The New Year is filled with fears and hopes for a more democratic and less corporate culture, politics and economy at the local, state, national and international levels. Here are 10 perils and prospects (5 each) to watch for...plus a personal principled promise!
1. Increased privatization/corporatization of public assets.
The economy of our state and nation isn’t going to appreciable improve any time soon. City and State legislators and executives (Mayors and Governors) will face further financial hardships. Their choices will be cut services, raise taxes and/or sell or lease to corporations anything they think has value (i.e. roads, water/sewer systems, energy systems, parking lots, trash pickup, etc.). Privatized/corporatized public assets reduces services, increases costs, eliminates public employees and, most importantly, reduces self-determination/sovereignty/democracy — the ability of people to control their own communities
2. Further financial centralization
Too big to fail banks and other financial corporations are getting bigger, thanks in no small measure to the 2007/2008 $700 billion bailout legislation and trillions more in numerous federal assistance programs in 2009. Recently passed banking “reform” legislation in the US House of Representatives, if passed by the Senate in 2010, will tighten the economic grip and political influence of banksters. More on this is at http://createrealdemocracy.blogspot.com/2009/12/no-holiday-congressional-gift-to.html
3. Appointment of Ohio Supreme Court Justices
The PR blitz has already begun. The shield of impartiality is being constructed as 2010 begins. Ohio voters may be asked once again in November 2010 to vote on giving up their vote on how Ohio Supreme Court justices are chosen. Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer is leading the charge for top-down “merit selection” of justices vs. current bottom-up voter selection. The perception (not reality of course) that political campaign contributions to judicial campaigns are more like investments leading to favorable judicial rulings is one of the major drives for the push. A limited choice will be presented — either the current corrupting big money private financing of judicial elections or the “clean and impartial” merit selection process.
4. Mid-term Congressional elections
All 435 Congressional seats are up in 2010, including 18 seats from Ohio. Where there are federal elections with lots at stake will surely be huge amounts of corporate cash. While the stock, bond, oil, and precious metal markets rise and fall, the direction of corporate investments in congressional elections head in only one direction — rapidly upward. Candidates increasingly must court new and pay attention to existing donor/investors to be viable. That’s bad news for most of the public who doesn’t contribute to political campaigns whose voices are drowned out by the voices of those representing business corporations.
5. Citizens United US Supreme Court case
In early January, it’s likely the US Supreme Court will rule on Citizens United vs Federal Elections Commission. At stake (if the court makes a sweeping ruling) is whether business corporations will be permitted to contribute/invest directly out of their corporate treasuries to political campaigns. Current law “limits” corporate contributions from employees through corporate Political Action Committees (PACs). Defining corporate contributions as “free speech” could open the door to literally unlimited amounts of corporate cash in elections — funded in part through profits from corporations that come from your purchases of their produces and services.
6. Local alternatives
There are people and groups in Ohio and elsewhere asserting their own “right to decide” right where they are which bypass big corporations and sometimes even big government. People and groups starting their own cooperatives, creating their own currencies/local exchanges, connecting with others to produce and distribute their own food, and protecting their own public assets from corporate takeover are just a few examples. This is What Democracy in Ohio Looks Like: Ohio’s Democratic/Self Determination Infrastructure (to be updated in early 2010) captures some of this. http://www.afsc.net/PDFFiles/DemocraticInfrastructureJuly09.pdf
7. Issue 2 pushback to farming out democracy in Ohio
Passage of Issue 2 in November will create the Ohio Livestock Care Board — an executive-appointed body entrusted with the regulation of animal care. Regulatory authority, thus, shifts from the legislative to the executive level. Livestock corporations love any scenario where decisions are made (a) by smaller numbers of people, (b) by those who are appointed rather than elected, and (c) by meetings less in public view. Will this be the start of a trend? Will other groupings of corporations push for more centralization and less democratic input of what exists as regulation? The shift of what amounts to corporate oversight from legislators to appointed committees or bodies under the Governor would continue. But there may be a pushback in Ohio in 2010. Groups are already brainstorming legislative and ballot initiative alternatives giving the public and our elected state representatives greater authority over the actions of livestock corporations.
8. Democratize money
Awareness is growing about “monetary policy” - how money is created, who’s in charge of its creation and supply, who profits from public and private debt. The private Federal Reserve in cahoots with banks and other financial corporations create money out of thin air with all the economic/debt and political problems connected with it. Efforts will be launched nationally in 2010 to shift money creation from corporations to the public via the federal government. Others will be focused on launching community currencies and expanding local time banks.
9. Campaign finance reform
There will be calls for real campaign finance reform in 2010. Cuyahoga County has a new charter form of government and campaign financing is one of the major issues to be decided. Injected into the discussion/debate of Ohio Supreme Court justices will be a third choice — public financing of judicial races. The same goes with federal elections — legislation, in fact, for public financing of Congressional elections has already been introduced.
10. Campaign to Legalize Democracy
A national coalition will be launched the day the US Supreme Court rules on Citizens United. The coalition will seek to educate, advocate or organize popular outrage against what the court ruling (which is expected to be antidemocratic). The coalition will also call for and initiate a proactive democratic strategy.
This list is not complete. It may not be the 10 most urgent or important corporate perils and democratic prospects We the People face in the New Year. They are, however, issue-areas that will be timely covered and invite actions in these postings in 2010. That’s a promise!
If any of these are important to you and you can spare a dollar or two (or 10, 20 or more!) to help the American Friends Service Committee in these perilous economic times, please send a tax deductible check or money order to: AFSC, 2101 Front St., #111, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio 44221.
Happy New Year!