Saving Our Democracy from Corporate Rule

Polls show that most Americans think there is too much money in politics. A majority wants campaign finance reform. But there is plenty of disagreement on just what should be done to reform the system. The citizens’ lobby Common Cause, for example, favors public financing. But I don’t like public financing because I think it is unfair to force taxpayers to finance the campaigns of politicians they don’t want elected to office.

I sure wouldn’t want to see my money used to purchase TV time for a Nazi. Or for Sarah Palin. Nor would I want to subsidize Rupert Murdock. As his net worth has been estimated at $8.3 billion, that would seem particularly absurd in light of the difference between his financial resources and my own.

I think I have a better idea — a nine-point solution which could be made possible by amendments to the U.S. Constitution:

1. Limit political contributions to donations from individuals. Totally outlaw campaign contributions from corporations, unions, committees and other groups.

2. Place a cap on the amount of money any individual can donate to a candidate or party each year. A limit of — let’s say — $100 per person would assure that wealthy people have no more influence on their representatives than other individuals.

3. Reduce the tremendous costs of campaigns by providing for free and equal air time on television and radio for all qualified candidates for office. I find it nothing short of outrageous that commercial stations, which are licensed to use the public airwaves for private gain — but are supposed to do so in the public interest — charge candidates for public office to use the public’s own airwaves.

4. Limit these free campaign radio and television programs to broadcast within eight weeks prior to the election, thereby encouraging shortened campaign periods.

5. Outlaw the use of commercial advertising spots for political purposes. Candidates and ballot measures should not be sold like soda pop and hemorrhoid creams. This leads inevitably to the distortion of the truth and the demeaning of the political process.

6. Outlaw the use of paid signature gatherers to qualify candidates, political parties, propositions or measures for the ballot. This would greatly reduce the number of such measures to those which are sincerely desired by significant numbers of individuals.

7. Eliminate the Electoral College in favor of direct election of the president and vice president of the United States by the citizens.

8. Force the U.S. Senate to abide by majority rule on all votes, eliminating the totally undemocratic filibuster, which is not sanctioned by the Constitution in the first place.

9. Eliminate the totally undemocratic Presidential veto. One person should not be able to thwart the democratic will of both the House and Senate.

Will this ever happen?

If Congress can spend its time seriously considering such unneeded and silly amendments to the Constitution as outlawing flag-burning, which they have done repeatedly in the past, surely they can debate an amendment which would take our democracy back from the corporations and special interest groups. This is especially true now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution as it stands now allows corporations and other organizations to spend as much money as they want to influence politics. A Constitutional amendment is the only way of keeping our government one which is by, for, and of the people, and preventing corporate rule of our government as well as our economy.

But Congress is not likely to pass such proposed amendments, since congressmen and women are in their seats to begin with because they have succeeded at the corrupt system we now have in place. So these Constitutional amendments may have to take the other route specified by the Constitution but never yet used: A Constitutional Convention would have to be called by two-third of the legislatures of the States, and that Convention would have to propose these amendments. They would then be sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions.

For all this to happen the American people will have to finally wake up to the fact that real health care insurance reform, financial system overhaul, economic structural changes, and any other major reform, depends on this most basic of all reforms: getting rid of what Will Rogers famously called “the best Congress money can buy,” and turning our nation into a true democracy.

Fred Flaxman is the author of Sixty Slices of Life … on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster.



Filed under Campaign Finance Reform, Economy, Health Care Insurance, Politics

2 responses to “Saving Our Democracy from Corporate Rule

  1. Rev. Rick Brown

    Your solutions seem to limit free speech and my right to influence an election. Much less force private companies (broadcast) companies to subsidize the political process. Free speech is not the enemy. Why not simply take off the limitations on individuals and corporations but require the donations to be posted within 24 hours on the internet. Make it wide open and let the public decide if a given special interest has the politician in their pocket. The silly reforms supported by John McCain simply allowed evil people, especially freedom hating socialist to hide behind PAC’s. I tend to trust in freedom and liberty rather than any governments ability to care for me. Simply look no further than the incompetence of the professor Obama and I rest my case.

    • I’m all for free speech for individuals. Individuals vote in our society, not corporations. Corporate control of our nation is very dangerous and undemocratic, since we the people do not elect corporations and they are set up purely to make money (except for nonprofit corporations). Free speech is not free. It is very expensive these days and it is not fair to have corporations, with all their financial resources, compete with individuals.

      You and I can’t afford to purchase 30 seconds on CBS to advocate our point of view. Many corporations can and do, and they use this time to defeat measures that the majority of people want, such as a single-payer health care insurance system as in France. The French health care system is rated the best in the world by the U.N.

      Also you are wrong that socialists hate freedom. Your saying so does not make it so. You should back up your statements with rational arguments. Otherwise it is just childish, unconvincing name-calling.

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