About Author: Bruce Berlin

Bruce Berlin is a retired, public sector ethics attorney. He is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution, and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Are Democrats Asleep at The Wheel?

While Senate Democrats continue to haggle over Biden’s Build Back Better package, Republicans across the country are plotting to make America a permanent one-party, authoritarian state. As Zack Beauchamp, senior correspondent at Vox, observed:

“We are suffering from the same rot that has brought down democracy in other countries: a party that has decided it no longer wants to play by the rules and that would instead prefer to rule as authoritarians rather than share power with its opponents…The escalation in authoritarian behavior since January 6, from both national and state Republicans, shows that things are worse than even some pessimistic observers have feared…It’s happened elsewhere. It can happen here, too.[1]

Though Democrats are well aware of Republican efforts at one-party domination, they don’t seem to have the will or the courage to do anything about it. In state after state Republican-controlled legislatures are enacting laws suppressing voters’ rights, particularly those of communities of color,[2] and highly gerrymandering legislative districts in their favor.[3]

Most recently, Georgia’s General Assembly approved a redistricting map giving the GOP dominance in nine of its fourteen congressional districts even though the state narrowly went for Pres. Biden last year and elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate in January.[4] Other GOP state legislatures are gerrymandering congressional districts to their extreme advantage as well. They include Ohio, Texas, Utah, Indiana, Alabama, and North Carolina.[5]

Senate Republicans have consistently filibustered Democrats’ efforts to protect voting rights and eliminate political gerrymandering.[6] Since Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema strongly oppose changing the filibuster rule to allow a simple majority to pass voting rights bills, Senate Democrats have only one path to passing voting rights legislation. That is, inserting the Freedom to Vote Act[7] and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act[8] into the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, which the Democrats can pass with a simple majority. A budget item to provide funding for the states to implement the provisions of these acts would also be needed to meet budget reconciliation bill requirements.[9]

Some senators might object to this approach arguing that the Senate parliamentarian could rule that these voting rights bills do not qualify for inclusion in a reconciliation bill. However, the parliamentarian’s ruling is only advisory and can be overruled by the presiding senator, which in this case would be Democratic Vice-president Kamala Harris.[10]

Our democracy is at stake. Time is running out to get voting rights protection implemented in all states before next year’s election. Democrats must include voting rights in the BBB and pass the Act before the end of the year. Urge your representative (https://clerk.house. gov/Members#MemberProfiles, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov/ /senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121) to adopt the above course of action. The fairness of our elections as well as the future of our democracy hangs in the balance.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2021/6/15/22522504/republicans-authoritarianism-trump-competitive

[2] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/10/republicans-are-passing-rigged-maps-and-democrats-are-running-out-of-time-to-stop-it/

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/25/us/politics/republican-redistricting-swing-states.html

[4] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/11/22/total-asymmetric-warfare-georgia-gop-redraws-political-map-us-senate-dems-do-nothing; https://www.cnn.com/election/2020/results/state/georgia/president

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/15/us/politics/republicans-2022-redistricting-maps.html

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/nov/03/senate-republicans-voting-rights-bill-john-lewis

[7] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/breaking-down-freedom-vote-act

[8]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lewis_Voting_Rights_Act#:~:text=The%20John%20Lewis%20Voting%20Rights,Holder%20and%20Brnovich%20v.

[9] https://budget.house.gov/publications/fact-sheet/budget-reconciliation-basics

[10] https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/verify/verify-can-the-senate-overrule-the-parliamentarians-recommendation-could-immigration-legislation-make-the-reconciliation-bill-budget-dreamers-biden/65-008d1307-74bc-42c3-abcf-76865b30c6d3

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Is Passing the Build Back Better Act The Ticket to Democrats Winning in 2022?

Democrats appear to be banking on passing Pres. Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) package as their ticket to winning next year’s midterm elections. The House’s approval of the BBB Act on Friday does give the Democrats momentum toward that goal. Still, getting the bill through the Senate will be challenging. And, while I believe it will finally pass, the shrunken BBB Act by itself will most likely not give Democrats the huge boost they will need to maintain control of Congress in next year’s elections.

