Category The state of our democracy

VOTER SUPPRESSION IS A REAL THREAT TO OUR DEMOCRACY

The biggest threat to the integrity of our elections is voter suppression. Our democracy is built on the principle of one person, one vote, and the right of every citizen to cast his or her vote and have it counted. However, in the 2016 presidential election, hundreds of thousands of citizens were kept from voting […]

DEREGULATION AND THE ELECTION OF TRUMP

Thirty years of deregulation have produced a declining standard of living and reduced economic security for the working and middle class. This is causing them significant stress and anxiety. In particular, there is strong evidence of the toll this is taking on the members of the white working and middle class. After decades of increasing […]

FIGHTING RESISTANCE TO NEEDED REGULATIONS

We need rules and regulations to protect workers, consumers, and the public. However, opposition to regulations comes from organizations and individuals that have strong self-interests at stake and often lots of resources. Typically, it’s large corporate employers and producers of goods and services that oppose regulation. They use campaign spending and lobbying to persuade public […]

IS TRUMP A POPULIST, A FASCIST, BOTH, NEITHER?

Some in the media and many political pundits have referred to President Trump as a populist or a fascist or both. These terms are not opposites, but they aren’t comfortable bedfellows. I cringe every time I see Trump referred to as a populist because my vision of populism is the inclusive, broad-based populism of Senators […]

THE WRONG WAY TO STOP THE OFFSHORING OF US JOBS

President-elect Trump received a lot of good publicity for his claim that he saved 1,100 jobs at a United Technologies / Carrier (UT/C) plant in Indiana. Although the focus of his claim and effort – to keep good, middle income jobs in the US – is laudable, the facts of this case and the implications […]

HOW CAMPAIGN DONOR SECRECY IS MAINTAINED AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

Republicans in Congress, and particularly Senate leader Mitch McConnell, have made preventing increased disclosure of campaign donors a top priority. They have refused to act on the DISCLOSE Act that would require disclosure of donors to political spending by outside groups. They have added riders to must-pass bills prohibiting the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) […]

CAMPAIGN DONOR SECRECY IS ESCALATING

The disclosure of who is giving money to candidates for public office has long been a basic tenet of our elections. Even with the rise of outside spending, (supposedly) independent of candidates’ campaigns, disclosure of donors was assumed. In the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision (which ruled that wealthy individuals, corporations, and other organizations […]

HOW OUR ELECTIONS ARE RIGGED

Donald Trump has been claiming that our elections are rigged. He’s right. They are rigged – but not in the manner he suggests. Our elections are rigged to benefit wealthy interests and Republicans in three ways: Campaign finance laws allow unlimited and even secret spending by wealthy interests, States have made voting more difficult for […]

UNLIMITED, UNACCOUNTABLE CAMPAIGN SPENDING EXPLODES

Traditionally, campaign spending has been done by a committee set up and overseen by a candidate running for election. A candidate’s campaign committee is governed by state or federal laws depending on the office for which the candidate is running. These committees are required to publicly report donors and the size of contributions is limited. […]

BLUNTING THE IMPACT OF BIG AND SECRET MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS

Big money and secret money in our election campaigns undermines democracy. They can prevent voters from knowing who, with what interests, is trying to influence their votes. They can also unduly influence the decisions of our elected officials and lead to outright corruption. (See my previous posts here and here for more detail.) There are […]

SECRET MONEY IN STATE AND LOCAL ELECTIONS FACILITATES CORRUPTION

The growth of secret money in state and local elections means that voters know less and less about who is working to influence their votes and the outcomes of their elections. Secret money is money spent by organizations that do not have to report their funding sources. Therefore, it is referred to as “dark” money. […]

BIG MONEY, BIG IMPACT IN STATE AND LOCAL ELECTIONS

Big money may have a bigger effect on state and local elections than federal ones. Most of my past posts on campaign finance have focused on spending on races for federal offices (here, here, here, and here). However, state and local races are less expensive and get less media attention, so some big money can […]

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM FOR WHOM??

