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We, the Presumed Guilty

            This month’s publication of the Justice Department’s memo justifying the targeted killing of U.S. citizens in other countries raises many questions, the most important of which strike right to the heart of legal problems created by the so-called “War on Terror.”  The memo defines itself as only discussing the legality of the U.S. government killing its own citizens suspected of joining al-Qa’ida and attempting to launch terrorist attacks.  It is a long read (16 single-spaced pages) that uses complex legal terminology.  It is therefore necessary to break the memo down in the most important questions: Who is being targeted?  Why are they being targeted?  How is the decision made to target them?  Where can they be targeted?  How long can they be targeted?  Understanding the government’s statements on these specific points can allow the American population to decide if they want to continue supporting these policies.  The Justice Department appears to give clean and consistent definitions that are reasonable under the threat of terrorist attack; however, a closer analysis reveals that the government has actually expanded its powers to kill U.S. citizens without any real restrictions.

 

Who is a target?

 

            The memo immediately tells which American citizens are being targeted.  The memo’s first sentence says “This white paper sets forth a legal framework for considering the circumstances in which the U.S. government could use lethal force in a foreign country outside the area of active hostilities against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force of al-Qa’ida—that is, an al-Qa’ida leader actively engaged in planning operations to kill Americans.” (United States Department of Justice, “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or An Associated Force,” page 1, published at http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/section/news/020413_DOJ_White_Paper.pdf)  The U.S. government clearly states that it is only targeting senior leaders of al-Qa’ida, then conveniently avoids defining what “senior” or “leader” means.  We are therefore left with the combined ideas of “al-Qa’ida” and its “associated forces.”  An immediate footnote at the bottom of the memo’s first page defines “associated forces” as a “co-belligerent as that term is understood under the laws of war.” (Department of Justice, page 1)  Those “laws of war” are never further defined, which leaves “associated forces” extremely vague.  History has shown us that the U.S. government does whatever it wants when the people do not hold it to strict definitions, so we must face the likelihood that any of us can be labeled as “associated forces” and therefore made into a target. 

 

Why are they targeted?

 

            The memo quickly gives a reason for targeted such people, regardless of how badly defined those people are.  The government argues that such people plan terrorist attacks that are an imminent threat to the American population.  “Targeting a member of an enemy force who poses an imminent threat of violent attack to the United States is not unlawful.  It is a lawful act of national self defense.” (Department of Justice, page 1)  This also sounds reasonable until we examine how the government decides that an imminent threat exists.  The memo argues that targeted killings are not to be used in all instances against all American enemies, and tries to create three rules that must be followed to permit such killings.  “(1) where an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) where a capture operation would be infeasible—and where those conducting the operation continue to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and (3) where such an operation would be conducted consistent with applicable law or war principles.”  (Department of Justice, page 6)  By far the most important piece of here is that a “high-level” person in the U.S. government must have decided that the targeted person is somehow planning to launch an attack against the United States and therefore poses and “imminent theat.”  However, the memo refuses to define what type of position “high-level official” is, what part of the government they may work within, or if that “high-level official” must have first gain the agreement of other government officials.  There are perhaps millions of possible “high-level officials” in the government that have thus been given the power to kill American citizens in foreign countries. 

            The memo similarly avoids defining the word “imminent.”  In fact, the memo goes on to annihilate the common meaning of “imminent” just two paragraphs later.  Most people would assume that “imminence” means immediate, impending, or forthcoming, but the memo removes these qualities by arguing that “the condition that an operational leader present an “imminent” threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” (Department of Justice, page 7)  The Justice Department has just argued that the U.S. government should have the ability to target people posing an “imminent” threat without needing to present evidence that the attack is about to happen!  This opens the door to many disturbing questions: Why does the government think an attack will happen without evidence to base that thought on?  What protects U.S. citizens from wrong accusations based on zero evidence?  Is there any type of review system after the targeted killing has occurred?  The government’s continuing silence on these many points is truly frightening; the government’s ability to avoid a public presentation or review of evidence allows the government to target anybody.  All Americans can be presumed guilty when nobody looks at evidence!

 

When can they be killed?

