The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats, A Bird in the Hand Is Worth Two in the Bush

Democrats are furious that once again Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has thwarted their latest efforts to resurrect President Biden’s Build Back Better social agenda. Manchin wants to wait till September to see if inflation is slowing down before supporting clean energy and tax increases. At the same time, Manchin has said he would vote to lower prescription drug prices and extend Affordable Care Act funding now.[1]

Democrats should be very angry with Manchin after more than a year of trying to meet his everchanging demands. Still, here’s why Democrats should go along with the West Virginia senator and pass this much smaller bill now with all 50 of their senators aboard, and not wait for a potential larger measure later this year.

First, as the old saying goes, a “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”[2] Americans going to the polls this fall are more likely to remember what each of the two parties have done for them lately. The Democrats will be better off in November if they enact actual prescription drug and healthcare benefits this summer than if they hold out for a larger package that quite likely will not become law before the midterms. Most Republicans will not support even this smaller bill. Like inflation and the economy, drug prices and healthcare costs concern most voters.

Second, if a bill addressing climate change and other reforms does not pass before this year’s elections, Democrats will have another major issue to run on along with abortion rights, gun control, voting rights and saving democracy. Practically all Republicans are opposed to these initiatives and will vote against them. So, Democrats can tell the electorate that if they elect more of them to Congress this November, then they will be able to overcome the opposition and enact those measures next year.

And third, it is critical to get all members of Congress on the record concerning the cost of prescription drugs, healthcare and all these other important issues. Americans must be clear about where their representatives stand, and which party supports each of these critical matters:

Reducing healthcare costs                                                    Dem-yes         Rep-no

Universal background checks/gun safety                           Dem-yes         Rep-no

Ensuring the right of all citizens to vote                             Dem-yes         Rep-no

Guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose                            Dem-yes         Rep-no

Defending our country against autocracy and fascism      Dem-yes         Rep-no

Safeguarding our planet from climate change                   Dem-yes         Rep-no

Voters must also understand that Republicans reject these basic human rights so that Big Business and their wealthy donors can avoid paying their fair share in taxes and adhering to reasonable health, safety and democratic rules and regulations.

The choice is clear. The question is: Can the Democratic Party spell out in simple terms what is at stake in this fall’s elections so that all Americans will get it? And will we who already get it help spread the message? The future of our nation is in our hands.

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://news.yahoo.com/democrats-vent-fury-joe-manchin-205150433.html

[2] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a%20bird%20in%20the%20hand%20is%20worth%20two%20in%20the%20bush

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Republican Dishonor Will Remain

“Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”[1] That was the message Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), co-chair of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection, gave to Congressional Republicans as the committee’s historic hearings began on June 9th.

After concluding three public hearings, Cheney’s warning has become even more foreboding. Yet, despite Trump’s unforgiveable transgressions against American democracy, a great many Republicans continue to support him and believe his Big Lie that the election was stolen.[2] The power Trump has over his party is just mindboggling.

A major test of the impact of the Select Committee’s hearings will be to what extent they influence Americans’ opinions not only of Trump, but of his Congressional Republican enablers. In a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, “58% of Americans think Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the riot.”[3] That is six points higher than before the hearings began.[4]

As the hearings continue, I believe that majority will likely grow even larger.  In fact, “ex-justice department lawyers say new revelations at the hearings increase the likelihood that Trump will be charged with crimes involving conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding or defrauding the United States…”[5]

It stands to reason that an increasing majority would want to hold Trump’s Congressional enablers accountable as well. Afterall, the backing of a majority of Republican Congresspeople bolstered Trump’s baseless claims,[6] at least in the eyes of Trump voters.

The most effective way to hold those Republicans accountable would be at the polls this November. While conventional wisdom holds that the insurrection will not be a major issue in this year’s midterm elections, the Select Committee’s hearings could change that.

Of course, inflation and the economy will be very important factors in the election. However, if the hearings continue to provide overwhelming evidence of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election and destroy American democracy, then the seats of all the Congressional Republicans who gave credence to the Big Lie could be vulnerable. Instead of supporting Trump’s efforts to subvert the election, these Republicans could have stood up for the truth and our democracy. But their fear of Trump and their thirst for power were stronger than their allegiance to the Constitution and our democracy. For that, as Rep. Cheney noted, their dishonor will remain.

While Trump will not be on the ballot this November, the survival of our democracy will be. Republicans who supported Trump and his attempt to overturn the election are the enemies of democracy. They must be fully exposed as co-conspirators. Americans must understand that a vote for any of them is a vote to destroy our democratic process and create a Trump-led autocratic government. It is up to everyone who wants our democracy to survive to make that crystal clear to all Americans going to the polls this fall.