Efforts to reform our criminal justice system were hijacked in Congress at the last minute by an effort to weaken the ability to prosecute corporate and white collar crime. Our criminal justice system is in need of reform. Incarceration in the U.S. has grown dramatically while the crime rate has fallen. There are over 2.2 […]

MONOPOLY POWER AND HOW TO STOP IT

Monopolistic corporate power is a big problem in the US. Ever since the Reagan presidency in the 1980s, our government has effectively given up on enforcement of anti-trust (i.e., anti-monopoly) laws. Our anti-trust regulators have ignored evidence that the monopolistic power of huge corporations results in higher prices, lower wages, job losses, declining entrepreneurship, and […]

CRONY CAPITALISM = MONOPOLY POWER

The vote in Great Britain to exit from the European Union and the support that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump received in the U.S. presidential primaries all reflect a strong belief among voters that corporations and the economic elites have rigged our economies and governments to work in their favor. Workers and average citizens struggle […]

$200,000+ CHECKS ARE BEING GIVEN DIRECTLY TO CANDIDATES

In 2014, the Supreme Court, in a decision known as McCutcheon, ruled that it is unconstitutional to limit how much an individual can give in aggregate to all candidates’ campaigns and political parties during an election cycle. This ruling affects contributions that go directly to candidates, whereas the better known Citizens United decision allows unlimited […]

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SANDERS ON DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently gave a speech focused on defining what he means by democratic socialism and why he has identified as a socialist for his entire political career. Our mainstream corporate media can’t seem to cover him or his campaign without labeling him a socialist. The intent seems to be to identify […]

STOPPING THE SECRET MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS

ABSTRACT: Dark money organizations – non-profit, tax exempt groups that do not have to disclose their donors – are spending tens of millions of dollars every year in our election campaigns. This means that when voters go to vote they don’t know who paid for the dark money funded ads, mailings, and other political activity […]

SECRET MONEY FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

ABSTRACT: The fastest growing and perhaps the most troublesome of the four main avenues for presidential campaign fundraising and spending are the “dark money” organizations. These are non-profit organizations that can accept unlimited amounts of money and keep their donors secret. They are social-welfare groups that are supposed to work exclusively to further the common […]

BIG MONEY FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

ABSTRACT: Tracking the tons of money already flowing into the 2016 presidential campaign is not easy. There are four main avenues for presidential campaign fundraising and spending today, when as recently as 2008 there was really only one major one – the candidate’s official campaign committee. A candidate’s official committee is limited to donations from […]

WHY ECONOMIC INEQUALITY CONTINUES TO GROW AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

ABSTRACT: Despite many indicators that our economy is strong, most Americans are experiencing economic insecurity. Over half of US households have less than one month’s income in regular savings and median household income continues to decline. Low-wage workers at Walmart, McDonalds, and elsewhere are so poor they are receiving $45 billion in public assistance. This […]

OUR ELECTIONS ARE ALL ABOUT THE MONEY

ABSTRACT: Although the next presidential election is over 20 months away, there is already media attention focused on who can and who is raising the most money. The top lobbyists / bundlers raise over $1 million for candidates’ campaigns. If this isn’t a blatant way of buying influence, I don’t know what is. A Washington, […]

PROGRESSIVE VALUES ARE ALIVE AND WELL IN THE U.S.