The good news for the Democrats is they have a great deal more to run on than the BBB Act. Last March they passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan. That legislation provided needed help to tens of millions of people, reducing high levels of hardship, helping school districts address student learning loss, and bolstering the economy. Among other pluses, it expanded unemployment benefits, health coverage, child tax credits, food support and housing assistance.[1] Despite all the hardship Americans were undergoing, not one Republican voted for this urgently needed relief act.[2]

On top of that, the Democrats recently enacted a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. This legislation was critical to repairing and upgrading our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure. While some Republicans did support this bill, the vast majority of them turned their backs on our economy’s dire need for a solid, revamped infrastructure.

Assuming the BBB Act does become law, Biden and the Democrats will have pumped in close to $5 trillion dollars into the economy in one year. On top of that close to six million new jobs have been created and the unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent.[3]

Even with all these positives, the outlook for the Democrats is not good. Record inflation is hurting most people in their pocketbooks. The battle to control COVID is still raging. Americans are angry, fearful and have not been as divided since the Civil War. And Biden and the Democrats are receiving most of the blame. Less than 40 percent of the population approve of their performance.[4] Haggling over the BBB package clearly has not helped them either.

For example, Sens. Sanders and Bennet take issue with the bill’s increase in the SALT (State and Local Taxes) cap deduction. They argue it’s another tax break for the wealthy and will cost the government billions of dollars.[5] Sen. Sanders put it this way:

“You can’t be a political party that talks about demanding the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes and then end up with a bill that gives large tax breaks to many millionaires. You can’t do that. The hypocrisy is too strong. It’s bad policy, it’s bad politics.”[6]

The Democrats’ struggle over raising the SALT cap exposes how vulnerable they will be in 2022 election and why they cannot rely on the BBB Act alone to get them over the finish line. As Sen. Sanders explained, it sends the wrong message to average Americans and gives the Republicans a great message to run on: “Democrats are the party of the rich.” Fortunately, the Democrats are working on a SALT cap compromise that will blunt this characterization.[7] But whether it will be sufficient remains to be seen.

There’s yet another issue regarding how effective BBB will be as a Democratic campaign energizer next year. That is, the voting public may not significantly benefit from the Act prior to the November election since many of the popular health benefits will not kick in until 2023 or later.[8]

Finally, BBB fails to address voting rights. Without protecting our right to vote, the Democrats have practically no chance of winning the House and little hope in the Senate next year. As I’ve noted in previous blogs, GOP legislatures around the country are enacting laws to suppress the vote, gerrymander congressional districts in their favor and control the administration of the elections giving them the ability to overturn the elections in their states.

The Democrats have no time to lose. They must settle their differences now and begin promoting their case that they are the party that truly supports the American people in these difficult times.

Urge your representative (https://www.house.gov/representatives, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov//senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121) to protect our right to vote and resolve these other issues immediately. The fairness of our elections as well as the future of our democracy hangs in the balance.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/american-rescue-plan-act-will-help-millions-and-bolster-the-economy#unemployment

[2] https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/republicans-promote-pandemic-relief-voted-77527236

[3] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/11/05/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-october-jobs-report/

[4] https://nypost.com/2021/11/18/biden-approval-rating-hits-36-percent-in-quinnipiac-poll/

[5] https://www.wsj.com/articles/pelosi-says-house-democrats-will-add-paid-leave-back-to-bill-11635951745

[6] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/18/democrats-agonize-tax-cuts-rich-522859

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/dems-stuffed-bill-popular-health-093014592.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats Must Pass the Freedom to Vote Act Now to Level Elections Playing Field

While the recent passing of the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill is a step in the right direction, it won’t help the Democrats in next year’s election if they fail to protect our voting rights this year.

The Republicans’ number one priority is to win back the House and Senate next year. And they are doing whatever they can in the states they control to do just that. As Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, urged back in August:

Time is running out. The Senate must pass legislation establishing voting rules for federal elections in order for the rules to be implemented in time to prevent voter suppression in the 2022 congressional elections. Similarly, redistricting standards in the legislation must be enacted quickly to be implemented in time to prevent partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts that likely will take place around the country.[1]

Since Sens. Manchin and Sinema still oppose changing the filibuster rule to allow a simple majority to pass voting rights bills, here is the Democrats best approach to getting the quick action Wertheimer is calling for on the Freedom to Vote Act:

  1. Eliminate all remaining pieces of the social Build Back Better (BBB) Act to which Manchin and/or Sinema still object.
  2. Include the Freedom to Vote Act, which Manchin and Sinema support, in the BBB bill with a budget item for implementation so it meets the reconciliation process requirements.
  3. Quickly pass the BBB act through reconciliation with the support of all 50 Democratic senators and then send it to the House for its approval.

