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We the People Thwarted (Again)

Last Week’s Gun Legislation Failure Is Yet Another Symptom of a Much Bigger Problem: Money in Politics

NRA_cartoon.jpgHowever you feel about the issues of gun rights and gun violence, the fact that a measure that had the support of a super-majority of the American people failed in the Senate last week should be deeply troubling to ALL Americans.

Last Wednesday’s vote shows just how distorted our government has become by the influence of money in politics. Polls have consistently shown that expanding background checks to ensure terrorists, violent criminals and the mentally ill can’t buy guns online or at gun shows had the support of 90% of the American people, 82% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members. Yet it still could not pass the Senate.

The fact that the gun lobby, a special interest if ever there was one, has the ability to stymie efforts to enact legislation the American people want should disturb everyone who believes in government of, by and for the people.

Because the gun lobby isn’t the only lobby in Washington, DC.

It Happens ALL the Time.

Though most Americans have been blissfully unaware, the very same thing happens with EVERY piece of legislation introduced in Congress. The special interests and secret donors that fund our political campaigns force our legislators to do THEIR bidding, not OURS. So reasonable regulations and initiatives are watered down, loaded with loopholes or eliminated altogether.

That’s why Obamacare was so beneficial to healthcare and insurance companies, delivering them new customers and better reimbursement for serving indigent patients, subsidized by the federal government. Yet our government is still unable to negotiate better pricing from pharmaceutical companies to reduce our national healthcare costs. And that’s why Wall Street banks are even BIGGER than they were when they were deemed “Too big to fail,” and continue to receive $83 billion in taxpayer subsidies each year on top of the $700 billion government bailout they received. Yet Congress isn’t doing anything about it.

THIS is not what democracy looks like. This is bought government. Corporatocracy. Plutocracy. Government of, by and for the corporations and a wealthy few, not We the People.

Single-Issue Lobbying Won’t Fix This Problem.

Lobbying Congress harder on any one issue will not fix this. Even if we were able to overcome the undue influence of special interests once (and it’s doubtful we could, given the overwhelming level of popular support for background checks and yesterday’s failure of gun legislation), the larger problem would remain and the same thing would happen with all of the other issues.

Special interests have pockets deep enough to fight for what they want forever, and it isn’t possible for our citizens to stay engaged enough long enough to win on every issue that matters. We all have lives and other things to do, which is why we elect representatives to do this for us.

Except they don’t. They can’t anymore, because the system is broken.

Amending the Constitution Is the Cure.

That’s why it’s time to stop fighting on individual issues and instead fight for the ONE thing that will at least start to address the underlying problem: a constitutional amendment to get money out of our politics once and for all.

Representatives that vote for measures supported by their donors and lobbyists aren’t bad people, and they’re not evil—they are simply adapting to the broken system they are forced to work in. As long as corporations have the rights of people under the law, and the wealthy fund our elections and lobby our representatives to do what they want, there can be no government that works for the rest of us.

We the People didn’t create this problem. But only We the People can fix it.

Only We the People can remove the incentives for our representatives to serve the interests of others over ours, and the only way to do that is to get money out of politics and return corporations to the status of fictional legal entities, not people. The only way to do THAT is to amend the constitution, and that’s going to take the support of ALL of us to achieve.

Passing a law to reform campaign finance or require disclosure of all political donations is not enough.

Existing campaign finance reform laws are being continually weakened over time, and the same thing would happen again. Whether the laws or federal or state, a bought legislature will always be able to undo any legislative fixes.

It must be an amendment. And it’s going to take some time to get this done. The process of amending the Constitution is difficult by design. Difficult, but not impossible.

Step 1: Pay attention-- look below the surface.

If you are upset by what happened in the Senate yesterday, the first step toward creating change is becoming aware of the problem. Rather than focusing on the merits of the individual issues, find out how the majority of the public feels about that issue, and then see whether the government is acting accordingly.

If not, think about whose financial or personal interests would be negatively impacted if the government DID follow public opinion, and then follow the money to find their influence at work behind the scenes.

Step 2: Share the truth with others.

Point out all of the dots, connect them, and share the patterns you see with your friends, family, social networks and the public. And then do it again, with another issue. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle people support— there are examples of the will of the people not being carried out on both sides.

As The Coffee Party says, it’s time to wake up and stand up, America. The only way we can eventually restore government of, by and for the people is if more and more of us first see the light and spread the word. Consider this my contribution to the effort for today.

