APR 9, 2014
Global rankings study: America in warp-speed decline
From access to healthcare and education to gender equality, the U.S. resembles a second-rate nation
CJ WERLEMAN, ALTERNET
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.
If America needed a reminder that it is fast becoming a second-rate nation, and that every economic policy of the Republican Party is wrongheaded, it got one this week with the release of the Social Progress Index (SPI).
Harvard business professor Michael E. Porter, who earlier developed the Global Competitiveness Report, designed the SPI. A new way to look at the success of countries, the SPI studies 132 nations and evaluates 54 social and environmental indicators for each country that matter to real people. Rather than measuring a country’s success by its per capita GDP, the index is based on an array of data reflecting suicide, ecosystem sustainability, property rights, access to healthcare and education, gender equality, attitudes toward immigrants and minorities, religious freedom, nutrition, infrastructure and more.
The index measures the livability of each country. People everywhere depend on and care about similar things. “We all need clean water. We all want to feel safe and live without fear. People everywhere want to get an education and improve their lives,” says Porter. But economic growth alone doesn’t guarantee these things.
While the U.S. enjoys the second highest per capita GDP of $45,336, it ranks in an underperforming 16th place overall. It gets worse. The U.S. ranks 70th in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation and 31st in personal safety.
More surprising is the fact that despite being the home country of global tech heavyweights Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Oracle, and so on, the U.S. ranks a disappointing 23rd in access to the Internet. “It’s astonishing that for a country that has Silicon Valley, lack of access to information is a red flag,” notes Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative, which oversees the index.
If this index is an affront to your jingoistic sensibilities, the U.S. remains in first place for the number of incarcerated citizens per capita, adult onset diabetes and for believing in angels.
New Zealand is ranked in first place in social progress. Interestingly, it ranks only 25th on GDP per capita, which means the island of the long white cloud is doing a far better job than America when it comes to meeting the need of its people. In order, the top 10 is rounded out by Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Denmark and Australia.
Unsurprisingly these nations all happen to rank highly in the 2013 U.N. World Happiness Report with Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden among the top five.
So, what of the U.S? In terms of happiness, we rank 17th, trailing neighboring Mexico.
We find ourselves languishing for the very fact we have allowed corporate America to hijack the entire Republican Party, and some parts of the Democratic Party. This influence has bought corporations and the rich a rigged tax code that has redistributed wealth from the middle class to the rich over the course of the past three decades. This lack of shared prosperity and opportunity has retarded our social progress.
America’s rapid descent into impoverished nation status is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. By every measure, we look like a broken banana republic. Not a single U.S. city is included in the world’s top 10 most livable cities. Only one U.S. airport makes the list of the top 100 in the world. Our roads, schools and bridges are falling apart, and our trains — none of them high-speed — are running off their tracks.
With 95 percent of all economic gains funneled to the richest 1 percent over the course of the last decade, and a tax code that has starved the federal government of revenues to invest in public infrastructure, America will be a country divided by those who have and those who have not. InThe World As It Is, Chris Hedges writes, “Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods, and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty.”
This week the Republican Party rolled out its 2014 Ryan budget. Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, noted that under the Ryan budget, ”[affluent] Americans would do quite well. But for tens of millions of others, the Ryan plan is a path to more adversity.” Greenstein pointed out that the plan would leave millions without health insurance through repeal of the Affordable Care Act and changes to Medicaid funding.
Greenstein also criticized the budget for its impact on anti-poverty programs, estimating that it would slash basic food aid provided by SNAP by at least $135 billion and convert the program to a block grant, make it harder for low-income students to attend college and make massive unspecified cuts to domestic non-military spending, which means cuts to social welfare programs.
The countries ranked highest in social progress are doing the complete opposite. They’re investing in schools rather than drones. They’re expanding collective bargaining laws rather than busting unions. They’re providing their citizens with universal healthcare and education rather than selling these basic human rights to the highest bidder.
“Those who care about the plight of the working class and the poor must begin to mobilize quickly, or we will lose our last opportunity to save our embattled democracy. The most important struggle will be to wrest the organs of communication from corporations that use mass media to demonize movements of social change and empower protofascist movements such as the Christian Right,” observes Hedges.
It’s your move, America.
CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America, and God Hates You. Hate Him Back.
DeForest Area Progressives
March 24, 2014
Next meeting: Monday, March 31, 2014, at Isabel's, 816 South Street, DeForest, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
There were seven people at the March 24th meeting. Chair Marcia passed out a printed agenda for the meeting!
