By Paul Evans of Monmouth, Oregon. Paul is an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan. He is also a former mayor of Monmouth.
We are navigating extraordinary times.
Our economy is on life-support; our military is stretched far too thin; and a national consensus is emerging that our government long ago exceeded its reach.
Slowly, our nation is beginning to grasp the magnitude of the financial mess inherited from the George W. Bush Administration.
Faced with a choice of changing course or the consequence of the deep abyss - we came together as a nation and voted for change.
Americans elected a new president and sent him to lead our government in reform: reform of our economy, reform of our government, and reform of our political system itself.
Though less traveled, this path is neither easy, nor will it be painless.
Ironically, many of the initial policies the Obama Administration implemented were little more than public acknowledgement of necessity. These choices were merely the "best" of "terrible alternatives" reflecting neither ideology nor party.
America bailed out banks, investment companies, and speculators, despite our disdain for paying the tab for people profiting from the artificial prosperity derived from an ungoverned market.
We know that far too many corporate welfare recipients ate their cakes - and ours - at public expense. In the face of our righteous anger, we salvaged the financial services industry; we knew that to save the many, we would have to live with the unjust benefit of the few.
Americans value responsibility and work. We trust the authority of law, despite the frailty of its human authors.
Ironically, our passions have metastasized into systemic memory loss. Rather than demanding accountability from those responsible for the mess, we too often blame the people working to ensure it never happens again.
Make no mistake about it, the fury of the Tea Party is real - much of it is legitimate - sadly, it is also misplaced.
With the exception of the final omnibus health care bill, President Obama and the US Congress remain stymied by our political foes. Blocked at each and every step - it is likely now that even partial financial reform - may be subject to a procedural death.
Few times before have a dedicated group of ideologues been as willing to employ all necessary means for political ends - never before have the ends been so transparently self-serving.
We are now witness to the rise of the tyranny of the minority - a dangerous new threat to our body politic - a clear and present danger to our nation as a whole.
Our problems are self-evident: entrenched interests employ influence, money, and relationships to sustain the status quo.
We are citizens of an ever impotent government seemingly incapable of timely action; a system of the privileged, by the privileged, and for the privileged.
Yet within the structure of our government itself, we find both cause and cure - for the existing structure has proven itself both unable and unwilling to change itself.
This cannot stand.
Therefore, we must employ a strategy for progress tailored for our exigent circumstances. This requires a coordinated, simultaneous five-pronged attack.
We must pass a Constitutional Amendment that clarifies the difference between money and speech: freedom of speech cannot exist for one - or even the many - if it does not exist for all.
We must pass a Constitutional Amendment that clarifies the difference between a living person and corporate personhood: duty and mortality of human beings require weighted value in all formal legal arrangements.
We must pass a Constitutional Amendment that clarifies the responsibilities and roles of Congress: modern realities demand a Legislative Branch that can act - with certainty - for the people. The era of supermajorities must end in both chambers.
We must pass a Constitutional Amendment that clarifies the core responsibilities of public schools to develop, implement, and sustain a rigorous civic education curricula that secures our liberties through academic and practical proficiencies.
And we must pass a Constitutional Amendment that clarifies the responsibilities of citizens: national service - be it for military or non-military purpose - establishes a lifelong relationship between the governed and government.
Passage of any such amendment would be hard; passage of all would be impossible - maybe, even harder - than impossible.
Whatever the end results, grass roots advocacy for these proposals - and the public struggle for passage - is critical for transformational progress.
Individual battles may end in individual defeats, but the larger war - the crusade for the renewal of our American Conscience - can and must be won.
Sometimes it is helpful to remember the lessons of the New Deal. During the harshest days of the Great Depression, FDR sought implementation of a host of policies and programs.
The Supreme Court did not often agree with his efforts.
In an attempt to reframe his circumstances, FDR proposed an expansion of the size of the Supreme Court.
