The Struggle for the Soul of America: Do Your Part

Lately I’ve been struggling. Surely, I am not alone. Many others are wrestling with their consciences as well. On the one hand, I want to escape from the tsunami of chaos and pain that our country is enduring right now. At the same time, I feel a degree of guilt that I’m not doing enough to help alleviate the suffering and eliminate the injustices. Does this sound familiar?

I know that doing something, almost anything, that provides aid to those in need or supports the overhaul of our failing system can make a difference. If nothing else, it will make me feel better. If that’s not enough to motivate me to get off my butt and get involved, then my knowing that what I do will help relieve someone’s distress and/or advance the country toward a more equitable society should do it. If I’m not contributing in some way to the solution, then, as they say, I’m part of the problem.

While there’s an immense amount of work to be done to repair the harm and get the country on track, we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand and become immobilized. Rather, I believe we need to pause, go within and examine ourselves, as well as the big picture.

Let’s ask ourselves: Where can I be most effective? What can I do that best utilizes my abilities and resources? And, how can I do it without getting burned out or despondent?

The truth is it’s up to all of us to abolish racism, reduce income inequality and fix our corrupt political system, among other pressing issues. Feeling guilty that I’m not doing enough only gets in my way of steping up and taking positive action. Making you feel guilty that you are not doing your part only isolates us from each other. We need to come together, work for the greater good and get the job done. Below are just a few of the many organizations which would love your assistance in accomplishing these goals.

And, as Jon Stewart poignantly observed in a recent New York Times Magazine interview,[1] we must address ‘why’ we are plagued with racism, police brutality, and a two-tiered society:

“(The) root of the problem is the society that we’ve created that contains this schism, and we don’t deal with it…

“It’s white people’s lack of being able to live up to the defining words of the birth of the country that is the problem.

“(The system) is incentivized for conflict as well as for corruption…which is money from large sources pouring into a place not to help, but to gain control…We’ve got a (expletive)-up permanent campaign system with too much money in it.

“What’s broken is the legislators’ ability to address the issues inherent in any society.”

Clearly, we have a number of systemic issues we must address as a nation if we are to begin to heal the country and move forward. Unfortunately, our current national leadership has no intention of doing this. Part of our job, then, is to install new leadership in Washington which understands these critical matters and has the courage and foresight to take them on.

At the same time, each of us must find the resolve to help stop the bleeding and rebuild our country. Here’s just a few suggestions of organizations you can contact to learn how you can help, or to obtain assistance for someone in need: New Mexico Government Assistance (, Black Lives Matter (, New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics ( which recently became RepresentUs New Mexico, Common Cause New Mexico ( and Retake Our Democracy (

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, 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

Subscribe to this blog at Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.



The Struggle for the Soul of America: Will the Republican Party Go Down With Trump?

What will it take for Republicans in Congress to denounce President Trump’s lies, abuses of power and downright corruption? Or, is it just too late in the election cycle for such brave pronouncements?

Recently we have seen a number of former military brass and Republican cabinet members speak truth to power. But only Sens. Murkowski and Romney in the Republican controlled Senate have broken ranks with Trump. While many other Republican members of Congress  quietly agree with the generals and their two Senate colleagues, their fear of Trump’s retribution appears to be stronger than their love of country. It seems they would rather remain silent and see our democracy shattered, than reject Trump’s authoritarian rule and be primaried by a Trump sycophant in their next election bid.

More and more Republican heavyweights like former Pres. George W. Bush and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.),[1] who served as Bush’s ambassador to the Vatican, are renouncing Trump. Yet, almost all congressional Republicans appear to be too scared of the bully in the White House to abandon the president, protect the Constitution and maintain their honor. At this point, it seems the only thing the Republican Party stands for is Trump, and, of course, lowering taxes for its wealthy donors.

With the election less than five months away, the Party appears to have given up on its options.  At this point, it is stuck with Trump. Those who can no longer stomach the president are jumping ship. If the Trump destroyer sinks in November, will the Party go down with its captain?

According to Jessica Taylor, Senate editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, the answer is “yes”: “Ultimately Senate Republicans’ fate will be tied to Trump…”[2] And, Trump’s approval ratings are sinking fast. He’s down 10 points in just the last month to 39% in the latest Gallup poll.[3]  In fact, Trump has become an albatross around the necks of a great many Republican candidates.[4] While anything can happen between now and the election, the odds of the Democrats gaining control of the Senate are clearly improving.

