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The New Moderate Witnesses the 99% Declaration (Part 1 of 2)

July 7, 2012

Disclaimer: The New Moderate is not affiliated with this organization.

On the Fourth of July, 2012, Philadelphia felt more like Calcutta.  Oppressive humidity. Temperature in the upper 90s at three in the afternoon. Blazing, blistering sunlight that caused pedestrians to compete for the few shady spots on Independence Mall, the long green rectangle that stretches from the ultramodern National Constitution Center toward 260-year-old spire-topped Independence Hall . 

We were standing almost (but unfortunately, not quite) in the shadow of that beloved brick pile where a flock of noteworthy Dead White Males adopted an equally noteworthy document exactly 236 years before. Even a shadow cast by the nearby Wells Fargo bank building would have offered some welcome relief. But no… shadows were in short supply this afternoon as we waited to hear the 99% Declaration. Only mad dogs, tourists and crazed American patriots would venture out on a day like this.

If you haven’t heard of the 99% Declaration, you’re not alone.  The motley campers of Occupy Wall Street have garnered far more publicity, though their goals are nebulous, their leadership questionable and their methods more annoying than effective. The 99% Declaration, on the other hand, had set its sights on drawing up a legitimate, finely-tuned Petition for the Redress of Grievances, in keeping with a little-known clause in the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I had no idea we could air our grievances directly to the government with the purpose of obtaining redress. Maybe you didn’t, either. Never in our lifetimes has there been a more urgent need to make our grievances known. As the big banks and corporations gain a stranglehold on American life and politics, a petition legally submitted to the three branches of government could prove to be our most vital bulwark against a sweeping plutocratic takeover.

Such a petition could represent American democracy’s last stand against the pervasive power of big money. It’s an issue that should engage concerned citizens from the left, right and center, because it transcends the natural biases of partisan politics. It’s about honesty, transparency, clean government. It’s about restoring a system that represents all the people, not simply those with the deepest pockets.

The 99% Declaration leaders decided to draw up their list of grievances at an assembly of elected delegates (two from each Congressional district plus the U.S. territories and other possessions, for a total of 878). As a bold and fitting gesture that all American history buffs could love, they christened their assembly Continental Congress 2.0.  Their goal: to “reboot” American democracy. In Philadelphia, of course.  Culminating with a public reading of the grievances on July 4 within sight of Independence Hall. How could anyone with a stake in the American Experiment resist? 

In stirring language reminiscent of Jefferson’s indictment of King George III in the Declaration of Independence, the 99% Declaration made its purpose clear:

THE PEOPLE through these non-partisan locally elected Delegates shall gather to condemn and demand redress from the individuals currently in control of the United States government. We denounce the entrenched politicians and lobbyists:

-for engaging in all manner of corrupt practices to remain in office at any cost, attain money and accrue personal power;

-for continuously violating the public’s trust and general welfare of the People of the United States of America by auctioning public policy to the highest bidder;

-for abandoning the precious covenant between those who govern and the People based upon an oath to protect and defend our Constitution;

-for placing petty partisan political interests above all other concerns including the short and long term interests of the People of the United States of America and the very continuation of this planet as a viable ecosystem for our children; and

-for failing to govern with integrity, equity and ethics absent all self-serving conflicts of interest.

This was heady stuff, resoundingly righteous and full of portent. The 99% Declaration website went on to enumerate the proposed grievances that Continental Congress 2.0 would consider, debate and refine — from “Corporations are not people” and “Money is property not speech” to “Protecting consumers from predatory practices on Wall Street and Main Street,” “Ending perpetual war for profit” and the more mundane  but ever-relevant “Term limits.”

Campaign finance reform, tax reform, protection of the environment, fiscal responsibility, immigration reform, veterans’ benefits and student loan relief all loomed large on the list. This was responsible radicalism, grounded in respect for traditional American values but concerned, as so many of us are, that something has gone seriously awry in the republic.

So why the scanty press coverage for Continental Congress 2.0? Even the Philadelphia Inquirer didn’t bother to send a reporter to the public reading of grievances on the Fourth of July.

Chalk it up to inadequate publicity, poor funding, an unfortunate falling-out with the Occupy Wall Street crowd or perhaps the group’s odd penchant for privacy. Their sessions excluded the public, and even independent bloggers (like me, for instance) were turned away at the door.

I found it ironic that a populist group would limit press attendance to credentialed members of the elite corporate media. But I did manage to grab the attention of Robert Manning, head of the group’s steering committee. A soft-spoken but persuasive gray-haired gentleman in shorts, he apologized for the restrictive admission policy and filled me in on the proceedings.

Manning lamented that a rift that had grown between his group and Occupy Wall Street. It’s a long story: the 99% Declaration was the brainchild of a lawyer named Michael Pollok who worked with a small group of OWS protesters in New York. The Huffington Post promptly published the Declaration, citing it as an official OWS document. The OWS leadership took umbrage, blamed the 99% Declaration people and effectively banished them from the “Occupy” movement. Since then, the two groups have made overtures toward repairing the rift.

But Manning told me about a recent radio interview in which he and an OWS representative were made to sound like carping adversaries, egged on by a sly interviewer who wanted to spark an on-air feud (presumably for the sensationalism and the ratings). Manning admitted that his group was struggling for funding, and that he had contributed a few thousand dollars of his own money to rent the hall at the Convention Center. Contributions to the group aren’t considered tax-deductible because of its classification as a 501(c)(4) — a special nonprofit status reserved for political activist organizations.

Worst of all, the public call for delegates met with a muted response: instead of the maximum head count of 878, less than a tenth of that number actually showed up in Philadelphia for Continental Congress 2.0. Cold reality, as it too often does, had bumped up against the impossible dream.

(In Part 2: The New Moderate attends the rally at Independence Mall on the Fourth of July and witnesses the public reading of the Grievances.)

83 Comments leave one →
  1. George Dokoupil permalink
    July 7, 2012 10:58 am

    Anyone who doubts the importance of this movement and its critical timing to reinstate Democracy in this Country has their head in the sand. If something is not done by the majority, and very soon, the United States of America will officially become the United Corporations of America, where workers are indentured servants and the only possibility of restitution of the Constitution will be revolution. This is no exaggeration. We are on the precipice of destruction, environmentally, morally, and socially..For those who still doubt, listen to one of many voices defining the decline of this Nation

    • July 7, 2012 2:11 pm

      Hahaha… reality is quite the opposite of what you would like it to be.

      Movements are only important if they have actual followings. This one doesn’t, and the Occupy movement is fizzling faster than the Tea Party. There are a long list of reasons why, but among them is this childish labeling of 99%. A middle-schooler who’s interested in politics could tell you that almost nothing has the support of 99% of the American people.

      99%ers pretend like they have geometrically more support among the wider
      American public than they actually do. If it were true, that hall would have been full, the press would have been all over it and

      If they really want to make sense, they should call it the 60%ers, or some number near that that reflects the long standing provable idea that the American people stand together on every major issue, at or above super-majority numbers. All you have to do is strip away the spin, the fictional idea that there is only a choice between extreme position A and extreme position B, and you see that the American people are united in ideals… and neither party is with us anymore.

      99%ers don’t get that. They don’t care. They don’t represent anyone by maybe 20 or so percent. They’re not important. They’re Don Quoxote, without even a donkey to ride on.

      • George Dokoupil permalink
        July 7, 2012 3:05 pm

        Hahaha? Solomon, you are entitled to your opinion and I mine. While I agree 99% is not an accurate number, it is a trademark representing the majority. This particular movement, the Continental Congress 2.0 isn’t part of the Occupy movement, so please don’t confuse the two with each other.
        Obviously you didn’t view the video I linked to.
        As for extreme position A and B, this is no exaggeration. You only need see what’s going on at every level of the political structure in the US and world, the state of individual freedom and the recently enacted laws to suppress it, the rulings of the Supreme Court favoring the !5, which you omitted mentioning, the source of Congressional legislation being written by lobbyists and special interest groups like ALEC, the domestic and strategic placement of drone bases, the training and equipping of a para military police force, the disenfranchisement of voters, the anti immigration movement, the depletion of middle class assets and income, the wholesale destruction of the environment, and on and on and you would have to be completely brain dead to miss the extremes in all of this.
        Naturally I have no way of knowing if your comment was intended as a serious rebuttal to mine or if you’re just being a wise guy, but I’m guessing you have relatives who could set you straight about just how serious and how extreme the current situation in this country is.
        Now consider this, the CC 2.0 in many ways emulates the exact process and steps taken by the Founding Fathers that gave this Nation Independence from the very same corporate greed and tyranny we now face. That lead to a violent revolution where the Corporation and Tyrant lost. This was accomplished by a citizenry with scant resources and questionable zeal at times. How much more is the citizenry able to execute a similar revolution these days? Certainly there are far more resources, and more then enough military trained citizens that could accomplish what our Founding Fathers did and more. With the potential of such a threat, don’t you think it’s feasible that the media was “instructed” to avoid giving publicity to this movement? Don’t you think it odd that the Occupy movement disavowed itself from the 99declaration over an “error” in reporting on the part of the Huffington Post?
        Did you ever consider the possibility of some level of collusion, at least at the leadership level of the Occupy movement, with certain Captains of Finance and Industry? Occupy, for all it’s chaos and turmoil, hasn’t changed a thing, and actually served as a great diversion while Wall Street and Banks resumed their gambling and control of the Federal Reserve and Congress. Had you considered the possibility it was just a ruse, using the enthusiasm of many to make many more resume their complacency, thinking that Occupy was in fact representing the voice of the majority and would effect change from their protests?
        I guess these are not events you would contribute to reality, but rather to fiction.
        Before you respond however, ask those who survived the rise of Stalin and the Nazis how many had the same attitude you do in those countries.
        Ask how many of then thought what was occurring was funny.
        I certainly do not enjoy writing any of this, but I call it as I see it, and our future is a dark one indeed if things continue unchecked. JMHO.

