November 2009 Archives

With the University of California in free-fall and students responding with a passion not seen in years, the question cannot be ignored any further: What is it going to take to generate more revenue for the State of California so we can educate our best and our brightest young people to take the economic and political reigns of this state in the years and decades to come?

To add to the crisis, the LAO's office this week announced the likelihood that California will see a $20 Billion shortfall in the year ahead. No longer can the right-wing fringe use its cute but dishonest phrase that we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. (Of course, the truth has never gotten in the way of a good RNC-created soundbite, but that's another story). Even these obstructionists can no longer say, at least with a straight face, that state government is filled with waste, fraud and abuse. While that has been their mantra for years, they've never been able to locate it. Their one "victory" has been to destroy the Integrated Waste Management Board---a Board that actually succeeded in its mandate to reduce waste--but its been an easy target. So now that it has been successfully destroyed, where are the billions of spending excesses that will balance the budget without the need to increase the state's revenues to pay its bills? Bottom line: There ain't, but it makes a great sound-bite, doesn't it?

What is real is that our state's revenues have fallen from a high of $105 Billion in 2006 to about $80 Billion this year. The current projections predict our state coffers continuing to slide for the next several years, thanks to the failed economic policies of the past decade under the failed leadership of George W. Bush that have left the country and California is particular, reeling from lost jobs and foreclosed homes.

How are we going to fill that gap---and still provide the services that the public wants---the education system that our state needs to remain competitive nationally and internationally? How are we going to pay for the prisons and public safety personnel we demand?How are we going to weed out the greedy CEO's and corporate polluters who don't hesitate to decimate our communities or destroy our resources for their own profit?

The right-wing fringe has been working to bleed the state dry, thus privatizing everything from our universities to our prisons (already partially accomplished), to our freeways and water systems. Why does this matter? Because their only interest is profit, not people.

We must figure out ways to meet the severe economic challenges created by an almost decade-long national policy of indifference and uncontrolled corporate greed and corruption in the private-sector. We must also work to stimulate job growth by educating a creative and competent work-force through our once outstanding University and Community College systems.

But whatever we do here in California, we can't return our state to its former prominence until we rid ourselves of the undemocratic and burdensome super-majority rule. We are a democracy where our government is supposed to be based on the principle of majority rule. Today a small minority is able to defeat the will of the majority which calls for the wealthiest corporations and individuals to pay their fair share. Instead, they continue to call for--and receive tax breaks for the biggest and richest corporations. By further draining our state's coffers, our students are forced to pay those taxes by increasing their fees to attend college, by closing the doors to higher education and the hope and opportunity for the future of our people and our state.

So-let's return California to majority rule, close tax loopholes of billions of dollars given to the largest and richest corporations, require oil companies to pay an oil extraction tax like they  pay in every other oil drilling state in the country---that's Alaska, Texas, Louisiana and Florida---not exactly big tax-oriented states--- and use that money to fund our education system.

Stopping the bleeding won't be easy in an economy decimated by under-regulated banks, Wall Street and other financial companies that took the opportunity to destroy the American economy during the Bush administration's watch. The answer is simple: bring back majority rule and California will put its house back in financial order without further destroying the institutions and programs that made us the envy of the world.

Until we do that, the bleeding will continue. Without majority rule, Big Oil, multi-national corporations and the uber-wealthy won't be required to pay their fair share. The simple fact is that we can't afford to carry these special interest groups any more. We need to invest in our children, not big corporations, if our state is to survive and flourish. Let's stop the bleeding now---and hope it isn't too late.



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Alaska and Texas tax oil as it comes out of the ground and use that money to pay for state government, schools, colleges, etc.  Alaska even sends everyone in the state a check with that oil money.

But in California the state refuses to tax oil companies that take our oil out of the ground to sell back to us.  Instead it raises college tuition by a third.

California also doesn't ask its wealthy residents to pitch in and help run the state.  Instead it makes it much more difficult for children who are not born to wealthy families to get a university education.

This is the choice California makes when it allows a 2/3 rule that lets a minority block the state from raising the revenue it needs to run the government.

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Here at Speak Out California, we're trying to bring some clarity and varying perspectives to the water wars that have been the hallmark of California politics since statehood. With the fight for precious water resources dividing the state along geographic as well as ideological lines, it is important that we bring you all sides of the debate....just in case anyone wants to really try to solve the problem for the betterment of the state.  While accusations are flying fast and furiously from north to south and east to west (and all places in-between)we hope the truth will emerge from healthy dialogue such as we hope to bring you here at Speak Out California.