 

            The memo further rejects limitations on government presentation and review of evidence by arguing that “the United States is likely to have only a limited window of opportunity within which to defend Americans in a manner that has both a high likelihood of success and sufficiently reduces the probabilities of civilian casualties.” (Department of Justice, page 7)  The government here implies that it will not have time to review evidence when an attack is imminent; however, their annihilation of the common meaning of “imminent” reveals their true intent of enhancing government power by shrinking the window of time in which they should be studying the case.  In essence, the U.S. government’s policy appears to be to shoot first and maybe ask questions later.  This problem is made even worse when we realize that the U.S. government considers al-Qa’ida to be a permanent threat, which leads the government to demand the power to kill virtually whenever it wants.  “… [T]he U.S. government may not be aware of all al-Qa’ida plots as they are developing and thus cannot be confident that none is about to occur….” (Department of Justice, page 8)  This essentially means that al-Qa’ida seeks to launch terrorist attacks against the United States and will do so whenever possible, so the U.S. government can never assume that al-Qa’ida has stopped planning attacks.  Therefore, the government argues for the ability to launch targeted killings of U.S. citizens at any time.  Also, the government assumes that anyone it has labeled an al-Qa’ida member will continue being a member until that person gives evidence of their quitting the terrorist organization.   “Moreover, where the al-Qa’ida member in question has recently been involved in activities posing an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States, and there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities, that member’s involvement in al-Qa’ida’s continuing terrorist campaign against the United States would support the conclusion that the member poses an imminent threat.” (Department of Justice, page 8)  The memo clearly shows that the U.S. government assumes that any person accused of joining al-Qa’ida will remain a permanent member by default and is therefore open to assassination at any time.  Such statements should send chills through anybody that knows how poorly the American government keeps lists of no-fly suspects, gun-owners, and registered voters!  This only reinforces the system of government claims on the right to kill U.S. citizens at any time and with little study of evidence.

 

Where can the be killed?

 

            The hunting of American citizens stretches beyond the limits of time and equally over great spans of distance.  The memo spreads this murderous agenda over the entire globe.  “Any operation of the sort discussed here would be conducted in a foreign country against a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or its associated forces who poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”  (Department of Justice, page 2)  This means that the Global War on Terror also permits a Global Hunt of American Citizens Supporting Terror (whatever “support” actually means!).  This so-called “War on Terror” was announced when Congress passed the Authorization to Use Military Force in 2001, which the memo argues “does not set forth an express geographic limitation on the use of force it authorizes.” (Department of Justice, page 3)  The memo argues that Congress refused to define where this War on Terror could be fought, so today’s U.S. leaders can kill American citizens literally anywhere in the world.  The memo does not make it clear if this overrides the previous claims of only killing American citizens in foreign countries, which opens the possibility of the government killing its own citizens in the United States itself.

            Taken in totality, the Justice Department’s memo attempts to give the U.S. government extraordinary powers of killing its own citizens without any major legal penalties.  In fact, the overwhelming majority of the memo is dedicated to arguing how such targeted killings do not break federal law, the Constitution, or internationally recognized laws of war.  The memo begins by giving vague definitions of al-Qa’ida members plotting against the United States, and that problem is made far worse by the memo’s demand that the U.S. government can kill its citizens without presenting or reviewing evidence against that person.  This opens the obvious possibility that the government can target innocent citizens and kill them without ever facing any punishment.  Americans should be truly frightened of these statements when they realize that their government wants the power to kill American citizens at any time and in any place.  The total result is an obvious assassination program that demands the power to kill anyone, anytime, anywhere.

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Propaganda in Zero Dark Thirty