      • July 9, 2012 5:04 pm

        George/Solomon: It’s unfortunate that the use of “99%” in the title is causing us to quibble and lose sight of more important issues. Even the people involved in Continental Congress 2.0 are bickering over the “99%” label, to judge from the comments in their online forum.

        I don’t think anyone literally believes that the declaration of grievances represents the opinions of 99% of the population. (Heck, probably a good 20% of the population has no opinion whatsoever.) It’s a recognizable “brand,” that’s all. It implies “populist,” which I think is valid… because these grievances represent the concerns of millions of ordinary citizens who have watched the hijacking of our democracy by privileged interests.

        I don’t agree with all the grievances, but I endorse the list as a focused, eloquent, potentially productive and historic gesture that makes a lot more sense than camping out in the street en masse like the Occupy crowd. I just wish the 99% Declaration people were getting more press coverage than the scruffy OWS campers. They deserve it.

  2. dhlii permalink
    July 7, 2012 2:43 pm

    The 99% declaration is fine – though I think it confuses effects with causes, this becomes more obvious when you get past the declaration and into enumerated grevienaces.

  3. dhlii permalink
    July 7, 2012 3:04 pm

    But the drivel among enumerated grievances is tiresome.

    Lets say there was a constitutional amendment that corporations were not people.
    Would that mean that shareholders are no longer people either ? could we then place whatever limits we chose on unions, churches (beyond narrowly practicing their religion), newspapers beyond publishing facts. Could we deprive any group or organization of rights that we accept for individuals ? People do not lose their rights in groups.

    Lets say there was a constitutional amendment that money was property and not speech.
    It the only thing protected by free speech the sounds directly emanating from our mouths ? Does the right to free speech preclude government from limiting our right to speak by limiting the means, place, time of speaking ? Can government say you are only free to speak at home, at 3am, under the bed, about apple crisps ? The right to free speech precludes government for restricting speech indirectly. The only purpose money has in a political campaign is to allow a candidate to speak their message to the largest possible audience. The demand to limit political contributions is specifically intended to prevent political speech. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are not gathering war-chests of hundreds of millions of dollars so that they can buy lots of apple danish. Every group or individual making a political contribution is doing so for the purpose of getting their message to voters. Corporations and Money were tangential issues to Citizens United. The fundimental question was could government prevent political speech int he context of an election. How can you not grasp that the answer to that MUST be no, or there is no such thing as free speech. If you can not prevent someone from conveying their message, then you can not deprive them of the means to do so. You can not say, you can speak, but not on TV. Or you can speak on TV, but only if you do not buy airtime.
    Or individuals can speak, but not groups,

    • July 9, 2012 5:19 pm

      Dave: I think the fundamental problem is that money is capable of swinging election results, and that it’s unfair for big-money interests to heap piles of cash behind their favorite candidates, since airtime can be bought in proportion to the amount of money at one’s disposal. In other words, the Supreme Court has opened the door for big money to buy elections, and that’s just not acceptable.

      I can understand how you might construe a limitation on corporate spending as a limitation on free speech, but speech isn’t supposed to be a function of financial resources. Aside from newspapers, there were no mass media back in the days of the Founding Fathers; I can’t believe they would have approved of plutocrats and corporations tipping election results in their own favor. (Of course, we didn’t even have popular elections in those days, so they couldn’t have anticipated this kind of big-money influence.)

      If I were in charge, I’d ban the use of mass media for all campaign advertising (the way we ban advertising for cigarettes) and let candidates duke it out in televised debates and other media forums. Let’s face it: all campaign advertising, left and right, is nothing more than propaganda heavily distorted in favor of the candidate being sponsored. Banning it would create a level playing field, and a candidate’s success wouldn’t be based on the amount of money raised by his campaign.

  4. July 7, 2012 3:20 pm

    The stranglehold that powerful interests have over government will exist so long as government has the power to serve their interests.

    Part of what disturbs me most about these claims, is that they are inconsistent.

    Wall Street and Banks should not be allowed to influence government, but Unions should.
    Pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies strongly supported PPACA – once they got what they wanted. Is PPACA bad because it has the support of Healthcare corporations ? Is the NLRB evil because it serves unions ? Should teachers, or police or firefighters be prohibited for advancing their interests with government ? NARAL ? NOW ? MoveON ?

    Is profit the determining factor ? But every group is ultimately seeking their own self-interests – profit. So corporate profits are individual profits in the form of higher wages are good ?

    Another name for “The perpetual war for profits” is each of us seeking what is best for us.

    If you are perfectly happy as you are, When you have no unmet needs or wants, then the perputual war for profit will come to an end – and not before.

    One of the fallacies of Keynesian economics is that it pretend that economics is not about people.

    Everything about economics is about people. All economic activity in all forms is about providing people with what they want and need. Production is about creating what others want an need so that we can have what we want and need.

    When you say you despise corporate profits, you are saying that people should have less of what they want and need and be happy about it.

    • pearows permalink
      July 8, 2012 7:49 pm

      I very much agree with Dave/Asmith/dhlii on this point. The incessant carping against corporate greed, without acknowledgment of union greed, government greed…..hell, greed in general….drives me crazy. Plus, greed is not the same thing as corruption, and it should be corruption that reformers target, as opposed to targeting those with the desire to make a lot of money (a majority of us, I would guess – maybe even 99%).

      Liberals do not seem to have much perspective on this, and it hurts all attempts at meaningful reform, because all the focus is on class anger and envy, ignoring the fact that political elites and their supporters also enrich themselves through greed and corruption. Not only that, but greedy corporations cannot mandate taxpayers to buy products or take taxpayer money by force. Until the recent reforms enacted by Scott Walker, public employees in Wisconsin had to have their union dues deducted from their paychecks and sent directly to union treasuries, where the money was used to help elect Democrat politicians. Employees didn’t have a choice as to whether their money would be used in this way. It was a corrupt partnership, driven by greed. Yet the media focused primarily on the fact that this would hurt public employess, because their unions would have a harder time electing politicians who would continue funneling money to the them. Greed?

      • July 9, 2012 8:42 pm

        Prior to Walker, Wisconsin was running a $3B dollar deficit. The majority of that was in education. One of the most important aspects of his reforms was that Teachers unions no longer had iron control over benefits.
        One of the less publicized facts what that a substantial portion of teachers benefits were paid to and provided by businesses setup by the teachers unions, as teachers contracts specified that services would be provided by specific entities there was no cost control.
        Wisconsin has saved $800m just in teachers benefits – without actually cutting the benefits, just by being able to competitively bid insurance and pensions. Further the winning bids have almost entirely been from the same entities that provided the benefits in the first place – only now at market prices.

        Teachers themselves should be up in arms that their unions were using them to enrich cronies.

      • July 9, 2012 8:48 pm

        For the record i have no problem with unions.
        They are an example of one way in which the free market sorts out problems.

        But I do have a problem with Government putting its finger on the scales whether favoring employers or employees.

        The sole role of government in labor negotiations should be in preventing violence by either side.

        Workers should be free to join a union or not. Unions should be free to exclude non-union employees from any benefits they negotiate.
        Employers should be free to use whatever labor they can get in their businesses.

        Private sector unions are at a nadir right now because non-union employers treat their employees far better than in the past. That could change.

    • July 9, 2012 5:22 pm

      I’m not enamored of our unions, believe me. They were essential a century ago, but they became coercive and probably influenced corporations to outsource instead of coping with their often ridiculous demands.

      • July 9, 2012 9:04 pm

        I believe in freedom. I believe people should be free to join any organization they wish – including a labor union. I believe that unions should be free to seek whatever they wish. Government has not role except keeping the peace.

        But real freedom means you always have to watch out because everyone else is free to. Employers are free to go elsewhere. Members are free to leave.

        If you allow government to create a situation where unions are free to succeed, but not free to fail, you create the very kinds of monopoly and cartels you are so worried about among business.

        Sustained monopoly or cartels do not happen naturally – which is not to say that people do not try, only that absent government support no monopoly or cartel is long lived.

        It does not matter whether we are talking about labor, or management or whatever other groups and classes you are trying to divide people into.
        So long as everyone is free, self-interest will be self regulating by the fact that if you make your price too high there will always be someone else willing to do your job for less, or make your product cheaper.
        The route to profits – for business as for labor is to be productive – to provide the best value. Businesses and labor are both paid based on how difficult and costly it would be to create the same thing elsewhere.

