Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Turkey Day

    It appears the “Super Committee” has failed to reach agreement on measures to cover the government’s deficit of $1.2 trillion by today’s deadline.  The fruitless talks will trigger a ten-year across the board cut to all programs. For example, Medicare reimbursement rates will drop 30%, Social Security benefits will shrink.  All “discretionary” funding will be reduced by 3% a year. Happy Thanksgiving,  Amerika!
    As expected, the members from the GOP refused to budge on tax measures the Democrats proposed, and, thankfully, the so-called liberals held firm on Social Security and Medicare cuts the Republicans wanted. It should be plain to all that those potato-heads in Congress are beholden to the deep pockets who pay for their campaigns, more than they are to their “constituents” back home who pay their salary and voted them into office.
    The importance of “campaign finance reform” has never been so obvious. The Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC tilts the table in favor of corporate power in the struggle for political sway.  Advocates for consumers’ rights, environmental protection, social justice, a woman’s right to choose, et al., will have less access to the forum of free speech. Corporate domination of the media, seeking to limit the terms of acceptable discussion, effectively does so during the campaigns as it spotlights the party-preferred candidates.  The exclusion of “third party” candidates is a shameful, and persistent, indictment of the media’s anti-democratic bias.
    The Kerry-Feingold campaign finance reform law was an improvement in some ways, but badly flawed in others. It was supposed to be that way.  To indulge in a well-worn trope, letting Congress write campaign reform law is like turning over the security of the chicken coop to the foxes. Remember, these are the folks who vote themselves raises, in the dark of night, while the rest of us are struggling to stay even in a crumbling economy.  Serious reform has to come from an independent authority, recognized by the American people. I don’t know what that authority that might be, but a Constitutional amendment preceded by state referenda might be a strategy worth considering.
    To return to the current debacle, it’s important to put this episode in context. The attempt to resolve the deficit is really a distraction from the structural contradictions that need to be addressed.  We should all realize by now that when capitalism exceeds the human scale it becomes destructive. Our social institutions can no longer be “profit-driven.” Our common wealth can no longer be “privatized.” The attempt to balance the budget and control the deficit is one part of the State’s strategy for preserving corporate capitalism.
    Another aspect of the struggle we must always remember is the State’s willingness to use force to “preserve order.” This lesson has been taught to those occupying New York, Portland, Oakland, Berkeley,  Atlanta, UC Davis, Toronto, and the list will grow. Here in LA there are negotiations under way to relocate the Occupation to unoccupied buildings the city would lease for $1 a year.  Sentiment among people at the GA tends toward rejecting the City’s proposal. I’d like to find out more about this. It may not be a bad idea. It might defuse the energy of the movement, appearing to allow itself to be co-opted, moving indoors. Then again, a protected shelter could allow the movement to grow in other ways and develop some new models for organizing and making the transition to transparent governance.
    Leaving the lawn around City Hall voluntarily is not necessarily to be gone for good. This week in Cairo and Alexandria, spreading across the country, the people have returned to the squares to demand the military get out of the way. Scores have been killed. I pray it will not come to that here, or anywhere else, but if we do leave the encampments, and then have to return, then we will.
    Since we have come to petition the government, to exercise our right to speak freely, and demand redress of our grievances, before we depart we should obtain some form of redress from the city.  The city should accept some conditions that are consistent with the Occupy movement. Perhaps terms like these.  The city and county will:
  • provide shelter for homeless people   
  • accept a 24 month moratorium on enforcing foreclosures and evictions of homeowners
  • reopen trauma centers
  • establish a living wage policy for all employees
  • divest from companies that pollute
  • divest from Wall Street
What else?

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