Sunday, January 3, 2016

Campaign Finance Reform. Again.

Here is a list of things I care about, that I consider a moderate to high priority. Some things I may have forgotten, which doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re important, I just am not thinking about them right now:

Global Warming and Renewable Energy / Fuel Independence
Social Justice and Racial Equality
Veteran’s Services
Making Social Security Viable
Women’s Health (Planned Parenthood, Paid Family Leave, etc.)
Prison Reform
Drug Reform and Marijuana Legalization
Statehood for US Territories and Washington D.C.
Voting Rights and the Abolishment of ID Laws / Election Day as a Federal Holiday
Gun Reform
Immigration Reform
Scaling Back of Nuclear Stockpiles
Scaling Back of NSA Privacy Violations
Poverty and Homelessness
Abolishing the UN Security Council Veto and Joining the International Criminal Court
Debt – National, Credit Card, Student
Mental Health Treatment
Monsanto and Agribusiness
Judicial Election Reform
White Collar Crime
The Decline of the Public Domain
Income Inequality
Trustbusting and Breaking Up of Monopolies
National Endowment of the Arts
Native American Rights
Abolishment of the Death Penalty
Human Trafficking and Slavery
Guantanamo and Army Contractors
Sovereign Immunity / Supremacy Clause
Increasing UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Foreign Aid to Developing Nations
Education Reform – Removing Testing / Abolishing the SAT
Bank Interest Rates / Bank Reform / Wall Street Reform
Abolishing the Penny and the Nickel
Disallowing Gerrymandering and the Electoral College
LBTQ Discrimination Protection
Scaling Back the Military-Industrial Complex
Terrorism and TSA Overhaul
Preschool and Early Education
USDA and FDA Reform
EPA Strengthening
Increased Union Membership

Do you agree? Disagree? It doesn’t matter.

Not a bit. Because nothing will get done on any of this unless you deal with one issue:

Campaign Finance Reform

Until you get the money out of politics it doesn’t matter a whit. And as we’ve seen for the past however many years, nothing is getting done. Congress is breaking records for inaction.

There is so much that is important right now, it seems ridiculous to even prioritize.

And I don’t blame the politicians. To get reelected, under the current insanity, requires you raise a little over $10,000 a week. Every week. For two years.

That’s the average, and it’s insane. Ask yourself, gun to your head, where would you get $10,000?

You could ask family members and friends. They might be able to chip in a few hundred here, and thousand there (if you’re lucky). You may have some money socked away in your checking, or your savings. (I mean, something like 38 million of us are living paycheck to paycheck, and the national average for amount of cash on hand is only four grand, so…)

You can sell things. Cut off services – you don’t really need cable, or Netflix or whatever – this is important. You need this money, and every little bit helps. Pretend they’ll kill your child if they don’t get it, or something. The only option not available for you is loans – you can’t put it on a credit card or visit a loan company.

So let’s say, at the end of the week, you get the money. It was hard, but you scrounged up $10,000 – a quarter of the average American’s yearly income.

Great. Do it again.

What do you do? What can you do? You’ve already begged money from the people you know. You sold stuff, wiped out your bank accounts. How do you get $10,000 for the second week? And the third. And the fourth. And the next two years.

Even if you’re wealthy, let’s say you have $100,000 in savings to draw from, that still won’t even cover one year’s worth of campaign money. In fact it’ll only cover around two and half months, and by March you’re screwed. You need more money.

I don’t even blame the politicians.  Why do you think they get nothing done? Because they are fundraising all the time, because their political life depends on it. Of course they go to corporations and billionaires – who else could they even go to?

Whether grassroots or in the pocket of the billionaire class, either way, fundraising is the main issue our Representatives and Senators need to deal with. (Senators, of course, have to raise even more – a staggering $98,000 a week.)

That’s why I don’t care what’s important to you – the single most important thing that has to happen in America, if you want movement on anything (barring, perhaps, a direct act of war) is to fix campaign finance reform. Most Americans support this – but of course it can’t get done with Congress in the pockets of the wealthy, who enjoy the power and privilege their contributions create.

Justice Stevens proposed the following amendment to the US constitution:

“Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”

Elegantly phrased and simple. Solves the problem of Citizens United (allows corporations to spend unlimited quantities during campaigns) and McCutcheon (allows individuals to spend unlimited quantities during campaigns).

So. That is why Bernie Sanders doesn’t sound like a broken record to me, when he repeats the dire need for this change. Because he is addressing the fundamental problem – not the symptom, not the distractions. He is addressing the need to a fundamental change in how we do politics. It is the focus of his campaign, the focus of his website.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, says on her website she will “appoint Supreme Court Justices who value the right to vote over the right of billionaires to buy elections.” How, exactly? You don’t get to fire Supreme Court Justices. The only Justice who is likely to retire in the next four years is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and she always supported Campaign Finance Reform anyway. She does say she wants the constitutional amendment for Citizens United – she’s not a Republican, after all. But nowhere does she say she’d be willing to get rid of Super PACs – which predate Citizens United  in a decision called Buckley v. Valeo and which would still be able to raise mind-boggling quantities of cash. A system she is currently benefitting from.

Bernie doesn’t have a Super PAC, and wants to get rid of them as well. From his website: “That is why we must overturn, through a constitutional amendment, the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision as well as the Buckley v. Valeo decision.”

Do you care about… things? Do you want things to change? Anything? Then you need to fix campaign finance. And to do that properly, you need Bernie Sanders.

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