      • pearows permalink
        July 10, 2012 7:28 am

        Private sector union demands have absolutely forced corporations to outsource and offshore, not to mention close down operations entirely. But, at least the private sector can still make those decisions, difficult and destructive to jobs as they are.

        But what I am talking about, Rick, are public sector unions, which are bankrupting our municipalities, cities and states through sweetheart deals negotiated with politicians (usually Democrats) who have been elected largely due to huge financial backing from the very unions that they are negotiating with. So, in essence, these police,fire, teachers and government worker’s unions essentially “own” the politicians that they are “negotiating” with…..and they have bought them with dues money taken from taxpayer-funded salaries of the union members. I read recently that the percentage of retired NY state employees with pensions of $100K or more is 45%. And huge deficits and pension obligations have already caused 2 California towns to declare bankruptcy.

        When it comes to money corrupting politics, the public employee unions are at least as culpable as any corporation – until we come to terms with that fact, no serious reforms can be enacted.

      • July 10, 2012 10:11 am

        Dave: I wonder why our private-sector unions didn’t self-correct and scale back their wage demands when it became clear that companies were going above their heads and outsourcing jobs to Asia.

        Priscilla: You’re right… I didn’t address the budget-sapping demands of public-sector unions. I’ve talked about those huge pensions before, and they’re definitely putting government at all levels on a fast track to bankruptcy. We tend to sympathize with “underpaid” teachers and other public servants who don’t make corporate-level salaries, but when they retire, they’re essentially on Easy Street for life while the rest of us have to scrape by on our dwindling portfolios. I suspect that the system wasn’t prepared for the increased life spans made possible in our time. Back when the average person lived to be 65, a lifetime pension wasn’t a big deal. Now it’s definitely a big deal.

  5. July 7, 2012 4:02 pm

    Political symetry that TNM is routinely blind to.

  6. July 7, 2012 4:23 pm

    What is important to note here is two things. First, the Declaration re-asserts the rights of the people to be heard as part of the governing process, the very reason we are an independent country and not a British commonwealth. Second, it addresses precisely in what sectors the government has failed its people. Unfortunately, there is a third noteworthy item–that there is too much complaint and too little interest in action on the part of Americans, as represented by the scant showing of official delegates. I can’t help but wonder how far the original Declaration of Independence would have gotten if they needed to register as a political activist organization to get support for its work…

    • July 9, 2012 5:24 pm

      Well said, Ellie. I like the idealistic yet focused approach of this group. It’s what was missing from the Occupy protests. I still can’t believe how little coverage they received.

      • July 9, 2012 7:40 pm

        Nothing showed up in the media here on the Left Coast. If it weren’t for your blog, I would have known nothing about this movement. They really need to publicize. Perhaps if they had made the meeting open, that would have been a good start. Otherwise, they seem like just another clandestine group that is seeking to overthrow the government instead of making it better.

  7. AMAC permalink
    July 7, 2012 7:37 pm

    I have not been off this site for a while. I enjoyed the article. I was not familiar with the subject of the article. I will have to do a little research. I am familiar with the OWS movement and I am glad to see them garnering less attention. I hope this movement is more organised and succesful! I like the idea and support any measure seeking to reduce or eliminate the influence of money on our elected officials. The problem is much more complicated than most assume. Un-classifying corporations as people is one step in the right direction, but will not solve the problem. Special interest groups have been finding ways to fill the pockets of our politicians for quite a while. I have heard some good ideas through this site, from Rick and posters. I hope that in my lifetime I will see some of them enacted. Too bad it is too much to ask our political officials not to be corrupted! I wish we could reform the government to a pseudo-Athenian democracy. We could create a new legislature made from the combination of elected officials and randomly selected citizens from congressional districts. 1 year terms for appointees and 2 year terms for elected positions. Sounds crazy, but maybe it could work! I will try to stay up with The New Moderate. I am assuming a new teaching position and working on my own education, as well.

    • July 9, 2012 5:27 pm

      Welcome back, AMAC! I think the biggest obstacle, besides the lack of media coverage, is that it’s simply not in the interests of Congress to adopt most of these grievances… why would they vote against their own interests? We have to think of some extra leverage (short of violence) that we can use to “persuade” them.

  8. July 7, 2012 7:43 pm

    Campaign financing reform and term limits are the crucial elements in eliminating the corrupting effects of lobbyists and political careerists, that have hijacked our government. Money IS property, it is NOT speech. These are great concepts, and we can’t rely on a poorly organized fringe group that’s been marginalized by the media to be the water carrier. How CAN we make these changes occur? Let’s start brainstorming on this blog. The only thing I know to do personally, is to state unequivocally that I will not vote for any candidate who won’t make term limits his number one legislative priority. Other ideas?

    • AMAC permalink
      July 8, 2012 12:15 pm

      I like the idea of 1 six year term for each house of congress. I also think their needs to be an option every year, by vote of the respective district, to end or continue the term. This would not by an election, only a vote of wether or not to allow the represenative to continue the term. This would be a measure of accountability would replace re-election. I think this would reduce corruption and increase accountability.

    • pearows permalink
      July 8, 2012 1:32 pm

      RP, in recent years I have come full circle on the idea of term limits. For a long time, I opposed it, in the naive belief that the voters should impose term limits on politicians that failed to adequately represent their will…..but, in this age of professional politicians (think of how many elected representatives have never had any career BUT politics), I no longer think that is a realistic or viable belief. I do think that it is important that, when imposing any term limits, we insist that our representatives not be permitted to become wealthy as public servants, by using their insider knowledge and influence to grab the money and run, which, under our current system, would be hard to prevent. A first step against profiteering might be to require that politicians place all of their holdings in blind trusts for the duration of their term. Certainly, there is the concern that these trusts are not really “blind” enough, but I can’t think of a better way.

      • July 8, 2012 6:35 pm

        Perhaps blind trusts would be helpful–but so much more is necessary if we want to take financial prostitution out of the equation for getting elected, and staying in office. A friend of mine is running for the Senate. I look at it from his perspective. A very successful life led to his being considered to run with the party’s backing (at least he’s not a lawyer). From the moment he accepted, there was a blizzard of professional political staff brought in to launder his opinions on various issues into acceptable sound bites . Obtaining money from supporters was huge, and the seriousness of his campaign was equated to the money raised, and often reported by the local newspaper. If elected, he has promised to be a one term senator. But most other persons running for office are faced not only with the monumental task of raising the money necessary to be elected, but also fulfilling obligations to the larger donors, and building a war chest for the next election. If they want financial backing from their political party next time around, they have to toe the party line on votes. Between pleasing donors, lobbyists, political action interests (unions, ethnic and religious interests etc.) and the political party they are affiliated with, where do America’s best interests emerge. Those that feel that money is the same as speech, have things just the way they want them. Those of us who think our representatives in government should respond to a higher calling, need to figure out how to get the money out of politics. Anybody have some more ideas?

    • Andy Tonti permalink
      July 9, 2012 10:20 am

      I have an explanation to your observation. Holding political office for as long as possible is
      the goal for the majority of politicains at the federal level because it enables their particular
      party to consolidate its agenda of power and influence in American society. It’s a monstrously control issue!!!

      • Andy Tonti permalink
        July 9, 2012 10:23 am

        Sorry RP, this was my response to an excerpt from your previous posting”

        “The only thing I know to do personally, is to state unequivocally that I will not vote for any candidate who won’t make term limits his number one legislative priority. Other ideas?”

    • July 9, 2012 5:29 pm

      RP: Somehow we have to criminalize the flow of money from corporations and lobbyists to elected representatives. It might have to be worked out through the judicial system or a Constitutional amendment, because Congress sure ain’t voting for it.

  9. July 8, 2012 2:03 pm

    I would disagree on the second part.

    The responsibilities of government are narrow and limited.
    Government is not there to and can not fix every thing that goes wrong in the world.
    Power corrupts. We should not be surprised that as government power increases government corrupts further.

    The left praises democracy then bemoans that ordinary people are too stupid to govern themselves.
    We are not stupid, just different. Unlimited Democracy does not work. If every aspect of life requires government action and political consensus – we will starve.
    Freedom, means the freedom to act on your own, in ways that others, even the majority would not approve, so long as others share the same freedom to act.
    Freedom is inherently undemocratic. All government power is at the expense of freedom.
    Every government benefit is at the expense of freedom.

    Conversely it is supposed to be hard – extremely hard to get government to act. That is precisely what our founders intended. Right or wrong they created a powerful government while deliberately allowing special interests to hamstring it everywhere possible.
    They did not intend government to address every whim of the current majority.
    They intended it to be very hard to use the power of government.

    We have spent the past two centuries dismantling those impediments to government action in the mistaken belief that a powerful government is our salvation.

    The mistake in this declaration is the false perception that government is the answer to any of our problems. Government is the root cause.
    It is not the inability of government to act that endangers our future. It is the inability of government to clean up the mess it has created.