ABSTRACT: Despite Republicans taking over control of the U.S. Senate, progressive values are alive and well in the U.S. In a recent poll of likely 2016 voters, over 70% supported the following policies: Medicare should be allowed to negotiate drug prices Student loans should have lower interest rates Pre-kindergarten and Medicare should be available to […]

GOVERNMENT BY THE BIG WALL ST. CORPORATIONS

ABSTRACT: The big Wall St. financial corporations just got another big gift. The Federal Reserve announced that it will give Wall St. a year’s delay (to mid-2017) on the implementation of the Volcker Rule, which would ban Wall St. from engaging in risky investments with federally-insured deposits. Many observers believe that this delay will simply […]

CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE AND MONEY IS NOT SPEECH

ABSTRACT: Many millions of dollars are being spent by special interest groups on our political campaigns. This level of spending makes it clear that wealthy special interests – individuals, corporations, unions, and non-profit organizations – are taking over our elections. The only way to stop this undemocratic spending is through an amendment to the U.S. […]

SECRETS OF THE FY15 FEDERAL SPENDING BILL

ABSTRACT: Congress recently rushed to pass a 1,700 page, $1.1 trillion spending bill. Such last minute, have-to-pass pieces of legislation are ideal vehicles for enacting laws that wouldn’t withstand the scrutiny of the regular legislative process. In my 12/14/14 post, I wrote about 2 such provisions: the repeal of the ban on banks investing in […]

WALL STREET BAILOUT REVIVED

ABSTRACT: As you probably know, Congress just rushed to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill that keeps the federal government operating. Such last minute, have-to-pass pieces of legislation are ideal vehicles for enacting laws on unrelated matters that wouldn’t withstand the scrutiny of the regular legislative process. One such provision in this bill repeals a […]

DANGER AHEAD IN DC: CORPORATIONS AND THE WEALTHY POISED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE

ABSTRACT: Some people in Washington, D.C., are taking the election results as an indication that Republican policy priorities are in favor with the public. Furthermore, the Republicans in Congress and the President may want to show that they can work together, get things done, and pass new laws. Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat from Massachusetts) warns […]

PROGRESSIVE SUCCESSES IN THE 2014 ELECTION

ABSTRACT: Perhaps surprisingly, in the context of Republican and conservative candidates’ victories in the 2014 election, many ballot initiatives that were decidedly liberal or progressive passed. Democrats running clearly progressive campaigns for the US Senate won in 3 states. The Republican victories in many very close races were made possible by very low voter turnout. […]

2014 ELECTION RETROSPECTIVE PART 1: THE MONEY

ABSTRACT: In the 2014 election, the influx and impact of huge amounts of money was clearly evident and the growth of “dark money” – money where the actual contributor is unknown – was a very significant factor. This was the most expensive non-presidential election ever – estimated at $3.7 billion. Outside spending, that is money […]

POLICY INNOVATION IN OUR CITIES

ABSTRACT: With our federal government gridlocked, many cities around the US are taking the lead in policy innovation. Progressive policies are bubbling up in cities from Seattle and Santa Fe to Cleveland. Minneapolis’s new mayor has championed infant health care, universal pre-kindergarten education, closing racial gaps, and new public transit lines to better connect minority […]

TITLE: CORPORATOCRACY OR DEMOCRACY?

ABSTRACT: Here are three current examples of corporate power and influence. Tax dodging: Burger King is the latest corporation to announce plans to move its legal headquarters to a foreign country as a way to avoid paying taxes in the US; a so-called “inversion.” Corporations suffer no consequences as a person would if he or […]

WHERE O WHERE HAS INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM GONE?

ABSTRACT: Investigative journalism, especially by the mainstream media, is rare these days. Yet it is critical to an informed citizenry, which in turn is critical to a successful democracy. On a recent Bill Moyers TV show, “The lies that lead to war,” Moyers and his guest, investigative journalist Charles Lewis, explore the value of investigative […]

THE BIGGEST LOSERS IN DETROIT’S BANKRUPTCY

ABSTRACT: The biggest losers in Detroit’s bankruptcy appear to be school children, current and former city employees, and poor residents. The emergency plan for Detroit’s public schools calls for increasing class sizes from 38 to 43 students in grades 6 – 12. Spending on classroom instruction has been cut 19% (falling from 58% of the […]