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.npr.org/2022/06/09/1104083111/liz-cheney-stark-message-gop-trump-supporters

[2] https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/midterm-primaries-trump-retains-majority-gop-support-poll/story?id=84452201

[3] https://www.yahoo.com/gma/6-10-americans-trump-charged-130009380.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jun/19/trump-charges-january-6-hearings-capitol-attack

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/01/07/us/elections/electoral-college-biden-objectors.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Breaking America’s Gun Safety Gridlock

A new strategy may be emerging to break the logjam on legislation for gun safety. In The Atlantic magazine, senior editor Gal Beckerman proposes students, parents, and teachers take “the next three months to mobilize” a national strike when school starts again demanding gun safety laws. During the summer vacation, “they could create thousands of local committees supporting the strike and decide on what the national demand might be—say, an assault-weapon ban.”[1]

Beckerman points to the student movement after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Parkland students “built one of the most forceful movements around gun control to date…They also helped persuade Florida’s governor to sign a bill that raised the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days.”[2]

Many unions were quick to denounce the shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers. American Federation of Teacher’s President Randi Weingarten, whose union has lost many members to gun violence, exclaimed, “Gun violence is cancer, and it’s one that none of us should tolerate for one single moment longer…We have made a choice to let this continue, and we can make a choice to finally do something—do anything—to put a stop to this madness.”[3]

Like most Americans, I am sickened by these school shootings as well as those in theaters, houses of worship and other public places. I agree with Weingarten that we can no longer tolerate this madness. But a national teachers’ strike is a big ask of public servants whose salaries do not often afford them the ability to build large bank accounts in reserve. Therefore, a fund to support striking teachers that many of us could support should be developed as soon as the organizing begins. (Note: This idea came from Margaret Lubalin, my editor/partner.)

With the help of the AFT and other unions, an extended national strike could be very effective. Hopefully, it would force Congress and state legislatures to act. With most Republicans opposing meaningful gun safety measures, it could also have a defining impact on some contested electoral races this November.

As momentum builds, the strike could be expanded to other issues as well. Whether it’s gun safety, abortion rights, voting rights or saving democracy itself, our country is at a dangerous stalemate. And let’s not forget the COVID pandemic and global warming.

Our nation is deeply divided on all these critical issues and at a loss as to what to do. Republicans blame the Democrats who control the government. They say elect them to run the country but have offered no sound solutions. Just recriminations and name-calling. They are obsessed with power and control. To them, their way is the only acceptable way. Democrats rightly respond that Republicans just obstruct any real effort to fix our problems.

The state of American politics is demoralizing and depressing. We once were better than this. A national strike for gun safety would be a big step forward toward bringing Americans of all persuasions together (over 90% want expanded background checks[4]) and making our country a healthier, safer place to live. The question is can we muster the strength and the will to overcome the gun lobby and its allies and find our way back to a more civil society before it’s too late.  Therein lies the struggle for the Soul of America.

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.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2022/05/uvalde-school-shooting-gun-control-walkout/643120/

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://paydayreport.com/strikes-over-gun-control-erie-dc-teachers-went-on-strike-over-gun-control-weingarten-calls-for-action%EF%BF%BC/

[4] https://www.bradyunited.org/key-statistics?gclid=Cj0KCQjw4uaUBhC8ARIsANUuDjX4nlkbjeRY7qs1XkJePFdqdFrRdumlsGZbzF1N9xsOsBrY5-H8gWAaAmIjEALw_wcB

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Enough Is Enough!

This past week we witnessed yet another senseless mass shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Our nation grieves for all the victims of this terrible tragedy, as well as for their families, teachers and classmates.

We have allowed these horrific events to occur for way too long without demanding concrete efforts to prevent them. Enough is enough!

In April 1999, we were shocked when 12 students and a teacher were shot and killed at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO.[1] In just five months this year there have already been 27 school shootings.[2] The next one could be at your child’s or grandchild’s school. They are all at-risk.

Since 2009, there have been 274 mass shootings in the United States, resulting in 1536 people shot and killed and 983 people shot and wounded.[3] The next one could be in your shopping mall or movie theater. We are all at-risk and we must have solid solutions to this deadly epidemic now.

There are two things that have real power in American politics. One is money and the other is people. I wrote a whole book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, on this topic several years ago. (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.) Given the most recent deadly shootings in Texas and Buffalo, New York, this issue is even more relevant today.

