A Question of Self-Governance-Direct Democracy
Political power is real only to the extent to which it can be exercised.
We, the People, even though we are the source of all political power, have
no way to exercise our power directly to make policy, enact laws, or otherwise
give our mutually considered direction to those who represent us at the
Our Constitution provides only for elected representatives to exercise our
power. Lacking procedures, we are limited to voting for political personalities
or to revolting against government when wrongs become insufferable. The
thought of revolting, with our level of civic maturity, is ludricous. Voting
is the only way. So, we need to expand our voting rights to enable us to
exercise fully our political power. To expand our voting rights, we must
enact a law with procedures that will permit us to use an intiative legislative
prccess similar to what already exists in 24 states.
Under our present representative govenment, We, the People, are merely spectators,
watching those we elect wield our power. We act as mendicants, begging our
politicians to use that power for our benefit. The enactment of A NATIONAL
INITIATIVE LAW will permit us to reform our government directly, without
the "permission" of politicians (who are adverse to change for
fear of diluting their power).
History demonstrates how slow and painful real change can be. Half the amendments
to the Constitution have been made to expand the vote to all Americans.
The franchise promised the People in the Declaration of Independence has
taken two hundned years to realize. The politicians who controlled government
have opposed these changes at every step of the way.
What we need is an intiative procedure that circumvents the congress and
goes directly to the people for enactment; an extra-legal process based
on the constituent power of the people, the sovereigns who create govemments;
a process that follows the precendent established in 1787, at our constitutional
convention in Philadelphia. The delegates wrote a self-enacting, extra-legal
procedure in Article VII of the constitution they sought to enact. In that
way, our Founding Fathers circumvented the governments of their day, going
directly to the people and asking them, not their governments, to ratify
the enactment of the Constitution of the United States.
The principle behind the actions of our Founding Fathers involves the logic
that if the people vote to approve the substance of a measure, they obviously
approve the process used to present the measure. Otherwise, the people would
vote their disapproval.
We need to employ the same process, by taking A NATIONAL INITIATIVE directly
to the people, not to our state governments. Obviously, government agencies
will disapprove of any measure that diminishes their power over the people
-- they have done so repeatedly. The extra-legal voting procedure described
above is simple and straightforward.
The main criticism of the initiative process is a myth that the People are
not qualified to govern themselves. We, the People, if given power, are
predicted to abuse that power. This is a myth in that we are accused of
potentially conducting ourselves as our elected representatives presently
do. These critics of the initiative are hoiding us, the People, to a higher
standard of conduct than the present standard of conduct of our elected
officials. The quality of initiative laws enacted in this century unequivocally
shows that the People can and will govern themselves as well or better than
their elected politicians.
One of many reforms that A NATIONAL INTIATIVE must address is the corrupting
influence of special interest monies. Individual citizens who are entitled
to vote on an intiative are the oniy citizens entitled to contribute funds
or property in support of, or, in opposition to, the intiative. Funds, or
property, contributed by a person would be limited to one thousand dollars
in local intiative elections, five thousand dollars in state initiative
eiections, and twenty five thousand dollars in national intiative elections.
These contributions shall be tax deductible from a person's federal income
taxes. Contnbutions from corporations, industry groups, political action
committees (PACS), and associations would be specifically prohibited. Such
entities would be prohibited from coercing employees, stockholders, or members
to contribute funds in support of, or in opposition to, an initiative. The
making of a prohibited contribution would be a felony, punishable by one
year in prison or a fine not to exceed one hundred thousand dollars, or
both, per instance, applied personally to each individuai found guilty of
To accomplish this gargantum task of enacting A NATIONAL INITIATIVE LAW,
it will take the voluntary participation of a great many people and organizations
in communities all across the country -- a nationwide grassroots effort.
GEORGE S. De METT
1706 W. Southgate Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92833-3853
Fleshing Out Privatization
Time magazine's "New Breed Of Activist Mayors" article
[August 18, 1997] needs some fleshing out by one who is experiencing privatization
in Indianapolis. There have to date been no tax cuts here and the city expenditures
have grown from $1.9 billion during the previous administration to $3.1
billion during Mayor Stephen Goldsmith's first term.
The Mayor gives the illusion of frugality and efficiency by hiding operating
expenses in the capital budget. In other words he's putting day to day expenses
on the city's credit card for hapless taxpayers to pick up in the future
after heís moved on to greener pastures. The bonded debt when he
came to office was $524 million and by January 1996 it had swelled to $901
million. If all you read are Goldsmith's press releases, this shell game
would be hard to spot.
What about the quality of privatized services? Who can possibly know? Since
January 1992, there has been only one performance audit. This internal study
of botched park work so embarrassed the Mayor with its findings that it
was immediately swept under the carpet. This administration will neither
authorize nor tolerate an independent performance audit.
Regarding the much hailed savings of $57 million over five years in the
privatized wastewater treatment facilities: This was accomplished by a nearly
50 percent reduction in workforce and switching to a cheaper, more dangerous
and ecologically destructive process of treatment strenuously opposed by
state and local environmental groups. Again, no performance audits have
been allowed, but massive fish kills worry many of us. The other "success
story" -- $32 million in projected 10-year savings from private airport
management -- is being entirely turned over to the airlines!
Who then really benefits from Goldsmith's privatization? Certainly not the
public. In Indianapolis we have: Ten public schools being closed for lack
of money; 35,000 homes are still on septic systems (second worst per capita
in the nation); serious air pollution and excess lung cancers; a crumbling
19th-century sewer system that dumps raw sewage into our waterways and threatens
everyone's health; a Mayor who wants public libraries to charge for services
and stop "unfairly competing" with video stores and record shops.
