Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America

            Today America faces many critical problems. Gun violence, climate change, immigration reform, income inequality and terrorism are just a few of the most pressing concerns.

            One issue, however, overrides all the others. That is, the power of Big Money to unduly influence the outcome of our elections and the formation of public policy. Eighty-four percent of Americans believe money has too much influence in political campaigns, according to a June 2015 New York Times/CBS News poll. In addition, a July 2014 bipartisan study found that 74% of all voters agreed that it is necessary to fix our broken political system before anything can be done to solve other important national issues.1

            Why do we need to get Big Money out of politics first? Because regardless of the issue, Big Money’s grip on our politicians is so strong that they invariably bow to Big Money’s legislative desires at the people’s expense, in order to obtain very large campaign contributions, which help keep them in power.

            For example, despite the fact that 92% of Americans support universal background checks for all gun purchases,2 Big Money has been able to buy off our federal representatives and prevent passage of a universal background check statute that would help protect millions of innocent Americans from gun violence. Since the 2000 election cycle, the gun lobby (i.e. 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, according to federal disclosures and a study done for the Center for Public Integrity.3 The fact that more than 30,000 people are killed by guns in our country every year, some of which could likely be prevented by universal background checks, seems to matter little to our representatives who receive big campaign contributions from the gun lobby.

            By the same token, our congressional representatives appear more interested in the huge campaign contributions they receive from Wall Street than they are in protecting Americans against fraudulent banking practices. As difficult to believe as this may be, Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike voted to pass a section of the 2015 omnibus budget bill that eliminated a taxpayer protection provision from the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. In so doing, our representatives gave Wall Street speculators the green light to once more gamble irresponsibly knowing that Congress had restored taxpayer-backed funds for their reckless ventures, just like the ones that had caused the 2008 Great Recession. This same Congressional support for special interests that ignores or rejects the public good exists in almost all areas of government policy.

            While Big Money’s influence is quite formidable, there is, however, a time-tested solution to this problem. As noted in Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, “when vested interests have constructed seemingly insurmountable barriers to the people’s demands for a more equitable society, Americans have come together and overcome the obstacles…(by forming) mass movements.” Like the Labor, Civil Rights, and Gay and Lesbian Rights movements, among others, now we must build a broad-based, grassroots movement, call it “the Democracy Movement,” to remove the corrupting influence of money in politics and make the government work for all the people.

            Moreover, the effort to build such a movement has already begun. Organizations like Common Cause, the Democracy Initiative, Issue One, Take Back Our Republic and People for the American Way are focusing on campaign finance reform to eliminate Big Money’s corrupting effect and establish political equity so that all Americans have a meaningful voice in our government. Please join them. They need your help.

            Skeptics will say it cannot be done. Big Money is just too powerful. But against great odds, popular, grassroots movements won women the right to vote, labor the eight-hour workday and the 40-hour work week, gays and lesbians the right to marriage, and all Americans a strong voice in ending the Vietnam War.

            Yes, we will need to come together and give it our all. And, it may take a long time. But, what is the alternative? Are we willing to let our great experiment in democracy die? Are we going to leave our children and grandchildren a country controlled by a corrupt political system that has no allegiance to government by and for the people, and no concern for the common good or average Americans?

            As noted in Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, over the course of our history “millions of Americans have sacrificed their lives valiantly fighting for freedom and justice. While today the forces opposing our democratic way of life are neither foreign nor military, they are as strong and dangerous as America has ever faced in the past.” Now it is up to us. We must halt the push toward plutocracy and build the movement to revive democracy in America.

1 See Parick Caddell et al, “Americans Consensus: Fix the Corrupt System,” Popular Resistance Org. July 5, 2014.

2 See “Release Detail,” Quinnipiac University, July 3, 2014.

3 Alan Berlow, et al., “Gun Lobby’s Money and Power Still Holds Sway over Congress,” Center for Public Integrity, May 1, 2013.

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Will Hillary Put the Country First?

There has been a lot of news recently about the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and whether she violated the law by using an unsecured email server for official business at her home while she was Secretary of State.

Hopefully, this question will be resolved soon and not become a big issue in the election. But time is running short. The Democratic convention is less than four months away. Of course, if Sen. Sanders wins the nomination, Clinton’s legal problems won’t matter in the election. However, at this point Clinton is still favored to win the nomination.

For the sake of the country, I think Clinton should do everything she can to have this matter resolved before the convention. Obviously, she is not in control of the investigation. Nevertheless, she could request that it be expedited. Clinton should ask that she and other witnesses be interviewed under oath this month and that a decision about whether to bring charges be made by the end of May.