Wertheimer is right. After the 2010 elections, Republicans made big gains in the last redistricting cycle. They used their “power to draw map lines that for a decade have entrenched their legislative majorities and delivered congressional seats to them in states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina, even when they havetallied fewer votes overall than Democrats.”[2]

Now, again, GOP state legislatures are moving rapidly to gerrymander as many congressional districts as they can to their unfair advantage. In Utah, for example, the GOP-controlled legislature is disregarding the redistricting maps submitted by the state’s voter-approved, Independent Redistricting Committee. Instead, Republicans are supporting their own maps which “overwhelmingly favor Republicans” in all four of its congressional districts,[3] even though over 37% of Utah voters supported Biden in 2020.[4]

In Ohio, the Republican-controlled legislature has proposed congressional redistricting maps which “would squeeze Democrats into a tiny minority” giving the GOP the advantage in 12 or 13 of Ohio’s 15 congressional districts.[5] This despite the fact President Biden received over 45% of the 2020 vote in Ohio.[6] By that measure, the Ohio redistricting map should favor Democrats in at least 6 districts.

North Carolina is yet another example of the GOP’s extreme gerrymandering. The Republican-controlled legislature has approved a redistricting map that gives their party a 10 to 3-seat advantage with one highly competitive district. Biden lost North Carolina by only one percentage point last year.[7]

New York, on the other hand, is one of the few states controlled by Democrats where the legislature will have the final say on redistricting maps. Just like Utah and Ohio, the New York legislature can overrule the state’s redistricting commission maps. While Biden received 60% of the New York vote last year, the state’s redistricting map could end up favoring Democrats in as many as 23 of its 26 congressional districts.[8]

None of this, of course, is right for American voters who want to be fairly represented in Congress. The Freedom to Vote Act now languishing in Congress would remedy this gross injustice by banning partisan gerrymandering and making it easier for voters to get bad maps quickly struck down in court.[9] 

While the Democrats have spent the last several months bickering over the infrastructure (BIF) and social services (BBB) bills, all their haggling has left them in a deep electoral hole which must be remedied quickly if they are to have any real chance of winning next year’s elections.

Urge your representative (https://clerk.house. gov/Members#MemberProfiles, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov/ /senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121) to adopt the above course of action. The fairness of our elections as well as the future of our democracy hangs in the balance.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/566408-the-senate-should-postpone-vacation-until-it-acts-on-voting-rights?rl=1

[2] https://www.latimes.com/politics/newsletter/2021-10-01/redistricting-wars-have-started-essential-politics

[3] https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2021/11/09/gerrymander-or-no/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_United_States_presidential_election_in_Utah

[5] https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/580134-ohio-republicans-swing-for-fences-in-redistricting-proposals

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_United_States_presidential_election_in_Ohio

[7] https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/north-carolina-republicans-passed-a-heavily-skewed-congressional-map-how-will-the-courts-respond/

[8] https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-2022-maps/new-york/

[9] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/freedom-vote-act-big-deal-redistricting

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can Democrats Make Lemonade Out of Election Lemons?

The Democrats got a crate load of lemons in Tuesday’s election results. They lost all three statewide races in Virginia.[1] And, while Pres. Biden won New Jersey by nearly 16 points a year ago, incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy barely eked out a victory in the governor’s race.[2]

Conventional wisdom is these results do not bode well for the Democrats’ chances in the 2022 mid-terms a year from now. But there may be a silver lining for the Dems if they can get their act together.