Goldsmith also wants to close, sell off, or lease out parks that don't generate
a profit; he refuses to install street lights ("This city is not in
the lighting business"), and his answer to a record number of homicides
(more than Finland and Norway combined) is to demand more jail space and
tougher sentencing. All this while he has cut public safety employees by
3.2 percent since taking office.
Let's look then at the real winners in the Mayor's "innovative approach"
to government -- his major campaign contributors. Last year more than $11.5
million poured into Goldsmith's campaign coffers. Most of these contributors
are hard-headed businessmen who anticipate a big return on their investment
and are rewarded with plum contracts, tax abatements, a publicly-financed
mall, a new basketball arena or, as in the airport, a multimillion dollar
gift to the airlines. Other backers are right-wing ideologues who want to
see government weakened and what is left of democracy replaced with codified
We must remember too that private property is exempt from much of the law
that affects public spaces. The Constitution doesn't reach into a private
mall, school, jail, landfill, water department, or library. Private owners/managers
don't have to allow you on the premises without a search warrant, let alone
answer questions about their behavior.
In conclusion, the advocates of privatization are cheering Mayor Stephen
Goldsmith on because it profits them personally while reducing the effectiveness
of government and eliminating democratic meddling in their enrichment. Democracy
is neither cost effective nor efficient, and we cannot allow it to be auctioned
off to the highest bidder for the greater glory of men like Steve Goldsmith.
Democracy cannot be privatized, but politicians like Goldsmith should be!
JACK D. MILLER,
Coordinator, Alliance for
Democracy of Indiana
P.O. Box 34133
Indianapolis, IN 46234
I was disgusted by Ted Rall, p. 21, September issue ["America on $100
a day: The Young Adult's Guide to Financial Planning"]. Maybe I just
don't appreciate satire. The myth that Social Security won't be there for
the younger generation is promoted by the beneficiaries of privatization,
stockbrokers, etc. There is no problem with Social Security, as our local
conference on it made obvious. The Chilean solution is a fascist steal.
Maybe you had better have an article by Peter Donohue, PBI Associates, Portland,
Oregon, who addressed this issue along with personnel from Social Security.
Spare Me Ralls' Satire
Then there is the matter of not one article about parity for agriculture,
which produces 75 percent of new raw materials wealth each year. Farmers
now have half price strangling the economy and when they have half price
the honest interest rate is 1-1/2 percent so all those looking for speculative
high interest rates deserve to get notices that they are slitting their
own throats by driving out family farmers. Lo, the future will be ConAgra
monopoly food prices. Do we really need quotes from an ignoramus like Chris
Warell, Jr. [an "analyst" quoted in Rall's column]?
Movies? There are none that cost $9 in K.C. even if there were films worth
going to see, which there are few of. And as for 401(k) plans, the likelihood
is that a five-acre metrofarm would be a much better and entertaining investment.
Real retirement plans include learning skills that will ensure our survival,
like gardening for our food supply, building and maintaining shelter, canning
and cooking and sewing. As for Warell and "concessions to reality,"
perhaps a childhood with momentary nuclear annihilation and education- and
media-drivn doubt plus fantasy leaves gaps in thinking processes. Booker
T. Whatley's How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres and the older
Five Acres and Independence may need re-issue and perhaps
even Progressive Populist book reviews.
There are too many submissions and too much news for each issue? Spare me
the Ted Ralls stuff.
44 E. 53rd Terrace
Kansas City, MO 64112
Just the Facts
Congrats on voicing a lot of hurting people's feelings from the Heartland.
I'm in the Industrial Heartland and I can't pick up the local paper without
reading about another factory moving to the Southern border states (or across
to Mexico). If we progressives are going to assert control, we need someone
in our ranks who can go head to head with Steve Forbes' flacks. This means
someone steeped in the information economy who knows capitalist accounting
methods and knows how to challenge with facts, not emotion, predictions
by capitalist apologists that a living wage for every adult worker will
cause (fill in the blank) percent more information.
About 10 years ago, Jesse Jackson was on ABC's This Week. Asked a
question about the G7, he made it clear he hadn't the foggiest who they
were. We cannot afford such ignorance. I love what Jim Hightower writes.
Does he have figures which will stand up in court? He recently proposed
a tax on speculative transactions. Great. But those who believe in wealth
by speculation will counter with claims that such transactions will be made
over the internet, beyond taxation, or that the tax, if collected, will
force the financial services industry largely out of the U.S. job loss!
I firmly believe that Greens, Labor Parties, you name it, won't allow us
to wrest control from capitalism's overlords. We must take over the Democratic
Party, aimed at a coalition of workers (union and non-union), real family
farmers and genuine mom-and-pop business owners. Remember, Franklin Roosevelt
headed a Democratic Party where the only enemies of the little guy were
below the Mason-Dixon Line. Today's Democrats have violated a cardinal rule:
Never enact/enforce a tax or regulation which directly causes the little
... Keep up the good work and remember: Just the facts, ma'am.
3663 Perry Dr. NW
Massillon, OH 44646
Smith is from N.H.
Molly Ivins is a great writer and I love reading her stuff, but she had
a glaring factual error in her "Hold Your Nose and Cover Your Eyes"
column in the 11/97 issue. Sen. Bob Smith is not from Maine but, I hate
to admit, from my very own state of New Hampshire. Hey, I'm sorry -- I voted
against him. But we're all stuck with him until 2002, and now the big dumb
jerk is talking about running for President in 2000 (despite having had
to violate state campaign finance limits to win narrowly last year). Just
don't take him as seriously as he takes himself and you other 49 states
should be safe.
No other address given
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