DEMOCRATIZING CAMPAIGN FINANCING

ABSTRACT: We need to change our system of financing political campaigns. Candidates need to be able to run viable campaigns based on the financial support of average voters, and without the support of the small number of wealthy donors who dominate current campaign funding. Many people who would make great elected representatives don’t even run […]

POLITICAL MONEY AND INFLUENCE OF THE WEALTHY GROWS AND GROWS

ABSTRACT: The political money and influence of the wealthy grows and grows. Wealthy donors making large contributions of up to $2,600 directly to Congressional candidates’ campaigns represent the great majority of candidates’ funding. There had been an overall limit of $123,200 on the grand total any individual could contribute in a two-year federal election cycle. […]

INEQUALITY IS NOT INEVITABLE

ABSTRACT: “Inequality is not inevitable” is the title of a recent piece in the New York Times by Joseph Stiglitz. Our current levels of inequality – and the undermining of the middle class – are the result of policies and politics, not a fundamental feature of capitalism. One example is the recent bailout of the […]

THE RISE OF SUPER PACs AND THE DEMISE OF DEMOCRACY

ABSTRACT: The rise of Super PACs (Political Action Committees) in the last four years and their ability, along with that of wealthy individuals and organizations, to spend unlimited amounts of money in US political campaigns are dramatically reshaping our politics. This is a new version of a very old game  –  pay to play – […]

What liberal media? Part 2

ABSTRACT: The conventional wisdom is that the mainstream media has a liberal slant. Here’s part 2 of my refutation of the liberal media myth based on the information that we do NOT receive from it. There’s been little mainstream media coverage of gerrymandering, obstructionism in Congress, Supreme Court decisions that favor the wealthy and corporations, […]

What liberal media?

ABSTRACT: The conventional wisdom is that the mainstream media has a liberal slant. The best refutation of the liberal media myth is the information that we do NOT receive. There’s been little mainstream media coverage of corporation-friendly “trade” agreements, outsourcing and downgrading of jobs, growing inequality of income and wealth, the power of corporations in […]

GOVERNMENT GRIDLOCK AND GERRYMANDERING

ABSTRACT: The gridlock in Congress is caused by hyper-partisanship and by the extreme views and tactics of some Representatives and Senators. There are four major reasons for it. I will address each of these in upcoming posts, starting with gerrymandering in this post. Every 10 years, the boundaries of the Congressional Districts (CDs) for US […]

HOW MONEY IS CORRUPTING OUR POLITICS

ABSTRACT: Huge contributions and expenditures from wealthy special interests were front and center in the 2012 campaigns because of the unlimited spending allowed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The 32 biggest donors to Super PACs spent as much money as the total of all the donations by the 3.7 million Americans who made […]

STOPPING THE CORRUPTION OF MONEY IN POLITICS

ABSTRACT: There’s good news on multiple fronts in the effort to stop the corruption of big money in US political campaigns. In the US House, the Government by the People Act (HR 20) has been introduced. It would match small donations – up to $150 – from individuals 6 to 1 so that, for example, […]

THE IGNORED DEFICIT IN PUBLIC GOODS

ABSTRACT: The federal government’s budget deficit is getting more attention than it deserves. It is half of what it was in 2009 and is at what economists consider a manageable level. Meanwhile, our deficit in investments in public goods is being almost totally ignored. Public goods are things of value to society but in which […]

HISTORY AND LEAKS MAKE CASE AGAINST “TRADE” TREATIES

ABSTRACT: Twenty years of experience with previous “trade” treaties and the recent leaks of draft language for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) make the case that the “trade” treaties currently in negotiation will not benefit the US economy, our workers, or our middle class. These treaties focus on and benefit multi-national corporations and investors, rather than […]

STOP FAST TRACK FOR CORPORATE POWER GRAB

ABSTRACT: Bipartisan legislation was introduced in Congress last Thursday to allow the President to submit “trade” agreements to Congress and require expedited consideration of them. There is opposition to this Fast Track consideration (formally known as Trade Promotion Authority) in both parties. There is also opposition to the “trade” agreements currently being negotiated themselves. One […]

