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: 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: Can We Beat the Odds and Save Our Democracy?

I’m back. While it’s nice to get away, step out of my routine, and experience new adventures, more than ever I’m feeling that there’s no place like home. The comfort and security of one’s own home just can’t be beat.

At the same time, being away gave me a clearer, broader perspective on my life and the news of the day. In the coming weeks and months, I think you will see a somewhat different slant in my blog. Hopefully more personal and connected to our lives. So, here goes….

The odds are the Democrats will lose control of the House in the November elections. They could lose the Senate as well. Historically, the president’s party usually does poorly in midterm elections.[1]

While Washington politics seem far away from our everyday lives, we ignore what’s going on there at our own peril. Though the Democrats have not had an easy time of it, especially in terms of passing major bills in the Senate, they have significantly improved the lives of most Americans since taking control of the government a year ago January. Meanwhile, with few exceptions the Republicans have been total naysayers and obstructionists.

Take, for instance, the $1.9 trillion COVID Relief Bill Biden signed into law less than two months after taking office on January 20th of last year. Not one Republican supported that bill despite the dire needs of millions of Americans in the midst of the deadly pandemic. Among other benefits, the legislation provided $1,400 checks to millions of Americans including yours truly, extended unemployment benefits, increased the child tax credit, offered housing assistance to low-income Americans and expanded health care coverage.

Since then, the Biden administration has made significant progress in getting the pandemic under control. When he took office, the number of new cases averaged close to 200,000 a day. Now it’s less than 30,000 per day.[2] While almost one million Americans have died from COVID 19, the weekly death rate is now down to under 500.[3] Though there is more work to be done to overcome the virus and protect American lives, Senate Republicans are now blocking a $10 billion bill to continue the fight against COVID 19.[4]

Safeguarding our democracy is another critical area where Republicans have tried to obstruct Democrats’ efforts. Senate Democrats proposed an independent commission of experts, like the 911 commission, to investigate the January 6th insurrection. Senate Republicans blocked its creation fearing “the political damage that could come from scrutiny of the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob…”[5] Instead, the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol, which Republicans also opposed, has become a political football. While Democrats want to shield our democracy from further assault, most Republicans downplay the deadly insurrection and continue to support the undermining of our democracy by Trump and his lies about the 2020 election.[6] If we sit back and allow right-wing Republicans to destroy our democracy, we will lose many of our precious rights and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution.

The country’s economy is yet another field where Democrats have advanced the nation’s position while Republicans ignore the facts and falsely rebut progress. “The economy created more than a stunning 6.6 million jobs in 2021 — more than the first three years of Donald Trump’s term combined — as the unemployment rate experienced the fastest one-year drop on record.”[7] Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel argues that the Biden economic recovery plan “is not working!”[8] Once again, Republican propaganda is blurring American voters’ ability to see what’s really going on.

Most recently, President Biden’s Supreme Court nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, soon to be the first black woman justice on the court, was confirmed with minimal Republican support. Forty-seven Republican senators voted against her confirmation despite her universally recognized qualifications for the position.[9] Fortunately, Republican prejudice and thirst for power failed to win the day.

Except for inflation and related issues – an essential piece of the puzzle Democrats are still working on — Americans strongly support Democratic positions on these matters.[10] But the Republican propaganda machine is very effective in persuading voters. We cannot let them continue to distort the facts and con the voters.

It is up to all of us to help get the truth out to our fellow Americans before this year’s critical November elections. While I find the state of our nation’s politics pretty depressing, I know how critical these elections are. Like many of you, I am fed up, but I am not willing to give up. American democracy is too vital to our way of life.

I urge you to stand with the millions of Americans who care about the future of our nation.

Write letters to the editor! Support Democratic candidates! Join the fight 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.vox.com/22899204/midterm-elections-president-biden-thermostatic-opinion

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html

[3] https://usafacts.org/visualizations/coronavirus-covid-19-spread-map/

[4] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-relief-deal-senate-10-billion-republicans/

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/28/us/politics/capitol-riot-commission.html

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/06/us/politics/jan-6-capitol-riot-aftermath.html

[7] https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/maddowblog/biden-era-job-growth-good-gop-literally-speechless-rcna15144

[8] Ibid.

[9] https://news.yahoo.com/ketanji-brown-jackson-supreme-court-senate-vote-first-black-woman-181745296.html

[10] https://www.axios.com/poll-ketanji-brown-jackson-senate-supreme-court-38763a57-f656-44a5-939b-94443042abb1.html; https://www.politico.com/news/2022/01/02/house-jan-6-committee-popular-republicans-526092;

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Are Democrats Turning the Corner?