In the wake of these tragic events, the roles that both money and people play in dealing with gun violence in our country needs to be made clear to all Americans.

First, how effective is money in influencing public policy on gun control? In my book, I wrote:

“Though 92 percent of Americans want universal background checks for people purchasing guns, our elected officials’ personal ambitions override the public interest and dictate their political actions.”[4]

From 2000 to 2013, the gun lobby, which includes the National Rifle Association (NRA), the firearms industry, and the Gun Owners of America, has contributed a combined $81 million to congressional and presidential election campaigns to defeat gun control measures.[5] The gun lobby’s investment paid off when the Republican Congress refused to renew the ban on assault weapons after it expired in 2004.[6]

Back then, the U.S. senators who received the most campaign contributions from the gun lobby were Republicans like Roy Blunt (R-MO), who received $2.6 million from the NRA during his 2010 campaign, and Ron Johnson (R-WI), $1.2 million from the NRA.[7]

It’s no different today. The top 10 Senate recipients of NRA contributions are all Republicans. Leading the pack is Mitt Romney (R-UT) with over $13 million. Roy Blunt is still up there at number 3 with over $4.5 million. Number 10 is Bill Cassidy (R-LA) with a still sizeable $2.8 million.

When it comes to gun control policy, Republican senators choose taking money from the gun lobby over protecting American lives.

So, what about we, the people’s effect on gun control policy? The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) is comprised of 47 national organizations working to reduce gun violence. Its coalition members include religious organizations, child welfare advocates, public health professionals, and social justice organizations.[8] However, their noble efforts have not borne much fruit.

Since the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Congress has not passed a universal background check statute or any other meaningful legislation to deal with the issue of gun violence in our country.[9]

How to get sensible gun control laws passed? We have to elect pro-gun control candidates and vote those gun lobby-dominated Republican senators out of office. While that will not be easy with all the campaign money they receive, the power of the people to force change can be formidable. Consider the Women’s movement and the Civil Rights movement.

According to the latest poll following the most recent Texas and Buffalo shootings, 65% of Americans support stricter gun control laws.[10]

We must make gun control a top issue in this year’s elections. Republican senators like Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are vulnerable on this as well as the other hot-button issue of abortion rights. Open seats in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio are winnable by pro-gun control Democrats as well.

We need to protect our children as well as all Americans. The best way to do that now is to get involved in this year’s election campaigns. We must make sure that the great majority of Americans who support gun control vote in November. It’s up to all of us to make that happen.

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.history.com/topics/1990s/columbine-high-school-shootings

[2] https://www.npr.org/2022/05/24/1101050970/2022-school-shootings-so-far

[3] https://everytownresearch.org/maps/mass-shootings-in-america/

[4] Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, p. 24 (Santa Fe, NM: Our Time Books, 2016)

[5] Ibid, p. 23

[6] https://www.npr.org/2019/08/13/750656174/the-u-s-once-had-a-ban-on-assault-weapons-why-did-it-expire

[7] Ibid, pp. 23-24

[8] https://www.csgv.org/

[9] Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, p. 23

[10] https://morningconsult.com/2022/05/26/support-for-gun-control-after-uvalde-shooting/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Sound the Alarm!

I read the papers and watch the news on TV, but never thought it could happen to me. Then, suddenly, it does.

Friday evening close to midnight, police cars, lights flashing and sirens blasting, came barreling down my quiet country road and up my driveway, 75 miles northeast of Santa Fe. An officer banged on my door and told me I had to evacuate my home. It’s not safe. The raging wildfire that’s already consumed over 100,000 acres and 150-plus homes was just over the hill to the north. I had to leave now before it was too late.

Along with most of my neighbors, I quickly packed my car with family photos, clothes and whatever else I could squeeze in. I left the doors unlocked and my gate opened for the firefighters in case they were able to come and save my home from the uncontrolled firestorm. It was 2:30 in the morning by the time I arrived exhausted at my partner’s home in Santa Fe. 

Now I just sit and wait. Nervously checking online several times a day (See https://www.facebook.com/santafeNF/videos/675228177042752) to learn if the monstrous fire has destroyed my home. There’s nothing else I can do. A friend from across the way tried to get back up to her house yesterday, but the road was blocked off for our own safety. All we can do is pray that our homes are somehow spared.

I am so grateful for the one thousand firefighters giving their all to suppress the fire. I can’t imagine what they are going through. I read online that they don’t expect to have the fire fully contained until the end of July, three months from now. How many more acres and homes will be destroyed by then? It’s mind-boggling and depressing.