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Jamie Logan writes about money in politics, corruption, good governance, equality and other issues every chance she gets. To read more of her work wherever and whenever it is published, like her page on Facebook, facebook.com/jamieloganwrites, or follow her on Twitter, @jamielogan24.

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April Fool the Koch Brothers – Don’t Do Koch IN APRIL!

Alan_westside_smaller.jpgApril Fool’s Day may be over, but April Fool the Koch Brothers isn’t!

The enthusiasm that people have shown for talking back to the Koch brothers is immense.  Since this campaign started on April Fools Day, activists have turned out at locations in ten states, to tell the Koch brothers that America is not for sale – by handing out flyers to shoppers outside stores across the country asking them to choose alternatives to Koch brothers products.                                               

This is what one of our New York volunteers had to say right after April 1st: "Two good actions yesterday! People really stared at the sign--I wore mine in front--people approached me after reading it and chatted."— Linda

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Money, Politics, Food and You: LWL and Frances Moore Lappe'

Good-Food-Charter-inside-L1.pngFood is a money-in-politics issue. That makes it a Coffee Party issue. Allow me to connect the dots.

The well funded agribusiness lobby* and the strategic use of corporate and super-pac campaign contributions** have made it impossible to have an honest debate about the citizen-right to know what is in our food.

There is little or no safety testing of genetically engineered food crops.*** Add to this the infiltration of individuals from agribusiness into regulatory agencies**** and we get “why not?” decisions that amount to “don't worry your pretty little head about this, missy”.

For example, the Monsanto position on all things genetically engineered is that unless someone can prove “an apple is not an apple” then the level of safety of the non-genetically engineered food crop IS the level of safety of the engineered food.*****

Corporate word smiths (i.e. Monsanto) wrote the rider to the Agriculture Appropriations section of the HR933 emergency appropriations bill, called The Farmer Assurance Provision, dubbed “The Monsanto Protection Act”, was signed. Controlling the narrative is everything in our “branded” society: despite the pre-planned, wounded cry that a farmer should know that when a crop is planted he will be able to harvest it, groups like Friends of Family Farmers called the bill “a huge threat to farmers’ and citizens’ rights and it must be stopped – today!” ******

What is a concerned consumer to do?

Citizens and corporate interests have the same gateway to change: for better or worse all change is in the hands of our elected. In this and all matters legislative, Coffee Party believes that as long as political candidates depend upon campaign contributions from corporate and special interests, and need the same corporate and special interests to not support an opponent, we (the people) have allowed a “fog of corruption” to nurture self interest and starve out those who do not play along. The only answer is for US to free the elected from the influences of cash by adopting publically funded political campaigns, returning the legislative focus from contributor interests to voter interests.

francesmoorelappe.jpg

But first we have to believe the connection between financial power and political power. Lunch with Louden has touched on this subject a couple of times in the last few months, most often from a “what is possible in a citizen driven world” view, and sometimes from a “stop it now” perspective.

This week, Frances Moore Lappe’ makes a return appearance to Lunch with Louden, in celebration of the paperback release of her most recent book, EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want.  In September 2012 she covered many of the things we can do individually and today we’ll ask her about the politics of food and the Good Food Movement.

Deb-hike.jpgJeaneneCoffee.jpg

LUNCH WITH LOUDEN and Frances Moore Lappe’
Thursday, April 18, 2013
12 Noon Pacific / 3 PM Eastern
646-929-2495 to speak or listen
Stream live or later


CoffeePartyON!
Jeanene & Debilyn

 

*http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indus.php?id=A

**http://www.taxpayer.net/images/uploads/downloads/Political_Power_of_Farm_And_Crop_Insurance_Lobbies_Fact_Sheet.pdf

***http://www.globalresearch.ca/gmo-scandal-the-long-term-effects-of-genetically-modified-food-on-humans/14570

****http://www.nffc.net/Issues/Corporate%20Control/USDA%20INC.pdf

*****http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/food-labeling.aspx

****** http://www.friendsoffamilyfarmers.org/?p=1523

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who Pays Taxes? And Who Pays When Taxes Are Evaded?