Thank yous were passed all around for attendance and work done by DAP-pers on the Wisconsin Grassroots Network Festival last Saturday, the 22nd. The DAP presence and contribution were notable. Also true of the Mike McCabe presentation at the DeForest Library. Karen reported that those staffing the table at the WGN Fest sold 27 bumper stickers (18 "Vote Burke Not the Jerk" and 9 "Want to Work Vote for Burke") and 54 two and a quarter inch buttons and 3 three inch buttons. There was $95 in the bag at the end of the day, although there should have been $111. It was a lesson in watching both the inventory and the cash box more carefully at future events. There was lots of video taken at the Fest, especially of George Lakoff's presentations, and it will be available on Youtube.
We went over leafleting and other plans to promote the two referendums on the DeForest and Windsor ballots April 1st.
Marcia expounded on the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Both she and Karen have attended some of the CELDF training. She asked all of us to review the CELDF web page to get familiar with it and to try to decide what, if anything, we want to pursue along those lines. Do we want to pursue CELDF projects locally in Wisconsin, as has been done successfully in other states? What do we want to do as DAP? CELDF has lawyers who will help local communities to develop and pass "Declarations of Community Rights," which will help to resist outside forces such as mining corporations from pushing locals around. Further discussion on this topic will take place at future DAP meetings.
John Stanley reported on a number of contacts he has made and other issues and questions that came up in regard to the WGN Fest.
DON'T FORGET TO VOTE TUESDAY. See you Monday!
DeForest Area Progressives
March 17, 2014
Next meeting: Monday, March 24, 2014, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Isabel's, 816 South Street, DeForest
There were 14 people present at the March 17th meeting. Good turnout!
Terri Treinen joined us for the first hour. Terri is running for DeForest Area School Board. She is a 1988 graduate of DeForestHigh School. She has her MBA from Edgewood. Three years ago she became interested in the school district when the discussions were going on about administrators' raises. She has a child in attendance in the district. She feels the current school board is too remote. She does not care too much for the "policy governance" method of doing board business. If elected, she will be more engaged and "in the buildings" of the schools, as the current board has not been. She feels the jury is still out on Common Core. She feels that the budget cuts of the last few years at the state level are having a negative impact, although DASD is not as impacted as other districts. She thinks the board needs more give and take with the public, and she is appalled at the poor public attendance at school board meetings. There is no video of the meetings, and meeting minutes are vague and uninformative. Terri does not like the elimination of elementary school librarians and reading specialists. There are two reading specialists in the district now, but we need more, as reading is of utmost importance. We talked of many other subjects. All of those in attendance seemed very impressed with Terri Treinen and some volunteered to work for her election.
We discussed activities afoot to promote the passage of "YES" votes on the two referendums on the ballot April 1st to get money out of politics (or at least to lessen its influence). Signs are going up. A lit drop is in the works. We had decent attendance at the Mike McCabe presentation, along with coverage by Lauren Anderson of the local news media, the DeForest Times-Tribune. At least two and maybe more DAP members will be out on the curbs holding up "VOTE YES" signs the day of voting.
DAP has a significant role in the Wisconsin Grassroots Network's 6th Annual Festival this Saturday at WisconsinHeightsHigh School in Mazomanie. We will have our DAP publicity table, kindly furnished and paid for by Frank D. Several of us will be facilitating breakout sessions. Special thanks to Marcia for pushing us all to get acquainted with George Lakoff's writings, as George will be the featured keynote speaker.
Marcia reported on the CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund) training she attended recently. CELDF teaches communities -- towns and villages -- how to defend themselves against large corporate takeovers of their local resources. We are no longer the targets of concern by our state legislatures. Corporations are. Many communities around the country are formulating and passing their very own bills of rights (for example, the rights to clean air and clean water). CELDF helps those communities pass ordinances that can help them to defend against corporate exploitation. We will hear more on this at future meetings. In the meantime, do a computer search for CELDF and peruse their website.
Ginny reported on the George Ferriter gathering in Cambria last weekend, where George announced his candidacy for Wisconsin's 42nd Assembly District rep against Keith Ripp, whom some of us have been trying to unseat for several elections now. Five or six DAP-pers were in attendance, and a good time was had by all. Work for George, vote for George!
Janet mentioned in brief her work with OFA in preparation for the Mary Burke campaign against Scott Walker for governor.