President Obama should also do whatever he can to get the FBI to conclude its investigation in the next couple of months. The Democratic Party, let alone the country, cannot afford to have this cloud lingering over the fall election campaign.

 

 

Build a Mass Movement to Overcome Big Money & Revive Democracy

America is faced with many problems today: Gun violence, climate change, immigration reform, income inequality and terrorism, just to name a few.

However, one issue overrides all the others. That is, the power of Big Money to unduly influence the outcome of our elections and the formation of public policy. Seventy-five percent of all voters agree that it is necessary to get Big Money out of politics and fix our broken political system before anything can be done to solve these other important national issues.

For example, despite the fact that 92% of Americans support universal background checks for all gun purchases, Big Money has bought off Congress and prevented passage of a universal background check statute that would help protect millions of innocent Americans from gun violence.

However, there is a time-tested solution to this problem. As noted in Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, “when vested interests have constructed seemingly insurmountable barriers to the people’s demands for a more equitable society, Americans have come together and overcome the obstacles…(by forming) mass movements.”

Like the Labor, Civil Rights, and Gay and Lesbian Rights movements, among others, now we must build a broad-based, grassroots Democracy Movement to remove the corrupting influence of money in politics and make the government work for all the people. Visit www.breakingbigmoneysgrip.com for how you can start working to revive democracy in America.

 

Public Events with Bruce Berlin, Author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America

I’m in California now. I will be giving two public talks and book signings this coming week. On Tuesday, March 8 at 6:30 pm, I will be at the Noe Valley Library, 451 Jersey Street, San Francisco. This event is sponsored by N. California Common Cause. Call 415-531-1744 or email hgriego@commoncause.org for more information and to pre-order Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America.

On March 10 at 7 pm, I will be discussing Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America and signing books at Books Inc., 2256 Chestnut Street in the Marina District of San Francisco. Call 415-931-3633 for more information.

Clearly this is a critical time for our country. While my presentations will examine how Big Money has corrupted our political system, they will focus on how we Americans can work together to build a nonpartisan, grassroots democracy movement. If you are in the Bay area, I hope you will come and join in the discussion to revive our democracy.

Terrorism – Shouldn’t We Be Looking in the Mirror?

In 2003 the United States massively attacked Iraq under false pretenses. Despite the fact that we had no verifiable evidence, our government claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that posed an international security threat. Big Oil led by oilman-turned-vice president Dick Cheney manipulated the country into believing this trumped up claim in an effort to gain access to Iraq’s huge oil and gas reserves. In doing Big Oil’s bidding, our country spent close to $2 trillion; sacrificed thousands of American lives as well as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives; and caused many more Iraqis to flee their country.

Our country terrorized the entire population of Iraq. We unjustifiably destroyed the Iraqi government and much of the country. The world is still suffering the grave repercussions of our terrorism. And, it is getting worse day-by-day. The Paris and Mali acts of terrorism are just the latest examples.

Until we step back and examine how we have brutally wronged many other countries, we will not understand why we are in the mess we are in today. How many Americans know that our government overthrew democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegn of Iran in 1953? As result Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlav became a virtual dictator for more than 25 years. The Shah was supported by the CIA in creating the Iranian SAVAK, a vicious secret police for the Shah’s dictatorial government. Look up Operation Ajax for the details.

America’s failure to acknowledge the dishonorable nature of its actions in Iraq and other countries or to punish those officials responsible for the destruction they unleashed clearly is a major cause of today’s terrorism. When will we ever learn?

My book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, is now available!

I’m very excited. My book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America: Working Together To Revive Our Democracy, is finally ready for distribution. The book is a compelling call to all Americans to focus on an extremely critical issue: The power huge sums of money has to unfairly influence U.S. elections and public policy in favor of special interests and contrary to the needs and desires of most Americans.

To order a copy of the book, go to: http://www.breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.

I want to emphasize that the book is most importantly about bringing Americans together to build a Democracy Movement to take control of our country away from Big Money and corporate America. Like the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, the LGBT rights movement, the labor movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement, when millions of Americans work together real positive change can happen.