    • Andy Tonti permalink
      July 9, 2012 10:30 am

      “The mistake in this declaration is the false perception that government is the answer to any of our problems. Government is the root cause. It is not the inability of government to act that endangers our future. It is the inability of government to clean up the mess it has created.”

      But let us not forget that money can and does buy government influence, and this is one of the issues that has contributed to the vast inequity in wealth between socioeconomic classes, if you will.

      • July 9, 2012 5:30 pm

        Amen, Andy!

      • July 9, 2012 11:18 pm

        You are not rebutting my argument but reinforcing it.
        First it is still the power of government and the use of that power that are the cause of the problems you claim.
        And the solution is to limit government power.

        If you are greatly concerned about income inequality and you believe the root cause of that is the ability of the rich to buy government influence.
        Then reduce the power of government and if you are correct about the causes of inequality you will reduce inequality. Even if you do not reduce inequality – you will still have done a good thing.

        I think we are all in agreement that no one should be able to profit specifically by exercising influence over government.
        But the ends – eliminating government corruption, do not justify any means.
        None of us see clear quid pro quo for political contributions as acceptable.
        Find one and I will be happy to join you in locking up all parties.
        Though I would note that the greater crime is that of the public servant who has a clear public duty they are breaching.

        Regardless, no one attempts to bribe the janitor. Buying influence is a misnomer – what is being done is buying power.

        It is inconsequential how much money is spent to elect a congressmen – if they had little power to wield, or if that power was so difficult to wield it required near unanimity among a plethora of diverse special interests
        The latter is what our founders attempted to create and what we have subsequently lost.

      • July 9, 2012 11:34 pm

        Even accepting your argument that income inequality is the direct result of buying congressional influence – though still and issue, it is inconsequential among all the failures of government.

        Oil subsidies – which often are not really subsidies, but still total about $41B/year. I believe agricultural subsidies are $37B/year. Large numbers and ones that we should do something about, but all corporate subsidies and all earmarks (which often government to government subsidies), amount to less than the shortfall in medicare this year.

        I am sure you can find some way to blame that on political contributions, but I think most of us grasp that as almost pure government failure.

        I will be happy to get behind anyone’s effort to reduce or eliminate any way in which government actually confers a special benefit to political contributors – i will be happy to eliminate any special benefit government confers regardless of the beneficiaries status as a political contributor.

        You will still be left with 80-90% of the current deficit, and just about every single political problem we have today.

        PPACA is an attempt to repair decades of expensive failed government policy in healthcare and heatlh insurance that dwarfs any mess the market has ever made. As the instances of government cleaning up the messes it has made are few and far between – and all have been accomplished by getting OUT of that market, I can see zero reason to expect what that government efforts to solve the problems it has made will do anything besides make them worse.

        Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

  10. July 9, 2012 8:22 pm

    The traditional liberal – atleast in the old fashioned sense, remedy for offensive speech, is more speech. There have been numerous groups from the pink wall, to motorcylce gans and 9 year olds counter protesting Westboro Baptist Church wherever they go. They are typically outnumbered two to one.

    I am having trouble grasping some of the logic behind some of the arguments regarding money in politics.

    i will have no problem agreeng that more political contributions will mean more political adds. And I share a distaste for most political advertising. At the same time I grasp that whether I like them or not political adds are speech.

    Is someone here that is arguing that political adds are not speech ?
    Is someone arguing that we can regulate anything about actual political advertisements ?

    I think you will find that the entire supreme court considers political advertisement not only an exercise of free speech, but that political speech is the most strongly protected of every one of our constitutional rights.

    Further, Citizens United had nothing to do with political contributions.

    Though in theory the results of the decision could have allowed greater contributions to candidates – more of the corporate political bribery you are all so worried about. In fact that has not happened. direct contributions to candidates are at or below the levels of 2008.

    What has changed is independent expenditures.

    What has changes is that more voices – voices not controlled by politicians or parties, are speaking their mind during the election.

    These groups like Unions and MoveOn can raise whatever money they wish, and spend it saying whatever they wish.

    I should think moderates would see this as anti-corruption.

    If the thesis that money corrupts politicians is correct, then those mega donors buying 100,000 plates at Obama or Romney dinners clearly expect a return on their investment. Candidates know exactly who their direct donors are.

    Conversely independent advertisments are – independent. While they sometimes advocate for a candidate, they nearly universally advocate for issues, specific solutions to problems.

    More speech, particularly more independent speech is the remedy for speech you do not like.

    • AMAC permalink
      July 9, 2012 11:30 pm

      As far as I am concerned, the argument is not what the money is being used for by the politicians. The problem with the money is that whomever has the most, has the advantage in a given election (whether primary or general). The big money is given from corporation or groups representing corporations based on which candidate will give them the greatest advantage. These politicians will return favors for that money or risk their re-election chances. The middle class cannot match dollar for dollar with corporate super PACS to have an equal voice in the direction of government. So because of this donation, corporate needs take priority over the individuals. Politicians are being help accountable not by us, but by companies and super PACS. Short of stripping politicians of almost all powers (which I do not agree with), limiting and regulating the contributions is the best way to address the problem.

      • July 9, 2012 11:54 pm

        Do political advertisements regularly change your vote ?
        If not why are you complaining.

        If they have, did you later come to believe you were lied to ?
        If not why are you complaining ?

        Aside from a tiny fraction of administrative costs, the only thing political campaigns do is speak – that is what the money is for.

        If we cut all political spending by every candidate to 10% of what it currently is, would that change the outcome of any election ?
        would Nader or the communists or even libertarians get more votes ?

        BTW “Corporate Super PAC” is a misnomer. less than 1/2% of all contributions to Supper PAC are from publicly traded corporations.

        Do you really see the current election as vastly different from 2008, or 2004 or 2000 in terms of corporate political influence ?
        The presidential elections from about 1976 through to 2008 (except for Obama) were funded using public matching funds. Candidates received 50% of their funding from the government but in return they had to limit the amount and sources of political contributions. This is a pretty close approximation of the Utopian system that you seem to want.
        I see no evidence that it was better in way than that what we have now, and what we have had for all offices besides president.

        While the regulation was voluntary – any candidate could opt out as Pres. Obama did in 2008 and probably both candidates will this year, the limits and regulations were probably as draconian as you would wish.

        Again, the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result.

      • AMAC permalink
        July 10, 2012 2:12 pm

        Do you honestly believe that money does not effect elections? Is that really your belief, or does it just conflict with you idealogical dogma? I guess politicians have been just wasting their time fundraising, right?

  11. July 9, 2012 8:34 pm

    Lets assume for the moment that political advertisements were free or fairly cheap.

    We will still be bombarded constantly with political adds between now and the election – so that would no change. Maybe the mix and orientation would, change but in all likelyhood it would not. So except for the possibility that there would be even more offensive political adds between now and the election little would change.

    Would that be acceptable to you ?

    If not then you need to come to grips with the fact that you are not upset about money, you are upset that you can not control the message. You are seeking to restrict speech.

    If that is acceptable to you, then you have a different problem. Since Citizens united drastically increased independent adds at the expense of party and candidate adds, the corrosive influence of political contributions has been diminished rather than increased.

    The more indirectly a candidate receives their assistance, the greater control the person with the money has on the message, the less their control on the candidate.

    Anit-Fracking Groups, Anti-PPACA groups, Pro-whatever groups, have gotten exactly what they paid for – they have gotten their message out. Candidates are far less beholden to independent groups, than direct donors.

    Regardless, It is not possible to be opposed to independent political expenditures without being opposed to political speech in nearly its purest form.

    • Andy Tonti permalink
      July 10, 2012 12:30 pm

      I believe you can voluntarily elect to contribute some $$ amount to a universal electioneering fund from your federal tax return, but how about legislating a mandatory contribution set at
      a fraction of a percent of your gross earnings, and maintaining this “pool” of contributions
      through a non-partisan office in the Treasury Dept. Would this offset the acceptance of
      political contributions from PAC.s, Super PAC’s, and the uber-rich, and allow lesser-funded candidates a chance to continue campaigning?

  12. July 9, 2012 10:42 pm

    I would be happy to join in supporting various options to limit the terms of politicians.
    I believe it would require a constitutional amendment

    I would suggest a lifetime limit of a total of 18 years for members of congress and the president. This allows one term in the senate and two as president or other such combinations, but no more than 18years total.

    I would also suggest that the winner of every election must have a
    at-least 50% + (1% of the vote, or twice the margin of error in the count) whichever is higher or the election must be reheld. I would even require that to award electoral college delegates in each state.

    That would eliminate the numerous contentiousness of all these razor thin victories, and recounts . I recall in 2008. Minnesota and Georgia had very close elections.
    Georgia had a law requiring a new election, that was held quickly the results were decisive, there were no lawyers and courts, and no wondering how corrupt the courts and the election officials were. Re-vote clear results, move on.
    While minesota drug on for almost a year, votes magically appeared and disappeared, the courts had to decide which votes counted and which did not and the outcome seemed to depend on which party controlled the process. Fl. in 2000 suffered the same problems.
    While I think that the Supreme Courts resolution of FL 2000 was superior to an endless recount and the concerns of corruption that entailed, better would have been just to revote the state. That would have been faster, cheaper and cost far less.