TRADE TREATIES NEED OPEN DEBATE, NOT FAST TRACK

ABSTRACT: Action in Congress on requiring Fast Track consideration of trade treaties is likely to happen soon. Two broad “trade” agreements are scheduled for Congressional action this year: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with a dozen Pacific Rim countries and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) with the European Union (EU). Fast Track authority requires that […]

ENDING THE CORRUPTION OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

ABSTRACT: Whatever your politics – Democratic, Republican or independent; conservative, moderate, or progressive – most people are frustrated that issues they believe are important aren’t being addressed by Congress. The fuel that is really driving this paralysis is Big Money in our political campaigns. It is distorting the operation of government and corrupting our democracy. […]

US CAPITALISM IS OUT OF CONTROL

ABSTRACT: Of all the developed countries, the United States has the most unequal distribution of income and wealth. 1928 and 2007 were the peak years for income and wealth inequality in the US. In the periods leading up to these two peaks, the wealthy invested and speculated in financial markets. Speculative bubbles were created. The […]

REPUBLICANS OBSTRUCTING NOMINEES AGAIN

ABSTRACT: The Republicans are back to blocking the President’s nominees for judgeships and executive branch positions by filibustering. Currently, there are roughly 90 vacancies for judgeships. In terms of Executive Branch nominees, the Chair of the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of Homeland Security are among those waiting for Senate confirmation. Senate Democrats are again […]

REPUBLICAN SABOTAGE

ABSTRACT: Republicans are sabotaging democracy and the United States of America. Republicans in both the US House and Senate have used obstructionist tactics to block progress on a budget to keep the government operating and on an increase in the debt ceiling to avoid a financial default. In efforts to get policy changes that they […]

WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN?

ABSTRACT: The federal government’s shutdown for lack of a budget has nothing to do with the deficit or democracy; rather, it has everything to do with politics, ideology, and the tyranny of a minority. The extreme wing of the Republican Party, without the support in Congress to pass legislation and having lost the last election, […]

INFORMED CITIZEN DISORDER

ABSTRACT: I would guess that many of you are like me: it’s been drilled into your conscience that it’s your responsibility as a citizen of a democracy and as a voter to be informed about what’s going on so you can make educated decisions. In a democracy, it’s part of being patriotic. But boy, it […]

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PART II

ABSTRACT: Other than the individual mandate (see 8/19 post), the biggest focus of resistance to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been the expansion of Medicaid, the health insurance program for low income individuals. If all states implement the Medicaid expansion called for by the ACA, over 21 million individuals, including 4.5 million children, who […]

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PART I

ABSTRACT: As implementation of another key piece of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (also known as Obama Care) approaches, the information and disinformation in the media and from the opposition builds. On January 1, 2014, the “exchanges” – where individuals can purchase health insurance if they don’t have it – will begin operation. On October […]

VOTING RIGHTS AT RISK

ABSTRACT: Judicial activism by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court was on display on June 25 when by a 5 to 4 vote the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was ruled outdated and unnecessary despite: 1) Previous Supreme Court rulings upholding the law including as recently as 2009; 2) Use of the Voting Rights Act […]

OBSTRUCTIONISM AND EXTREMISM BLOCK PROGRESS IN THE US HOUSE

ABSTRACT: While the use of the filibuster in the US Senate gets more attention, the obstructionism and extremism in the US House is more insidious. And it is no less harmful. One of the tactics in the House is the so-called “Hastert rule.” It stipulates that no piece of legislation will be voted on unless […]

A RESPITE FROM OBSTRUCTIONISM

ABSTRACT: The US Senate reached a bipartisan agreement that ended the obstruction of confirmation for seven of the President’s nominees for executive branch positions. Votes will be held before the August recess on these seven nominees. To obtain this concession, Senate Democrats threatened to change the filibuster rule to prevent its use on executive branch […]