The following post is the second in a series from Carolee Krieger whose organization, C-WIN, has been a leading resource in fighting to make sure we have enough water to keep our state going. Here are her comments. We welcome yours as well--especially from opposing points of view.  -- HBJ


California and Its Water Crisis

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California is not running out of water; our water is just being badly mismanaged for the profit and greed a few people.  There are a few facts that we all need to be aware of when thinking about this complex question:

FACTS

  • ·         80% of the developed surface water in California is used by agriculture; 40% of that water is used to grow cotton, alfalfa and irrigated pasture.
  • ·         Only 11% of all the developed surface water is used by all the people, lawns, swimming pools and showers.
  • ·         The cost to agriculture for much of its water is subsidized by the taxpayers.
  • ·         Many of the crops grown, like cotton, are subsidized by the taxpayers.  In some years, the farmers are paid not to grow it.
  • ·         1.3 million acres out of a total of 9 million acres of farm land in California is poisoned with salt, selenium, arsenic, and other toxic metals.  Taking this land  out of production would free up almost 4 million acre feet of wet water.
  • ·         The California State Water Resources Control Board, the agency with the fiduciary responsibility to grant and revoke all water rights permits in California, including the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project, has publically stated in their July 2008 Strategic WorkPlan, that they have issued 8 1/2 times more water rights permits that actual water exists in the Delta watershed.  So every drop of water has been promised 8 1/2 times over.
  • SOLUTIONS

    The solutions are simple to understand and make a lot of common sense.  But because of greed and entrenched power, these solutions are very difficult to achieve politically.

  • ·         Retirement from agricultural production of all 1.3 million acres of poisoned farmlands in the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.  Redirect some of the current subsidies to encourage production of something California really needs; clean solar energy.  All of these lands are in semi desert; this could be a win/win solution.
  • ·         Remove the "paper water", the water that isn't real, from all State Water Project and Central Valley Project contracts and abide by long established law protecting the area or origin and senior water rights holders.  The State Water Resources Control Board could and should do this.
  • ·         Enforce the Clean Water Acts and other water laws.  A good place to start would be to give the State Water Resources Control Board protection from political influence and adequate funding to do its job.
  • ·         Uphold the Public Trust Doctrine.  Our public resources, especially water, must be managed for the good of all; the people and the environment.
  • We must stop allowing subsidized crops to be grown with subsidized water on poisoned lands.

    We must stop allowing the system to be gamed by people and big corporations for personal profit.  Once such abuser gained over $200 million by selling "paper water" that he had "banked" in an underground aquifer to the federal Environmental Water Account.  This speculator got his $200 million; the fish, however, never got their water; it was only "paper water".

    Carolee Krieger, President, founded C-Win in 2001. She helped lead the campaign to prevent delivery of State Water Project water to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. On behalf of the Citizens Planning Association (CPA), Carolee also led the fight against the Monterey Amendments to the State Water Project contracts. These amendments attempted to deregulate the State Water Project, give away public assets to private special interests for profit and make "paper water", water that doesn't exist, legal.  C-WIN has led the fight to stop speculative development in Southern California based on "paper water."  C-WIN is currently focusing its efforts on the fight to save the San Francisco Bay Delta and keep the salmon from going extinct.  She brings to C-WIN her passion for protecting public trust resources and stopping wasteful use of water in California..


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    As part of our on-going look at the reasons for California's dysfunctional government, we have asked a number of current and former legislators for their views on just what is causing the problem.
     
    Long-time SOCa supporter and State Senator, Loni Hancock has written recently about her take on what are the structural problems in our system of governance and what reforms we need to undertake to return our system to its former visionary glory.
     
    She has submitted the following observations based upon her service on the newly created Joint Select Committee on Improving State Government which was formed by the legislature to consider how to reform and fix this terribly and unquestionably broken system. -- HBJ
     
    Here are her latest thoughts:
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    From the desk of Senator Loni Hancock:

    The cry for reform of California's governance system continues to grow. As of November 5, there were no less than twenty-two initiatives either already in circulation or awaiting a title and summary from the Attorney General that deal solely with California's governance process. 

    The proposals range from lowering the vote threshold to pass the state budget to the establishment of a constitutional convention to changing the way local government is funded to a part-time legislature.  The ideas are from all across the political spectrum - conservative to liberal. 