            The release of Zero Dark Thirty last weekend raised many concerns amongst U.S. foreign policy scholars and international observers.  Most of these complaints have centered on the film’s portrayal of American torture of al-Qaeda prisoners and other suspected militants in the years following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Other writers have analyzed the film’s portrayal of the usefulness of torture, the differences between torture and “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and the long-term affect that such torture has on the so-called War on Terror.  These are all necessary questions to ask and valuable discussions regarding the film, as it appears likely that many present and future Americans will see the film as defining American foreign policy in the War on Terror.  Zero Dark Thirty, however, permits an even larger problem that its audience is probably unaware of: the film portrays itself as historically accurate but only gives an American view of events.   The film depicts Usama bin Laden and al-Qaeda as attacking westerners because they hate western freedoms, though bin Laden clearly listed his political reasons for the attacks in the 1990s.  The film portrays al-Qaeda savagery in attacking western civilians, but ignores the fact the U.S. forces have shrugged off the murder of civilians during its drone assassination program.  The film even defines al-Qaeda savagery in describing the size of bombs used against C.I.A. agents but avoids discussing the size of bombs the U.S. has dropped on Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan’s civilian areas.   Zero Dark Thirty closely resembles basic pro-government propaganda in all of these ways, and viewers should keep its propaganda role in mind while watching and discussing the film.

            Propaganda can only be successful when its creators claim it to be an accurate depiction of fact.  Zero Dark Thirty makes this claim at the outset, telling the audience that the film is based on first hand accounts given by people involved in the story.  The film next legitimizes itself by immediately depicting the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City.  The screen stays black while the audience listens to many cell phone calls made by those that died in the Twin Towers.  Many callers are frightened, which inspires the audience to feel dread and revulsion in knowing that most of those voices were silenced that day.  This is an artistic and inspired way to remind people of the national mood on September 11th that focused on sympathy for the victims and a desire to exert revenge on those that caused such terrible violence.  However, audiences should also notice that the film only gives voice to American victims, completely overlooking the decades of violence the United States has supported throughout the Middle East.  The film does not permit its audiences to hear similar statements of fear, death, and popular anger resulting from American bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or many other Middle Eastern countries.  Zero Dark Thirty legitimizes American victims while ignoring the body count inflicted in the Middle East, contributing to an American myth of its own righteousness in fighting the War on Terror.

            Such overwhelming focus on the American perspective dominates the rest of the film.  One of the worst examples occurs in a scene depicting a C.I.A. office that runs a television in the background.  The scene begins focused on the television, where New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg conveniently states that al-Qaeda attacks the United States because such Muslim extremists hate the freedom that American enjoy in their daily lives.  The filmmakers clearly intend for the audience to hear these statements in order to define al-Qaeda as a savage, repressive force that attacks only in order to destroy personal freedom.  This depiction ignores al-Qaeda’s political foundations explained by Usama bin Laden since the 1990s.  Bin Laden said as early as 1996 that

Terrorising you, while you are carrying arms on our land, is a legitimate and morally demanded duty. It is a legitimate right well known to all humans and other creatures. Your example and our example is like a snake which entered into a house of a man and got killed by him. The coward is the one who lets you walk, while carrying arms, freely on his land and provides you with peace and security. (“Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” 1996, can be viewed at 

http://www.mideastweb.org/osamabinladen1.htm

He argued the same point in 1998, demanding that

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.  (“Fatwah Urging Jihad Against Americans,” published in Al-Quds al-‘Arabi on Febuary 23, 1998 at http://www.mideastweb.org/osamabinladen1.htm

Usama bin Laden argued throughout the 1990s that the United States attacked, controlled, and exploited Muslim lands in order to enrich its own companies.  Bin Laden clearly defined al-Qaeda as more than a simple terror organization trying to kill American freedom, but instead as a Muslim revolutionary movement trying to overthrow American tyranny and establish a truly independent Middle East.

            Such statements continued after the September 11th attacks.  Bin Laden’s video messages released in 2003 and 2004 (the exact years depicted in Zero Dark Thirty) openly declared leadership of a Muslim resistance movement. 

I say to the American people we will continue to fight you and continue to conduct martyrdom operations inside and outside the United States until you depart from your oppressive course and abandon your follies and rein in your fools. . . .  And may our mothers become childless if we leave any of you alive on our soil. (“Message to the US,” published October 18, 2003 by al-Jazeera English at http://english.aljazeera.net/English/archive/archive?ArchiveId=40700

Similar ideas were expressed in bin Laden’s offer of a truce to European governments that began removing their military forces from the Middle East:

[W]e would like to inform you that labelling us and our acts as terrorism is also a description of you and of your acts. Reaction comes at the same level as the original action. Our acts are reaction to your own acts, which are represented by the destruction and killing of our kinfolk in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. . . .  I also offer a reconciliation initiative to [Europeans] whose essence is our commitment to stopping operations against every country that commits itself to not attacking Muslims or interfering in their affairs – including the US conspiracy on the greater Muslim world. (“Truce Offer to Europe,” published April 15, 2004 by the BBC at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3628069.stm

Usama bin Laden defined al-Qaeda as a political/military resistance movement from its inception in the 1990s and continued with that definition after the September 11th attacks and the War on Terror that followed.  Zero Dark Thirty ignores all of these statements, choosing instead to focus on the common American misunderstanding of al-Qaeda as seeking to attack the United States out of pure hatred for American freedom.  Zero Dark Thirty therefore perpetuates an American myth born and still advertised by the United States government.  The film’s refusal to question that myth and the film’s portrayal of al-Qaeda’s motivations are hugely disturbing.

            Zero Dark Thirty also goes to great lengths in depicting the savagery of al-Qaeda attacks against civilian populations.  This is most powerful during the opening sequence of September 11th voices, the destruction of a peaceful neighborhood in the London bus bombings of July 2005, and the bombing of a popular American-style restaurant.  The images powerfully motivate audiences to correctly despise al-Qaeda’s willingness to kill civilians.  However, the film also implies American willingness to kill civilians, even children, during the War on Terror.  This is portrayed in several scenes.  The first scenes depicts a C.I.A. meeting in which the main character, a C.I.A. analyst hunting bin Laden, gets a statistical rundown and images of the house that bin Laden used for hiding in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  The analyst is told that the C.I.A. is certain of the age of many people living in the house thanks to satellite images.  The analyst is told that several children live at the compound; they even have pictures of the children playing sword-fighting games around the house.  Several women are also estimated to live at the compound, along with at least two adult men.  A later scene depicts the main character’s first meeting with the SEAL team that would eventually attack the compound and kill bin Laden.  The SEAL team leader seems reluctant to perform the mission because he says that they had been on other missions targeting bin Laden in the past that had been false leads.  The film quickly gives the analyst’s response: she did not even want to involve a SEAL team.  Instead, the female analyst preferred to drop a giant bomb on the house to kill everyone in it.  This statement seems intended as comedy for the audience (and many in the theater laughed at it), even while her face is deadly serious.  However, Zero Dark Thirty also shows its propaganda power: al-Qaeda is depicted as evil for killing civilians, but the C.I.A. is depicted with a righteous and even funny willingness to drop a giant bomb on a house that would likely have killed children and other anonymous adults along with the possibility of killing bin Laden.

            The filmmakers also give some details of terrorist weapons in order to demonize anti-American groups.  One emotional scene depicts the bombing of a C.I.A. interrogation group in Afghanistan, with later news reports defining the bomb used as being a powerful 2,000 pound device.  Other C.I.A. leaders frequently remind viewers throughout the movie that 3,000 American civilians were murdered on September 11th.  The filmmakers clearly included the bomb’s size and American death toll in order to convince audiences that the terrorists are brutal, merciless, and unconcerned for how many people die in their attacks.  However, Zero Dark Thirty again fails to provide context for such information.  The film conveniently skips past the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 along with the hundreds of bombs dropped and the thousands of Iraqi civilians massacred.  The film never discusses American use of unmanned drone airplanes that constantly fly over Afghanistan and Pakistan, dropping scores of bombs that have killed hundreds of civilians.  Emphasizing the American civilian death toll and the terrorists’ use of large bombs while simultaneously ignoring similar death toll and bombing statistics when killing other peoples reveals how closely Zero Dark Thirty resembles the American government’s perspective in the War on Terror.  Audiences can only conclude that the filmmakers made such decisions consciously, and that Zero Dark Thirty approaches government-sponsored propaganda.

