Democratic Underground  

The Meaning of Victory
May 16, 2002
By Joe Vecchio

I hate to break the news to you all, but it's time for a little reality check.

And as bad as that opening might sound, it gets worse: this is a hypothetical reality check. A lot is going to depend upon what happens in November; there's still a lot of in-fighting going on among the members of the left, and I don't know what kind of October Surprise the enemies of freedom have in store for us, but it's liable to be pretty big considering what's at stake.

But for the sake of argument, and this article, I'm going to look on the bright side and assume that we will, for the time being, drive the enemies of freedom from power. But that's just the beginning. There is so much work to do, so much damage to be undone. The sad truth is that all our initial victory would give us is the freedom to actually get on with the work instead of standing on the sidelines watching the fanatics wreak havoc with the world. But if our history has shown us anything, it's shown us that we're not only capable of rebounding, we excel at it - when the need comes upon us we're capable of extraordinary things.

So bearing that in mind, these are some of the policies I believe we need to force the Dems to put into effect. These suggestions are hardly complete and hardly exclusive, but I think they are a good beginning.

First Things First

We have to recognize a simple fact: no changes are going to be able to take place until we restructure both the way political campaigns are financed and how the lobbying system works. Current campaign finance laws are ineffective and barely enforced anyway, we have to change that. We have to force the enemies of freedom to do battle with us on our terms, not theirs. We have to cripple them by denying them, as much as possible, the advantage their extraordinary wealth gives them. To that end we need to repeal the '75 SUN-PAC laws and make corporate lobbying illegal again. Corporations currently form an overwhelming majority of all PACs, and they donate more than three-quarters of all campaign contributions to political parties. Money should be its own reward, political power should be separate from it. I realize that, given human nature, we'll never completely get rid of the role of money in politics, but we can diminish it greatly, rendering it far less relevant than it is today.

We have to convert lobbying from a system of legalized bribery into what it ought to be: a way for a special interest to inform and enlighten the government on a particular issue, sending experts to testify at committees, vigorously representing their client's point of view. It should be flat-out illegal for any elected or appointed official to receive financial favors from lobbyists in any form, be it free plane rides and "working vacations" to donations to their campaign coffers. It should also be flat-out illegal for an elected or appointed official to earn money giving speeches. There was actually a bill to do this very thing years ago - in return for giving up this money Congressmen were offered a decent raise. The radio talk shows gained an early "victory" by harping on the pay raise part and scaring people into writing their representatives, stopping the bill. Let's bring that bill back and pass it this time.

Free The Airwaves

We need to dismantle the corporate conglomerates that monopolize the media, freeing the airwaves for competitive entertainment or journalism as opposed to bottom-line profiteering and propaganda. Our need for responsible and truthful journalism is more important than Rupert Murdoch's need to use the airwaves as his own personal propaganda machine. The airwaves are public property, and the broadcast media has a duty to use them responsibly. Make purchasing airtime for political campaigns illegal, and use PBS as the official channel for election campaigns. Let's increase the amount of funding to PBS a hundred-fold and parcel off campaign time for all political parties which meet specific criteria.

Corporate Reform and Taxation

The "Invisible Hand" of Adam Smith quickly becomes an "Invincible Fist" when a small number of businesses monopolizes the marketplace. Make a better mousetrap, the saying goes, and the world will beat a path to your door. But we all know the reality as it now stands: build a better mousetrap and the ACME Mousetrap Company will crush you so hard and so fast you won't know what hit you. Let's get rid of loopholes that allow big corporations to use offshore shelters to avoid paying taxes. Let's force businesses to be more open about their accounting practices, so they're more responsible to their shareholders. These offshore shelters also are the best way terrorists can funnel money into their organizations, and stopping them is even more important than preventing the outrageous white-collar crime of robbing Americans of billions in taxes.

Let's also force corporations to end the practice of issuing stock options or other hidden forms of payments. A CEO's salary, like anyone else, ought to be tied to their performance, and incompetence shouldn't be rewarded. Let's also start prosecuting these white collar crimes in criminal court, and make it clear that the penalty for these crimes will be just as harsh as those for other forms of robbery. The Law has to apply to everyone equally or there is no law.

And while we're at it, let's overhaul, and more importantly, simplify the tax system. Most people don't begrudge the taxes they pay as much as they loathe the process of figuring out how much they owe to begin with. The IRS has already made great strides by allowing many people to file over the computer or via telephone, let's do what we can to get more people in on that.

Election Reform

If we're going to elect an idiot, we should at least be sure we're electing an idiot. We need to create a standardized, simplified method of voting to replace the outdated and often chaotic methods currently being employed. The Feds will foot the bill so that the crybaby states won't scream about "unfunded mandates" or whatever crapola they come up with whenever we want to get rid of corruption at the local level. Let's bring the voting system out of the nineteenth century and into the twenty-first.

These are, of course, short term goals. It's not enough to simply deny our enemies unlimited power, we must look towards the future, not just of the country but of the human race. Terrorism, environmental issues, economics, these are things that affect all of us, regardless of what nation we live in. It's time to begin the process of creating a unified global government. Our foreign policy should be geared towards that, slowly, to be sure, but inevitably, because a single global government and economy is inevitably on its way. The question is, will it be a government that has its foundation in the people that govern it, or will it be a tool of the very wealthy to perpetuate a neo-medieval system where the wealthy few enslave everyone else? The former is what we have to fight for, the latter is what we have to fight against.

We have to recognize that the rights we have, the things we believe in, are not reserved for the citizens of the US alone, they should be applied equally to every human being. If we refuse to include one group of people then we will never be free ourselves. And as much as some of us hate to hear it, we must be unafraid to use military might when necessary. We must use our military responsibly, but remember that a nation that is afraid to defend itself cannot survive.

And when the time comes, when humanity is at last unified, even if it doesn't happen in our lifetimes or in our children's lifetimes, we need to begin the process of exploring the ultimate frontier, the vastness of outer space. We need to turn our swords not into plowshares, but into rockets.

And even as we work, we have to be aware of the fact that the enemies of freedom will always be there. They will never be wholly defeated, and they will always wield power disproportionate to their numbers, and we must always guard against their inevitable return. The meaning of victory is work and sacrifice, but it is also hope.

Joe Vecchio is a novice to political activism who is angry at the direction this country is taking.

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