Since winning both houses of Congress and the presidency a year ago, Democrats have accomplished little for the American people. Their one major piece of legislation, the COVID relief bill passed last March,[3] has long been forgotten by most voters. What has been front and center for months, however, is the Democrats’ haggling over Biden’s social spending and climate package, the Build Back Better Act (BBB), while their infrastructure bill (BIF) languishes in the House after passing the Senate with bipartisan support. Progressives in the House have refused to support the BIF bill until they are assured that Senate Democrats will pass the BBB reconciliation bill. But, until moderate Sens. Manchin and Sinema get onboard, that assurance remains in doubt.[4]

If the Democrats are to have any chance of winning next November, they must heed the warning from the 2021 elections: Give Americans a positive reason to get out and vote for their candidates by passing these bills or suffer the dire consequences. In this year’s election, the Democrats fell way behind the Republicans in firing up their supporters.[5]

And the Democrats have no time to lose. They must pass these bills now so that the American people have sufficient time before the 2022 elections to enjoy and appreciate the many fruits contained in them. Here are a number of those benefits in the infrastructure bill:

  • Roads, bridges, airports, ports, public transit, broadband infrastructure, and power grid maintenance and expansion
  • Clean drinking water and removal of pollution from soil and groundwater
  • Energy job creation
  • Clean energy tax credits

The BBB reconciliation act includes these very popular provisions:

  • Universal pre-kindergarten
  • Paid family leave
  • Lower prescription drug prices
  • Clean energy tax incentives and fees
  • 15% minimum tax rate for large corporations
  • Childcare funding
  • Extension of the child tax credit
  • A middle and working-class families tax cut
  • A Medicare hearing aid benefit

Polls indicate a large majority of Americans approve of the BBB social services/climate act.[6] Since Republicans are united in opposing the bill, the Democrats should receive a significant election boost next year for providing these benefits to millions of Americans. A recent poll found that members of Congress who back the BBB agenda would receive a 17-point increase in support.[7]

So, the Democrats can make lemonade out of their 2021 election lemons by moving expeditiously to pass these two bills. But there is one additional piece of legislation that must accompany them. As I explained in last week’s blog, the Democrats must pass the Freedom to Vote Act to protect our voting rights against red state legislatures that are now passing laws to make it harder for Americans to vote and gerrymandering more Congressional districts to their unfair advantage.[8]

Without this additional bill, Democratic voters could be thwarted at the polls next year. We must contact our senators and representatives and urge them to pass all three of these measures. (https://clerk.house. gov/Members#MemberProfiles, 202-225-3121) and senators (https://www.senate.gov/ /senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121).

The future of our democracy hangs in the balance.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/579765-republicans-poised-to-sweep-virginia-stunning-democrats

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/11/02/us/elections/results-new-jersey.html

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/11/biden-1point9-trillion-covid-relief-package-thursday-afternoon.html

[4] https://www.wsj.com/articles/progressives-warn-democratic-leaders-on-possible-infrastructure-vote-11635413402

[5] https://www.alternet.org/2021/11/a-wake-up-call-for-democrats/?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8175

[6] https://democrats.org/news/new-polls-same-results-president-bidens-build-back-better-framework-is-extremely-popular/

[7] https://buildingbacktogether.org/news/icymi-new-building-back-together-poll-build-back-better-agenda-remains-deeply-popular-across-key-states-members-of-congress-who-back-agenda-see-17-point-boost-in-support/

[8] https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Why Aren’t Voting Rights Being Inserted in the Reconciliation Bill?

In last week’s blog, “Democrats’ Reconciliation Bill Must Include Voting Rights,” I asserted that the one thing that must be included in the Reconciliation Bill now being drafted in Congress is the 2021 Freedom to Vote Act.[1]I wrote that by inserting it in their first BBB (Build Back Better) reconciliation package, Democrats would prevent a Republican filibuster since the reconciliation process only requires a simple majority.”[2]

Furthermore, I explained that “(f)or the Act to qualify for reconciliation, Democrats must also include a specific funding amount, e.g., $2 billion, to assist the states in their implementation of the voting rights provisions.[3] Adding this relatively small amount to the reconciliation bill would be much easier than changing the filibuster rule since all 50 Senate Democrats support the Freedom to Vote Act,[4] which is not the case with the latter approach.”

Meanwhile, red state legislatures are passing laws to make it harder for Americans to vote and gerrymandering more Congressional districts to their advantage.[5] The only way for the Democrats to protect our right to vote in 2022 is by passing the Freedom to Vote Act now. And the best way to ensure that it is enacted this year is by inserting it in the Reconciliation Bill. But, so far, the Democrats in Washington have not gotten the message.