Come to the WGN Festival tomorrow, and come to the next DAP meeting Monday.
We have to fight for campaign finance reform, again. Big money has taken over on both sides of the political spectrum: transnational corporations, individual billionaires, big labor unions. Both sides of the political spectrum are obsessed with building big money political action committees and other associations to collect big bucks to spend on election campaigns and issue advertising. Elected officials these days spend more of their time fundraising than they do on our public business.
Unfortunately, our Wisconsin Assembly voted two weeks ago against Assembly Joint Resolution 50, an advisory referendum on the U.S. Supreme Court's bad Citizens United decision. AJR 50 was a resolution that would reduce the influence of big money on politics. A similar resolution was just introduced in the Wisconsin Senate. We will see how it fares there.
One topical area that has not received much attention yet is the fact that foreign citizens and nations are using the Citizens United decision to pour money into influencing ourU.S. elections. Keep an eye out in the news for reports about this new outside influence.
What can we do? According to The Capital Times (2/12/14), "Wisconsin's Money Out, Voters In coalition recently submitted close to 25,000 signatures on petitions calling for Wisconsin to join 16 other states in calling on Congress to approve a constitutional amendment that would reverse the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC -- which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to buy elections -- and restore the right of citizens and their elected representatives to regulate the influence of money in politics./ United Wisconsin and the dozens of other groups in the Money Out, Voters In coalition want the Legislature to place a statewide advisory referendum on the November 2014 general election ballot. [State Representative] Taylor and state Sen. David Hansen...have submitted legislation to do just that." The Capital Times, 2/12/14)
What can we little guys do about this? One thing you and I can do is VOTE YES on the two referendums that will appear on the local Windsor, DeForest, and Waunakee ballots at this April's elections. The referendums ask our village and town boards to ask our United States Congressional representatives to support Constitutional amendments that declare that corporations are not the same as human beings and that spending money to influence elections is not the same as the free speech guaranteed us human beings in our Bill of Rights. Those Constitutional amendments will return to us citizens and taxpayers the right to regulate big money in politics. It will give us back our right to campaign finance reform.
VOTE YES on the referendums. Do your bit to lessen the influence of big money on politics. On March 12th, there will be a forum at the DeForest Library on this topic. The main guest speaker will be Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Look for the announcement in the Times-Tribune's Community Calendar under DeForest Area Progressives.
DeForest Area Progressives (DAP)
Meeting notes for January 20, 2014
DON'T FORGET THESE TWO IMPORTANT REMINDERS:
- Monday's meeting, January 27th, will be at the "Maureen McCarville for DaneCounty Board" fundraiser at Dawn Fish's house, 6822 Valiant Drive, Windsor. Special guest is Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. Bring your checkbook. It is estimated that these days it costs around $10,000 to run a successful campaign for DaneCounty Board. The affair is scheduled from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. with the DAP meeting to follow until 8:00.
- This Saturday, January 25th, DAP is hosting the quarterly meeting of Progressive Partners at the DMB Windsor Neighborhood Center, 4438 Windsor Road, Windsor from 9:30 a.m. (registration 9:30 - 10:00) to 2:00 p.m. Helpers are needed at 8:00 a.m. to set up tables & chairs, etc., as well as clean-up after 2:00.
There were 7 people present at January 20th's meeting of DAP.
We reviewed responsibilities for next Saturday's meeting of Progressive Partners at the DMBWindsorNeighborhoodCenter. I you are coming, don't forget to bring something to share at the potluck noontime luncheon. The program will feature Marcia Riquelme's workshop on messaging the Lakoff way through framing language.
At our meeting this evening was a special guest, Mike Basford, Chair of the Democratic Party of Dane County. Mike shared a pot load of information with us, only a fragment of which I share with you below.
Maureen McCarville has two challengers in her run for re-election to the DaneCounty Board, thus necessitating a primary in February. There are only seven contested races this year for CountyBoard. The large majority of progressive board members is not being taken for granted, and the party is putting resources into all of the races to win them and retain the big progressive majority. Much work has been put into the effort to obtain that majority by Mike and others in the county party structure. They have worked also to elect local board members to school boards, town boards, and village and city boards. Mike took note of the fact that there are only two incumbents running for three seats on the DeForest Village Board.
In regard to the last sentence immediately above, John Scepanski erred last meeting in putting his name up as a wrote-in candidate for that DeForest Village Board seat. Please DO NOT write John's name in for that position. He cannot accept the call.