Another indicator that the Democrats’ chances are increasing is fundraising. The New York Times recently reported that the “Democrats raised substantially more money than Republicans did in the first quarter (of 2020) in the most pivotal congressional races.”[5]

That’s not to say the Democrats will have an easy time of it this fall. As I’ve noted before, the Republicans ability to interfere with the voting process will play a major factor in the election. Trump and the Republicans will do whatever they can to win. Voter suppression, closing numerous polling places, voter purges and challenging voters at the polls are just some of the tactics they’ll use to hamper Democratic turnout.[6]

While the tide is turning in the Democrats favor, we can’t take anything for granted. We all need to pitch in to ensure a huge voter turnout as well as a fair election.

Now is the time to get involved. Join the fight for free, fair, and secure elections at or the Voter Protection Corps at

To learn how to help get out the vote, go to

Together we can, and we will, revive democracy in America.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, 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

Subscribe to this blog at Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.








The Struggle for the Soul of America: Many Republicans Oppose Trump, Too

In last week’s blog I wrote that “nothing less than the survival of American democracy is at stake” in this year’s election. I noted that Prof. Peter Dreier of Occidental College believes the election is “about democracy vs. fascism.”

One reader retorted that my blog gave her a good laugh. Another thought Dreier’s remarks were just liberal bluster. Though most of you didn’t respond, I’m sure many agreed with Dreier’s dire warning.

Whether one is conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, it’s hard to understand how one cannot take what’s happening in our country seriously.  Armed militia recently marched on the Michigan statehouse protesting the governor’s coronavirus-related restrictions.[1] Pres. Trump not only rejects Congress’s power of oversight,[2]  but he also refuses to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to save American lives.[3] And, just yesterday Trump fired another independent executive branch watchdog who found fault with his administration.[4]

Trump has absolutely failed to protect Americans against the coronavirus. Many health professionals fighting the virus still do not have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need. While Trump praises healthcare workers, his failure to fully employ the DPA has resulted in “shortages across the country…so severe that a number of hospitals are trying to come up with ways to innovate using the same PPE more than once — a practice that was unheard of in the United States prior to the coronavirus crisis.”[5] Still, it’s mind-boggling that this pandemic which has affected 100,000s of Americans, and killing 1000s of people daily, has become a political football.[6]

Yet, Democrats are not the only ones fed up with Trump. Conservative attorney George Conway, husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, and Rick Wilson, former Republican consultant, are leading a group of Republicans called the Lincoln Project which aims to make Trump a one-term president.

The Lincoln Project as well as many other conservatives firmly believe Trump is a danger to the nation.[7] In fact, nearly a quarter of Republicans think that the party should nominate someone other than Trump as their 2020 presidential nominee.[8] In addition, “highly respected and renowned conservative political columnists like Jennifer Rubin, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Jonah Goldberg and others have long been writing about his incompetence, egotism, ignorance of foreign policy, dishonesty, cruelty and overall lack of integrity. Even the very conservative Wall Street Journal is publishing editorials and columns against his incompetence and lies.”[9]

Regardless of this Republican rebellion, Trump still has a strong following. Fortunately for the country, they are in the minority. But that is not enough reason to believe Trump will lose in November.

Trump is a very clever salesman, an unrelenting con artist. He still has powerful people like Mitch McConnell and wealthy donors like Sheldon Adelson supporting him. And, most Republicans will do just about anything to win.

So, it is up to us, the American people, to save our country from the ruin that a second Trump term will surely bring. We must do everything we can to get everyone registered to vote and then follow through by voting, demand the right to mail-in voting and do whatever else we can to ensure an overwhelming defeat of a president who doesn’t care about the American people or our country, but only cares about himself.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, 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

Subscribe to this blog at Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.











American Politics in Moral Free-Fall

            A dark cloud hangs over our country. With the recent Las Vegas mass murder and our government’s pathetic response to the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico, America’s fall from grace quickens. While Donald Trump embodies much of that darkness, all of the blame for the ugly state of our country’s politics cannot be laid at his feet. Both political parties bear a good deal of the responsibility. When it comes right down to it, all that seems to matter to our politicians is winning and the money it takes to come out on top.