            Zero Dark Thirty could be considered an artfully constructed war story due to its main characters’ emotional depth, the honest way that September 11th victims are represented, and for its descriptions of American motivations for fighting.  However, its major weakness emerges when one realizes that the film refuses to project any of these qualities or descriptions onto America’s enemies and the innocents killed in American attacks.  Middle Easterners in general, and al-Qaeda in particular, are portrayed as bloodthirsty, insane, brutal attackers seeking to destroy American freedom by killing as many westerners as possible with the biggest weapons they can get hold of.  Such depictions ignore al-Qaeda’s core complaint against the United States: that the Americans have occupied, oppressed, and exploited Middle Eastern lands and peoples for pure economic profit.  Zero Dark Thirty seems likely to define the War on Terror in the American popular mind, and it is a very scary thing indeed to realize that Americans will likely continue to misunderstand al-Qaeda’s fundamental goal.  Zero Dark Thirty claims to be historically accurate, but its failure to give basic information brings it closer to a piece of American government propaganda.  The C.I.A. should be proud of such an accomplishment.

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California’s Damaged Democracy

            The world closely watched the U.S. election results last November, correctly concerned about shifts in economic, military, and foreign policy that could have been created by a swing in political power.  While the U.S. federal elections largely left the balance of political party power unchanged (President Obama winning re-election over a split Congress), several major changes in California were clearly evident.  The 2012 election in California should be closely studied because it was the first election run under the so-called “open primary” system.  The “open primary” was put in place when voters approved Proposition 14 in June 2010.  Voters believed that their voting freedoms were being enhanced, but the 2012 results clearly prove that Prop 14 has actually restricted voting rights and given the Democratic Party an unfair advantage, particularly over the Republican Party.  Proposition 14 has damaged democracy in California.

            California voters, like most in the United States, had only been allowed to vote for primary candidates in the parties they were registered with.  For example, a voter registered as a Republican could only vote for Republican primary candidates, just as a registered Democrat could only vote for Democratic primary candidates, and so on with all political parties.  Propositions approved by California voters in the 1990s took the first steps in opening primary elections so that voters from any party (including unaffiliated voters) could vote for candidates from any party (included unaffiliated candidates).  Therefore, a registered Republican could vote for candidates from any party in the primary election.  This policy was correctly seen as “opening” the primary to voters that may be disenchanted with their own party’s candidates.  This opening of the primary had become normal for California elections until Proposition 14 was approved in June 2010.  Prop 14 changed California elections again, this time keeping the “open primary” system while added the “Top Two Candidates” provision.  Prop 14’s giant change was to only let the two highest primary vote-getters into the General Election in November.  “The candidates who are the top two vote-getters at a voter-nominated primary election for a congressional or state elective office shall, regardless of party preference, compete in the ensuing general election.” (“Text of Proposed Laws, Proposition 14” Section 5 (a), pages 65-66.  The entire document can be read at http://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2010/primary/pdf/english/text-proposed-laws.pdf#prop14)  Any registered party was capable of getting on the November ballot even with an open primary system up until 2012, the first General Elections held under Prop 14’s new rules.  The outcomes are clear and undeniable to anyone that has taken the time to study the 2012 General Election results.

            Proposition 14 specifically targeted the elections for California’s representatives in the U.S. Congress (both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives) and for the California state legislature (both the State Senate and State Assembly).  There was only one U.S. Senate race for California in 2012.  Republican and Democratic candidates won the two most votes in the Primary Election, so the General Election ballot showed a candidate from both major parties.  Most California voters probably did not notice that they only had two choices in the General Election in November because both major parties were on the ballot.  The General Election ballots for the U.S. House of Representatives were often a far different experience, as many California Districts ran two candidates from the same party.  These parties were able to dominate the General Election ballot in these Districts because two rival candidates from the same party gained the two highest vote totals in the Primary Election.  The final election results show that 12 California Districts eliminated one of the major parties, with 6 Districts only running Democrats, 2 Districts only running Republicans, and “unaffiliated” candidates (labeled as NPP for “No Party Preference”) being a finalist in 4 Districts.  The following table simplifies these numbers:

 

                                             Elections     Dem     Rep      3rd      NPP        Total   (%)

U.S. House of Reps.             53              6           2          0           4               12    (22.6%)

 

“Third Party” candidates were eliminated completely from the General Election because their candidates were not two of the top vote-getters in any Primary.  “Third Party” voters should be outraged at such a result, but so should Republicans because Republican candidates were eliminated from 9 Districts (the 6 Districts dominated by Democrats and 3 Districts that featured a Democrat vs. an unaffiliated/NPP candidate).  Democrats were only eliminated from 3 Districts (the 2 dominated by Republicans and District 23 that featured a Republican vs. an unaffiliated/NPP).  Proposition 14 in effect disadvantaged Republicans by eliminating Republican candidates from 9 Districts while the Democrats were only evicted from 3.  In total, 12 Districts eliminated one of the “major” parties from their General Election ballot.  That accounts for 22.6% of California Districts that eliminated opinions held by large numbers of voters – nearly 1 in 4 California Districts harmed democracy in dramatic ways in the 2012 General Election.