Mike noted that the successes in electing progressives over the past few years have resulted in much good, progressive legislation being enacted by boards in DaneCounty, especially the DaneCounty Board. Mike described the legislative atmosphere in the State Capitol as "war." Much ultra-conservative legislation is being passed.
Regarding this fall's elections, Mike said, "I think we have an excellent opportunity to retire Scott Walker." Mary Burke is working tirelessly already in all counties to do that. Mike described her style of campaign to be like that of Tammy Baldwin in her successful campaign to win the U.S. Senate seat; that is, Mary is meeting all over the state with all sizes of groups from all sectors of all communities to get herself and her policies known.. Mary Burke will be at the February 12th meeting of the Democratic Party of Dane County. All are encouraged to attend. Responding to questions from Liz, Mike listed some of Mary Burke's asserts:
- her business background
- her understanding of struggling peoples' needs that the GOP does not seem to fathom
- her acceptance among minorities and people of color
- her knowledge of how to manage teams to get things done.
Mike noted the tremendous assets that Kathleen Vinehout brings to the legislature and sees a bright future for her, maybe running for Ron Kind's position in the U.S. Congress, as Kind has said he might run for U.S. Senate.
Other discussion included campaign financing, environmental stewardship, the state Dem Party of Wisconsin's "Red to Blue" strategy to win back some of the seats in the "red" zones of Wisconsin, and a book recommendation, The Hero's Workbook.
Frank Dederich said that he, Dawn and Terry Fish erected three signs over the weekend. Way to go, guys!
SEE YOU ALL AT THE PP MEETING THIS SATURDAY AND MAUREEN'S FUNDRAISER MONDAY.
ALEC owns Scott Walker he says proudly in his biography. Walker will never be intimidated by the people. He knows ALEC has always PAID his way since 1992.
Scott Walker remembers creating jobs as assemblyman in Wisconsin . It was easy with ALEC. 32000 UNION public sector jobs since 1995. It is not as easy this time with out using your tax dollars. Scott Walker has created ALL Wisconsin`s budget problems working for ALEC. When Scott Walker was a state representative and the chairman of the Assembly Corrections Committee, he introduced bills that would privatize state prison operations and that would allow private corrections companies to open prisons in Wisconsin to house inmates from other states. This allowed outsourcing our Prisoners in several states.
In 1995 Walker and Prosser as state assemblymen championed for ALEC with truth in sentencing telling the legislatures it would not cost a dime it was to give judges not parole boards the control over sentencing. Then Walker filibustered to stop sentencing changes after the fact misleading ALL the legislatures. With out the sentencing changes Wisconsin`s prisons quadrupled over night. Most people sentenced to 2 years now had to serve as much as 6o years. As the Wisconsin Budget watch Blog shows . Stopping just a percentage of these long sentences Wisconsin would save 707 million per year. Wisconsin could have free tuition colleges. It shows Wisconsin has wasted 100 billion if you add the numbers to the state budget since 1995. Not including the building new or remodeling of 71 courthouses & 71 county jails & 441 police stations and dozens of prisons 28 billion plus interest. It is 2.5 billion annually out of the state budget just to maintain these Palaces called jails and courthouses. No expense spared. The total is over 28 BILLION plus the 60 Billion spent by social services to support prisoners families because the bread winner was a political prisoner as US Att gen Eric Holder explained. Then farming out prisoners in several states until the courts realized it was not allowed in the Wisconsin constitution. Wisconsin then hired 32000 union public sector workers to fill the jobs housing the prisoners from deputies , judges, district attorneys all owe Walker for creating there jobs. 32000 UNION PUBLIC SECTOR JOBS. This cost taxpayers over 3.8 billion or a half million per day to house these EXTRA prisoners per day in Milwaukee county alone. Wisconsin claims it has 24,000 prisoners compared to Minnesota`s 5500. Wisconsin`s corrections population is 104,000 with many in half way house and county jails and county prisons that are not counted. . In 1995 Milwakee county had less than 200 prisoners now it has thousands. When Prosecutors Mishandle Cases, Everyone Pays…Except For Them
Is Scott Walker moving Wisconsin forward ?
