This archived article was written by: Sam Pitman
Our administration campaigned on a platform proclaiming the need for change. The changes are happening, albeit slowly, but the changes implemented are treatments of the symptoms, not the disease. In order to treat the disease, the United States must make changes to our version of democracy.
President Abraham Lincoln, in the Gettysburg Address, proclaimed a government by, of and for the people. In the years since, as this country has made the transition from upstart nation to world power, this notion has been lost. What is the disease that is eroding our democracy? The belief that capitalism is entitled to representation in Congress.
The cure for the disease is finding a way to insulate democracy from the influences of capitalism. Capitalism is not a bad thing, as long as it stays an economic system and not a form of government. Democracy, as Lincoln stated, is people oriented, it serves the people. Capitalism is currency oriented, it serves the dollar.
One of the primary concepts our founding fathers were concerned with was equal representation for all people. Taxation without representation was one of the main driving forces behind the American Revolution. People were tired of their concerns being secondary to the needs of those who profited from the colonies, The East India Co., for example.
Jump to 2009, the same conditions exists, though they are far more subtle. How do we again change this injustice, without taking up arms? A few simple changes to our government structure would do much to return the control of government to the people. Here are a few.
Anybody learning about the U.S. Government who looked at Congress would assume that the majority of the nation was wealthy, after all the majority of Congress is wealthy. When the truth was learned, that five percent of the population holds 95 percent of the wealth, they would wonder how this was equal representation.
We have laws to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, political beliefs or national origin. Yet in our society, economic discrimination runs rampant, is not only tolerated, but accepted as a way of life. In no place is this discrimination more appalling than in Congress.
Equal representation for ethnic and religious groups is important to be sure; but a single, white female raising two kids in Compton, Calif., has more in common with a laid off African-American laborer from Detroit than she does with Hillary Clinton. How can a person who has never lived in poverty understand the issues facing a family living below the poverty level?
Consider New Mexico, which is a good example of this imbalance in representation for the poor and middle class. The state ranks 44th in per capita income. One of the states’ representatives in 2008 was Steve Pearce, with a reported net worth in 2008 of $8.4 million. According to the web site Roll Call, which monitors Congress, Pearce sold his oil company in 2003 for $12 million but because the profits are held in corporate accounts of companies he controls, these funds do not have to be reported as part of his net worth, thus he is probably worth closer to $21 million.
New Mexico has three representatives in the House, therefore our visitor would logically assume that a third of New Mexico’s citizens have a net worth of at least $10 million. The truth is, according to data from 2008, the average per capita income of New Mexicans is $43,508. Could Congressman Pearce have had a functional understanding of issues facing the economically disadvantaged people of New Mexico?
Having identified the problem, what might be the cure? Let’s get the middle and lower economic classes into Congress. How do we do that? Through a little device called Constitutional Amendment. Pass a law stating the economic demographics of Congress must reflect those of the states they represent. If 75 percent of a state’s population has a net worth of less that $500,000, then 75 percent of that state’s representative must also have a net worth of less than $500,000.
What is the simple way make this happen? Level the playing field. Eliminate political action committees, lobbyists and campaign contributions. Set up public radio, television and newspaper access for anyone who wishes to run for Congress, after all I know of many people who are far more intelligent and have more common sense than many in Congress but because they are not wealthy they have no hope of making it to Capitol Hill.
Each candidate would have equal time to campaign and equal access to the public eye. This would enable those other than the wealthy or well connected to have an opportunity to represent our nation, after all, in no way does having the most wealth make you the best leader.
The elimination of political action committees would reduce the impact large corporations have on elections, thus making it possible for those without wealth and means to successfully run for office. Under the current system any potential leaders who have ideas contrary to the health and well being of corporate profits will have a hard time finding funding to run for office.
This brings us to a second solution, mentioned in passing. Eliminate all forms of lobbying. Remember by of and for the people? Corporations are not people, they are entities, and nowhere in the Constitution is there a clause for equal representation of entities, thus they should be denied access to Congress except through the wishes of the people. Let them lobby us, through lower prices and higher wages. Corporations are the citizens of capitalism and are supposed to be subservient to the laws of supply and demand.
How ironic, we pay extra for goods and services so the companies producing these goods and services can pay for dinners and trips for our representatives to influence them to vote against our wishes. That is a large part of the economic discrimination; we are paying to cut our own throats.
Another, more subtle problem exists with lobbying. Cases exist where a congressional member who worked on a committee that affected a specific industry later went to work as a consultant for that industry. What a cozy arrangement, this definitely assures that corporate interests will be put ahead of those of the people.
Who in their right mind would vote against a potential future employer, particularly when the assignment is lucrative, this defies human nature. A former member of Congress must not be allowed to work for an interest they were lobbied by. The simple solution would be to eliminate lobbying by private industry.
Changes such as these are nothing less than revolution, for the true definition of revolution is change. This country was founded on revolution, and something critical to the survival of the U.S. is the ability to avoid stagnation through change. It is time again for revolution.
What weapons do we have in our arsenal to fight our peaceful revolution? We have the pen, which is mightier than the sword; we have our vote, which is mightier than the pen; and we have indomitable American spirit, which is mightier than all. We changed the world once, we can do it again.
The Internet is a wonderful tool for gathering public opinion and voting for change, through it we could establish an electronic town hall. Each voter would have a registration number, and any issue in debate would begin its journey to the floor of Congress by being submitted to the “electronic town hall” for initial approval. This is done physically in our system through petitioning, we would simply do it electronically.
Where to begin? We begin with amendment to fix the demographics of Congress. It may take a few years, but eventually we will have bright minds from all walks of life working to solve problems together that are beneficial to the nation as a whole, and not just the privileged few. What do you say citizens, let’s revolt.