    One thing is clear, Californians want reform. The challenge will be finding consensus on which reforms should be advanced.

    Two weeks ago, the Legislature began its own effort to look at reforms.  The Joint Select Committee on Improving State Government held its first of five scheduled hearings.  The witnesses ranged from Bill Hauck, the former Chairman of the California Constitutional Revision Commission to former Republican Assembly Leader Robert Naylor to the current Democratic State Treasurer Bill Lockyer.  Surprisingly, there was agreement in all the testimony - the deterioration of professionalism in the state legislature has had a dramatic impact on its ability to solve California's problems. 

    According to research provided to my committee earlier this year, the Senate Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments Committee, the National Conference on State Legislatures concluded that California is one of three states with the nation's strictest term-limits law - limiting Senators to two four-year terms (up to a total of 8 years) and Assemblymembers to three two-year terms (up to a total of 6 years).  Since California's term-limits remain relatively popular with voters, completely eliminating term-limits is not politically feasible.  However, amending the law to allow legislators to serve all their time in one house would allow them to develop policy expertise without eroding the intent of the law.

    Last year's effort to amend the law to allow legislators to serve a total of 12 years in either house, Proposition 93, did just that.  However, it included a provision that would have allowed sitting legislators to remain in office. This provision sank the initiative; the public voted it down 53.5% to 46.5%. 

    After listening to the testimony at the Senate Committee hearing, I am convinced more than ever that we must make another attempt at "softening" the term limits law.  To that end, I have authored SCA 24, which would, like Proposition 93, change the total number of years an individual can serve in the Legislature from 14 years to 12 years.  The measure will allow an individual first elected to office in November 2010 to serve three four-year terms in the Senate or six two-year terms in the Assembly or a combination of the two. 

    However, unlike Proposition 93, individuals who have served or are currently serving in either house will not be able to extend their terms - they will be bound by the existing law.
    SCA 24 will allow Legislators to develop policy expertise, reduce the number of legislators looking for "the next office to run for" and reinstill confidence in the legislative process.  I believe that this change to term-limits can find consensus and is an important piece in our effort to reforming California.


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    This past week, America's women were, yet again, thrown under the bus. Make no mistake about it; this health care bill eradicates years of effort, blood and lives lost by brave physicians and health care providers, to take this nation back to the dark ages of back alleys, dead mothers and orphaned children. At the very last hour, the House leadership acquiesced in a provision to the great Health Care Reform bill that takes away access to abortion coverage for millions of women, despite the fact that the majority of health insurance policies currently provide that coverage.
     
    The spin machines are hailing this as a great victory for Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats but in reality it is a black day for America's hard-fought battle for reproductive freedom.
     
    While politics is a nasty game on a good day, there are certain principles that those who believe in equality cannot sacrifice. Reproductive choice is one of them. Those who oppose the use of public funds to pay for abortion services had already won a victory in June when pro-choice Representative Lois Capps agreed to introduce, as a stop-gap measure the Hyde amendment which has, for years, prohibited federal funds from being used to pay for abortion services. Representative Capps believed that this would be the line in the sand against further erosion of abortion rights in America.
     
    The Stupak amendment (and I will refrain from the obvious here) goes much further than this: It denies poor and middle-class women access to abortion services when they purchase their own insurance with their own money yet qualify for a partial subsidy. Stupak also denies abortion services to women who seek (now mandatory) coverage through the "public option" (such as it is).
     
    While the pundits and democratic leadership celebrate their great victory, we must rally every woman and man in this state and nation who believe that our daughters, sisters and mothers deserve the ultimate freedom of deciding whether, when and with whom to have children. We have fought too long and too hard to exercise our constitutionally protected right to reproductive choice to lose it now to the hands of political expediency and lunatic fringe politics.

    The fight moves to the Senate where Senate leader Harry Reid and other anti-choice men hold the key to the future of every woman of child-bearing years. Without the option of insurance coverage for abortions, women will effectively be denied their fundamental right to control their own destinies. Of course, what good is a right without the ability to exercise it?

    Will we be back to the butchers and back alleys because women can't afford to pay for the right to exercise their fundamental freedoms and even if they can, those freedoms have been denied to them? Well, that's what the "Stupak" amendment does.

    The bottom line here is that we cannot allow this to stand. President Obama has committed to removing this blatant violation of womens fundamental rights from the final bill that he plans to sign. It is incumbent upon every person who believes in freedom of choice, womens equal rights and the Constitution of this country to step up and do something.
     