History records that FDR was unsuccessful in this attempt, but failure of his court plan coincided with an early retirement and an ironic change of heart among the Court members regarding activist government programming.
Unlike that plan, this coordinated strategy speaks to the spirit and soul of our American Conscience: Americans want a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
To that end we must seek to change not merely the structure of government, but the language and rules of governance itself.
Too often we have wasted energy under a false premise: engagement of the defenders of the status quo have no investment in fair, rational, and transparent compromise.
That we have allowed this to continue so long is ultimately our fault.
The rules are neither complicated nor a secret. Privilege and wealth determine access, and access defines control. Right now, the rules sustain a system established to protect the status quo.
It is time for a new game - for new rules.
Together we can, we must, and we will learn from our mistakes.
Together we will move forward with passion and purpose.
And together we can reclaim Our America.
By Paul Evans
May 08, 2010
Posted in guest column.
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May 8, '10
Put down the crack pipe.
May 8, '10
While Paul got a little wound up, I would agree that the risk to our democracy that corporate money may control our future because of the Supreme Court ruling on money=speech is serious. It is not clear how this gets fixed without an ammendment. Unfortunately, corporate money will try to keep it from happening.
May 8, '10
As long as we allow unions to buy elections then it's a bit hypocritical to demand that corporations be excluded. I would live to see an end to the involvement of both. The unions of this country have our elected leaders in a stranglehold and like all parasites they will eventually suck it's host dry and kill it. The woes of GM provide a grim foreshadowing of things to come when Obama can't even make a decision of what to have for dinner without calling and asking the SEIU president
May 8, '10
Cameron Jordan, "the unions of this country have our elected leaders in a stranglehold"?
Why, then, did Bill Clinton and most other leading Dems support NAFTA, CAFTA and GATT becoming the WTO?
And Obama, Emanuel, Summers and Geithner have not repudiated those positions or taken any major populist measures, otherwise, I'd say.
May 8, '10
Obama ran on the promise he would not expand NAFTA (which means nothing as he has amnesia about every other campaign promise he has not kept) Rhambo is currently campaigning behind the scenes to expand NAFTA while there is a more realistic bi partisan movement to repeal it completely and that bill is co-sponsored by none other than my favorite Democrat Pete Defazio (no sarcasm I like him on so many issues) Obama has flip flopped on NAFTA so many times it's hard to keep track but I do remember him wood shedding some Canadian leaders and wanting to renegotiate it last year. right around the same time I think he promised unemployment would not ever go higher than 8%. The Teamsters are solidly behind this plan to repeal NAFTA and with the exception of Emmanuel quietly pushing expansion Everything I have read and seen points to Obama being told to jump on the repeal bandwagon because to do otherwise now that we have 16 years of statistics to support what a very very stupid idea it was to start with expanding it would be further evidence that Obama is determined to drive this country off a cliff economically. It's sort of like Chemo for the economy...he needs to drive the economy to the brink without killing it completely so he can get everyone totally dependent on the government before he finally proposes doing something that will bring our economy back and add jobs.
May 8, '10
Cameron- okay, I'll buy your description of Obama's positions as regards NAFTA.
But you should retract your statement that said that the unions are in control, especially as in the next post you described how the Dems are the leading recipients of Wall St. money.
How could it be that the Dems are in thrall of both the unions and Wall St., simultaneously, unless we assume massive collusion between investment banks and big labor (of which I don't think there is any)?
I think an accurate way to describe the DLC Dems' position is: they are much more influenced by big business and Wall St. money, but labor still turns to them as it realistically has nowhere else to go.
Anyway, the Tories just won the UK elections and money's not so much a factor over there, so maybe the policies are just whacked because the pols have no clue as to how to constructively proceed?