    I would also suggest a completely transparent process for counting votes.
    Voting is Supra constitutional. As the Declaration states the powers of government derive from the consent of the governed.

    Despite being an embedded software developer I would actually suggest an entirely manual and public voting process.

    First select people for ballot counting each year – just the same as we do for jury duty.
    Have a limited number of elected people to manage the process, but the actual counting is done by hand by randomly selected citizens.

    Assuming 131M total votes as in 2008, and approximately 3sec to count each vote, and three people reviewing each ballot, it would take approximately 327500 total man hours to count all votes for a single office. Assuming allotting 1hour to count each office, that is 327,000 vote counters, that is about .1% of the population drafted to count votes each year.

    Now do the counting in public – in school gyms and cafeterias, and any large assembly spaces that can be secured, and allow the press and everyone else in to oversee the process – without interfering.
    Publicly Post all subtotals for every group of counters. After that you can use computers or whatever you want to reach the final totals – because once there is a public record of the raw vote it is not possible to undetectable alter the totals.

    As counting would likely go on all day, and in public, the media would no longer have to rely on exit polls, but could actually report their own running totals of the actual count so far.

    We could also stretch the actual voting over several days or even a week.
    People could vote early or late or not at all as they chose.

    The easiest part of the current process to corrupt is the process adding the subtotals.
    In a large number of instances the only public counts are by precinct. Few in some instances a single person could alter subtotals without getting caught.

    • AMAC permalink
      July 9, 2012 11:05 pm

      I am fine with using computers for counting votes. I do agree that it could be much more transparent and streamlined. I just don’t agree we should go backwards, as far as technology applies. It should be a great deal easier to vote and tally the results, as you have stated. Locally, our votes are casted using a dial as the computer interface. They look so old, but are less than two years old!

      • July 10, 2012 12:13 am

        Technology is wonderful, but it is not the solution to every problem.
        We trust computers in much of our lives because with rare exceptions they produce the results we expect faster and better than we could do ourselves. But we have no reason to believe that Microsoft might wish to alter the outcome of our mortgage schedule, and we have little evidence that commercial software vendors have ever used the close nature of most software to our detriment.

        Elections are different. The are solely about the integrity of the process. Many of us are not going to be happy with the outcome – does anyone expect to be happy Nov. 7. 2012 ? Would a victory by either presidential candidate be a victory for the american people ?

        We have had numerous instances where mechanical voting machines have been tampered with – sometimes continuing their harm election after election unpredictably.

        Serious large scale election fraud requires two elements, the ability to alter results across a huge number of voters, and an extremely small number of conspirators. Both of those are possible with a computer.

        If we insist on using computers – their are some simple solutions – the source for ALL software in a voting machine must be readily available to anyone to examine, and there mus be absolute certainty that is the software being used. Even that may not be sufficient. DES has been published for decades, a large number of experts are pretty sure the NSA has back doors into it – there are terms in the algorithm that do not appear to need to be there. Yet no one has proven such a back door exists.
        Are you prepared to trust the outcome of an election to software that might be rigged ?

        There are other benefits to the process I described – we all participate.
        And absolute transparency.

        I have been told that France uses a similar process and can tally a nation election manually in three hours. I do not actually know that as a fact.

        But I do know that a manual process scales well. No matter how large the population you need the same tiny percentage of counters each year. Most people will never be called on to count. Once you have manually tallied batches of ballots using 3 counters and made these batch counts publicly available, you can handle the rest of the process anyway you please. With public batch totals subsequent subtotals and totals are all publicly verifiable. There is nothing that can be done up the line that will not be found out.

        The key component is transparent public counting.

      • AMAC permalink
        July 10, 2012 1:56 pm

        There are just as many examples of manual voting fraud. I see no reason to go backwards or hold back progress.

        Again, the definition of insanity…

  13. July 9, 2012 11:02 pm

    Discussions of blind trusts address a facet of political corruption I raised earlier.

    Campaign contributions no longer directly effect any politicians personal fortune.

    But their ability to engage in practices worse than insider trading – rarely do insider traders have the ability to actually effect stock prices, they just know about effects before the rest of us. Congressmen and their staff can effect prices and markets. In many instances they do not even need to actually act. Just talking about what they are considering can alter prices. I also specifically noted that this extends to their staff as well. In the executive branch the problem is somewhat smaller but equally real. Those engaged in or with access to the decisions made regarding regulations can and often do use that information for personal profit. This is particularly repugnant is their is no risk involved and nothing is produced. The greedy corporations you all decry, take risks, and produce goods and services. Wall Street takes risks. There is no risk when you can bet that a price will go up or down – and know with a high degree of certainty ahead of time that it will.

    To the extent the media or the rest of us focus on this problem it is at the level of presidents, or senators or congressmen. But this form of corruption can be engaged in by a substantial portion of government staff to one degree or another.

    For those in government cable of inflicting or being aware of substantial economic effects on broad parts of the marketplace any investment they engage in should be in a blind trust. And any non-public revelations about these activities should be a crime – as it is theft. These rules should apply to the entire congressional and whitehouse staff.

    In the rest of the executive branch, similar disclosure rules should apply, but it would be sufficient to bar the employees or government agencies from investing in the industries the regulate – or choose to put their investments in blind trusts, or other investments where they have no control or knowledge of specific investments – such as an IRA or pension plan without a personal trading option.

    • AMAC permalink
      July 9, 2012 11:15 pm

      It’s hard to say how much insider trading effects stock prices, because insider trading is hard to identify. That being said, it absolutely can have a strong effect on stock prices. When a large holder or firm buys or sells a specific stock, it often sways other on-lookers. For instance, when Warren Buffet makes a strong move, it often precipitates similar movement from many others. How much of his trading is the result of inside information? Probably more than we know. I think every politician should be watched very closely and second guessed often as to specific trades. By the nature of their job, they have access to a great deal of information before the general public and the private sector. Yes, it is still a gamble, but their odds are much better than most.

      • July 10, 2012 12:27 am


        Neither insider trading nor corrupt political insider trading effects stock prices at all.

        Regulations and laws effect stock prices, but while I beleive nearly all regulation should be eliminated, the effect on stock prices is just a record of the damage of the regulation, not a symptom of corruption.

        The effect of insider trading or government trading is not on the price, it is on who makes the profits or losses.

        Investors who evaluate public data, exercise judgment and take risks are entitled to the consequences of those actions.

        Inside trading and politically corrupt trading, deprives the real investors of their reward.

        While stock prices are not zero sum, the gains or losses that the inside trader or politically corrupt trader takes advantage of, are going to happen regardless, the only thing that changes is who makes the profit and who takes the loss.

        When you deprive someone else of money they are otherwise certain to have made – we call that theft. The fact that we do not know who the victim actually was does not mean there wasn’t one – in the simple instance of fore knowledge resulting an a stock value gain, the victim is the person who would have held the stock but did not had the insider trader not done so.
        Other types of transactions may have more complexity but there still would have been a different party profiting, and that party was stolen from whether they no it or not.

        Politically corrupt trading is worse than insider trading, because government actually has some ability to control stock prices.

        Further particularly where the price increases there is a weak argument that the insider trader might be entitled to the profits as they are likely a contributor to creating them.

        If I create some patent that causes the value of the company I work for to increase, is it immoral for me to purchase my own companies stock before that patent is announced ?

      • AMAC permalink
        July 10, 2012 2:03 pm

        You have no idea if that is true or not. You cannot deny that vast amounts of selling or buying effects stock price. If large amounts of buying or selling is based on insider trading, then yes it did effect it. I and nobody else knows how many decisions are made based on inside information. I agree government insider trading is worse. I disagree with statement of false fact that it has no effect. You start out stating it has no effect, then towards the end you concede it is possible??? Same old ASmith.

  14. July 10, 2012 12:29 am

    Another voting suguestion:

    Add none of the above to every ballot for all offices,
    combined with the requirment for a 51% or greater majority this gives everyone a positive way of expressing our displeasure.

  15. July 10, 2012 12:55 am

    I would note that though some are better and some or worse and some use positively evil means, many if not all of the changes to the political process we are discussing ultimately LIMIT the power of government.

    We call them term LIMITS. And there purpose is to remove our elected officials from office before they become too powerful and corrupt.

    Though I believe the campaign finance restrictions discussed have been tried and failed, and are immoral infringements on speech, they are still efforts to LIMIT government power.

    Anytime you shift the balance of power towards people, particularly individuals you shift it away from government.

    Though i do find it odd that those who are so certain that ordinary voters are so stupid as to be easily deceived by political advertisements, have sufficient judgement to pick candidates and determine political policies absent that insidious influence.

    The only other explanation I can think of is that you think ordinary voters are corrupt – and again then why do we trust them ?

    Political advertising is like all other advertising except that political advertising is about government policy, rather than about purchasing goods and services.

    Most of us have a distaste for advertisements. Yet that is the primary way we find out about things. Even word of mouth is advertisement. A resume is advertisement, all persuasive speech is a form of advertisement and little purportedly documentary speech totally avoids some element of persuasion.