The popular consensus until now has been that the Democrats are in deep trouble and will likely get hammered in the coming November elections. Considering their inability to pass the Build Back Better social reforms bill or voting rights protections and Biden’s low polling numbers, the Democrats clearly looked like big losers come next fall. Then suddenly, the winds of change appear to be turning in their direction.

One of the main issues that the failed voting rights legislation addressed was partisan gerrymandering.  Republican controlled state legislatures have been drawing House district lines that reduce the number of districts that favor Democrats. Since the GOP only needs to flip five seats to take control of the House, their gerrymandering efforts seemed to be getting the job done.

But the Democrats have been fighting back in the courts and winning. In fact, according to the L.A. Times, “when all is done, it’s even possible Democrats could emerge with a slight gain compared with the current maps.”[1] For example, the Ohio State Supreme Court struck down the Republican legislature’s partisan redistricting map.[2] And, on Friday the North Carolina Supreme Court did as well.[3] The Democrats’ chances of holding onto the House majority are clearly improving.

Another recent development that should help the Democrats next fall is Biden’s upcoming pick of a black woman to sit on the Supreme Court. While Blacks’ support of the Democratic Party has been waning since the 2020 election, Biden’s naming a black woman to the Court will likely reverse that trend. Republican opposition to this nomination will have racial overtones which will further motivate Blacks to get out the vote and defeat GOP candidates at the polls.

A third cloud looming over the Republicans’ election prospects is their response to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. This week the Republican National Committee formally censured the two members of their party, Reps. Cheney and Kinzinger, who serve on the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection. The RNC censure accused their two colleagues of “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”[4] Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority (72%) of Americans, including 45% of Republicans, believe the people involved in the attack on the Capitol were “threatening democracy.”5

Many GOP lawmakers are now downplaying what happened on January 6. The House Select Committee will soon hold televised hearings to lay out to the nation exactly what occurred then and leading up to that day. Will swing voters in November want to support those Republicans who not only refuse to acknowledge the truth regarding the attempted coup, but also continue to back Trump who is plotting to do it again?

Finally, Biden and the Democrats have a positive record that should increase their electoral fortunes. The recent tremendous rise in employment figures along with the great reduction in omicron cases give voters reason to stick with the Democrats. Of course, a lot can and will happen in the nine months until the election. But the Democratic picture is certainly brighter today than it’s been in quite some time.

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.latimes.com/politics/newsletter/2022-01-21/state-courts-rein-in-gerrymandering-a-help-to-democrats-essential-politics

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2022/02/04/north-carolina-congressional-map-struck-down-00005974

[4] https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/04/politics/liz-cheney-adam-kinzinger-censure-rnc/index.html

[5] https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/majority-americans-jan-attack-threatened-democracy-poll/story?id=81990555

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: It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint

We are living in the most precarious of times. Our lives are at risk as the pandemic is on the rise once again. According to the New York Times, “(t)he Delta variant, a more contagious version of the coronavirus, is sweeping through the country. Fewer than half of Americans are fully vaccinated, exacerbating the situation.”[1]

At the same time, President Biden asserts our nation is facing the biggest threat to American democracy since the Civil War.[2] Many, including myself, agree. Across the country Republican state legislatures are enacting voter suppression laws and seizing the power to overturn the will of the voters in future elections.[3]

In order to meet these monumental challenges, we must be prepared for the long haul. It is becoming increasingly clear that neither Covid 19 nor the authoritarian right will be overcome easily or quickly. Under such circumstances, self-care and taking care of each other are essential.

I know that if I do not maintain my physical and mental health, there is no way I can help anyone else, let alone work to save America from the assault on our democracy now reigning down on us. We cannot allow these perilous threats to overwhelm us. If we do, we and our country are sure to lose.

Putting our heads in the sand will not work either. Some of us are throwing up our hands and saying that there is nothing I can do that will make a difference. While it may feel that way, it is far from the truth.