            Similar problems are found in the General Election results for the California State Legislature.  Twenty seats were up for election in the California State Senate in 2012.  Democrats were the top Primary two vote-getters in two Districts, so were allowed to dominate the General Election ballot in those Districts.  The Peace and Freedom Party got their candidates onto the General Election ballot in two other Districts.  Table 2 accumulates the results below:

 

                                             Elections     Dem     Rep      3rd      NPP        Total   (%)

U.S. House of Reps.             53              6           2          0           4               12    (22.6%)

California State Senate        20             2           0          2           0                 4    (20.0%)

 

Though a “Third Party” got two candidates into the final round of voting, both candidates were crushed in the General Election (getting only 14% of the vote in District 9 and 20% of the vote in District 20).  (“State Senate – Results of All Districts,” published by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen at http://vote.sos.ca.gov/returns/state-senate/district/all/)  Republicans were again the biggest losers of Prop 14’s results: Republicans were eliminated from the General Election in 4 Districts (the two dominated by Democrats and the two Districts that voted between a Democrat or a Peace and Freedom Party candidate) while Democrats were eliminated from none!  Four out of 20 Districts eliminated the Republican Party from its General Election, which accounts for 20% of all Districts that held elections in 2012.  The Republicans should be outraged at their exclusion and should start thinking about ways to alter or rescind Prop 14.

            The ugliest example of California’s retreat from democracy was in the vote for California State Assembly.  California held 80 elections for State Assembly in 2012.  Democrats were the top two vote-getters in 13 District Primaries, so were allowed to dominate those ballots in November.  Republicans dominated only 7 Districts, while there was one Peace and Freedom candidate in District 15 and one unaffiliated/NPP candidate in District 28.  Table 3 reveals the final statistics:

 

                                             Elections     Dem     Rep      3rd      NPP        Total   (%)

U.S. House of Reps.             53              6           2          0           4               12    (22.6%)

California State Senate        20             2           0          2           0                 4    (20.0%)

California State Assembly  80          13           7           1           1               22    (27.5%)

 

Again, Republicans should be outraged at these results: Republicans were eliminated from the general ballot election in 15 Districts (the 13 dominated by Democrats, District 15 that featured a Democrat vs. the Peace and Freedom nominee, and District 28 that ended with a Democrat and NPP on the ballot).  Democrats were eliminated from only 7 Districts.  This means that Democrats gained a 2 to 1 advantage over Republicans in the 2012 election!  Overall, 27.5% of California State Assembly ballots eliminated one of the two major parties.  Only one District gave its voters a “third party” choice.

            The results are clear: about 1 in 4 Californians looked at their ballot in November 2012 and found little meaningful choice.  The “Top Two Primary” winners were exclusively Democrats or Republicans in many areas; Republicans were eliminated from 28 elections, Democrats were cut out of 10 elections, while “third party” and “unaffiliated” candidates were excluded from a whopping 145 elections.  Californians were not told that such results were likely when they were asked to vote on Prop 14.  Now that we know its results, all Californians that love democracy should mobilize to overturn Proposition 14.  The “Top Two Primary” system obviously benefited Democrats because other parties were excluded at a far higher rate, so Republicans, Third Parties, and Independent voters should start a grand coalition to bring real choice back to California.  The Democratic Party could easily dominate California, and the American population could mistakenly come to believe that there is no viable alternative in California politics, if Prop 14 is kept in place. 

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It’s the Corruption, Stupid!