Why? It may be that they are too busy negotiating the Reconciliation Bill with Sens. Manchin and Sinema to consider anything else. Or the Democrats may be thinking that their only option is to cut out a voting rights exception to the Senate filibuster.[6]

Regardless the reason, we must demand that Congress act to protect our voting rights and save our democracy. Time is running out. Write or call your Congressional representative at https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative, 202-225-3121, and your senator at https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm, 202-224-3121.

Tell them that they must protect our right to vote by including the Freedom to Vote Act with funding for its implementation in the budget reconciliation bill this year. If that fails for some reason, then they must reform the filibuster rules to allow voting rights legislation to pass by a simple majority. One way or another, Congress must get this Act passed this year.

Make your voices heard. Save our democracy from autocratic rule by the radical right. We owe it to ourselves, our children and future generations.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/breaking-down-freedom-vote-act

[2] https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/

[3] https://budget.house.gov/publications/fact-sheet/budget-reconciliation-basics; https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/verify/verify-what-is-budget-reconciliation-could-democrats-use-this-process-to-pass-voting-rights-or-immigration-reform-filibuster-congress-senate-schumer/65-4fdf7dcf-81ed-449e-95eb-1993f354c432

[4] https://www.democracydocket.com/alerts/senate-republicans-block-freedom-to-vote-act-from-floor-debate/

[5] https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2021-08-10/ap-republicans-reaped-biggest-redistricting-edge-in-decades

[6] https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/news/2021/10/25/506533/senate-must-reform-filibuster-pass-voting-rights-bills-senate-republicans-block-legislation/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats’ Reconciliation Bill Must Include Voting Rights

Time is running out for the Democrats to pass President Biden’s chief legislative program, Build Back Better (BBB). While they have been working on it for months, progressive and moderate Dems can’t seem to reach a compromise that both sides can live with. Yet, they all know that if they fail to pass legislation that provides some significant benefits to the American people, their prospects in next year’s election are dismal.

Here’s a possible solution. Instead of trying to pass the whole enchilada all at once, divide the $3.5 trillion social services and tax reform bill in two:

  1. One bill would contain all the provisions from the original proposal that both sides can agree to support.
  2. The second bill would include those areas on which they cannot currently find common ground and would not be considered until after the 2022 election.

The one thing that must be included in the first bill is the 2021 Freedom to Vote Act.[1] Standing alone, voting rights bills have been blocked by Republican filibusters three times this year, most recently this week.[2] However, by inserting it in their first BBB reconciliation package, Democrats would prevent a Republicans filibuster since the reconciliation process only requires a simple majority.

For the Act to qualify for reconciliation, Democrats must also include a specific funding amount, e.g., $2 billion, to assist the states in their implementation of the voting rights provisions.[3] Adding this relatively small amount to the reconciliation bill would be much easier than changing the filibuster rule since all 50 Senate Democrats support the Freedom to Vote Act,[4] which is not the case with the latter approach.

Securing Americans’ voting rights would be a major achievement for Biden and his party. It would also give the Democrats a much greater chance of maintaining control of Congress in the 2022 election. They will have demonstrated that their party can deliver for the American people having passed the first half of Biden’s BBB program, voting rights and the $1.2 trillion, bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Plus, the Democrats would have the promise of the second half of Biden’s BBB agenda – including combating climate change and lowering drug prices — which they would introduce in 2023 after next year’s election. This should energize the Democratic base to get out the vote and increase the Dems majority in Congress. With larger majorities in each house, the Democrats would then most likely be able to pass the disputed portions of the BBB program.

Clearly, progressives would be taking a chance with this compromise strategy. But the reality is that the BBB plan that finally does pass this year will be significantly reduced in size anyway and will not include some of the progressive provisions that were in the original proposal. Given the strong opposition of Sens. Manchin and Sinema to these provisions, there is really nothing they can do about that. Splitting the bill into two and including the Right to Vote Act in this year’s portion is the best that the Democrats can hope for.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/breaking-down-freedom-vote-act

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/20/us/senate-voting-rights-filibuster.html

[3] https://budget.house.gov/publications/fact-sheet/budget-reconciliation-basics

[4] https://www.democracydocket.com/alerts/senate-republicans-block-freedom-to-vote-act-from-floor-debate/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Urgency of Boycotting Corporate America

In last week’s blog, “It’s Time We Take on Corporate America,”[1] I called for a massive boycott against the corporations and business associations lobbying to derail President Biden’s tax reform and spending package, Build Back Better (BBB).