    What to do? Write a letter to the President of the United States and demand that he fight for us; send a letter to your Senators and demand that they do the same.
     
    What is it we want, we demand?
     
    WE DEMAND THAT THE SENATE PASS A BILL FREE OF THESE UNPRECEDENTED RESTRICTIONS ON ABORTION AND THAT THE FINAL BILL PROTECT A WOMAN"S RIGHT TO SAFELY ACCESS THIS LEGAL MEDICAL PROCEDURE.
     
    What else can we do?
     
    Write a check to an organization that will bring the battle to the hallowed and hollow walls of Congress, should this measure remain in the Senate version. There is a way to beat this, and we must all stand together to do so.
     
    We'll be doing an action-alert on this shortly. In the meantime, contact your Senators and Congressmembers and tell them your vote for them is dependent upon their protecting reproductive freedom. Too many lives depend upon it. We can no longer acquiesce and be silent.

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    In Paranoia Strikes Deep, Economist/columnist Paul Krugman explains today the difficulty California has getting budgets passed, and how this threatens the ability of the entire country to govern itself:

    ... the G.O.P. has been taken over by the people it used to exploit. ... Once elections were won, the issues that fired up the base almost always took a back seat to the economic concerns of the elite. ... After the Democratic sweep, however, extremists could no longer be fobbed off with promises of future glory. ... Because these people aren't interested in actually governing, they feed the base's frenzy instead of trying to curb or channel it. So all the old restraints are gone. ... 

    ... And if Tea Party Republicans do win big next year, what has already happened in California could happen at the national level. In California, the G.O.P. has essentially shrunk down to a rump party with no interest in actually governing -- but that rump remains big enough to prevent anyone else from dealing with the state's fiscal crisis. If this happens to America as a whole, as it all too easily could, the country could become effectively ungovernable in the midst of an ongoing economic disaster.

    The point is that the takeover of the Republican Party by the irrational right is no laughing matter. Something unprecedented is happening here -- and it's very bad for America. [emphasis added]
    This is a perfect description of what has happened in California, and could spread to the entire country.

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    As the dust settles on the late-night water deal passed in Sacramento on Thursday and touted as the next-best-thing to mother's milk, the environmental groups are starting to speak out about the deal and what it really means....for the environment, for the consumer and for the future of California's water crisis.
     
    Here is the Planning and Conservation League's take on the deal.  Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments with us.

    Planning & Conservation League: PCL: Water package brings subsidies, not solutions

    "In the middle of the night while most Californians were sound asleep, the state legislature passed a package of bills and a bond that rewards bad actors instead of solving the water needs of real people and the environment. The corner piece of the new deal is an $11.1 Billion taxpayer-funded scheme that will appear on the November 2010 ballot.

    We are extremely disappointed that the Legislature passed up an opportunity to make real progress on addressing our state's water needs. The Planning and Conservation League's main objective in negotiations on the Delta package has been to secure dedicated instream water flows through the Delta and the San Francisco Bay for endangered and threatened fish populations.

    Instead the Legislature capitulated to pressure from big corporate water interests and passed a package full of outdated ideas and the same policies that have lead to the current crisis. In the end, the original goal of substantive water reform to restore the fragile Delta ecosystem does not come through in this package.

    Instead of dedicating the water flows that endangered and threatened fish species in the Delta need to recover, the package leaves Californians with no regulatory assurance that water will be there for the fish - even the legislatures' own staff told them this portion of the bill was unenforceable. This will worsen the fishery collapse and lead to even more restrictions on water supplies.

    Instead of insisting on reducing reliance on unstable Delta water, the package continues the status quo of unsustainable pumping that will further devastate the fishery and lead to more litigation.

    Instead of holding people accountable when they illegally divert water, the package makes it harder for state agencies to enforce the law.

    Instead of asking the beneficiaries to pay for new water projects, this package relies on more borrowing and for the first time ever allows taxpayer subsidies for new destructive dams that will cripple our environment and our economy.

    While the policy bills represent a missed opportunity, the passage of an $11 Billion bond was most shocking. Incredibly, the Legislature once again pulled out the taxpayers' credit card even after the State Treasurer warned them the state has already gone over the limit for responsible borrowing. Even more disheartening is that they did this after the independent Legislative Analyst staff gave clear warning that the $700 million annual debt service would result in annual General Fund program cuts equal to one-fourth of the entire UC Educational System or three times the budget of the Department of Public Health.