BLOCKING JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS

ABSTRACT: Senate Republicans have delayed and filibustered President Obama’s nominees to fill vacant judgeships nationwide, resulting in 87 vacancies for federal judges, 10% of the total judgeships. Even when President Obama goes out of his way to nominate what would seem to be uncontroversial choices with bipartisan support, Senate Republicans have blocked and delayed confirmation. […]

BLOCKING EXECUTIVE BRANCH APPOINTMENTS

ABSTRACT: The willingness of some Republicans to impede the effective functioning of the federal government has extended to consistent efforts to block or delay the President’s nominees to fill positions in the Executive Branch. Senate Republicans have filibustered, threatened to filibuster, or have otherwise delayed a number of Obama’s selections for cabinet posts, including the […]

IDEOLOGY, OBSTRUCTIONISM, AND MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK

ABSTRACT: Democrats believe in making government work. Republicans, at least many current ones, don’t exhibit a commitment to making government work. They block legislation and an unprecedented number and breadth of Presidential appointments, including judges and cabinet secretaries. Rigid ideology and extreme partisanship are drivers of the gridlock: many Republicans seem willing to use any […]

GOVERNMENT AUSTERITY DEBUNKED

ABSTRACT: The argument for government austerity was largely built on two economic theories, both of which have been debunked recently by academia and reality. First was the theory that if government debt exceeded 90% of economic activity, then economic growth would be sharply lower. The second was that cutting spending in a depressed economy would […]

REDUCING INTEREST ON STUDENT LOANS

ABSTRACT: The interest rate on new federal student loans is scheduled to increase from 3.4% to 6.8% in July. Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) has introduced legislation to give students the same interest rate that the big bank corporations get when they borrow from the Federal Reserve: 0.75%. Warren’s bill highlights the enormous advantages and preferences […]

MOVING FORWARD ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE

ABSTRACT: A serious effort for campaign finance reform is moving forward in New York State. The citizen / public campaign financing system that is in place in New York City is a great model for the state’s efforts and others. We need campaign finance reform because, for example, in the 2012 federal election campaigns over […]

IRRATIONAL EXTREMISM BLOCKS PROGRESS

ABSTRACT: The irrational extremism associated with the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party has just blocked progress for disabled people around the world by defeating ratification of a treaty. Radical Republicans used scare tactics and lies to defeat it. They ignored the support of 61 Senators including John McCain, of former President G. W. […]

CAMPAIGN SPENDING: THE FUTURE

ABSTRACT: The huge sums of money in our political system are corrupting it, in subtle and not so subtle ways, and are undermining the promise of democracy of, by, and for the people. We the people need to work to blunt the impact and eventually stop the flow of these huge amounts of money. Steps […]

WHY LIMITED SUCCESS FOR CAMPAIGN SPENDING

ABSTRACT: So why were all the outside money and all the advertising it bought less effective than was anticipated in the recent election? First, the great bulk of the outside money was spent on advertising, largely negative advertising. Voters were overwhelmed and simply tuned them out. The advertising lost effectiveness and experienced diminishing returns. Second, […]

THE IMPACT OF ALL THE CAMPAIGN SPENDING

ABSTRACT: Roughly $6 billion was spent on the 2012 elections for federal offices. Although complete data isn’t yet available, an unprecedented $1.3 billion plus of this amount was “outside” money. Roughly a quarter of this outside money was “dark” money – money where the actual source of the money cannot be identified. About 80% of […]

CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISING: WHO RUNS FOR OFFICE

ABSTRACT: Because of the way we fund campaigns, we have two elections every cycle, the money election and the voting election. For Congressional races, fewer than 1 in 400 people contribute $200 or more to a campaign. This one-quarter of 1% of the population determines who will show up on the ballot for the voting […]

Hello world!

I’ve been very frustrated that important information and context for our national policy making and politics is not being provided by our mainstream media. Although the information is available, most people don’t have the time to do the searching to find it. Often it is buried in pieces that are too long and cumbersome for […]