A plan to take the government back from the corporations

Corporate American Flag
Corporate American Flag (by Yire Shalom 3000 on Flickr)

The country is awash in the political rhetoric of taking our country back.  The problem is, the cries are to take it back from the Democrats, and previous to that, to take it back from the Republicans.  All of which would be fine, but neither party is the one holding it hostage.  The vilification of the respective political parties is all just theatrical misdirection.

Backroom corporate influence in politics has always been with us, but in recent times it has emerged from the dark and smokey recesses of the halls of government and sits proudly center stage.  The rich have never been richer.  Corporate profits have never been higher.  Meanwhile, unemployment remains high, health care and college tuition costs continue to spiral out of reach.  And the plans to remedy these ills?  Cut Social Security and Medicare, lower taxes on the wealthy, eliminate the estate tax, and cut long term unemployment benefits.  Reduce or stall regulatory actions curtailing corporate freedoms to game the financial system or pollute the environment, while pushing the government to create or enforce laws designed to shore up existing business models.  Reduce the size of government forcing it to sell off assets like prisons, parks, and government buildings as well as outsource operations such that private companies are now able to make a profit from government programs and services.

These are all corporate friendly policies designed to pad the pockets of big business at the expense of ordinary citizens.  The policies are not unique to any one party, and arguing over which party is more at fault is simply wasted breath.  The solution is not as simple as voting in one party or the other, or creating the optimal balance between them.  The corporations via the lobbies and PACs they fund and the media they control  are playing both sides.  Picking between Democrats and Republicans is a false choice.

None of this is groundbreaking news.  The recognition of the emerging corporatocracy that is America’s future underlies much of the anger, frustration, and helplessness felt by voters.  The Tea Party channeled much of that emotion, but it was masterfully bent into a movement advocating for the shrinking or dismantling of the government.  An outcome that plays directly into the plan of the corporate lobbyists, because government inaction or inability to act is a boon to corporate America.

It’s important to recognize that corporations are not evil, they are merely self-interested.  They operate to maximize short term profits.  Period.  They are unconcerned with the well being of citizens.  They are not troubled by unemployment rates.  They don’t lose any sleep over how America can rebuild a strong vibrant middle class with the potential for children to be better off than their parents.  And they shouldn’t be.  That is the job of the government.  The government of, by, and for the people, not the corporations.  This is the government we’ve let slip away.  This is the government we need to take back.  We need the government to once again play the balance to the corporate interests.  Not to oppose or destroy corporations, but simply to be a yin to their yang.  To make the coin whole again, in the interest of both sides.  Mindful that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Accomplishing this will not be something we can simply elect politicians to do under the current system.  Rather, it will only come about with the emergence of a large scale highly focused bipartisan grassroots movement that manages to not be co-opted by corporate influences along the way.  It can only achieve that by maintaining a laser-like focus and clarity on its goal.  To that end, that movement needs to aim for two objectives, and two objectives only.

  • All campaigns are financed by the government—a fixed amount of money available only 3 months prior to election day.
  • All elected officials must sign a contract stating they will not accept money, jobs, or any other material benefit from any private company for a period of 5 years after leaving office.  They will have the option to retire or to enter public service in the interim.

These two objectives significantly reduce the ability of corporations or wealthy individuals to buy elections and thereby politicians.  They also curtail the incentive to enter public office as way to be financially set for life, and return it more to the notion of contributing a public service.  And finally, they stop the never-ending campaign cycle that dominates the lives of politicians today such that they have little time or incentive to do any real work.

A movement focused on implementing these two objectives alone would have an opportunity to make a significant sea change in the process by which government occurs.  It could and should rise above being concerned about specific policies, and as such, could be a truly bipartisan movement.  The issue is not whether a government led by people elected in such a manner would support gay marriage, carbon taxes, abortion, or bank bailouts.  The issue is simply to get people back in office who truly represent the citizenry of this great nation.  And having achieved that, let the policy cards fall where they may.  The only goal of this movement being that America shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.

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