The $3.5 trillion program these corporations oppose includes many provisions[2] that are very popular[3] with Americans:

  • lowering the cost of childcare and providing two years of universal pre-K for 3 and 4-year-olds
  • expanding Medicare to include coverage of dental, hearing and vision services
  • extending the child tax credit through 2025
  • cutting prescription drug prices
  • providing 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave
  • combating climate change
  • raising taxes on corporations and the very wealth

My blog stressed that corporate America is at the root of our country’s problem, Big Money’s control of government policy. A few years ago, I even wrote a book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America,[4] focused on this very issue.

Last week I pointed out how moderate Democrats like Sen. Manchin and Sinema are unwilling to support the $3.5 trillion BBB plan, in large part, because their very big contributors, for example, the pharmaceutical industry and the national realtors’ association, oppose it. While progressives and the Democratic leadership have strongly urged these moderates to unite with the rest of the party and pass the Biden agenda, they have stood firm in their opposition.

Unfortunately, the only ones who have the muscle to convince these Democrats to change their position on the BBB program are their major corporate donors. (A recent report, Behind the Curtain,[5] exposed the connections between Congress and their corporate sponsors.) And the only ones who have the power to stop the corporate lobbying against the BBB agenda and voting rights are American consumers. By refusing to patronize these companies, we can conduct a nationwide boycott forcing them to change the lobbying practices that protect their bottom line while jeopardizing our democracy.

But there’s yet another critical reason to boycott these companies. Following the January 6th insurrection, many corporate PACs suspended their political donations and promised to re-evaluate them in light of the attack on the Capitol and our democracy. However, just six months later these PACs (including American Airlines, GM and UPS) were back providing funding to members of Congress who opposed certification of the electoral college results and hindered the peaceful transition of power.[6] In effect, some of America’s largest corporations have given a “pass” to supporters of the insurrection as long as they continue to provide legislation beneficial to their companies.

Ultimately, an effective boycott must make it in a corporation’s interest to support what is in the public interest. That is, American consumers must make it perfectly clear that we will only use our purchasing power to patronize companies that promote our country’s core values and the common good.

For too long corporate America has been calling the shots in Congress as well as in state legislatures. If we want to hold onto our democracy and build a better future for all Americans, we must take control of government policies away from corporate America.

While there are valid objections to a nationwide boycott, here is how to address them:

  1. I’m in, but we’ll never get enough people to participate for it to be effective.

Well, if we don’t try, we’ll never know. The boycott will certainly need some well-known national sponsors like the AFL-CIO and other unions, Black Lives Matter, Common Cause, the Democracy Initiative, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Indivisible, the League of Women Voters, MoveOn and many others. With the right message and numerous large organizations behind it, millions of people could join a national boycott.

2. I really depend on Amazon, FedEx, etc. I need them and can’t give them up.

Practically all goods and services that these corporations provide can be obtained from other sources. While it may take some effort on our part, the stakes are too high to fail to act. The future of our democracy is at risk. If we want to save our country from authoritarian rule, we must be willing to sacrifice.

3. What about the workers who will lose their jobs when their companies are boycotted and can’t keep employing them?

As the boycott builds, a fund to supplement unemployment benefits for those laid off workers must be created by the participating organizations and individuals. They cannot become casualties of a national boycott.

I urge you to spread the idea of a national boycott to your friends and colleagues. If you are a member or contributor to a national organization, please send this blog to them and implore them to get involved. Together we can take back our government and save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/

[2] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/budget-reconciliation-bill-build-back-better-act/

[3] https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/92121

[4] See https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/

[5] https://peoplesaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Behind-the-Curtain-final.pdf

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/07/15/american-airlines-overturn-election-january-6/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: It’s Time We Take On Corporate America

The Democrats are in a bind. If Congressional Democrats don’t come together and pass President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, they will almost assuredly lose both houses of Congress in the 2022 mid-term elections. Every Democratic member of Congress must understand that not only is their congressional majority at stake, but also the success of the Biden presidency, his ability to win re-election in 2024 and democracy itself. It’s that simple.