This your reason for budget problems in Wisconsin. Big spender big government Scott Walker. Why does he not work for the people he is taking his check from the people ? Walker has ALEC on his Biography and is proud of this scam. ALEC has no place in any democracy. Ronald Reagan said where collective bargaing and UNIONS are not allowed Democracy and freedom is lost. Unions created the great American miracle so everyone could prosper. Reagan calls Walker a communist . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsHXJr8tqP0In In walker`s America we have slave labor like in Fred Koch`s RUSSIA. Could or would an Amercan consider any type of voter suppression ? Could or would an American end liberty and justice for all for personal gain ? Could or would an American not take care of it`s own people ?
This ends all rumor that Scott walker even considers the constitution or liberty and justice for all. these Are Koch`s / ALEC Russian revolutionaries ideals from fred Koch in Russia where he made his first millions.
http://wjacact.blogspot.com/ This would end or slow down many of the states criminal regimes called justice systems in Wisconsin . ALEC and Scott Walker have ruined generations of our youth for personal and agency gain. This has allowed ALEC corporations and Scott Walker to scam BILLIONS off the Wisconsin taxpayer.
BIG SPENDER , BIG GOVERNMENT & HUGE CORPOARTION is ALL SCOTT WALKER knows. He hurts all the rest.
Scott Walker will Pray in church or sunday and pray on the people all week long.
Scott Walker Not educating children is child abuse. Websters Dictionary says to change what is norm for persnal, political, or religous reasons is an act of perversion. This is walkers agenda to pervert America to koch`s russian Communism. PRISON SLAVE LABOR just like Fred Koch used in Russia. walker is allowing Koch to win the COLD WAR for his Russia.
This is Paul Ryan when he was still supporting America. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz9XPZa2MKw
We must not succumb to fatalistic propaganda. We must not let someone else frame the discussion. (Bcc to 100 DeForest area progressives and 25 other associates)
"Progress in the War on Poverty"
JAN. 8, 2014 Nicholas Kristof
America’s war on poverty turned 50 years old this week, and plenty of people have concluded that, as President Reagan put it: “We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won.”
That perception shapes the right’s suspicion of food stamps, minimum-wage raises and extensions of unemployment benefits. A reader named Frank posted on my Facebook page: “All the government aid/handouts in the world will not make people better parents. This is why the ideas from the left, although always made with the best of intentions, never work. ... All of this aid is wasted.”
Yet a careful look at the evidence suggests that such a view is flat wrong. In fact, the first lesson of the war on poverty is that we can make progress against poverty, but that it’s an uphill slog.
The most accurate measures, using Census Bureau figures that take account of benefits, suggest that poverty rates have fallen by more than one-third since 1968. There’s a consensus that without the war on poverty, other forces (such as mass incarceration, a rise in single mothers and the decline in trade unions) would have lifted poverty much higher.
A ColumbiaUniversity study suggests that without government benefits, the poverty rate would have soared to 31 percent in 2012. Indeed, an average of 27 million people were lifted annually out of poverty by social programs between 1968 and 2012,according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
The best example of how government antipoverty programs can succeed involves the elderly. In 1960, about 35 percent of older Americans were poor. In 2012, 9 percent were. That’s because senior citizens vote, so politicians listened to them and buttressed programs like Social Security and Medicare.
In contrast, children are voiceless, so they are the age group most likely to be poor today. That’s a practical and moral failure.
I don’t want anybody to be poor, but, if I have to choose, I’d say it’s more of a priority to help kids than seniors. In part, that’s because when kids are deprived of opportunities, the consequences can include a lifetime of educational failure, crime and underemployment.
Research from neuroscience underscores why early interventions are so important. Early brain development turns out to have lifelong consequences, and research from human and animal studies alike suggests that a high-stress early childhood in poverty changes the physical brain in subtle ways that impair educational performance and life outcomes.
A careful review of antipoverty programs in a new book, “Legacies of the War on Poverty,” shows that many of them have a clear impact — albeit sometimes not as great an impact as advocates hoped.
For starters, one of the most basic social programs that works — indeed pays for itself many times over — is family-planning assistance for at-risk teenage girls. This has actually been one of America’s most successful social programs in recent years. Theteenage birthrate has fallen by half over roughly the last 20 years.
Another hugely successful array of programs involved parent coaching to get pregnant women to drink and smoke less and to encourage at-risk moms to talk to their children more. Programs like Nurse-Family Partnership, Healthy Families America, Child First, Save the Children and Thirty Million Words Project all have had great success in helping parents do a better job with their kids.