Americans for Tax Fairness:
TAX DAY ACTION, Monday April 15

When the Coffee Party was born, America's leading cable "news" network was devoting its air time to organizing a radical anti-tax and anti-government movement. Fox "News" consumers were encouraged to channel their disappointment over the 2008 election into public protests across the U.S., and they did. More importantly, they were advertised on television every day for two years spewing the word "tax" with such hatred and paranoia that the word itself became controversial.

Behind all of this was an oligarchical opposition to some common sense ideas: now that "trickle-down economics" has failed us, why not reform the lawless casino we call Wall Street? And, why not return income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans to the same levels we had when our federal budget was balanced and our economy was strong? To make that possible, We the People need to do our part to change the narrative. And we have been. For example, leading up to Tax Day 2011, we released this video to reframe the notion of tax reform by shifting the focus on to corporate tax dodgers. 

And, on Tax Day 2011, we shot this video about a patriotic millionaire crashing a small protest at Back of America:

Now, the star of that video, Will Rice, is back with a special message for Tax Day 2013:

WillStillcrop.jpgIf you believe as I and millions of other Americans do that our tax system is skewed in favor of the wealthy and well-connected, what better day to show your outrage than on Tax Day, Monday, April 15?

That’s when average citizens all around the country will be out in force protesting at post offices full of last-minute filers; at the offices of members of Congress, who have a chance this year to make our tax code fair again; and at the stores and branches of multinational corporations impoverishing our public sphere by dodging their taxes.

The theme of all the events is “Who Pays?”

Who pays when huge corporations avoid taxes by stashing their profits offshore? Kids pay when they’re kicked off Head Start; seniors pay through fewer Meals on Wheels; the morning commuter pays each time she hits another pothole.

Who pays when the passive income of billionaire investors is taxed at a lower rate than the wages of middle-class workers? State and local governments pay when they have to pick up the tab for services that are still needed but Washington can no longer afford. Families pay higher real estate and sales taxes. All of us pay more interest on more debt.

The budget debate in Washington isn’t really about whether to pay for public goods and services, but who should pay for them — or the lack of them. Tax Day is the perfect time to drive that message home.

Here’s a link to a schedule of Tax Day events around the country next Monday, many of them sponsored by the coalition Americans for Tax Fairness. Find one near you and join the growing and persistent crowd asking — and answering —the vital question “Who Pays?”

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Food for the 21st Century

planet-food.pngThe earth’s population has more than doubled in my lifetime. From Frances Moore Lappe’s groundbreaking conversation in Diet for a Small Planet, to the big business model of “better living through chemistry”, the debate over just how to go about feeding the world continues.

Across the country and around the world there is a growing trend afoot to shift food production to small, innovative, farming groups using creative types of business organization. Even Dylan Ratigan has joined the cause for good food, now fully engaged in the creation of a prototype for job-creating, water-saving, food-producing, veteran-led hydroponic organic greenhouses nationwide.

Today, there is a struggle between politically savvy corporate agribusiness and the grassroots sustainable foods movement due, in part, to public concerns about the health effects, economic consequences, and environmental impacts of industrialized food production. This was recently brought to the forefront by the House Agricultural Appropriations Bill dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act”, thought by many to be an incestuous victory for big business. http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/04/10/1832621/monsanto-protection-act-power/

kateaaron.pngOn Thursday’s show, we’ll meet Oregon Ingenuers Kate Wildrick and Aaron Imhoff, who have decided to produce good food with aquaponics farming. But their drive for solutions in today’s world doesn’t stop there.  Aaron’s continued experimentation with energy and Kate’s focus on building community has created Ingenuity Innovation Center, a new/old way of learning that could be our “next step” as we take back our power from Wall Street, politicians beholden to campaign funders, and regulatory cronyism - toward good food. Check out their website or join their group on Facebook.

They will discuss and answer questions about their chosen approach to feeding the world. And, they also have answers to questions like, “How can you insure the food you eat is GMO free?”,  “How to grow it yourself from heirloom seeds!”, and, “What if you don’t have time or land to farm?”

Join us for a lively conversation about our future and what it holds.

Deb-hike.jpgJeaneneCoffee.jpgLUNCH WITH LOUDEN
Thursdays 12 Noon Pacific (3PM ET)
Listen LIVE or LATER online
Call 646-929-2495 to listen or participate

Coffee Party On,
Jeanene & Debilyn

P.S.  Citizens United did NOT benefit Coffee Party USA.  Our average contribution is $30-35.  Please support this grassroots organization in our mission to Connect Communities to Reclaim our Government for the People by becoming a Member or making a donation.  Thank you. 