Defeat is not an option. But neither is running ourselves into the ground. So, here are a few suggestions for staying engaged in these most difficult times without losing your health or your mind:

  1. Know that you are not alone. Join or form a support or affinity group. At least talk to a friend about how you’re feeling. Don’t keep it all inside.
  2. Get out in nature. A walk or hike can be very rejuvenating.
  3. Volunteer at a food bank, senior center or other service organization where you can feel you are contributing to making life better for someone.
  4. Do things you like to do, e.g., listening to music, reading a book, dancing, writing in a journal.
  5. Call or write the president and your senators and representatives. Let them know how you feel about the issues that concern you and what you want them to fight for.
  6. Contribute what you can to organizations that you feel are making a difference.
  7. Get involved in a cause you care about even if it’s just for a couple of hours a month.

For me, the key is balance. I know I cannot change the world by myself. I also know trying to do that just leads to burn out. We are in a marathon, not a sprint. We have to pace ourselves, taking time to recharge our batteries. Staying the course to save our democracy is what’s most vital.

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.nytimes.com/2021/07/23/business/return-to-office-vaccine-mandates-delta-variant.html

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-voting-speech/2021/07/13/afd91f7a-e3d9-11eb-8aa5-5662858b696e_story.html

[3] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/06/14-gop-controlled-states-have-passed-laws-to-impede-free-elections/

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

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Corporate America Joins the Battle for Voters’ Rights

It’s a cloudy, overcast day here at my home in the country outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico. While many of us have gotten vaccinated and are moving on with our lives, another momentous storm is sweeping across the country.

Yes, we do seem to be slowly beating back the COVID pandemic. In fact, Dr. Fauci recently indicated that “we would approach some degree of normality as we get towards the end of the summer and into the fall, and a considerable degree of normality” by next winter.[1]  I hope he’s right.

Yet, what’s happening today in America’s corporate boardrooms is anything but normal. As I noted in my blog of April 9 (https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/), Republican lawmakers throughout the nation are doing whatever they can to gain and maintain political power. In 47 states they are making it more difficult for people of color to vote, people much more likely to support Democrats.[2]

Now, a new voice has suddenly entered the fight to protect our voting rights. Hundreds of U.S. corporations and executives, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, G.M., Starbucks and Warren Buffett, recently signed on to a two-page ad in the New York Times and the Washington Post calling for the defense of Americans’ voting rights.[3]

And, in the irony of all ironies, the Republicans are up in arms. Here’s how Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, who knows how to talk out of both sides of his mouth better than any other politician, responded to the corporate support for voters’ rights:

“My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” before unbelievably adding, “I’m not talking about political contributions.”[4]

This is the same Sen. McConnell who praised the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that money is speech protected by the First Amendment and corporations are just like people who, therefore, have the right to finance election spending:

“For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process.” He hailed the decision as “an important step” in “restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups.”[5]

Of course, both parties take loads of campaign contributions from corporate interests.[6] However, the Democrats are not the hypocrites that McConnell and his Republican colleagues are. They don’t accept huge donations and then tell their corporate donors to stay out of politics.

But here’s where you come in. Tell these corporate contributors to put their money where their mouths are and back up their speech with effective action.

Do the following to help strengthen corporate efforts in the fight for voters’ rights:

  1.  Check out the NYT ad at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/business/dealbook/ceos-voting-rights.html
  2. Write down the names of companies that you do business with or from whom you buy their products.
  3. Write/email those companies. Tell them you are a customer of theirs and you support their stance on voting rights. Write to as many companies as you can.
  4. Urge them not to donate to any candidate or elected official (state or federal) who supports state or federal efforts to restrict voting rights in any way, or who was involved in the January 6 insurrection.
  5. Insist that they only donate to candidates and elected officials (state or federal) who support HR1/S1 (the For the People Act) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
  6. Contact your friends and family and ask them to take the above steps as well.

Together, with Corporate America on the side of protecting everyone’s right to vote and our demanding they withhold funding of Republicans working to restrict voting rights, we can be a powerful force in the struggle 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/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/fauci-breakthrough-infection-covid-vaccine-b1830303.html

[2] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-march-2021?ms=gad_voting%20laws_513381296572_8626214133_121430490955&gclid=Cj0KCQjw6-SDBhCMARIsAGbI7Ugdzt2p9ECuO9L4gAq34U9LPZvOTc2tbxNqs02ZMCZQmaEGpr038xAaAmYbEALw_wcB; https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-restrictive-voting-requirements-target-minorities

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-14/corporate-america-unites-for-voting-rights-without-naming-plan; https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/business/ceos-corporate-america-voting-rights.html

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/04/07/mitch-mcconnell-georgia-citizens-united/

[5] Ibid.

[6] https://www.opensecrets.org/elections-overview/biggest-donors