we need to do on a daily basis, even if only to some minimal extent, to maintain our bodies by feeding, cleaning, and clearing space in our environment for it.
An economy, whether we investigate structures and processes on a local, state, national, or worldwide level, is preeminently a system within which potentially billions of Kelvin (K, one degree of which is equivalent to one degree Celsius) are applied, as work, or energy measured as heat. This abstract model has clear application to the decline of so many of our communities, as less and less work and resources are available to maintain them. Our communities and our lives are real entities, social and biological systems that will not survive without the many forms of work and energy required to nurture their growth and stability. Instead, we continue to have a greater diversion of more and more of our resources—our combined work and energy—resulting in the increase of the excessive wealth of the 1%.
Work can also be used as the focus of our analysis when we evaluate whether or not something will or won’t function as we need: society, family, relationship, plans for the future.
The Voters’ Rights and Representatives Amendment: Can it work?
Yes. It’s actually simple: We just have to do it. That doesn’t mean it will be easy—it won’t, it will be extremely difficult—but neither is losing weight, raising children, maintaining a marriage, or countless other endeavors which we decide to commit ourselves to. The essence of many challenges is simple: We just have to do the work. In this case, I suggest that the work amounts to having conversations with our families, friends, and neighbors about our common need for this amendment. With enough conversation and exchange of ideas about our need for this amendment, with its word spreading throughout our nation, we will reach a tipping point where the next and blatantly obvious action will be for Congress to follow the People’s proposal and pass this amendment, then sending it on to the states for ratification.
However, it may ultimately depend on how much value we place in it, how accurately we perceive its necessity, or how readily we can envision or recognize the tools and opportunities which await our experience once we choose to begin and join this journey with the single step that says, “yes.”
I suggest that the alternatives—the many, many efforts of groups and individuals focused on or actively committed to the remedies of our many specif social, political, and economic needs—will ultimately only result in further decline, decay, and economic and environmental calamity, because without the active voice of the 99% ruling the day in the halls of Congress, most of our efforts will be diverted and lost, if they are even heard at all.
We have the power of a voice now that is unparalleled in our history, a voice of many diverse and informed citizens who are the equals in intellect and creativity of those who currently pretend to represent us and who pretend to think that they know more about what we truly need to support and stabilize our nation.
However, I also do not see that the amendments proposed in these pages will magically bring the balm of peaceful and insightful discourse to our Congress, nor to our town hall meetings. Even with these proposed amendments ratified and made into a new foundation of our society, there will still emerge at least a few intemperate, power hungry, and greedy individuals, and we will need to be ever vigilant and direct in pointing them out, and weeding our garden of those unfruitful and invasive weeds.
Yet, in the spirit of one of the greatest social experiments in human history that United States once was, we must now evolve in that same spirit to the next level of our great social experiment and risk trusting that we, the 99%, can more than adequately resolve our difficulties and discover the ways of peaceful and creative dialog. This is an experiment of discovering the potential of new forms of social and political relationships with each other that we cannot afford to neglect or avoid. To do so will be to capitulate to the ever-growing forces of greed, corruption, and destruction of our societies and our planet.
Our cataclysmic financial industry and our political and economic conditions have been overly ripe for the fleshing out recently of book after book, and film documentary and fictional revelations and depictions. I especially recommend these two as virtual closing arguments to my case: Bill Moyer’s Big Money, Big Media, Big Trouble, his April 27, 2012 interview with Marty Kaplan (A link to the transcript of the Moyers-Kaplan interview can be found here.), and the four-part PBS Frontline series,Money, Power & Wall Street. I suggest that, among other analyses of the events and roots of our economic disasters, the four-part Frontline series can open our eyes to how aspects of our human civilization have evolved the desire and the means, analogous to parasitic viruses, to commit new forms of warfare whereby the 99% become vehicles for new innovations of economic enslavement as communities and organizations around the world have become virtual milk-cows of money for the taking with the almost infinite power that corporations have devised to creatively drain the savings, investments, and taxes of the 99%, both here and abroad, for the betterment of the class of the 1%. Indentured servitude and the Medieval class of serfs may sound like old history. However, the creative power of corporate lawyers to sniff out loopholes appears to expand exponentially as new legislation, intended and advertised as protective of our needs and rights, expands into the hundreds or even thousands of pages, spurred on by the endless revolving doors of Congress filled with lawyer-lobbyists visiting with briefcases filled with amendments followed up by campaign donations, all designed to create infinite innovative ways to turn citizen-taxpayers into unwilling funnels of corporate and executive profits.
James Madison: An Introduction to His Arguments
James Madison, one of our most notable founding Fathers and the founder most revered by—for example, and for argument’s sake—conservative author and columnist George Will, firmly believed and repeatedly argued that the fundamental purpose of the Constitution and our republic was to pursue the common interests of life, liberty, and security that all groups share and the need to form coalitions based on those common interests and in opposition to factionalized interests. This emphasis is also clearly implicit in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, of which James Madison was a constant and vocal presence in support:
WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
However, in the further details of our Constitution and in our actual history, it is quite apparent that the promotion of the general Welfare has received significantly less legislative and political support than more specific forms of welfare, in particular the welfare and primacy of promoting our distinct form of capitalism and its natural means of supporting the needs of for-profit corporate interests.
(Note: the link provided just above to http://uscode.house.gov/pdf/Organic Laws/const.pdf offers one of the best versions of our U.S. Constitution because it provides both a numbering of each paragraph in each clause of each article, and it provides the specific dates of the process of ratification, including those states which have yet to ratify particular amendments, such as Article XIII, abolishing slavery, which was rejected by Mississippi, and still has not been ratified by that state. While we commonly refer to all additions to the U.S. Constitution as Amendments, technically they are additional Articles. Some of these additional Articles do actually amend the original Constitution or subsequent Articles, and some of them are simply additional Articles added without actually changing anything previously existing in the Constitution. The heading for the section following the original Articles of the Constitution states as follows: ARTICLES IN ADDITION TO, AND AMENDMENT OF, THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PROPOSED BY CONGRESS, AND RATIFIED BY THE LEGISLATURES OF THE SEVERAL STATES, PURSUANT TO THE FIFTH ARTICLE OF THE ORIGINAL CONSTITUTION.)
In Federalist 10, Madison made clear the gravity of this fundamental issue:
…the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.
No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? Is a law proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures? are questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.
Given the great decline in the quality of life experienced by the 99% which is due to the same level of decline in the quality of representation provided for the 99%, I can not see a single argument, given the benefit of more than two centuries of evidence, that Madison would support against the People taking up their Constitutional right and authority to enact such as the Voters’ Rights and Representatives Amendment, thereby removing the power usurped by 13,000 local government bureaucracies controlling our right to vote, and by the 1% giving us the illusion of Congressional representation while they steadily increase their own power and wealth.
In material to be added later, I will offer more of an in-depth focus on our American Revolution, the variety of issues that impelled it, and some perspective on the kinds of people who contributed to it, and some perspective on the contributions of those we refer to as The Founding Fathers.
Why This Amendment: An Introduction by Barry McKenna is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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