 

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National Priorities Project responds to Obama 2014 budget

New budget includes a 2.25-to-1 ratio of spending cuts to new tax revenue; reduces Social Security benefits; cuts Pentagon by 1.6 percent. (click to enlarge chart)

Budget-Comparison-Small.jpgPresident Obama has released his fiscal 2014 budget proposal and emphasized his deficit reduction plans. Paired with deficit reduction already enacted, the president would reduce deficits by more than $4 trillion over 10 years with a 2.25-to-1 ratio of spending cuts to new tax revenue. Notably, he became the first democratic president ever to propose reductions in Social Security benefits by endorsing an alternate measure of inflation – known as chained CPI – to shrink cost-of-living adjustments for retirees. Nearly 90 percent of Americans oppose cuts to Social Security.

The president also set a presidential record for lateness, delivering his budget two months after the legal deadline of the first Monday in February.

Note: National Priorities Project has released a Competing Visions, a side-by-side comparison of the Ryan, Murray and CPC budgets to include highlights of the Obama blueprint.

MORE side-by-side comparisons

Here are highlights of what the Obama budget contains:

Spending and Cuts

President Obama proposed a total of $3.8 trillion in new spending in fiscal 2014, an inflation-adjusted reduction of around 1 percent relative to 2013. The budget includes $166 billion over 10 years for infrastructure repairs and other job creation measures. It also proposes universal access to prekindergarten education, which would be funded by new taxes on tobacco products. Boosting job growth and expanding education funding are initiatives that enjoy strong support among the American public, according to opinion polls.

The president proposes repealing the automatic cuts of sequestration and instead pursuing other deficit-reduction measures, meaning that discretionary spending – both military and domestic – would receive fewer cuts than if sequestration remained in place in 2014. The budget would reduce agriculture subsidies and prevent individuals from receiving unemployment and disability payments simultaneously, among other cuts. The use of chained CPI in Social Security would reduce spending by $230 billion over a decade. And the budget includes $392 billion in savings from Medicare and other health programs, in part by raising Medicare premiums for wealthy retirees and negotiating for lower prescription drug prices. The budget maintains the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, a move supported by 52 percent of Americans, according to opinion polling.

Taxes

The president projects $3 trillion in tax revenue in fiscal 2014, an increase of 12 percent relative to 2013. This is in part the result of a stronger economy and in part a result of changes to the tax code. The budget proposes limiting tax deductions and loopholes for the top 2 percent of income earners and includes a “Buffett rule” to require that millionaires pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent; together these tax increases would raise $580 billion over 10 years. Around two-thirds of Americans support higher taxes on the wealthiest earners. The budget would also make permanent tax credits targeted to low-income and middle-class families, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit.

The president does not propose raising new tax revenue from corporations, though such a move would be supported by around 64 percent of Americans. The president’s budget proposes closing some corporate tax loopholes and simultaneously lowering corporate tax rates, a move that would not result in any new taxes on corporations.

Military

The budget includes $526.6 billion for the Department of Defense base budget, a figure that does not include war costs or nuclear weapon activities at the Department of Energy. That represents a 1.6 percent cut relative to current levels, and includes $8.4 billion for the purchase of 29 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The new budget does not specify funding levels for operations in Afghanistan in 2014. Fifty-eight percent of Americans would support substantial reductions in military spending, according to polls.

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Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United - The Middle Ground

citizens-united-cartoon-by-rj-matson.jpgCongress is broken, and it cannot fix itself.  If we begin with that basic fact, this much seems clear: Our Republic can only be saved by We, the People.

THE MIDDLE GROUND
with Michael Charney & Eric Byler
Tuesdays at 8 pm ET
on Coffee Party Radio
CLICK HERE to listen

Tonight (Tues. April 9) at 8 pm on The Middle Ground, we'll talk to a team of activists lead by Coffee Party founding member Ryan Clayton about why they believe a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United is the best path forward.  As we speak, Lawrence Lessig is drafting the language to be introduced in state legislatures across the United States, calling for an Article 5 Convention to address the issue of money in politics.

Current law, as decreed by the Supreme Court in the 2010 "Citizens United" decision, calls for unlimited spending by multi-national corporations to influence our elections, and thereby the laws we live by in the United States of America. The Court has said they would welcome disclosure laws, but Congress is too divided to enact such laws, in part due to cynical hyper-partisanship, in part due to the fact that members of Congress from both parties are reluctant to change a system that put them in power.