Some of you may remember receiving a false message over the last couple of years, saying that due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Medicare recipients' monthly premiums were going to increase drastically from about $100 a month to $247 per month and that the annual deductible was going to soar. That message was exposed early on as totally false. It seems to have been concocted by opponents of "obamacare" who wanted to scare senior citizens into opposition to the Act.
This is the truth. According to the December 2013 issue of the AARP Bulletin (p. 6), citing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, "Standard premiums for Medicare Part B -- which covers doctors' services and outpatient care -- will remain at $104.90 a month in 2014, the same as this year ... and the annual deductible will stay unchanged at $147. The news ... disproves a mass email that has been circulated since 2010, claiming that under the Affordable Care Act the Part B premium would reach $247 a month by 2014. Officials say that the actual premium -- always calculated as 25 percent of the program's costs in the previous year -- has been held flat because Medicare costs have slowed, in part due to provisions of the new law."
December 14, 2013
To: Kevin Brown, Editor
From: John Scepanski
Subject: Guest column for the DeForest Times-Tribune, December 2013
Let's Get Money Out of Politics -- Vote YES on the April Referendums
At next April's election, DeForest, Windsor, and Waunakee voters will get to express their opinions on the influence of big money in government. The elected boards of DeForest, Windsor, and Waunakee have agreed to place on the ballot referendums that, if passed, will ask our U.S. Congressional representatives to initiate an amendment to the United States Constitution that will put big money into its proper place. If passed, such an amendment will look something like this.
Proposed Amendment to the United States Constitution
Section 1 [Corporations are not people]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through federal, state, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through federal, state, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2 [Money is not speech]
Federal, state and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, state and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.
Is this the exact and precise wording of the constitutional amendment that we want adopted? Probably not. The precise wording of proposed amendments typically changes as they go through the various stages of approval. We cannot guarantee what the exact final wording will be. However, the final wording must make it clear that: 1) artificial legal entities like corporations and unions are not "persons" with regard to constitutional rights; and 2) money is not speech under the meaning of the First Amendment.
While we realize that corporations and other artificial entities like them are necessary for the free and fluid functioning of our economic system, corporations are not naturally occurring beings the same as flesh-and-blood people. We, the people, through our governments, enable groups to form corporations. These corporations are given certain privileges that allow them to act in some ways as artificial persons. Corporations can, for example, own property and enter into contracts. However, rights are different from privileges. Only real, flesh-and-blood people can possess rights as intended in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Corporations have legal privileges but not human rights. Your YES vote on the referendums will send that message to our elected representatives.
According to the national Move to Amend movement, it was not until 1886 that the idea of corporate personhood was first introduced in the United States. The Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution almost a hundred years prior never intended corporations to have the same rights as individuals. "Since 1886, courts have handed out more human rights to corporations. Armed with human rights and legal privileges, large corporations have amassed fantastic wealth and power, which has undermined our sovereign self-governance and created a democracy crisis." (South Central Wisconsin Move to Amend)
From the 1500s through most of the 1800s, corporations served our economy well, having privileges but not rights. But beginning after the Civil War and culminating with the 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, corporations have claimed ever-expanding rights that no legislature or peoples' referendum has ever granted them. These decisions mean that corporations chartered in the US -- even those with foreign owners -- have the same rights as citizens and voters do. We don't think that's right. Of the Citizens United ruling, Senator John McCain said, "I think there's going to be a backlash, ... when you see the amounts of union and corporate money that's going into political campaigns." Former Senator Russ Feingold said, "This decision was a terrible mistake. Presented with a relatively narrow legal issue, the Supreme Court chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president."
Specifically, as a result of these decisions, there are certain ways in which we, the people, have been losing our control over the conduct of the corporations we created.
Corporations have used our human Fourteenth Amendment rights (equal protection of the laws) to force state and local governments to revoke legislation that protected small and local businesses.
Corporations have used our human Fifth Amendment rights (against self-incrimination) to refuse to allow health and safety inspectors on their premises.
Corporations are using our human First Amendment rights (free speech and petitioning our government) to strike down the campaign finance and lobbying laws we adopted to fight government corruption.
Regular citizens across the entire political spectrum are tired of big-money influence controlling and corrupting our government. This is not a right-versus-left partisan political issue. Legislators of both parties crafted the campaign finance laws that have been struck down by the courts. Both political parties are now so beholden to corporate sponsors that neither can lead us back to the days when human rights were reserved for humans. That is why we need a Constitutional amendment and your YES vote on the referendums coming up in April.