May 8, '10
I have asked myself that question a million times. Here is what I think: First off there is a difference between “Wall Street” (WS) and “Big Business” (BB) even if it’s not a huge difference. it’s hard to imagine too many important scenarios where the goals of WS/BB and “big Labor” (BL) are not mutually exclusive. Their goals may be polar opposites but their need to call in their markers very tremendously. BL is a high maintenance day to day date (think of BL as being “the wife”) but WS not so much so (think of WS as being like the mistress he keeps on the side) The Financial crisis which lead into the Pelosi/Reid recession no doubt caused WS to call in a lot of their markers and looking back WS has saved their expensive access rights for big expensive one time only emergencies …like when their risky play goes against them and they need the government to bail them out and cover their losses for them. Without the P-R Recession his close relationship with WS would not have been so obvious other than the incestuous relationship he has w/ Goldman Sachs where we got the likes of Paulsen (ex Goldman CEO) , Tim Geithner, Rahm Emanuel (who worked for Goldman) and Greg Craig (who just left to work for Goldman). The crisis outted the close ties between Obama and leading congressional Democrats and WS. In other words the mistress he keeps on the side required immediate attention and got which has recently made the wife (BL) jealous. To try and juggle both sides of his political personalities while fully engaged with his mistress he has nonetheless buried pro union trinkets into other legislation including two big ones he buried into the “WS Reform” bill. One provision would essentially give the Securities and Exchange Commission the power to force the names of outside nominees onto the corporate ballot. Right now, corporations can print up the ballots — and leave off the other names.Such a change could give large, long-term investors — such as the pension funds that fund union members’ retirements — a better shot to get elected to the boards. (CONTD)
May 8, '10
*(CONTD HERE) The other change (proxy access) would require directors running in an uncontested election to win a majority of votes cast. Currently, most directors need to win only a plurality, which has resulted in directors losing the majority vote but still winning the seat. Rather than improving stakeholder engagement, the proposed legislation deprives shareholders of the freedom to choose whether — and under what circumstances — proxy access makes sense for their company, and granting proxy access is like forcing an incumbent lawmaker running for reelection to advertise for his opponent. So while he is off with his mistress and putting out that once or twice a term attention intensive fire he still does what he can to show his love for the little woman back home. Once the fire is out he will be back with his “ball and chain” …Big Labor whose needs are numerous and constant. Don’t forget it was unions who ponied up around 200 million to get him elected not to mention all of the zillions of man hours they donated to his campaign. Right now the wife is starting to get angry and wants him home… she wants Card Check finalized for her, she wants jobs created and wages to go up, and she does not like sharing his affections with his other lover. That’s what I think…Jack Roberts probably has a thought or two on this more informed than my own ... poke holes in that theory please
May 8, '10
Okay, Cameron, I'll definitely agree that Obama has somewhat divided loyalties, as did Bill Clinton. They're both DLC, in my opinion; which, of course, means labor is not their first loyalty.
Anyway, maybe find a way to relate this to the "Extraordinary Times" piece that began this thread?
May 10, '10
Do you account for his gagging the results of autopsies run on sea turtles from the Gulf divided loyalties?
Could you describe how he has divided loyalties concerning the military? Do any of us know (or care) how many people have been renditioned since he took office?
I don't see any contradiction. Different packaging, same agenda.
"Extraordinary Times"? The oldest marketing gimmick in the book is to start by saying, "You know, you are very special". The Chinese were right. It's a curse.
May 9, '10
Example from the Washington public employees union this budget cycle. Either the elcted democrats push for a huge tax increase to support state spending AND state employee salary/benefit levels or the publicunions would vote against them come November.
Gregoire and company blinked, King County blinked. Final outcome = over $800 in tax increases, public employee retirement funds raided for current expenses, and unsustainable budget AND a pay/benefits increase for public employees.