And yet, the Democrats are finding it difficult to reach an agreement. A major stumbling block is the $3.5 trillion cost of Biden’s social and economic reconciliation bill. Progressives argue they have already reduced the legislation from its original $6 trillion and, after all, the expenditure is over a ten-year period. Nevertheless, Sens. Manchin and Sinema plus some moderate House Democrats strongly object that the price is still way too high. But are they truly concerned with the price tag, or are they just doing the bidding of their corporate sponsors?

One of Sinema’s main objections to the legislation is its Medicare prescription drug proposal to lower the cost of medications.[1] It’s no surprise that Sinema has taken this position. She has received approximately $750,000 in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. During her 2018 Senate campaign she repeatedly promised to work on lowering the cost of prescription drugs. But after Sinema received the industry’s generous donations, she reversed her position and opposed the plan to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.[2]

Manchin and several House Democrats who oppose the bill’s Medicare drug proposal also garnered very large contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.[3] The fact that 88% of all Americans support the Democratic plan to allow the federal government to negotiate lower prices on medications tells you whose interests these moderate congresspeople really represent.[4]

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to a new report, Behind the Curtain: The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy, 20 corporations or industry groups have spent more than $201 million in lobbying so far this year that is mostly aimed at derailing progressive provisions in Bidens’ popular tax reform and spending package. They include Amazon, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Comcast, Facebook, FedEx and Pfizer, companies many of us patronize.[5]

The report issued by People’s Action, a nationwide network of groups organizing for social justice, and Dēmos, a progressive think tank, exposes Big Money’s crippling grip on our government:

“Rich corporations are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the American people from getting what they want: a government that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few. Their massive use of corporate power to frustrate the will of the people on an issue-by-issue basis is part of a larger anti-democracy effort backed by corporate America.

“As corporations seek to undermine the Biden plan’s much-needed tax provisions, historic investments in drug pricing reform, healthcare, housing, climate, and immigration reform, they are also attacking our freedom to vote. Many of the same companies combating elements of the Build Back Better proposal are also bankrolling voter suppression legislation.”[6]

We, the people need to fight back by attacking the root of the problem, corporate America. A massive boycott of a couple of these corporations just might get them off our representatives’ backs. These congresspeople must represent us, their constituents, not their corporate donors. Can we organize a large enough boycott of Amazon or FedEx to force them to stop lobbying against the public good?

Let’s give it our best shot. Spread the word. Send this blog to your email lists and your friends on social media. Encourage everyone you know to stop buying from Amazon or using FedEx. Working together, we can make a difference. It’s time to stand up for what’s right and in our best interests before it’s too late!

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/19/kyrsten-sinema-biden-drug-pricing-prescription-plan-512907

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/pharma-democrats-bribery/; https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/joe-manchin/summary?cid=N00032838&cycle=2022&type=C

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://peoplesaction.org/behind-the-curtain/

[6] https://peoplesaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Behind-the-Curtain-final.pdf

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Trump’s Cult of Personality Still Rising

For some time now, I have thought the current conditions in the United States are fairly comparable to the 1930s in Germany. Some of you reading this, like millions of other Americans, probably believe that what occurred there could not happen here. Regardless of what you believe, I urge you to read Robert Kagan’s recent opinion piece[1] in the Washington Post and think again.

Kagan argues that in all likelihood Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president in 2024. And, as the future nominee, “Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. Trump’s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way.” He concludes that a “Trump victory is likely to mean at least the temporary suspension of American democracy as we have known it.”[2]

Kagan is no raging left-wing radical. He is a co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. During the 2016 presidential election, Kagan left the Republican Party due to the party’s nomination of Trump and endorsed the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Like Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s, Kagan sees Trump’s increasing grip on the Republican Party as a cult of personality: “…for millions of Americans, Trump himself is the response to their fears and resentments. This is a stronger bond between leader and followers than anything seen before in U.S. political movements.”[3]

Trump enjoys unquestioning loyalty from his followers. Kagan notes that “They believe the U.S. government and society have been captured by socialists, minority groups and sexual deviants. They see the Republican Party establishment as corrupt and weak — “losers,” to use Trump’s word…They view Trump as strong and defiant, willing to take on the establishment, Democrats, RINOs, liberal media, antifa, the Squad, Big Tech and the “Mitch McConnell Republicans.” His charismatic leadership has given millions of Americans a feeling of purpose and empowerment, a new sense of identity…Trump speaks without embarrassment on behalf of an aggrieved segment of Americans, not exclusively White, who feel they have been taking it on the chin for too long….”[4]

