Syndicated Distribution to 400 Newspapers in Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa in 27 Languages. For information on subscribing to INTERPRESS SERVICE (IPS),Rome, contact Pablo Pacientini, fax 390-6-4817877 or [email protected], or Mario Lubetkin [email protected]. For permission to syndicate or reprint contact: Teddy Jefferson (IPS) New York, phone: 212-924-9102, fax: 212-924-9120
For InterPress Service
© Hazel Henderson, September 2006
(word count 858)
REGIME CHANGE IN THE USA
Increasingly desperate Republican politicians are trying to distance themselves from President Bush and his co-president Cheney. The administration finds it harder to spin the tragic fiasco in Iraq, a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, bureaucratic bungling in Washington over Hurricane Katrina, immigration policy, the nightmarish Homeland Security Administration; turf battles between the CIA, FBI and now over the 9/11 Commission Report, spiraling debt and revelations of corruption.
Yet we loyal US citizens are also increasingly disenchanted with Democrats, often mired in the same Washington sleaze, money-grubbing and gerrymandering to protect incumbents. Our 2-party political duopoly makes a mockery of “bi-partisan” cooperation and hypocritical calls for national unity. Too many voters see only collusion between the powerful corporate and financial special interests and legislators with the burgeoning lobbying industry making the deals that leave out ordinary citizens.
As I noted after the disastrous 2000 election “Democracy Lessons for the USA ” (IPS, Nov. 2000) our rigidly-controlled two-party duopoly, largely supported by contributions from similar corporations makes third parties unviable – unless led by billionaires like Ross Perot. Both parties control the TV debates, themselves “sponsored” now by corporations, no longer the grassroots League of Women Voters. Thus all these issues are polled and spun by political insiders and converge on a narrow set of slogans that avoid most of the deep domestic crises in the US: out-of-control fiscal and trade deficits, spiraling medical costs with 46% of our people without coverage and over 90,000 deaths annually due to medical mistakes; failing schools, skyrocketing costs of college; corporations reneging on health and pension plans; outsourcing of jobs and manufacturing, stagnant wages amid soaring corporate profits and the rising revolt against illegal immigration encouraged by corporate employers seeking cheap labor.
In a multi-party democracy, most of the issues find a party and are in play. In the US two-party duopoly, they are trumped by the sensationalizing of the “war on terror,” fears over personal security, trivializing of values concerning family life and patriotism. Mainstream media, owned by a few huge conglomerates geared toward mass consumerism and corporate profits are at last, being end-run by independents on the Internet and in the blogosphere. Whether they and well-motivated, honest politicians can break through in the November elections or in 2008, remains to be seen. Many fear that the dysfunctional electronic voting machines, which over 80% of US voters must use can be hacked and many do not yet have the paper ballots which some states have mandated to allow voters to verify their ballots.
Clearly, systemic reforms of the US political system are essential and go well beyond regime change:
- Reforming of campaign financing to make public financing the rule.
- Returning to the requirements that all media licensed to use the public’s airwaves, abide by the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal Time provisions of the Communications Act of 1934.
- Overhaul and standardize elections nationally, abolish the Electoral College, require all election supervisors and officials to be unaffiliated to political parties; require all voting machines be transparent to voters and provide paper ballot receipts and make voting easier – or mandatory, as in Australia.
- Reforming the inequitable and overly complex federal tax code to treat work and its income more fairly vis-à-vis profits and gains from capital investments.
- Reforming the banking system to increase fractional reserve requirements (to reduce reckless lending) and require the Federal Reserve (our central bank) to use all the tools it has available to cool inflation (raising fractional reserve requirements, raising margin rates on securities purchases, encouraging more credit unions, etc) rather than relying solely on raising interest rates – or lowering them to avoid recessions.
- Universal health care that is standard in all other major democracies and would reduce costs substantially.
- New indicators to measure ecologically sustainable, equitable progress toward human development. These must be multi-disciplinary and go beyond money-denominated indices such as GNP and GDP. Many such new indicators are available, including the United Nations Human Development Report, the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators for the USA and the many new indices of corporate, social, environmental and ethical performance (at www.EthicalMarkets.com).
These are some of the systemic reforms the next US regime must address. Happily, a new book The Plan: Big Ideas for America by an obscure Democratic Congressman, Rahm Emanuel from Illinois and Bruce Reed, editor of Blueprint and President of the Democratic Leadership Council have stepped up to the challenge. Their Plan addresses many of the needed reforms in a New Social Contract of mutual obligation between the US government and its citizens.
The Plan calls for real tax reform, universal citizen service to the community for all between 18 and 25, universal college education, steps toward universal healthcare – paid for by cutting today’s billions of corporate welfare subsidies and wasteful weapons systems, restoring a fair tax code, steps to an economy less dependent on fossil fuels – and many other sensible reforms.
The Plan (www.readtheplan.com) deserves a wide audience and coverage by mainstream media. This might demonstrate to the rest of the world that political discourse in the USA is not brain-dead and that more than half of our citizens are seeking regime change.
Hazel Henderson , new book Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy (available December 2006) covers reform of capitalism and unsustainable, fossilized industrialism. She created the TV series “Ethical Markets” (www.EthicalMarkets.com) and the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators regularly updated at (www.Calvert_Henderson.com).