Attention all U.S. citizens!
I believe this is the most important post I've yet made, and at the end I'm going to request one incredibly
simple action from you.tl;dr: I agree with +Lawrence Lessig's #rootstrikers movement that the U.S. is majorly b0rked and we'd better get serious about fixing it right freaking now.
(But please just read what I have to say; it won't take as long as it looks, really.)
At the risk of stating the obvious, here goes: The United States Government is broken.
To an unprecedented degree. On the most basic level, it is not functioning according to its design. It was to be a system that governs the people while being beholden
to the people; what we have developed instead is a system that governs the people, but is beholden to the massive funders of the political campaigns -- wealthy individuals, corporations and powerful special interest groups.
Whenever the needs of the people and those of the funders don't coincide, we are seeing over and over again that the funders are winning out. There are studies showing this connection clearly, but you probably don't even need to look them up to know it's true. It strains plausibility to think that these wealthy individuals and corporations would be funneling so many millions of dollars in if it was not steadily delivering results.
It's a mistake to think that our only problem is with crooked
politicians. They can be dealt with. The problem is much worse than that. Even if we assume that all the individuals
that make up the system are acting virtuously as best they can, it is the system itself that has been drastically compromised -- I would even say corrupted.
That is my first claim. If you are in doubt of it, I beg of you: please spend the time to learn more (some resources at end of post). The evidence is, in my view, undeniable. If our political system were a car, you would take it to the shop. If it were a washing machine, you'd call the Maytag guy. If it were a first-generation iPhone you'd e-recycle that piece of junk.
My second claim is that this is bad.
This is not a case of "politicians will be politicians." We can't just laugh it off. We can't claim "yet things are still humming along okay" or "the right things will happen over time, even if the process is messed up." The right things are not
happening, and things are not okay.
While Liberals and Conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, OWS "hippies" and stereotypical Tea Partiers might disagree mightily over how to solve
all our problems, we all agree that the situation today is not a happy one:
- We are unemployed and underemployed.
- Even to many of the hard-working, decent medical care has become unattainable.
- The rest of the developed world, overall, is turning out better-educated children than we are, better equipped to eat our lunch in tomorrow's economy.
- All of us except the most steadfast science deniers now know clearly that we are pumping way too much CO2 into the atmosphere. This is very likely developing into the greatest ecological catastrophe our civilization has ever seen, yet somehow we find ourselves powerless to find a political
means to turn it around.
- National debt is astronomical. A huge part of everyone's tax burden is wasted on interest alone.- The rich keep getting richer, and they're not doing it with amazing new innovations that help everyone, the way Adam Smith envisioned, but simply by continuing to exploit the unique tax and regulatory advantages the government has provided them! (For any conservative alarmed about piddling little "welfare queens", this ought to truly make their blood boil.)
The list goes on and on. But you know these things. What is my point? It isn't just that things are bad right now. It's that enough things are bad, and our progress at fixing them so weak and ineffectual, that it proves
the government is not functioning well. That is, it's not functioning well for us
-- although, if you examine how well it's working for the wealthiest campaign contributors, you'll conclude that times have never been better.
In fact, I've come to feel that it's pointless to even think about how to fix each of these individual problems if we're not going to start by repairing the underlying system that has allowed them to fester. +Rootstrikers
very aptly take their name from Thoreau's quote, "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." The infestation of money in our politics is the root.
So far we've established: there is a problem, and it needs to be fixed.
My third claim is that there do exist solutions to this problem. Reminder: by "this problem" I mean the sharply disproportionate incentive for politicians to put the needs of wealthy individuals, corporations and special-interest groups ahead of those of the common voter. I do not mean that any solution will magically turn representative democracy into a perfect system.
I believe it is possible to fund political campaigns in ways that make each and every vote, each individual, matter approximately the same. That free our congresspeople from the burden of pandering to their wealthy backers day in and day out.
How? I'm not sure. The "Grant and Franklin" proposal Lawrence Lessig outlines in his book (notes at bottom) sounds like a good one to me. It works like this (but don't grill me over the details; seek the original sources):
- Each taxpayer may optionally allocate the first $50 (a "Grant") of their taxes paid toward the political candidate or candidates of their choosing. (Do the math and notice that this can generate gigantic
piles of cash without any powerful individuals holding the purse strings.)
- But to accept any of that windfall, a candidate must forgo all other contributions of any kind save for a maximum $100 (or "Franklin") per individual donor.
That's it in a nutshell. A lot of people believe it will work, or maybe a variation of it. Or perhaps someone is now coming up with an idea that's even better -- whatever the best solution is, it's out there to be found.
The difficult part is how to enact
that change, when the people who have the most power to make it happen are the ones who, by definition, are profiting from the current system and thus have no incentive to change things.
So it won't be easy. But my fourth claim is that this can be done.
What are the chances that a sufficiently mobilized citizenry can actually make this happen? Maybe you think they're 90%, or 9%, or even 0.09% -- doesn't matter. The chances are nonzero, and it will be one hell
of a lot more fun to fight that fight than to take the soul-killing alternative of sitting by and doing nothing.
So now what?
1. First, please either +1 this post or comment to say why you can't +1 this post.
(Or +1 the comments that already explain your point of view.) Why? Not because I get something for that (there's no "karma" in G+). I ask because I think we all need to see clearly and tangibly whether this is a fight that our fellow citizens are going to join with us or not. Do we have each other's backs here? Let's find out right now. (That is the "incredibly simple action" I foreshadowed.)
2. Make this your top issue.
Post, tweet, share, talk
to your families and friends. Maybe start by re-sharing this post? Learn everything you can. Follow +Rootstrikers
and add your energy to the ideas you see. Donate to the organizations you believe will use the money well. There will be tons of things you can do if you are looking for them; I'm not going to try to enumerate them all here and now (but likely in future posts).
3. Just don't stop.
Ever, until the unholy marriage of big money and politics in this country has been dissolved. Then
go back to the usual right vs. left squabbling.Resources:
Only want to spend 10 minutes? Perhaps watch the attached video.
Like reading books? I just read Lessig's Republic, Lost
and while it could have been tighter, it covers the bases, and as you can see, fired me up.
It's not like Lessig is the singular prophet of this movement, but he's a damn smart guy, has devoted himself completely to it, and I like his style. (And hey, I'd have a deeper bibliography to share if I'd found these two resources less convincing on their own.) #usa #politics #occupy #occupywallstreet #ows #teaparty #campaignreform #rootstrikers