            Back in 2009, not long after Barak Obama was elected president, the Republican Congressional leadership agreed to a “strategy of all-out resistance” to the new Democratic president.1 Despite Obama’s considerable efforts to reach out to Congressional Republicans, they continually refused to work with him.2 Beating our first African-American president was much more important to the Republicans than helping millions of Americans obtain health insurance. That was the case despite the fact that Obamacare was fashioned after the conservative Heritage Foundation’s market-based proposal which Republican Governor Mitt Romney had already implemented in Massachusetts.3

                  Obama and the Democrats put politics before people as well. Rather than helping millions of Americans avoid losing their homes during the Great Recession, the Obama administration chose to direct almost all of the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) funds to the Wall Street banks whose corrupt and fraudulent practices were largely responsible for the country’s economic collapse.4 Moreover, Obama refused to extract foreclosure relief measures from our nation’s biggest banks in return for the huge bailout they received. Apparently, Obama and his big banker appointees cared a great deal more about the president’s campaign contributors on Wall Street than they did about average Americans on Main Street. No Wall Street bankers went to jail for the grave damage they had caused the country.5

            Since then, our politics have only gotten worse. During the entire eight years of the Obama presidency, the Republicans were the ‘Party of No.’ Unprecedented in modern American history, they refused to work with the president on practically any issue. While they were unable to defeat Obamacare, the GOP’s obstructionism assisted them in attaining numerous victories. Not only did the Republicans win back the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014, but they also denied Obama a Supreme Court appointment, won the White House in 2016 and placed their own conservative justice on the Court once Trump became president.

            Meanwhile, the Democrats continued to cozy up to Wall Street and their Big Money special interests rather than provide programs that would be most beneficial to the American people. That was the case even with Obamacare. While the program did extend healthcare to millions of previously uncovered Americans, it failed to offer a ‘public option,’ which would have helped keep consumers’ costs down. Instead of fighting for an alternative choice to compete with the insurance industry, Obama and Congressional Democrats sided with the private insurers and excluded the public option from the legislation.

            Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign further demonstrated where the Democrats’ loyalties lie. Clinton attended numerous gatherings hosted by her Big Money donors while failing to address the pressing concerns of blue-collar workers. But for the groundswell of support for Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election, the Democratic Party platform would not have focused on those issues either. Nevertheless, Clinton refused to endorse reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act and other strong Wall Street regulations, much to the delight of her wealthiest supporters.

            Trump and the Republican Party are also tied to Big Money, probably even more so. Despite his campaign promises to the contrary, Trump has not drained the Washington swamp. In fact, he has enlarged it by filling his cabinet with billionaires, who, like him, are more interested in profiting personally from their positions than they are in enhancing the public good. Take Steve Mnuchin, for example, one of several wealthy former Goldman Sachs executives now in Trump’s Cabinet. During the 2008 financial crisis, Mnuchin chaired OneWest Bank, which used fabricated and “robo-signed” documents to secure evictions, and routinely dispossessed the homes of senior citizens and people of color.6

            As Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin helped draft Trump’s new tax plan. Under this scheme, taxes will go up for many families that are just scraping by while the rich benefit. These tax increases will not pay for health care, food, or housing, but will provide the basis for lowering taxes on the wealthy, resulting in the richest one percent of families in the U.S., including Mnuchin’s, receiving an increase in income of 8.5 percent after taxes.7 This is just one of many giveaways for corporations and multimillionaires offered in the Republicans’ tax plan.

            Is there any way to stop this moral free-fall in American politics? Throughout our history Americans have risen up in mass movements — be it for women’s suffrage, labor, the environment or LBGTQ rights — and successfully demanded a reformation of our country’s values and priorities. Isn’t it time we do it again in the name of fairness and economic justice for all Americans?

Bruce Berlin is the president of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics ( and the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America.

1 See

2 See

3 See

4 See

5 See

6 See

7 See


It’s All About the Money

In case you were wondering why my blog has been silent for the last month or so, I recently returned from a long, but rewarding, four-week, cross-country journey from Santa Fe to New York to attend my daughter’s college graduation, the 50th wedding anniversary party of old friends and several other events along the way. But now that I’m back, I intend to write at least one, hopefully two, blogs a week on the challenging issues we Americans face in 2017.


While a great deal has transpired in the last month, nothing was more troubling than Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. At the same time, however, this reckless, ill-conceived move may have a silver lining, which we will address in a few moments.