            The Republican and Democratic National Party Conventions are today little more than political infomercials designed to sell their party’s presidential candidate to the American voter.  Many speeches are given and many videos are played, focused entirely on presenting their candidate as an example of deified human perfection..  When the candidates’ turn to speak finally arrives, they largely discuss the problems that cripple government and have caused recent economic catastrophes.  Unfortunately, the candidates only rarely mention the disease that causes nearly all political problems: corruption.  The fact that politicians have to beg rich people and companies for campaign donations in order to have enough money to buy the advertising resources that mostly win today’s elections, and that the rich only give money when they get promises for special favors when their candidate takes office, is never mentioned.  The Party Conventions could be described as the most effective infomercials on television: they give a list of problems and advertise their product (their candidate) as the miraculous solution to those problems without ever discussing what causes such problems.  Any simple reading of the convention speeches reveals this; we can look particularly to speeches given by President Obama, Paul Ryan, and Elizabeth Warren as examples of such trickery.  The political parties and the candidates clearly believe that the American voting public is stupid enough to believe the infomercial, so the public should analyze these key speeches for content to understand what the politicians promise … and what they want to avoid discussing.

           President Obama’s speech has been hailed as powerful and inspiring, but Obama made only two small references to corruption.  “If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void, the lobbyists and special interests, the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are trying to make it harder for you to vote. . . .” (Barak Obama, Transcript: President Obama’s Convention Speech, published by National Public Radio September 6, 2012 at http://www.npr.org/2012/09/06/160713941/transcript-president-obamas-convention-speech)  Obama argued that the people can stop corruption by voting, but he refuses to lay out a program for ensuring that the rich cannot use their wealth to threaten democracy in the first place.  Obama’s indignation is righteous, but his solutions are non-existent.  Obama later advised the American people that “[i]f you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election.” (Obama, Convention Speech)  Again, Obama refuses to give any ideas on what laws could be passed to eliminate a rich person’s ability to buy political favors through campaign donations.

           Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did not even imply that corruption is the main reason for most American political problems.  Instead, his vice-presidential running-mate Paul Ryan was given the task of diagnosing corruption as the central disease that must be cured.  Unfortunately, Ryan merely described the problems of corruption.  “The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst.”  (Paul Ryan, Transcript: Rep. Paul Ryan’s Convention Speech, published by National Public Radio August 29, 2012 at http://www.npr.org/2012/08/29/160282031/transcript-rep-paul-ryans-convention-speech)  Ryan never described how the corruption created by campaign contributions leads to patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism.  He described the symptoms of corruption’s disease without actually diagnosing the disease!  Ryan merely says that Mitt Romney can end corruption: “Mitt has not only succeeded, but succeeded where others could not.  He turned around the Olympics at a time when a great institution was collapsing under the eight of band management, overspending, and corruption – sounds familiar, doesn’t it?” (Ryan, Convention Speech)  Ryan alludes to a comparison between Olympic corruption and U.S. government problems, and his lack of ideas on how to solve those problems sound very similar to other basic Republican statements.  He simply wants to elect Romney and then trust Romney to solve problems that Ryan himself does not appear to understand.

           Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Party’s nominee for Massachusetts senator, went only slightly further than Obama and Ryan in diagnosing corruption as the central political disease that must be cured.  Warren alluded to corruption in government: “People feel like the system is rigged against them.  And here’s the painful part: they’re right.  The system is rigged.  Look around.  Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies.  Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries.  Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.” (Elizabeth Warren, Transcript: Elizabeth Warren’s Democratic Convention Speech, published by ABCNews September 5, 2012 at http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/transcript-elizabeth-warrens-democratic-convention-speech/story?id=17164726#.UFq_W65kG-Y)  Warren failed to indentify the campaign finance system as the source of political corruption, wasteful spending, and lopsided tax rates.  Later in the speech, she talked about how such problems had been solved in the past.  “About a century ago, when corrosive greed threatened our economy and our way of life, the American people came together under the leadership of Teddy Roosevelt and other progressives, to bring our nation back from the brink.” (Warren, Convention Speech)  However, Warren still avoided describing what the politicians did in the early 1900s, what laws were passed, how corruption was reduced, or why corruption has re-emerged so powerfully in our own time.