    One of the tasks we all do is gather information, determine what to save and what to discard. We do that about everything. Advertisers like politicians seek to hook us. Sometimes we wish to be hooked, sometimes we don’t. We do not make perfect choices, but overall we make good ones. We do not buy arsenic for upset stomachs, we get things right enough that we nearly always get something good even if not exactly what we want.

    Basically we all know how to evaluate advertisements and sales pitches.

    So why is it that you think we are unable to sort the wheat from the chaffe in political adds ?

    I do not honestly believe that most of you really believe that but for the enormous amounts of money in political adds we would vote differently.

    I think you are more upset by the messages – by the speech, I think that what you really want is to silence viewpoints different from your own.

    In 2008 do you honestly beleive that Obama beat McCain because Obama spent more or because the economy tanked ?

    In 2010 do you believe that the Tea Party and GOP make great gains because of an advertising blitz or because people were angry about their government ?

    What election was determined by money rather than the will – even whim of the people ?

    I often think we have chosen badly, but I can not think of an election where the winner was not the person that voters wanted – atleast not one that did not involve election fraud.

    Politicians have a legitimate reason for decrying the money in politics – raising that money is extremely hard work for most of them.

  16. Kent permalink
    July 10, 2012 12:25 pm

    Rick, I was reading the rough draft of Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence. It seems almost at some points that he wrote at a time similar to how people feel today….which is a “disconnected” Government to the people.

    With all the help we need of trying to live…Government seems to want to provide the answers without our voices heard. It is like playing the kids game “Marco Polo” in the pool. The Government calls out “Marco” with its eyes closed and we all scream “polo”.

    This isn’t always smart Government throughout history. It is a clash now between what one party wants over the other and the people that want no part “be damned”.

    It has become an “toe-in-line” ideology warfare in Government. Money is the root of evil and the ideology of Karl Marx and Adam Smith are the root driving forces.

    The ideologies may have changed or adapted to technologies, but they both still will lead to the control of the individual either in a Capitalist or Authoritarian design.

    Therefore, it is still my desire to form a Centrist Party. “No Sides, Only Solutions”

    It is quite clear to me that those who do not want the Reps. or the Dems. or as I call a “political home” should have a serious Ideology based on just “Happiness”. Simply because a majority of Americans are now “not happy”.

    If you can “cash” in on this with a serious political party, then the other two main ones tremble. Composed of dischanted Libertarians, Independents, Moderates and Centrists.

    It should be that the Governments responsibility is to provide incentives to get to that goal. Not to provide the goal without individual effort.

    • July 11, 2012 12:40 am

      Speak for yourself. I am quite happy. If your not maybe you need to wonder why.
      I have no idea whether money can buy happiness – but government certainly can’t

      The problem IS government. Limiting it is the SOLUTION.
      Republicans and conservatives are only just grasping that, and no doubt will return to their own form of statism, once past this fiscal crisis.

  17. Kent permalink
    July 10, 2012 12:49 pm

    Rick, It is quite clear that “Corporations are not people”.

    Corporations are organizations. Unions are also organizations. Government is an organization.

    The problem is that they get so big that the individuals they are serving fail to feel wanted or in another way treated with respect.

    The people in each get benefits based on what they can get off the other not only in benefits, but also in monetary value.

    Individual responsibility falls mainly on the person at the top in these organizations because it has an ending to the structure or the person/s on the bottom get fired.

    Unless an individual in the organization is exposed or exposes themselves in a “provocative” way (corruption, expose, etc.) these people are found to be the ones to blame.

    Both Romney and Obama are reconstructionists. Romney didn’t destroy, but only to succeed if at all possible. Obama to destroy Republican programs, but only to succeed. with his own agenda.

    The question is whether Romney or Obama have any clue to running a Government organization that is economically viable and can satisfy the individual? The spin can be done on either side.

    Since we have 50% on each or in another way of saying…America split between the two….we don’t have the right person for the position.

    The only way up is from the middle unless something changes on the two opposing sides.

    I don’t like this 50% split of Americans and this has been going on since at least 2000.

    • July 11, 2012 12:35 am

      If you think divisive, vitriolic politics is new – bother to to read anything about the political campaigns of our founders.

      Historically this country has performed best under divided government. With the few exceptions of those rare instances where a supermajority of americans shared the same goals, it has also performed best when political gridlock has been the greatest.

      All of which just reinforces my theme that limited government is best, and government is the root of the real serious problems we have.

    • July 11, 2012 9:36 pm

      Are shareholders people ?
      Do you know of any organization that is not made up of people ?

      Do people lose or gain power in groups ?
      Do they lose their rights when they chose to form groups ?

      I do not grasp why you have such a hard time understanding this.

      If you build a castle from lego’s, is it somehow no longer made from lego’s because they are joined to form a castle ?

  18. July 10, 2012 1:36 pm

    In response to ASMITH: Your claim that rank and file voters are not affected by advertising does not account for the direct correlation between the blizzards of money spent, and the results of most elections, including the most recent Republican nomination wars. Even if it didn’t, really, the PERCEPTION is that it does. Therefor, political candidates are still rendered into financial prostitution by the need to raise money on a continuous basis, just to be considered serious candidates. You do no service to the first amendment, or our nation by allowing money the protected status of speech, and allowing the ability to raise money to be the determining factor in most elections.

    • July 11, 2012 12:30 am

      I did not claim voters are unaffected by political advertising.

      It is what is said that matters, not what is paid. And it is what is said that you are really seeking to control. You do not want less political advertising. You want less conservative political advertising, or less negative political advertising, or less uncontrolled political advertising.

      Regardless it is the message you are objecting to, an that is precisely why Citizens United was correctly decided, and why restricting money is restricting political speech, and pretending otherwise is just hypocracy.

      Further, no politician believes money alone is the means to get elected. Nor is that their PERCEPTION. Money is the means to get your MESSAGE out. If you can not communicate with, persuade voters then you will not get elected.

      Again money is the means to that enable you to say what you wish to voters.

      Many of us take action to inform ourselves. Expensive TV adds are ineffective on us – we are already well informed. But some of us learn all that we know about a campaign from TV. Every possible vote is critical if a candidate is to get elected. Getting those who do not pay attention to listen and vote is difficult and expensive.

      When you wish to drive money out of politics, you are seeking to disenfranchise those voters. You are essentially re-imposing a form of Jim Crow. You are saying people who do or can not read, who have no internet access, should not be allowed to vote.

  19. July 11, 2012 1:07 am


    My claim that insider trading does nothing beyond alter who reaps the profits, is not some creation of my imagination.

    Your claim that trading volumes effect prices is irrelevant. We are not debating the effect of volume on price.

    The inside trader does not MAKE the price go up or down. He just knows something that allows them to benefit from a price change that is going to happen regardless, but the change in price(in this instance) is determined by the public effect of that knowledge.

    If there will be 50B tons less wheat produced next year the price of wheat will be determined by supply and demand. If I know that before anyone else I can profit from that knowledge, but my knowledge will not change the ultimate price of wheat.

    It is not the insider trader that causes the volume of trading, but the knowledge.
    His only advantage is having that knowledge before everyone else.

    This is not rocket science – it is not my guess.

    There are other trading strategies that can have temporary effects on prices.
    Further there are legitimate ways to “know” or atleast make an educated guess about what the future holds and to profit from that if you are right.
    That is not manipulation, nor theft. Nor does it drive prices, it is still the knowledge that drives the price not the trading.

    Trading volume can effect prices – but volume is still driven by what people know or atleast beleive they know.

    The stock market did not collapse in fall of 2008, because volumes were high. It collapsed because people correctly believed banks were undercapitolized.
    That knowledge drove the volume not the other way arround.

    And it can not be any other way. If a big investor tries to artifically drive a price, someone equally smart elsewhere will grasp that. The recent big JPMogran loss was because “the london whale” tried to drive prices in a part of the market and another savy investment firm bet everything they had and then some that he was wrong. Ultimately even the what could not alter the natural price for long and when prices returned to where they belonged, JPMorgan lost $2B or more and others profited. Even if there was no savy investment firm the price had to return to where it belonged eventually.

  20. pearows permalink
    July 11, 2012 11:14 am

    I believe that Dave is correct when he says that the problem with big money in politics is that politicians have too much power over the marketplace. Cronyism is the problem, not money, per se. And cronyism is not the same thing as capitalism, quite the opposite in fact, despite the protestations of OWS and similar movements. The fact that our political system has become rife with crony “capitalism,” is not a good reason for destroying rationally regulated free markets. Yet that seems to be the argument that we are having.

    • Anonymous permalink
      July 11, 2012 12:05 pm

      I understand your argument. But they become cronies because of the monetary contributions. Most of us are just arguing the solutions of:
      A. Take regulation power from government.
      B. Take away the bribe.

      I don’t disagree either would work. I just don’t feel comfortable with the effect a deregulated market could have in areas other than political cronyism.

      • Anonymous permalink
        July 11, 2012 12:07 pm

        The comment was AMAC by the way. Hello again Priscilla.