I am also very angry. I’m furious that myself and millions of my fellow Americans have been put in such a catastrophic state when it didn’t have to be this way. Climate experts have been warning us about the dangers of global warming since the late 1950s. In 1988 scientists and politicians from around the world gathered at the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere to address the threat to the Earth’s atmosphere from greenhouse gas emissions. “By the 1990s, most scientists thought action was necessary, but opposition from fossil fuel companies and ideologists opposed to any government action were effective in obscuring the facts and blocking action,” according to Spencer Weart, retired director of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics.[1]

The Southwest is in a megadrought. A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that “the last 22 years now rank as the driest such period since at least 800 AD.”[2] Human-caused climate change is a major factor driving this megadrought. Yet, our government has failed to respond to this crisis with the urgency and magnitude it requires.[3]

Call the White House (202-456-1111) and your senators and representative (202-224-31-21). Demand that they take immediate action to pass the strongest possible climate change legislation. Our lives and the survival of the planet are at stake.

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.livescience.com/humans-first-warned-about-climate-change

[2] https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2022/02/14/megadrought-in-southwest-is-now-the-worst-in-at-least-1200-years-study-confirms/

[3] https://www.abc10.com/article/news/nation-world/earth-day-biden-climate-policy/507-bf749989-3546-4735-b1fc-4353c01a7b14

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: 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: A Call to Action

In the late 1960’s, I protested against the Vietnam War. Along with millions of other Americans, I marched in New York and Washington against the War, and lobbied my congressman and senators to terminate it. Together we made a difference and helped end the war in southeast Asia.

Since then, I’ve participated in many protests including against nuclear weapons and the Iraq War, as well as for Black Lives Matter and women’s rights. While these were all critically important causes, they all lacked one vital factor that made the anti-Vietnam War protest so effective: every American had a personal stake in ending the war.

While these other critical issues personally impacted large segments of the population, none of them had the potential to affect everyone like Vietnam did. We had a draft back then. So, anyone of draft age, a son, a father, a friend or neighbor, could have been called up and sent to fight a war that more and more Americans came to oppose as it dragged on for years.

Also, for the first time, the war was in our faces. The lead story on the nightly news was the War. We saw the body bags as they arrived home. We saw distraught parents, sobbing widows, bewildered children. The war and its toll were inescapable.

Today we are in a different kind of war. It’s not halfway around the world, or the lead story on television every night. But, like Vietnam, it does have the potential to dramatically affect all of our lives. Unfortunately, while that is true, most Americans have not been able to grasp that reality in the way a deadly war did.

Today the War Against Democracy is raging in our country. And while, if we lose, it will drastically affect our lives, most of us are not engaged in the fight.

We read about the anti-democratic laws restricting our voting rights being enacted across the country and shake our heads. We are furious with the continuing Republican obstruction in Congress, where they won’t even investigate the attack on our government. We listen in disbelief as General Flynn calls for a coup to re-install Trump in the White House. Yet, for the most part, we go on with our lives doing little, if anything, to stop this madness.

I think to myself, if this were France, millions of people would be out in the streets. There would be a nationwide strike halting business as usual until something was done to ensure the government survives. Here, we write a check, call our congressperson, debate the issues, and go on about our daily lives. We allow Trump and his right-wing cohorts to get all the attention even though less than a third of the country supports him.[1] We are the silent majority.

Why are we silent? First, we feel helpless and/or hopeless. We are so overwhelmed with bad news to the point where we cannot imagine what to do. Second, many of us are too comfortable. We don’t immediately feel the consequences of what is happening. We are too removed from the struggle and the oppression to be compelled to act until it is too late. And third, we don’t believe it can happen in the United States. Autocratic coups are what happens in third world countries, but not here.

The January 6th insurrection demonstrated it can happen here. And it is personal. We can lose our right to choose who governs our country. Yes, it’s true that in many ways our right to choose has already been narrowed down unfairly or practically eliminated by power brokers. Still, if we fail to prevent the destruction of what’s left of our democracy, our ability to work together to rebuild it will be severely crippled, if not destroyed entirely.

Make no mistake. Our country is in crisis. We are on the brink of disaster. It’s time to organize. Our power is in our numbers. Take to the streets. Call for a nationwide strike and/or boycott. If you want to save our democracy, the time to act is now.

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 (now RepresentUs New Mexico), 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/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/after-100-days-out-office-trump-s-support-softens-nbc-n1265457