And yet, so many in Congress say they feel like hostages to fundraising. What can we do to rescue them from this corruption? Keep pressing for disclosure laws? Wait until the next election and "throw the bums out?" Or, if the problem is the corrupt system, and not the well-meaning individuals we send to Washington, perhaps our guests are right in saying a Constitutional Amendment is the only way to free the elected, and save the Republic.

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America's choice

Ann-Our-choice-small.jpg

Let us be clear about our choice. When we raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, no one dies. When we cut Social Security and Medicare, people die.
—Annabel Park

Since Friday afternoon, over a million people have seen this message from Annabel Park. It began on our Facebook page and spread throughout American when thousands of people began reposting the image on other pages. Keep sharing.

Let's get fellow Americans to wake up and fight to protect Social Security and Medicare (our lives, our health) from being used as bargaining chips in a callous political fight — not without hearing from us.

Day by day, issue by issue, We the People are proving that our voices cannot be drowned out by political advertising and political advertising disguised as news. Today, the majority of Congress is more likely to be voted out of office than advertised out of office. We've proven that, but we need to prove it again and again until we change the calculous by which Congress and the President make decisions.

In between election cycles, multi-national corporations and economic royalists expect to make decisions about our futures without hearing from the People. Social media is changing that. Let's not let them forget.

Share this message by clicking here if you are logged into Facebook, or by using the share buttons below.

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Lawrence Lessig TED Talk zeroes in on money in politics


"It's a pathological, democracy-destroying corruption, because in any system where the members are dependent upon the tiniest fraction of us for their election, that means the tiniest number of us, the tiniest, tiniest number of us, can block reform."

—Lawrence Lessig

Lessig_Ted.jpg

Yesterday, TED released my TED talk — "We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim." At the same time, they released an eBook that I wrote to accompany the talk, "Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It." If you've seen me speak recently, you'll recognize the roots in both. I worked incredibly hard to produce both, ("way too hard" my three year old tells me), and I am very eager to share them both with you today.

At our #Rootstrikers conference on the 20th in San Francisco, we'll talk about the next steps that this movement needs — with not just us Lefties, but also with many from the Right (including the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots) as well. But right now, I would be grateful if you would just watch the talk, and share it. Both the talk and the book are freely licensed. In San Francisco, we will be releasing the code to encourage others to take it, and remix it. Now, please just consume — and if you like them, or think it would help, please share them both with your friends.

It has been a long road to this place. In the past five years, I've given hundreds of talks across the country — almost 100 last year alone, traveling 149,000 miles, and spending 107 nights away from my kids. But slowly, and finally, I think we're making progress. And with your help, I believe that we can kickstart the kind of movement — cross partisan, citizen based — that this fight will take.

I hope you can make it to San Francisco. But whether you can or not, I am really hopeful you will give me the 20 minutes it will take to watch this video, and share it broadly.

Watch the talk.

Read the eBook.

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Don't Do Koch alerts consumers to Koch Brothers products


koch_logo.jpg
My guest today on Politics Done Right (1 pm ET, 12 noon here in Texas) is Sally Swisher of the “Don’t Do Koch” campaign, which kicks off April 1st. No, its NOT too late to get involved, the campaign lasts all month. 

 By handing out "Don't Do Koch flyers" (that look like Penny Savers) at supermarkets that sell Koch Brothers products, active citizens like you across the U.S. are offering fellow shoppers and fellow Americans the opportunity to buy alternative products instead. With this information in hand, we can avoid  spending our hard-earned dollars on products that enrich these infamous oil barons who symbolize partisanship, greed, injustice, and the corrupting influence of money in politics.
 
Saturdays at 1 pm ET (10 am PT)
CLICK HERE to listen
 
As Sally writes in her latest email to volunteers, "Let people know that their product choices can help to keep us all from being played for fools by the Kochs." All it takes is you, a friend, and a printer to print out this downloadable flyer. Participants thus far have said the flyers are warmly received, and great conversation starters that lead to networking and deeper civic engagement.
 
Our other topics today will be our failure to care for our military veterans, and the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court that just might bring a measure of equal justice to America in the form of marriage equality.
 
Please call (646) 929-2495 at 1 pm ET (10 am PT) and add your voice to our show.
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