First, let’s get to the heart of the matter: It’s all about the money. While Trump claims that the Paris agreement was bad for American workers, it appears that it was the financial influence of the oil, gas and coal industries that won the day. On May 25, 22 Republican senators, led by Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo), signed a letter to Trump urging him “to make a clean break from the Paris agreement.” The letter argued that the Paris deal threatened Trump’s efforts to rescind the clean power plan, an Obama-era set of regulations and guidelines that include emissions caps and other rules deemed onerous by the fossil fuel industries.


What the letter did not address is the close alignment of these senators with those industries. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), the 22 signatories had received over $10 million in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industries since 2012. Trump himself collected over $900 thousand in contributions from these same sources during his 2016 campaign. (Over the course of his political career, Inhofe alone has received over $1.8 million in contributions from oil and gas concerns.) Moreover, CRP found that visible donations to Republicans, the party of climate change deniers, from the extractive industries exceeded donations to Democrats in the 2016 election cycle by a ratio of 15-to-1. With this kind of financial persuasion, could there be any doubt thatTrump would decide to withdraw from the Paris agreement?


Now for the silver lining. Trump’s decision with the backing of many Congressional Republicans will only further energize the opposition to his administration and its inhumane policies. The Climate Change movement is strong and growing. A clear and striking line has now been drawn between the Republican supporters of the polluting fuel industries and the millions of Americans who want to protect their families and our planet from the disastrous consequences of climate change. The movement now has a very powerful argument against Republican climate change deniers in the 2018 elections and Trump in 2020: It’s all about the money.


America’s Political System Thrives on Corruption

            Big Money has a stranglehold on our country’s political system that is destroying our democracy. Today in Washington and in our state capitals too often Big Money calls the shots. Moreover, this problem is not a partisan issue. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle as well as presidential administrations of both parties are frequently guilty of unduly favoring the desires of their Big Money donors over the needs of their constituents. The truth is, we have a system that thrives on corruption, and it’s getting worse all the time.

            While Donald Trump appears to have taken public corruption to a whole new level, by no means did it begin with him. Recent American history is full of examples. For instance, in 2002 Rep. Billy Tauzin, a Republican from Louisiana and then Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, drafted the Medicare prescription drug bill, which created Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. In his final Congressional election for Congress that same year, Tauzin received close to $300,000 in campaign contributions from health professionals, drug makers and other health products companies. The bill Tauzin drafted in 2003 followed the industry’s desires. It steered clear of price controls and forbade our government, the largest purchaser of prescription drugs, from negotiating with drug manufacturers to secure lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries, which is why today we still pay the highest prices in the world for our prescription medicines.

            But, that’s not all. The year after Tauzin drafted the Medicare drug benefit act, he left Congress and went through the revolving door between government and K Street, where a great many lobbyists work, and was hired by the drug industry. PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying arm, rewarded Tauzin for writing the drug bill to its liking by hiring him as its president with a salary of approximately $2 million a year.

            Tauzin’s payoff would be unbelievable except for the fact that that is the way Washington actually functions. Retiring from Congress and becoming a lobbyist for a much heftier salary is a fairly common practice. According to one study, 42% of House members and 50% of senators become lobbyists when they leave office. Not only do they make a lot more money when they “retire,” so to speak, but also they automatically have built-in access to members of Congress, having worked with many of them when they themselves were in office. You might say many of our representatives, with the help of corporate America, have made corrupting their public service standard operating procedure.

            A few years later, the Great Recession of 2008 struck our nation. Millions of innocent people lost their homes and/or jobs when the economy crashed. Though the economic disaster was mostly due to the unscrupulous and fraudulent practices of Wall Street’s big banks, the Obama administration allowed practically all of those bankers to get off scot-free. Could the facts that some of Obama’s biggest donors during his 2008 campaign were Wall Street banks, and that he appointed a number of Goldman Sachs people, like Larry Summers, Gene Sperling and Rahm Emanuel, to important positions in his administration have had something to do with his failure to hold the bankers accountable?

            In addition, despite the fact that the TARP legislation (Troubled Asset Relief Program) included instructions to use a portion of the funds to prevent the foreclosure of people’s homes, President Obama not only used little or none of it to assist those distressed homeowners, but he also refused to extract foreclosure relief measures from our nation’s biggest banks in return for the huge bailout they received. Was neither prosecuting the big bankers nor extracting foreclosure relief from them Obama’s way of paying back Wall Street for their helping him win the White House?

