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 federal level.

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 the violation.

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.

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 elitism.

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!

Coordinator, Alliance for
Democracy of Indiana
P.O. Box 34133
Indianapolis, IN 46234
Email: jackandstef@compuserve.com

Spare Me Ralls' Satire

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.

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 guy pain.

... 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.

Email federhen@nh.ultranet.com
No other address given

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