May 8, '10
All the ideas in this piece for amendments to the Constitution are great, but I don't think the executive branch is going to lead the charge on them. FDR was willing to advocate for real systemic change, whereas, according to Robert Reich, Obama and Emanuel are more in the thrall of the moneyed interests than are most Democrats:
Reich says Obama opposes requiring the Fed to disclose its lending; opposes requiring banks to spin off the derivative business; and opposes capping the size of the biggest banks.
With the WH having taken those positions, how likely is it that Obama will advocate for any of the aforementioned constitutional amendments which would restrict moneyed interests? I've heard Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) advocate for an amendment to help fix the Citizens United ruling- where is the leaderhip (Obama)?
May 8, '10
A little reality check here: An amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires a vote of two-thirds of both houses and ratification by three-fourths of the states.
An amendment to the Oregon constitution, by contrast, only takes a majority vote of the people after the measure has been placed on the ballot by a majority of both houses of the legislature or by initiative petition.
The Oregon Supreme Court has, for several decades now, interpreted our state constitution as prohibiting ANY limitation on campaign contributions, by individuals, corporations or unions.
If we can't change the Oregon contitution to limit the power of money in our state and local elections, how in the world do you expect to amend the United States Constitution to overturn a more modest expansion of corporate power than our state constitution already allows?
May 8, '10
I think as long as unions are able to buy elections and silence their detractors with their money then corporations should be allowed to do the same thing (at least it may provide for some balance) what I would prefer to see is the elimination of BOTH from the electoral process completely. We have a whole state government filled with the steaming byproduct of union money and union involvement and look where it's gotten us after how many years Jack?
May 9, '10
I think as long as big corporations and wealthy individuals are allowed to buy elections then unions should be allowed to do the same thing.
May 8, '10
One last comment on the article in general. The author makes so many factual assertions that are blatantly false I would have to write a response as long as his to touch them all. The big one that is topical and relevant today is the notion that the democratic financial reform plan is our ticket to regulatory salvation if only those darned corrupt republicans weren't in the [pocket of every wall street money and power broker would just get out of the way. That idea is extraordinarily false and the only way a rational person could come to that conclusion is to ignore ALL of the facts. The economy is where it is today because of (among other things) Freddie and Franny and their inability to withstand the huge number of mortgage defaults they were in position to handle. Those defaults came from granting mortage loans to people who could not afford them. Clinton and the pressure he allied on the banks 9w/ Janet Reno at the point!) telling them to allow food stamps and unemployment income to be used to qualify for home loans (Google it) is just one example of the government intruding into the financial markets and screwing them up. You have guys like Raine's managing things into the abyss and walking out with 46 million dollars for his efforts. Yet with the huge sums spent to bail out F and F and then the staggering amounts for AIG no where in the democrats plan do we see any type of new rules to govern how they do business. You have Barney FFFrank telling the world everything is great one day then offering to lead them out of bankruptcy the next. The people who were responsible for the oversight of these entities in the government dropped the ball and as much as you hate to hear it Bush voiced his concerns about F and F too many times to count. (Google it) On this issue Republicans are blocking this reform bill because it doesn't go far enough and it's the D's who have proposed a bill that panders to the Big money concerns NOT the R's. The idea that the R's are in tight and owned by Wall Street is a fantasy so many of you have that is NOT supported by rational thought or the facts. Look up who Wall Street gave all of their money too in the last election cycle and then adjust your idea of who is really trying to pass a bad bill
May 8, '10
Cameron Jordan seems not to know of the existence of the derivatives market, which had exposure approximately fifty times the total sum of all the bad mortgages.
May 8, '10
I've got a pretty firm grasp on various investment and gambling vehicles, in other words I could talk about the derivatives market until your ears bleed. There's nothing wrong with speculation, creating derivatives or selling them, especially to sophisticated investors. The problem is that when the bets go bad, the speculators keep being back-stopped by the government. Risk-taking and speculation are good. But the Democrats' crony capitalism is the worst of both worlds: risk-taking without any real risk for the risk-takers. Would you like me to give you a list of all of the times the democrats have done this ...starting with wall streets Mexican Bonds? Employees from Goldman Sachs gave more to the Obama campaign than any other organization except the University of California -- with Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase quickly following in sixth and seventh place.