    With this package, powerful interests will get billions of our dollars for pet projects that they would not pay for if they had to use their own money. For instance, billions of dollars would be used to build destructive dam projects that are so cost inefficient, even the few that could benefit won't pay for them.

    "The Planning and Conservation League is disappointed that the Legislature hung the fate of endangered Delta fish species out to dry. Next November it will be the voters' turn to tell these powerful interests No - No to more binge borrowing, No to more subsidies, and No to devastating the Bay Delta ecosystem," said Charlotte Hodde, Water Program Manager, Planning and Conservation League.

    The Planning and Conservation League (The League) partners with hundreds of California environmental organizations to provide an effective voice in Sacramento for sound planning and responsible environmental policy at the state level."



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    California Water Issues

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    While water in California is just about the Holy Grail, it is so complex and arcane as to leave most Californians glassy-eyed when it is discussed. Nevertheless, it is important to try to understand what this latest effort by the legislature means to those of us who believe the environment needs to be protected, water not be squandered to the wealthy and influential at the expense of the rest of us, and those who stand to benefit most financially pay their fair share of the cost.

    Discussed below are responses to those specific issues by two very knowledgeable sources: Assembly Budget Chair, Noreen Evans, and citizen water maven and activist, Carolee Krieger.

    While the legislature and others (see George Skelton's take on the bill here) are spinning this as a great victory, others see the compromises that have been made as untenable.

    We'll be doing more on this---trying to explain the water wars and commenting on it from a progressive perspective in the days and weeks ahead. Because the issue is bound for the 2010 ballot, with an $11B bond attached, the discussion and debate on this deal are far from over. -- HBJ

    Statement by Assemblymember Nora Evans:

    Evans Comments on Passage of State Water Bond

     SACRAMENTO -- The State Legislature passed an $11 billion water bond, along with a package of policy bills addressing water conservation and groundwater monitoring.  The following is a statement from Assemblymember Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, about the bond.

    "This water bond is an historic achievement for all the wrong reasons.  It was crafted behind closed doors, never received a public vetting, and was passed on the fly in the middle of the night by legislators who lacked an adequate analysis of it.  It brings our debt burden to historic new levels.  And, for the first time, it requires the public across the state to finance half the cost of new dams and reservoirs benefiting private interests.

    By passing this bond, the Legislature is flirting with financial disaster.  Already, the state is unable to pay for services demanded by Californians.  We've just gone through three horrific state budgets to close a $60 billion gap.  And, more troubles lay ahead.  We face an $8 billion gap next year and a $15 billion gap after that.

    When discussing recent state budgets, the governor and others said the state could not afford to fully maintain its universities, community colleges, HIV/AIDS services, poison control centers, domestic violence shelters, state parks, health care for children, and in-home care for seniors and the disabled.  Paying back this water bond will come at the expense of these services that Californians expect.

    It's the same tired story all over again.  The Central Valley and Southern California plan to take water from the North by building a peripheral canal.  The rub is that they want Northern California to pay for it too.  All Northern Californians get from this bond is the privilege of paying the bill."


    Response from Carolee Kreiger, President California Water Impact Network (C-WIN):

    Carolee_Krieger.jpg"I completely agree with Assembly member Evans, this water bill package will be financially devastating for the California taxpayers; and that it is only going to benefit private interests...corporate agriculture on the Westside of the San Joaquin River and developers in southern California like Newhall Ranch and the Tejon Ranch. 

    But this package goes even further; it is attempting to turn 150 years of water rights law on its head...giving the most junior water rights holders (the State Water Project contractors and the Central Valley Project contractors) the ability to take water away from senior water rights holders (the Delta farmers and the Sacramento Valley farmers and the area of origin stake holders.)  This will assure a generation of lawyers a lucrative future.

    Moreover, this package will put another layer of bureaucracy into a system that doesn't fund or allow the existing bureaucracy, the State Water Resources Control Board, to do its job.  Will they allow the new bureaucracy to function if it doesn't give them what they want?  I don't think so.

    And the salmon will continue to go down-hill toward extinction; the fisherman and the lucrative sportfishing industry will continue to crumble.  And all this for a sector of California agriculture that is less than 1% of California's economy.  This does not make sense.

    And perhaps most chilling; it will not produce any more water.  The $11 billion is the down payment on a $80 billion bill that will not produce any more water; just take water away from farmers with senior water rights but not enough power to protect them and give that water to junior water rights holders who have bought off the legislature.  And it will decimate the Delta and the environment."