Perhaps most striking is the majority of the January 6th insurrectionists “were middle-class and middle-aged; 40 percent were business owners or white-collar workers. They came mostly from purple, not red, counties. Most Trump supporters are good parents, good neighbors and solid members of their communities.”[5]

Like 1930s Germans, most Americans have refused to take a fascist takeover of this country seriously enough to try to prevent it. Kagan explains “the political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015.”[6]

Many others claim they understand what’s going on, but there is nothing they can do about it. Tragically, they are frozen in their fear and complacency. While the majority of us oppose the Trump authoritarian movement, we are ignoring the horrible consequences it will reign over us if we fail to actively resist and overcome it.

Meanwhile, the Democrats ‘can’t see the forest for the trees.’ While they continue to quarrel amongst themselves over the size of the proposed $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget,[7] their failure to deliver for the American people helps make Trump’s autocratic case that “I alone can fix it.”[8]

Democrats must come together and pass the Freedom to Vote Act as well. It protects all Americans against Republican voter suppression laws and expands voters’ rights. Americans must have clear evidence that the Democrats have their backs. Without the quick passage and implementation of these two bills Trump’s cult of personality may soon rival Hitler’s Nazi Movement.

We cannot allow this to happen. Get out in the streets. March on Washington. We must act now to save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/23/robert-kagan-constitutional-crisis/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/23/us/politics/democrats-budget-infrastructure.html

[8] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/trump-rnc-speech-alone-fix-it/492557/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Freedom to Vote Act

Finally, some good news from Washington! Last week Senate Democrats introduced the Freedom to Vote Act, which all 50 Democratic senators appear to support. The legislation was drafted by several senators including moderate Joe Manchin. Having objected to some provisions of the bill’s predecessor, the For the People Act, Manchin will be a vital advocate in securing final passage of the Freedom to Vote Act.

While this new bill is not as broad as the For the People Act, it includes a number of very critical provisions protecting the right to vote. Here are some of its most important articles:

  1. Requires every state to implement automatic voter registration,
  2. Makes Election Day a federal holiday,
  3. Permits every voter to request a mail ballot and drop it off at a secure drop box,
  4. Restores voting rights to anyone released from prison after serving his/her sentence,
  5. Creates the option for federal matching funds for House candidates,
  6. Requires disclosure of ‘dark money’ in the electoral process, and
  7. Bans partisan gerrymandering.[1]

The Brennan Center for Justice calls the Freedom to Vote Act “the most significant democracy reform bill in a half century.”[2]

There is, however, one major obstacle that must be overcome in order to pass this legislation. And that is, of course, the Senate filibuster. Democrats would need the support of 10 Republican senators to avoid a filibuster. While Manchin is pursuing their backing, he will almost certainly not obtain it.[3]

Therefore, the only way for this critical bill to become law is to reform the filibuster, allowing voting rights legislation to pass by a simple majority. While Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) oppose eliminating the filibuster, they have not stated they are against creating such an exception to the filibuster.

A recent Washington Postpiece offered seven reasons to believe that the filibuster will be reformed and voting rights legislation will become law this year.[4] Among them is that last March Manchin suggested he would be open to using the reconciliation process, which only requires a bare majority, to pass voting rights legislation if all efforts at bipartisanship failed. The huge wave of voter suppression and election subversion laws passed in GOP-controlled state legislatures since then strengthens the belief that Manchin and other Democratic moderates will come around and agree to filibuster reform.[5]

Perhaps the most compelling reason may be the Democrats’ desire to maintain control of Congress. Without the reforms in the Freedom to Vote Act, Republicans are likely to use the current redistricting cycle “to practice the extreme gerrymandering that could give them long-term control of the House, despite having the support of only a minority of American voters.”[6]

The future of American democracy is on the line. It is up to all of us to make sure the voting rights of all Americans are protected. Call the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) to contact your Democratic Member of Congress and your Senators. Demand that they do whatever is necessary to make the Freedom to Vote Act the law of the land.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/pass-freedom-vote-act

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/revised-democratic-voting-bill-drops-controversial-provisions-tweaks-others-as-pressure-for-action-mounts/2021/09/14/6c59def8-150a-11ec-9589-31ac3173c2e5_story.html

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/09/13/filibuster-senate-voting-rights-democrats/

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.