Whatever Obama has in mind for punishing the financial industry, I promise you, he won't punish his friends. After JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon took a $17 million bonus and Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein got a $9 million bonus, Obama said he didn't begrudge them their bonuses?! The five biggest hedge fund donors all gave almost all their donations to Democrats. Among the biggest recipients of hedge fund money were Senators Harry Reid, Chris Dodd, and Charles Schumer. Even with the evidence right in front of their eyes, people still believe that it's the Republicans who are in Wall Street's pocket.
May 10, '10
Turns out when you run for office--and you're winning--rich people want to give you money. Not everyone can be Ben Cannon, but to assert that every candidate/elected official is beholden to every single contributor displays a deep lack of understanding of the political process in America.
Arguing about which party is more in the pocket of Wall Street is moot obfuscation: members of both parties have taken significant contributions from Wall Street, and neither has become a party of complete rubes for hedge fund managers to puppeteer.
That said, it's about time we start putting folks like Peter DeFazio in leadership positions in Congress. Odysseus could give The Faz a max donation and Pete still wouldn't vote for a tax-funded trip home.
That's what we call "leadership."
(I'd comment on the blog post itself, but I'm still not sure what the point of the piece is)
May 10, '10
It's what we call integrity! I love Pete DeFazio for that reason. Politicians aren't beholden to every single person who gives them $500.00 but they are for sale to people or entities whose contributions to their campaign either in cash or soft dollars like the SEIU did for Obama and like Wall Street did for Obama and several leading democrats, that money buys you access and poltical favors. This latest Supreme Court nominee ..an old Goldman Sachs attorney further demonstrates the incestuous connection between Obama and Goldman
May 9, '10
So, if we voted for change, or at least those voting the straight democrat line voted for change where is it?
Afganistan deployment INCREASED
Federal government spending INCREASED (Cash for Clunkers, ARRA, TARP II)
The government now owns upwards of 60% of Government Motors.
Unemployment is at 9.9% (official count) and now Europe is in trouble.
Sorry, the only change many of us see is the manipulation of tragic issue in order to expand centralized federal control.
May 9, '10
I know of Mr. Evans though his involvement with the Oregon Student Association, an umbrella organization for all the public university student body presidents in Oregon. He is a good man and these are inspiring words. Plus, he is willing to put his own life on the line for liberty by serving in the armed forces so this carries extra weight for me personally. He gets at a real good point; when we monetize free speech inevitability some will not be able to afford it. When money = free speech, those with speech but little money will be drowned out by the megaphones of mega-organizations with mega-money and thus, mega-speech. This is not fair and in a way as individual citizens, it devalues our own voices.
Case in point: I can write a nice little comment here on good ol' Blue Oregon about free speech and money, but I cannot buy 30 seconds of airtime to blast all of Oregon with the same political message.
May 9, '10
To Paul's amendment suggestions, (and he quite clearly stated how improbable the odds were), I'd take a smaller bite, and go for one, two, and five.
Despite the long argument re union vs corporate, I'm pretty sure that any legislation targeting corps would also apply to unions, so the point seems moot.
As for five, it's the least defined of Paul's suggestions, but the point is taken that those who serve their nation directly (military or other volunteer opp) should be singled out for additional status in some way. Ties in nicely with the concept of Libertarian Paternalism, my favorite approach to governance in general.
May 9, '10
It has been my experience that even the loudest voices still fall on deaf ears sometimes.
May 9, '10
And as proof of that we have a new heal;thcare tax we get to start paying right away for enefits for everyone in 4 years or so. No doctors with time to see all of those people but they do have coverage now or soon. And all of that against the collective voices of a vast majority of americans ... all fallen upon deaf ears ...and big ears at that