American Revolution was a revolution against tyranny and for self-governance...at least in principle. Colonists faced not only the tyranny and oppression of the King of England, George III, but the King’s two “arms.” The one was the British military that used its police power to maintain social “order” in the colonies and later waged war to maintain the King’s supremacy. The other arm was the British “crown” corporations (i.e. Massachusetts Bay Company, Carolina Company, Maryland Company, etc.) which received their authority through charters from the sovereign (the King) to politically and economically rule on behalf of George III and their own corporate interests.
The American Revolution, the anniversary we’ll celebrate this weekend, was a declaration of independence not simply against George III, but also against his military and corporate arms. People demanded that they become “sovereign,” independent or democratic -- able to rule themselves free from military intimidation and corporate authority.
The tyranny that is corporate rule and inability of citizens to govern themselves has seen a reincarnation in the form of many laws passed by those currently in charge of Ohio government — the Governor and General Assembly. Laws which are anti-democratic. Laws which are injurious to people and communities. Laws which usurp the authority of people and communities to decide for themselves.
As stated in the Declaration of Independence, “[t]o prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world”:
- They have allowed for 20 charter schools (most run by business corporations) to apply directly to the Ohio Department of Education for operation without having a nonprofit sponsor. The pace and race to corporatize public education continues.
- They have refused to eliminate $7 billion in tax loopholes, most benefiting corporations — which all by itself would have solved the state’s budget deficit. In fact, they have added to the state budget an “Invest Ohio” tax credit to corporations up to an additional $100 million.
- They have slashed funding to the state’s Local Government Fund by $455 million. They have also abolished the estate tax which provides another $250 million to local governments. These funding cuts will financially squeeze many municipalities and increase the drive to sell, lease or transfer public assets to business corporations, thereby, reducing public control.
- They have prohibited communities from governing themselves by outlawing local laws seeking to increase food quality (thereby protecting the interests of fast food corporations). This continues a state trend in recent years of state preemption of local control, including prohibiting communities from banning risky horizontal hydraulic drilling for natural gas (fracking).
- They have permitted 6 state prisons to be turned over (sold) to business corporations. The record of privatization/corporatization of public assets is one of reduced services, jobs and control and increased rates and fees.
- They have abolished collective bargaining for public employees. Senate Bill 5 is actually about reducing the rights and powers of people at their workplace to defend themselves against their employers. Provisions of the bill include a restriction on public workers contributing to a political action committee through a payroll deduction, a ban on requiring “fair share” fees – union dues paid by union workers who decide not to join their union, and a provision to make it easier to decertify a union.
- They have supported the lease of the profitable state liquor operations to one or more business corporations and use the money to fund JobsOhio, a quasi corporation also created by the state to replace the Ohio Department of Development. JobsOhio is being challenged in the courts on constitutional grounds.
- They have approved the exploration of corporatizing the profitable state Turnpike.
- They have ruled that oil and gas drilling can begin in Ohio’s state parks.
- They have suppressed the ability of citizens to vote by reducing the number of days people can vote absentee and have prohibited mass-mailing of absentee ballots to registered voters by county boards of elections.
- They have defending corporate agents not simply lobbying public officials but actually working with the Ohio Legislative Service Commission to write laws for public officials.
- They have capped the penalty for destruction of government documents at $10,000 in total, whether 1, 1000 or 1 million documents are destroyed. The old cap was $1000 per document. This removes the deterrent to destroy documents that citizens may request, essential to maintaining public oversight of their government. Having the right to know is essential to acquiring the right to decide.
- They have continued, if not expanded, the anti-democratic practice of bringing in brand new proposals into the final budget reconciliation process. These proposals have not been seen by the public or the media. The budget reconciliation process if meant to settle or reconcile differences between already-passed House of Senate versions of bills. It is not a place for a brand new proposal that the public has not had an opportunity to comment on.
There were other examples of Ohio Government tyranny proposed by either the Governor, the Ohio House or Ohio Senate, but not enacted, either due to public opposition, shame by the media and/or disagreement between the different government branches. These include:
- Requiring voters supply a photo ID at the polls
- Corporatizing the Ohio Lottery -- In an blatantly and galling undemocratic move, the Senate budget bill called for turning over the state lottery to the GTECH corporation, which hoped to manage the state’s $2.5 billion daily operation. The language in the bill was drafted by the GTECH corporation, which once ran a portion of the state’s lottery system. The Senate language was virtually unchanged from the GTECH corporation draft. There was no public hearing. The proposal simply was inserted into the Senate bill.
- Prohibiting the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel from taking positions, "contrary to the development of competitive markets in Ohio, including state policies pertaining to natural gas." Also not enacted was a provision barring consumers’ counsel contact information from customer bills and notices.
These modern day forms of tyranny need to be replaced with modern day forms of self-governance, self-rule, democracy. What are its elements?
- A system where We the People have a legitimate opportunity to shape implement and evaluate decisions affecting our lives.
- The voice of every person counts. All votes are equal.
- All people have adequate time and information to make decisions.
- Whether the issues are local regional national or global; political social or economic decisions made without our direct or indirect legitimate input are illegitimate.
- The more directly we're involved in decisions which directly affect us the more democracy or self-governance exists.
- Only human beings possess “inalienable human rights.” Corporations are not people and should not possess Bill of Rights and other constitutional rights.
- Money is property, not speech. Money must be regulated in elections. If money is speech, then those who possess the most money possess the most speech. Such a system is plutocratic, not democratic.
A few things to keep in mind as you participate this Independence Day weekend in hot dog eating contests, watch parades or sit in the sun.