            Of course, Obama’s was not the first Democratic administration to look out for Wall Street at the expense of the American people. In the 1990s, Robert Rubin served as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration. A former Goldman Sachs co-chairman, Rubin used his influential position to gain repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated investment banking from commercial banking since the days of FDR, and had thus protected ordinary Americans’ bank deposits from being wagered by investment bankers in the risky trading of future derivative swaps and other exotic, often fraudulent securities. Rather than protecting the interests of average American investors and homeowners, Secretary Rubin’s efforts supported his Wall Street friends. Repealing Glass-Steagall allowed the Big Banks to gamble with depositors’ money. Consequently, to a great degree, we have Pres. Clinton, Rubin and his bank buddies to thank for the crash of the housing market and the Great Recession of 2008. Even today, many Americans are still struggling to recover while the big bankers are doing better than ever.

            Now President Trump and his billionaire Republican friends are running our government. Given all the prior corrupting influence of Big Money in Washington, it’s quite likely that their financial interests will also play a significant role in how our nation’s policies are determined. Rex Tillerson, the new Secretary of State and former head of Exxon Mobil, and Steve Mnuchin, the recently appointed Secretary of the Treasury who previously worked for Goldman Sachs, are just two members of Trump’s cabinet whose policy decisions may very well be swayed by their private financial affairs.

            As for Trump himself, it’s all about the money. He reportedly was offered up to a 19% stake in Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, in return for his lifting the sanctions imposed on Russia by Pres. Obama. Subsequently, a similar portion of Rosneft was sold to a mysterious partnership partly owned by a shadowy company in the Cayman Islands, the ownership of which is unknown, according to Reuters. And then the sanctions were, in fact, relaxed.

            Moreover, last month the Chinese government granted President Trump and his business valuable trademark protection for the use of the Trump name in the construction industry, something he had been seeking for more than a decade. While Trump had fought unsuccessfully in Chinese courts for years for control of the trademark, in November, soon after the election, China awarded the trademark to the Trump Organization.

            And, yet another example of Trump’s corruption of the presidency is his pay-to-play scheme at his private, Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach resort. Soon after he became president, Trump doubled its initiation fee to $200,000. For Trump, the presidency is all about using it for his personal gain. The question is: How long will the American people put up with all this corruption?

            Bruce Berlin is the state coordinator of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics and the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America. See his website at


The Trust Issue: Hillary and the TPP

First she was for it as Sec. of State. In fact, Sec. Clinton was a strong proponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. But then, candidate Clinton came out against the TPP. She reversed her position when she observed how her primary campaign rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, had generated a great deal of support due to his opposition to the TPP and other free trade pacts that harmed American workers.

While Clinton still maintains she is against the TPP, her surrogates on the Democratic Party platform committee just blocked an amendment to the platform that would have stated formal opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These are people Clinton appointed to the committee. It appears that either Clinton cannot control her own appointees, which does not seem likely; or, she is not willing to fight for own position on the TPP, which indicates her opposition is weak in contrast to her public statements. In either case, is this the kind of leadership we want in our president?

To be blunt about it: Can we trust Hillary Clinton when she takes a stand on issues important to America’s workforce?

Clinton knows that the majority of Democrats, in Congress and around the country, oppose the TPP. Moreover, she understands that her party’s failure to strongly reject it will hand the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, who opposes the deal, a political advantage with working Americans who the Democrats claim to represent. As Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) argued recently, “If Clinton’s representatives on the full, 187-member platform committee in Orlando once again keep the Democratic Party from opposing the TPP, her responsibility for that outcome will be clear….”


What if Hillary came clean?

This story about Hillary and Bill Clinton’s Foundation taking money from foreign governments while Hillary was Sec. of State is gaining steam.  Did she make decisions at the State Dept. that assisted those governments?  If so, what was the connection between the donations and the decisions?   And, why did all those emails get deleted?  Is there a connection?

Of course, Hillary is denying everything.  But, if she really wanted to serve her country, she could come clean (if there was a connection, and I’m guessing there just may have been.) and explain that this is just the way our government works.  Then, she could start calling out all the examples of Democratic and Republican Senators and Representatives, and Obama and George Bush and Bill Clinton, who have done favors or voted a certain way, to assist Wall Street bankers, the healthcare industry, military contractors, and on and on, and gotten big campaign contributions in return.

Maybe I’m dreaming, but Hillary served in the Senate, lived in the White House and wants to be President.  She would be very credible on all this.  She could really be an American hero and help clean up our corrupt government.  But, then, she wouldn’t become president, would she?  Guess I am dreaming.