Posts Tagged 'democracy'

Follow the Money: “Privatization”

“Privatization” means converting publicly owned and managed resources to privately owned and managed resources.

Resources that have been targeted for privatized include schools, water systems, sewer systems, trash disposal, Social Security and Medicare, parks and recreation, transportation, military operations, and even the legislative process itself, that is, drafting laws that govern our states and local governments (see footnote at bottom).

Privatization is done in the name of efficiency, and there are some cases where it can be useful.

There are also many cases where the major effect of privatization has been to enrich private companies at public (taxpayer) expense.

Why would any democratically elected legislator transfer an important public resource to private companies? 

To answer this question, here is where “follow the money” comes into play.  It’s important to find out: ‘Who is profiting from the privatization?’

Do legislators who vote for a privatization bill get re-election funding (and other perks) from the companies or individuals who profit from the legislation?

Does the privatization create higher value and efficiencies with an important overall benefit for the public?   Or does it create higher costs to the public and/or lower value delivered by those who operate the privatized resource?

Footnote – ALEC’s nationwide agenda to privatize public services and resources:

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) is a private association, that drafts legislation that is then introduced into state legislatures all across the country.  Many of these bills have been enacted into law.

Privatization of public services and resources is a major focus of legislation drafted and promoted by ALEC.  ALEC is funded primarily by corporate sponsors.

It is accurate to say that state legislatures that introduce bills drafted by ALEC are outsourcing a crucial part of the legislative process to the private companies who sponsor ALEC and take a lead in proposing, pitching, and drafting legislation.

More information about ALEC can be found on this post by the Center for Media and Democracy.  A great deal of valuable research has been done to “follow the money” that flows through ALEC and ALEC’s private sector sponsors.

This is the second part in a series about principles for restoring democracy.   The first part can be found here.

Restoring Democratic Government

Obviously a lot of people are working on this.  These ideas are a brief compilation of some of the best solutions.

An overwhelming majority of Americans, conservative, progressive, and moderate, want a well-functioning democratic government.   But we have different definitions for what that means – because we use different terms and listen to different sources, and because we don’t listen well to each other.

This has been a perfect opportunity for special interests and corruption to whittle away at “government for the people and by the people” and to shift our democracy to either government for the special interests and by the special interests, or else to gridlock.

The principles that make corruption work are:  “divide and conquer” (pit citizen against citizen) and “hide the true motives” (pretend to be interested in “reforming” government but in actuality work for one’s own profit and special interests).

To protect and restore real democracy, we the people need to re-unite, and to do that we need to explore and expose the corruption that has drastically weakened democratic government.

There are a few principles that can guide us:

To expose corruption: Verify the facts and Follow the money.

To restore democracy:  Listen to each other and Engage in authentic dialogue.

To regenerate governmentElect candidates who care about all Americans.  This means we must elect people who are not beholden to special interests and mega-contributions from super-wealthy people and corporations.

These are principles that we can all agree on.  Armed with these we can expose corruption, start dialoguing with each other, and restore democracy.

The 2nd post in this series will expand on “Follow the money” using privatization of public resources as an example.

Self-Government at Bay

“All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man.  The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God.” 
Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Mayor of Washington, 1826

In this famous quote Jefferson was speaking in favor of “the blessings and security of self-government.”   Yet he and all founders of this country would readily agree that election campaigns funded 99% by the wealthiest 1% (individuals & corporations, booted and spurred) are now sadly deteriorating the blessings and security of self-government.

True, the people vote.  But “who tells the stories of a culture governs human behavior”
(George Gerbner, media theorist, quoted by Eli Pariser in the Filter Bubble).

What to do?  Consider the ideas and proposals RootStrikers.org and the following quotes by Lawrence Lessig:

—————————————————————————————————-

“…this government is not dependent upon ‘the People alone.’ This government is dependent upon the Funders of campaigns. 1% of America funds almost 99% of the cost of political campaigns in America. Is it therefore any surprise that the government is responsive first to the needs of that 1%, and not to the 99%? …

“This government, we must chant, is corrupt. We can say that clearly and loudly from the Left. They can say that clearly and loudly from the Right. And we then must teach America that this corruption is the core problem — it is the root problem — that we as Americans must be fighting.”  …

“There is no liberal, or libertarian, or conservative who should defend this corruption. The single problem we all should be able to agree about is a political system that has lost its moral foundation: For no American went to war to defend a democracy ‘dependent upon the Funders alone.’”
(Letter to the Occupiers:  The Principal of Non-Contradiction 10/12/2011
)

“We are different in a million ways, we Americans, but we are all equally Americans. And if you’re leading a movement that won’t acknowledge that difference (or more frighteningly, that believes that mere rhetoric is going to erase that difference), then you’re not looking for fundamental reform. You’re looking for a putsch.

“This Nation needs fundamental reform. For that, our constitution requires 75% of states to agree. Thus, if we want real change, we must find those ideas upon which 75% of states can actually agree.”
Something More than Polarization, 10/25/2011

Obama’s Radical Middle Messages

Barack Obama is a Radical Centrist, preaching and teaching dialogue, finding common ground, and listening and speaking “fair-minded words” with an open heart and an open mind.   These themes appear in all of his speeches on controversial issues, which are about the only issues he speaks about.   Controversy is everywhere, paralyzing us, provoking verbal hostilities and worse, wasting our time, energies and resources and producing ineffective solutions that seem to only get us into deeper troubles.

Here are some excerpts from two of his recent speeches.

From his May 17 speech at Notre Dame in which he focused on abortion:

About dealing with conflict:

“Understand – I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it – indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory – the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”

About finding common ground:

“So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term.”

From his June 4 Cairo speech to Muslims around the world:  Continue reading ‘Obama’s Radical Middle Messages’


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