While many of us feel disheartened and/or helpless regarding the current state of American politics, what I hope is really provocative and uplifting about the book is it provides a viable way to fix our broken political system and revive our democracy. As Randy Kehler, the former national coordinator of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign explains:

“This book persuasively argues that the dominance of Big Money not only corrupts government itself but also blocks effective action on virtually every major issue Americans care about. As Bruce Berlin makes clear, and our history confirms, the only force capable of challenging Big Money’s corrupt and powerful hegemony is a diverse, nonpartisan, grassroots movement for democracy based on a politics of human dignity and equality…Fortunately, Berlin lays out a credible roadmap showing how we can create it. I hope it’s read by millions.”

As I indicate in the book, we need to see ourselves as modern day Paul Reveres sounding the alarm to our friends, neighbors, business associates, relatives and others that Big Money and corporate America are taking over our country to the great detriment of most Americans. The book calls for people to respond to this grave threat by forming DOCs, democracy organizing committees, in communities across the country to fight Big Money’s takeover and revive democracy in America.

Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America is a guidebook on how we can come together and achieve this goal. So, I’m hoping you will want to participate with me in helping to start a new American Revolution to put control of our country in the hands of we, the people.

TPP: Another Example of Big Money’s Grip on America

Now that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement has been made public some are saying it’s worse than they thought it would be. According to Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch: “From leaks, we knew quite a bit about the agreement, but in chapter after chapter the final text is worse than we expected with the demands of the 500 official U.S. trade advisers representing corporate interests satisfied to the detriment of the public interest.”

On issues ranging from climate change to food safety, from open Internet to access to medicines, the TPP “is a disaster,” declared Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now. “Now that we’ve seen the full text, it turns out the job-killing TPP is worse than anything we could’ve imagined,” added Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America. “This agreement would push down wages, flood our nation with unsafe imported food, raise the price of life-saving medicine, all the while trading with countries where gays and single mothers can be stoned to death.” See http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/11/05/worse-we-thought-tpp-total-corporate-power-grab-nightmare.

All this from the president who promised us “change we can believe in.” Yet, once again, Big Money and corporate America are calling the shots in Washington to the great detriment of most people. But, we don’t have to stand for it. Contrary to Obama’s corporate giveaway scheme, the TPP agreement can be the motivational vehicle for change we can really believe in. The trade agreement provides a compelling organizing opportunity for the American people to rise up and break Big Money’s grip on our government.

As I suggest in my new book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America,we need to build a Democracy Movement by organizing thousands of DOCs (democracy organizing committees) in towns and cities across the country. Opposition to the TPP can be the force that brings us together, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, Independent and Liberatarian, to form local DOCs. We can work together to take control of our country away from Big Money and put it in the hands of the people where it belongs. For more information about building a Democracy Movement and my new book, go to http://www.breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.

Truth

I saw Truth yesterday, the movie about the 60 Minutes report in 2004 that George W. Bush did not fullfill his National Guard commitment and actually went AWOL back in the early 1970s. The 60 Minutes report caused a big stir, which resulted in Dan Rather being forced to apologize on air and take early retirement. Mary Mapes, the producer of the show, was fired as were a number of others associated with putting that program together.

Whether one believes the allegations against Bush or not, I thought it was an excellent movie.  Cate Blanchett has a very good shot at a Best Actress oscar for her portrayal of Mary Mapes. The whole cast was quite good. And, the story is truly riveting.

There are too many aspects of the movie to go into all of them here. However, here’s just a few that really stood out. First, one gets an inside glimpse of the intensity of investigative reporting. Good investigative reporters take a lot of risks to uncover their stories and inform the public.

Second, the movie demonstrates how much the news can be and, in many instances, is compromised or worse. With the 2004 election looming, the 60 Minutes story threatened Bush’s re-election. According to the movie, a deal was made between Viacom, CBS’s parent company, and the Bush administration for CBS to recant the story and for Dan Rather to apologize on the air, since CBS News never 100% authenticated the documents that supported the allegations against Bush.

In fact, in doing some research on the incident, I found that some people believe that the documents were false and actually planted by Karl Rove, Bush’s primary political operator, to detract attention from the primary issues of what was Bush’s service record and did he fulfill his 6-year commitment.

Finally, the movie once again exposes the corruption of our political system. The Bush administration apparently did pressure Viacom to recant the story. Clearly, the Bush campaign had the ability to deny the CBS account of Bush’s National Guard record, and give its own version of what happened. But, it went much further than that in forcing Dan Rather to publicly apologize and take early retirement.

That rasies the question of whether we still have a free press in our country. When corporate America and our political leaders are so intertwined, we, the people, are the big losers. My book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, addresses this issue and what we can do about it. The book will be available early next month.