Laws and regulations that have allowed corporations to be a vital contribution to our economy in the past and the present will continue. We, the people, will continue to be able to choose to give corporations any and all powers, privileges, and freedoms we believe to be useful and wise. The only difference will be that corporations will not be able to demand these as their rights. They will need to gain them through normally debated and enacted legislation.
As the Move to Amend National Law & Research Committee has explained,
Please note that the “We the People Amendment” does not strip corporations from the ability to sue or be sued or to enter into contracts. It merely affirms that all [non-human] entities created under law (for-profit corporations, non-profit corporations, limited liability partnerships, incorporated unions, etc) are created under the auspices of local, state and federal law, and that any legal privileges such entities exercise are subject to the political process.
(For the purposes of this article, I have borrowed from some of the material provided by national, state, and regional "Move-to-Amend" associations.)
This amendment will pertain to other organizations, too, like unions and non-profit organizations. When this constitutional amendment is adopted, no on-paper entity of any kind will have legal rights. However, we the people, through our elected representatives, will be able to legislate powers, privileges, or benefits as we believe they should have them.
In conclusion, we are working as free and independent citizens in DeForest, Windsor, and Waunakee to call for an amendment to the United States Constitution stating that, 1) Only human beings—not corporations, unions, non-profits, or similar associations—are endowed with constitutional rights, and 2) Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.
We would like you, our fellow citizens, to join us in this effort on April First by voting YES on the referendums you will find on the ballots along with the candidates for office in that election.
DeForest Area Progressives
December 16, 2013
NO MEETING DECEMBER 23RD FOR OBVIOUS REASONS. NEXT MEETING WILL BE MONDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2013, AGAIN AT GINNY'S HOUSE, 3922 PARTRIDGE IN THE WINDSOR HILLS NEIGHBORHOOD, 6:00 - 8:00 P.M. AS USUAL.
Six people met on the sixteenth.
The group okayed January 25th for our hosting of the Progressive Partners quarterly meeting. Liz arranged for the facilities at the DMBWindsorNeighborhoodCenter again, as last April. John sent in the $45 fee and $100 security deposit (returned as long as we leave the premises neat and clean). The tentative lineup will be 10:00 a.m. to noon, reports, Q&A, planning from each group present; lunch from noon to 1:00 with informal interchange; and a program from 1:00 to 2:00 (probably something from Marcia on messaging, Lakoff theory, etc). Yet to be decided is whether to have a simple BYO sack or box lunch or another potluck as we usually have. We should plan to provide coffee, tea, water, soda, juice, etc., and maybe a selection from Windsor Breads. Marcia, please put these final touches discussion on the agenda for the next meeting.
A message from Beth Trotter alerted us to the fact that there will be a Windsor vacancy on the DeForest Area School District (DASD) Board this coming election. The Windsor Rep is not running for re-election. There are also two other spots up for election, and the incumbents are running again. Please, some-DAP-per from Windsor run! Remember, tea partiers are watching too.
Most of the meeting was occupied with a very informative conversation with Brita Olsen, Political Director for the Wisconsin Democratic Party. Brita is only a few months into the job, but she has other experience with the party. She has lived for ten years in Madison, having graduated from the UW-Madison, and is originally from Manitowoc. She spoke about fundraising, the three regions that have been established to implement the "72 county strategy," and a unique "Red to Blue" project to take back some tough districts from the Republicans. Brita said that Dems in Wisconsin should not be discouraged, recognizing the facts that Democratic Party membership in Wisconsin has doubled in recent years. The party has many more trained and experienced activists in place than ever before, much due to the organizing efforts of OFA and such in the last few years. She expressed confidence that we can "go after" Walker in a meaningful way and succeed. When pressed to identify three main ideas, she named 1) Medicaid/BadgerCare, 2) women's health, and 3) student loan debt. Of course, limiting her to three topics was unfair, as we discussed many more than that, all of which we do not have space here to detail. We all look forward to seeing more of Brita in the near future.
We also discussed a resolution opposing frack sand mining being sponsored by the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice and the Madison Action for Mining Alternatives (MAMA). All DAP in attendance approved signing on in support of the resolution.
Marcia provided copies of the Wisconsin Grassroots Network's "NEWSPAPER DIRECTORY." As part of the letters-to-the-editors project, each of us who writes letters should provide to Marcia whom we write to, when, and a summary of the topic.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.