21 June 2010

Reducing Corporate Influence on Politics

Well, this is embarrassing. I wrote this comment on the implications of corporate control of elections, based on reports last night that showed Prop 16 and 17 had passed; but I now see that late returns, many from Northern California, have tipped the balance and both propositions lost. So, chalk one up for you can't fool all the people all the time. Much of what I had to say here is applicable anyway.

No time just now for a lengthy comment, but I just wanted to say a few things about yesterday's election, especially to Californians, but also to folks living beyond our Golden Border. This isn't a left/right issue; it's a question of whether the people will rule or whether elections will be simply bought and sold. Representative Democracy or Elite Plutocracy •• the choice is that stark.

The passage yesterday of two wish-list bought-and-paid-for corporate initiatives here (one to ensure the perpetuation of the iron grip of monopoly by the State's largest investor-owned utility, PG&E, and the other a carefully crafted rate hike scheme by one of the state's largest auto insurers, Mercury Ins. Gp.) serve to illustrate two things, in my mind:

1.  The unfettered access to political influence now granted corporations in our political system nationwide, particularly in the wake of Citizens United v. F.E.C., is a catastrophe. We need to amend the constitution or get judges on the Supreme Court who will reverse this. We need to pass public campaign financing, and, as soon as the court's rulings will permit, severely limit if not eliminate the power of corporations to influence electoral politics.

2.  Unless No. 1 can be accomplished pretty neatly and quickly, the initiative process in California, hallowed progressive reform though it was, is now doing more harm than good and we need to consider amending the State Constitution to eliminate it... how about conditionally eliminating it, until such time as prohibitions on corporate financing of elections can be enforced?

Both of these propositions passed due to incredibly deceptive and mendacious corporate advertising blanketing the airwaves for weeks and weeks. PG&E, for example, outspent opponents to Prop. 16 by 511 to 1. In the face of this kind of power of money, rational discussion of the issues is completely lost in the cloud of misinformation and mendacious propaganda.

As another kind of example, the wonderfully simple initiative proposal put forth by George Lakoff, to eliminate 2/3 public and legislative supermajority vote requirements for budget and tax matters (which is quite literally crippling governance in this state), has likely failed (for the November ballot), for lack of corporate and party establishment support.

Not entirely relevant to the above, except that the PG&E ballot initiative (Prop 16) was falsely advertised as a "power to the people" law when in fact it requires one of these 2/3 supermajorities whenever a local jurisdiction wants to challenge its monopoly, here's my utopian proposal for an Initiative Constitutional Amendment:

Sec. 1.  No election, and no vote of the legislature, or of any other legislative body in this state, shall require more than a simple majority vote for passage. All provisions of the constitution and laws of this state to the contrary are repealed by this provision with immediate effect, with simple majority voting requirements deemed substituted for the supermajority votes specified in such provisions. Neither the legislature nor the electorate shall make any law which shall require more than a simple majority vote for passage in any election or vote of the legislature or other legislative body in this state.

Sec. 2.  [Definition of "legislative body"]

Call it the "Restore Majority Rule Initiative." Of course, my expansion of Lakoff's idea to all laws governing all lawmaking bodies stands no chance of ever passing, because the vast power of corporate wealth would and will stand in opposition. The status quo benefits them, so why would they cede power back to the electorate?

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