      • asmith permalink
        July 11, 2012 8:51 pm

        AMAC taking away the money has not worked. You had the publicly financed presidential system you wanted for almost 4 decades.
        The rules were complex, but candidates could only contribute about 50,000 of their own money. Other contributions were limited to a maximum of 2500, In return the candidate received federal matching funds.

        In 2008 Barack Obama became the first candidate to opt out of the publicly financed system.

        All the problems you think you have now – existed in those publicly financed presidential elections.

        The public financing option still exists in 2012. But i doubt either Romney or Obama will use it.

        Regardless, if limiting campaign contributions was going to work, it would have worked for presidential elections for the past 4 decades.

  21. July 11, 2012 12:21 pm

    Reply to ASMITH: as much as I agree with you on so many topics, I couldn’t be more opposed on this one. You claim my argument against vast amounts of money being necessary to drive politics derives from a desire to suppress the message. Not at all. The need is to eliminate the prostitution of politicians to moneyed interests. Given the choice between having politicians that are all bought and paid for by special interests, and so focused on accumulating money (speech, by your thinking), that they don’t have time to read the bills they are voting on, versus one half fewer tv ads–which do you think would have the greater effect on improving politics?

    • July 11, 2012 8:56 pm

      As I have mentioned to AMAC – Presidential candidates have had the option of federal matching funds since the 70’s. In order to get matching funds contributions were limited to 2500/person.

      Every candidate after Nixon and until Obama elected to use matching funds – and therefore limit campaign contributions to 2500.

      How well did that work ? Every complaint you have today was true then.

      • July 11, 2012 9:36 pm

        Reply to ASMITH: You continue to ignore my central thesis. I do not object to the amount of money. I object to the never ending requirement for raising it that totally compromises candidates and office holders. If the law you mention did not have an opt out option, it could go a long way toward solving the problem. Unfortunately, people obsessed with maximum right to spend money, insisted on the opt out clause, which is now used routinely, nullifying what was a promising step in the right direction.

    • July 11, 2012 9:05 pm

      I will be happy to agree to anything you wish requiring legislators to read bills before voting on the, post them on the internet, write them in plain language, …… Whatever you want.

      I would note that the 2010 House republicans have adopted rules requiring legislation to be posted on the internet for 72hours before a vote

      I will fully support the greatest possible transparency in government.

      I would eliminate executive privilege entirely, and severely narrow what can be kept secret under National Security provisions.

      I believe that the more you know about your government the more you are going to agree with me (and Norquist) “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

      Nearly full transparency would also address the political insider trading addressed earlier.
      Insider trading (whether of the private or government form) is trading on knowledge everyone else does not have.

      You can eliminate all the restrictions I offered on government trading but just making everything government does completely public. But that means no private meetings, negotiations or deals of anykind.

      But then again it is supposed to be government of the people, by the people and for the people.

    • July 11, 2012 9:47 pm


      If this is about politicians and not message then why are you opposed to Citizens United and SuperPACs ?

      That decision and what resulted was a tidal wave of independent expenditures.
      These groups can do most anything they want EXCEPT coordinate with candidates and parties.

      And in fact they have done so. The GOP primaries have been rife with examples where the purportedly Pro Romney (or Gingrich or ..) SuperPAC went in a completely different direction than the candidate.

      I have absolutely Zero problem with Unions or Sorros or MoveOn or whatever left leaning groups are out their saying anything they wish – spending as much as they want advocating for the issues that matter to them.

      And I would be especially happy if they were getting their OWN message out, not that of a candidate.

      The argument for removing the corrupting influence of money in politics is transparently not about the money any longer when what you are opposed to is the sudden explosion within the least corrupting form of money that can possibly exist in politics.

      Neither Romney, not Obama can coordinate with the unlimited independent expenditures group. They can not fund raise for them. They can not even hint at what they should say.

    • July 11, 2012 9:48 pm

      If this is about corporate money and not message, then why are you opposed to independent expendatures and SuperPacs – these get 99.5% of their money from individual contributions.

  22. lovetheocean permalink
    July 11, 2012 5:41 pm

    Don’t have time to read all this, but just want to mention this: almost 250 news outlets (per Google news) reported on the upcoming Continental Congress 2.0. That there was virtually no coverage after the event testifies to the event’s fizzle. IMO, ineffectual organization undercuts a message and a movement, and actually can make things worse. I admire you centrists for your dedication, but I can tell you how this will all play out. As long as the majority of Americans are relatively comfy, they are not going to care that more and more Americans are slipping down the wealth ladder. I’m sure most of us know people who are in dire straits right now, but the society just keeps chugging along…not zipping along, but chugging along. That the polls show as much support for Romney as they do indicates that many people are willing to vote against their own interests…and for the interests of Big Business. A time may well come when enough people are truly suffering that they will make a difference, politically, but we are nowhere near that yet.

    • July 11, 2012 9:31 pm

      I do nto personally think Romney is the right person to fix what ailes our goverment. Ultimately he belives as Obama does that government is the answer not the problem.

      That said – why is a vote against Romney a vote against ones interests ?

      Things are not sustainable as they are. Even if all of the progressive proposals were implimented and actually worked as advertised – more regulation did not increase economic uncertainty and tank the economy. More taxes on capitol actually brought in more revenue and did not tank the economy, more government spending did nto tank the economy. More government borrowing did not tank the economy. …..
      Even if everything progressives offer worked as they claim – we would still have unsustainable deficits moving forward. The real fiscal cliff is not at the end of 2012 but possibly more than a decade in the future – but it is inexorably coming.
      Absent more than 5% growth/year for more than a decade – something that has not happened since the 19th century, we can not grow and tax our way out of this.

      At some point we must address real cuts in spending.
      Medicare is running $200B/year short. PPACA was supposed to fix that, but there are no credible projections for PPACA that do not increase that shortfall by atleast $100B/year.

      Even if you believe that price controls – which have absolutely never worked long term anywhere before – will magically work this time. You are still left with receiving less and worse care.

      Soon Social security will start Running at a deficit – I think it already has. It will eventually run atleast $200B/year in the red and it will do so for the foreseable future – more than 5 decades.

      And we have not discussed any of the rest of entitlements, corporate welfare – which is small in comparision to the SS and Medicare problems, but still very real.

      As our economy headed into the tank I recall reading that Spain had better banking rules and had avoided the “housing bubble” Spains interests rates just went over 7% – the tipping point after which most economists beleive recovery is not possible.
      The transition from relatively low interest rates to unsustainable ones happened in Greece, France and Italy nearly overnight.

      There will be no slow run up of US interest rates to warn us that we are about to run off the cliff.

      It will take longer for the US to fail. We have alot of time. It will take longer because a greek failure on the part of the US government will ruin the entire world economy.

      Germany need not bail out Greece, or Spain or Italy. But there is no economy strong enough to survive should the US government fail.
      Lenders will continue to throw money at the US government until the consequences of our government failing are less bad than giving us more money. But even that point will eventually come.

      All that is avoidable. But even the purportedly draconian Ryan Plan is at best a start, not a solution.

      Failure is not in any of our interests.

      Whatever is to be done, regardless of the issue. A solvent government, and getting the most that is actually reasonably possible from the bad investment we have made in Social Security and Medicare without bankrupting the country IS OUR SELF INTEREST. Buying into lies that more is possible is not.

      Are people who get sucked into Ponzi schemes acting in their own interests ?
      Accepting a promise that you know can not be delivered, is not in your interests.

      Right now neither party is offering a future that is sustainable. But a small part of one party is far closer than everyone else – only these are the people everyone here is maligning.

      Ultimately what I would say is that the left and much of TNM does nto seem to comprehend what there own interests are.

    • pearows permalink
      July 11, 2012 9:47 pm

      lovetheocean, you assume that a vote for Romney is a vote against average peoples’ interests. That is painting with a pretty broad brush, don’t you think? I mean, as the economy worsens and more people are suffering economically, isn’t it at least somewhat logical that many of those people might think that it is in their interests to vote for someone other than the guy who has been unsuccessful in generating any significant recovery in the job market, while driving the deficit and national debt to record highs? I’m just sayin’…..

      • July 11, 2012 10:01 pm

        The record on the effect of government economic action on the economy is unbelievably lopsided.

        Governments that cut taxes, and spending – whether in good times or bad grow their economies. Governments that spend and increase taxes, at best grow less and at worst fail.

        The closest we have to a counter example is the scandanavian countries.
        Yet even there more spending and taxes results in lower growth and less results in more. They are only exceptional in that it appears that in small monocultures where there is near uniformity of interests, and where regulation of business is extremely lite, the economic harm of high taxes and high government spending is less – but still very real – even the slope of the curve is the same – each 10% increase in the size of government costs 1% growth in GDP.

        It is in everyone’s interest to return to a strongly growing economy.
        I have no interest in arguing how much of the recession was caused by Bush. Both parties contributed, but we are past 2008. There is only one instance since the start of the 20th century – and possibly much longer of a sustained downturn such as we have now. And that was during the great depression.

        The fact that the two most protracted recoveries have directly corresponded to the most economically ignorant presidents, and the greatest government economic intervention should send everyone a clear message.

        But if it is not clear enough – look at Japan, Greece, Italy, Spain, The USSR, Cuba, North Korea, even Maoist China.