    Carolee Krieger, President, founded C-Win in 2001. She helped lead the campaign to prevent delivery of State Water Project water to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. On behalf of the Citizens Planning Association (CPA), Carolee also led the fight against the Monterey Amendments to the State Water Project contracts. These amendments attempted to deregulate the State Water Project, give away public assets to private special interests for profit and make "paper water", water that doesn't exist, legal.  C-WIN has led the fight to stop speculative development in Southern California based on "paper water."  C-WIN is currently focusing its efforts on the fight to save the San Francisco Bay Delta and keep the salmon from going extinct.  She brings to C-WIN her passion for protecting public trust resources and stopping wasteful use of water in California..


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    Act Like Democrats

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    There are a few lessons to take away from last night's elections. The main one is that Democrats should act like Democrats if they want Democrats to show up and vote. Low-turnout elections are base elections: you have to turn out your base or you will lose.

    Virginia: The Democrat didn't act like a Democrat and Democrats didn't show up and vote. Deeds told people he was against having a public option in the health care reform bill! He went so far as to say that he would take Virginia out of the public option! So why would any Democrats want to show up and vote for that? Meanwhile the Republican comes out of the Pat Robertson religious-right machine, and they did show up and vote.

    New York: Democrats won a seat that has been Republican for over 100 years. The far-right takeover of the Republicans is an opportunity. Democrats should be working in every single district in the country because no "solid" Republican seat is safe anymore.

    New Jersey: Independents voted Republican and Dems didn't turn out. I have no idea yet why this happened and need to see the exit polling. The Democrat previously had been Chairman of Goldman Sachs, and that may well have been a significant factor.

    Maine: This was a terrible disappointment. The national Democratic Party didn't help. The OFA organization didn't help and even asked their members in Maine to come to New Jersey. Democrats had best not expect any fundraising success from LGBT after this.


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    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am also a Fellow with CAF.

    The Supreme Court may decide as soon as today on the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case involving a corporate-funded anti-Hillary smear ad. It is likely the conservative-dominated activist court will overturn precedent and rule in favor of removing restrictions on corporate spending in elections, with terrible consequences. The 5-4 ruling will say that large companies injecting vast sums to sway election results is "free speech." Imagine, vocal cords on a Cayman Islands post office box!

    Common Cause has a report out, titled, Corporate Democracy: Potential fallout from a Supreme Court decision on Citizens United. "Lifting the ban on corporate political spending could unleash a flood of money into the political system and further diminish the public's voice," the report says.

    Really, imagine regular people trying to run for office while competing with the massive aggregated financial power of the biggest corporations. And imagine what will happen to anyone who dares to try to go up against their interests when they are able to openly spend any amount needed to get their way. I have come up with some examples of what to expect:

    - The cost of running for office - any office - will increase exponentially. Even local campaigns will cost millions of dollars, as big corporations install their chosen representatives. Even locally powerful businesses will join the game, with car dealers paying to get local ordinances passed prohibiting new competitors, etc.

    - A member of Congress considers voting against a special tax break for a certain very large corporation - or a law outlawing their competitors - which would bring the company $30 billion. The company lets that representative know they are prepared to spend a measly $200 million on a challenger in the next election, or for them if they vote the right way. How do you think that representative will vote -- and if they do the right thing how long do you expenct them to keep their seat?

    - A huge oil company will certainly spend a measly $100 million to install a hand-picked board of county supervisors that will let them put a refinery in the middle of an organic farming or sensitive environmental region.

    - Why wouldn't agribusiness spend a mere $1 billion installing legislators who vote to rescind food labeling requirements and food safety regulations?

    - How long will it take before laws against monopolies, polluting the environment, etc. are repealed? Each election cycle will see corporate-backed candidates further consolidating the power and financial resources of a very few largest companies.

    - Health insurance companies will pay Congress to pass a law ordering everyone to buy their product. Oh wait ...

    This is about the biggest corporations remaining dominant, using government power to channel tax dollars their way, while hampering competition -- especially from smaller, less powerful companies. The conservatives on the Court are there thanks to decades of spending by the biggest corporations that swayed public opinion in favor of big-corporation-supporting policies and politicians. We are seeing the results of these so-called "conservative" policies all around us as we lose our houses, raises, jobs and pensions while a select few grow ever richer.

    If the Supreme Court rules in favor of this tomorrow it will be the big payoff, forever consolidating big-corporate control of the country and economy and effectively ending what was left of American democracy.


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