        When has government ever made it better ?

  23. AMAC permalink
    July 12, 2012 2:35 am

    I don’t know that Romney is against all of our best interest. I expect much of the same with either party winning the white house. I doubt Romney would issue his growing number of “1st day in office” executive orders. I also believe Romney and Obama are closer to each other than many think. I do think the house republicans will settle down if Romney is elected. The dems will act much as the republicans have acted. I would not expect a great shift in policies. I am sure the Bush tax cuts would continue, as they have under Obama.

    • July 12, 2012 9:09 am

      If Romney is elected there will be enormous pressure on prominent republicans legislators to shut up and toe the line. And this is precisely why Romney’s election would be bad for the country and bad for republicans.

      Electing Romney as president will at best slow down our drive towards fiscal armegedon. It will not stop it. It will not actually solve any of our problems. But it will significantly quiet those voices trying to get us to face reality.

      The Tea party, the GOP Libertarian wing, and fiscal conservatives are a revolt within the GOP.

      Romney’s election will re-empower, Social conservatives, Neo-Conns and establishment republicans – those republican groups most responsible for this mess.

      • pearows permalink
        July 12, 2012 10:27 am

        Dave, I cannot figure out why you think that fiscal armaggedon is a good thing….or, at least, a step toward limited government. When has this ever been the case? More likely, fiscal collapse leads to tyranny and decline, not the libertarian revival that you seem to suggest. Putting a competent fiscal conservative in the WH, regardless of party affiliation, makes a lot more sense.

        Libertarians seem to have this romantic view that going “off the cliff” will result in the regeneration of liberty. Most things that go off cliffs, whether they go at high speeds or slow, don’t end up liberated…..just smashed.

      • July 12, 2012 8:34 pm


        Destruction is a natural part of freedom. People make choices – on there own most of them are good, but not all. Bad choices result in failure. It is that failure that we learn from.

        Further our aversion to failure and our efforts to prevent it are what increases our risk of greater failure. If you can not learn from the little things then you must learn from the big ones.

        In the real free market failure – even “catastrophic” failure is severe but short lived. Many, most of us lose. Some lose everything. Wages drop, prices drop. The mistake is destroyed and recovery begins. Natural recoveries are as steep and quick as the failures that precipitate them.

        The worst situation is that like the depression, like Japan, and like the US now, where we pretend that we can cushion the blow.
        The results are a slower decline but to the same depths.
        With a protracted or non-existent recovery.

        In the past 4 years we have spent $5T of money we do not have to prolong our own suffering.

        I would not rush to blame my views here on libertarians.
        They are more based on relatively ordinary economics.

        Investors – liberal, conservative, whatever, are taught to take there loses and move on.
        They are taught never to throw good money after bad.
        Economists even Keynesians talk of market clearing events.

        There is no political will to fix social security or medicare – even if that were a good idea. PPACA in pretending to fix our problem just created another large one. Bush created Medicare part D as if social security was solvent. Even Ryan for all he is trashed is not really looking to fix the problem just mitigate the carnage.

        Name an instance where politicians have actually fixed anything.
        If there are any they are few and far between.

        Given that there is no political will – beyond maybe the Paul Ryans to actually fix any of our problems, the only other choice is to wait until the failure is great enough that it is beyond governments power to put a band aide on.

        An economic cliff is not like a real cliff. For the most part people do not die. Some lose their life savings, their houses, many lose less.
        Though for the most part they do not really lose anything they actually ever had.

        People being foreclosed on right now, do not own their homes – nearly all the money – and the loss will be absorbed by the bank.
        They will essentially be forced out of an expensive apartment having failed to pay the rent.
        When medicare and Social Security fail – people will not lose it. It was never really theirs in the first place.

        In 2008 the nation did not loose real wealth. It lost about $11T in wealth that was not really there. We woke up one morning and discovered we had been deceiving ourselves.

        And absent political honesty and courage which less than a dozen congressmen of either party seem to have – sometime in the future we will wake up and discover that alot of wealth we thought we had was illusory. That is actually true right now. Our debt, our unfunded public liabilities, one way or another they come out of the wealth we think we have right now. They are national state and local mortgages on everything you own.

        I think Schumpeter calls the process creative destruction – though I do not think he intended it to apply to government – where it is just destruction with no creativity involved.

  24. AMAC permalink
    July 12, 2012 2:38 am

    Maybe we could see a Rommer / Huntsman ticket in 2016 if Obama wins!

    • July 12, 2012 9:11 am

      Right and the Democrats are going to run Nader/Sanders

  25. July 12, 2012 7:26 pm

    Micheal Kinsley is a renowned progressive, He represented the left on Crossfire, and created Slate.

    In this article in the LA Times he attacks Romney for NOT defending Free Trade.,0,7010163.story

  26. July 12, 2012 8:06 pm

    Thanks for these two stories about what we are attempting to do. I am one of those delegates to the CC 2.0 and I am proud of the work we did and continue to do. Thanks again. KJ Lowry

  27. July 12, 2012 8:55 pm


    So much for the bad part. The good part about real economic destruction is that when it is over, when we have gone off the cliff. When we have obliterated all the false wealth that we think we have, we have actually lost nothing that was real. We have just been forced to face up to the fact that we have been lying to ourselves.

    This is one of the reasons that booms last so long but busts are very quick.
    WE can lie to ourselves for a long time, but once we grasp we are lying, the lie evaporates instantly. The false value of mortgages, and hence mortgage backed securities, and hence banks just disappears in an instant.

    For the most part it is not carnage – like crashing of a cliff. It is more like a balloon deflating. fast but inevitable.

    When all the air has leaked out we rebuild.
    Without the dead weight of our efforts to hold up all that false wealth we can rebuild very quickly.

    This nation is the most productive in the world. Nothing will change that.
    Even if our government collapsed tomorrow, we would rebuild and move on.

    I do not actually look forward to going off a real economic cliff – rather than this fake thing that we are talking about at the end of 2012.

    But that cliff is rushing towards us, and we have sufficient momentum not that just putting on the brakes will not prevent us from going over. We must actually turn arround and head the other way.

    Do you see that happening ?

    I can’t get people here to grasp that they can confiscate everything the “rich” own – it would not pay the deficit for this year.

    I do not want to ever quit doing what I do. I love my work. Even when economic reality forces me to take projects i would rather not or work for clients and bosses I would rather avoid. It is still far better than not working.

    I have no delusions of being able to retire at 65, and live off social security, nor expectations of being taken care of by medicare.

    But the world worked fine when neither existed and it is far better now than then.
    I expect to manage fine.

    How about you ?
    Do you really believe social security and medicare will be there for you ?

    When it is not are you going to die ? Or move one with your life ?
    Are you going to keep working, creating producing exactly as we all have for decades, or wallow in your tears ?

  28. July 12, 2012 8:59 pm

    In 2008, the federal government chose not to Bail or Lehman.
    Ignoring the abysmal politics, was that the end of the world ?
    Lehman is gone. But the financial markets are still there.
    The tens of thousands of people who worked for Lehman have moved on.
    I would venture nearly all had jobs – fairly quickly.
    Not quite as good as their old ones – though by now they are mostly doing better than before.

    That is what real recovery looks like. That is what economists call “market clearing”

  29. July 12, 2012 9:27 pm

    In 1929 the stock market collapsed. Economists are still arguing about what the causes were. Views include there was a credit boom in the twenties that effected housing and manufacturing – much like the housing boom we just went through.
    This resulted in a recession that the Fed under Mellon/Hoover managed badly.
    Hoover then talked industry into freezing wages which resulted in their shedding workers,
    Hoover then raised taxes dramatically, and drastically increased government spending.
    Followed by imposing protectionist tariffs.
    Basically govenrment did nearly every possible thing that it could do wrong.
    It did precisely the opposite of what it did in every other short lived recession in history.
    And instead of a recession we got the great depression.
    For the next 16 years everytime the economy showed any signs of recovery – FDR burdened it with more taxes, more regulation more government spending more bad policy and killed any recovery.

    Sound alot like today.

    Whatever the root of the great depression was it was not an enormous bubble – something larger than the entire economy or it would have been obvious.

    The housing bubble was nearly the size of the US economy.
    The public unfunded liabilities bubble is atleast 5 and probably 10-20 times the szzie of the economy.

  30. July 12, 2012 9:38 pm

    One last thing about economic cliffs.

    For the most part they change nothing except our perception and our choices moving forward.

    The collapse of the housing bubble did not destroy real wealth. It destroyed fake wealth.

    The bursting of an economic bubble does not lead to Mad Maxx post nuclear holocaust worlds of deprivation. It leads to worlds were the fallacies we have been living by disprove themselves for us, and we are free to move forward without them dragging us down.

    All that is “destroyed” is what never really existed.

    In the depression as in the current mess here and throughout the world, Government was able to drag our the process of recognizing that some of our wealth was false. Though it could not stop it. But greece, and spain and italy and europe can not escape bubbles that are twice the size their economies – how do we expect government to manage a bubble of its own creation that is atleast 5 times the size of our economy ?
    That is nearly twice the size of the entire world economy.

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