           Elizabeth Warren’s clearest statements on solutions to corruption are hidden within attacks against Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.  “Republicans say they don’t believe in government.  Sure they do.  They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends.  After all, Mitt Romney’s the guy who said corporations are people.”  This ignores the fact that the Supreme Court has enforced corporate personhood and avoids any clear statements on what she would do to end corporate personhood.  Instead, she moves on to discuss banking fraud, her specialty issue.  “I had an idea for a consumer financial protection agency to stop the rip-offs.  The big banks sure didn’t like it, and they marshaled one of the biggest lobbying forces on earth to destroy the agency before it ever saw the light of day.” (Warren, Convention Speech)  Warren correctly identified bank fraud as a giant problem that could be solved by government oversight and punishment, and even correctly revealed corporate lobbying power as the greatest threat to such protection.  However, she refused to say how we can eliminate corporate lobbying power, instead simply saying that having a good person in the White House is the key to winning such battle for government oversight.

           Are candidates such as Obama, Ryan, and Warren too stupid to understand the central role that corruption has played, and continues to play, in castrating the United States government?  No, these politicians are clearly intelligent and strategic people.  They know the American voter is angry at the government, and that politicians must give voice to that anger to win elections.  The problem is that politicians also need to avoid offending the rich in order to keep getting big donations so they have enough advertising money to get votes.  American politicians therefore play a complex tightrope-walking game of talking about American problems without discussing the role that corruption plays in causing those problems.  They are great tricksters, and their conventions resemble strange political informercials.

           Instead, American voters act stupidly when they are angered by corruption but keep voting for Republicans and Democrats that never clearly say why these problems occur and never take steps to solve these problems when in power.  Other parties exist, many of which have given stronger statements on how to end corruption.  One idea for eliminating corruption is to cut the link between rich campaign donors and political campaigns.  It can be read for free at www.machineryofpolitics.com

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Sarah Palin’s Thoughts on Solving Government Corruption

Many Americans are realizing that the United States government is ineffective due the drastic levels of corruption that plague our electoral system and heavily impact the decisions and statements our candidates make as they run for Congress and the White House.  Washington’s policies are absurd because big campaign donors only give money to get political favors, and those favors are paid by our elected officials when they allow the rich to avoid paying taxes, demand ever-increasing amounts of government subsidies, and get away with causing environmental disasters.  Our politicians are not stupid and weak; they are actually strategic and strong, but so heavily corrupted by their need for campaign cash that they sell their votes to the highest bidder.  Both frequent political phenomena over the past few years, the conservative Tea Party and the liberal Occupy Movement, openly recognize and criticize the existing system.  Former Alaskan governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin gave a surprisingly clear portrayal of the corrupt system in a September 2011 speech titled “Restoring America.”  (the transcript can be located on her website at http://www.sarahpac.com/posts/governor-palins-speech-at-the-restoring-america-tea-party-of-america-rally-in-indianola-iowa-video-and-transcript and a video of the speech can be viewed athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0-CLyI8BIE)  Palin described her ideas for ending such corruption, though those ideas are not likely to have much impact on the central problem of money dominating our elections.

After some introductory words of thanks to her audience, Palin quickly launched into a description of current U.S. economic problems.  “Today, one in five working-age men are out of work. One in seven Americans are on food stamps. Thirty percent of our mortgages are underwater. In parts of Michigan and California, they’re suffering from unemployment numbers that are greater than during the depths of the Great Depression.” (Palin, “Restoring America,” September 3, 2011)  Nothing is mysterious about such statements;  even the Princeton economist Paul Krugman agrees with the use “Depression” to describe current circumstances in his book End This Depression Now (W.W. & Norton and Co., Inc.: 2012).  Palin also described how the Depression has been caused by political corruption.  “We sent a new class of leaders to D.C., but immediately the permanent political class tried to co-opt them – because the reality is we are governed by a permanent political class, until we change that.” (Palin, “Restoring America”)  It is unclear whether she referred to the Democratic Party’s victory in the 2008 elections or the Republican Party’s resurgence in 2010 elections.  Either way, nothing much has changed politically because voters are far less powerful than the “permanent political class” of rich donors, lobbyists, and corporate executives that largely decide which candidates win by controlling political advertising money.  Palin is correct to describe our national leaders as co-opted and controlled by money, and that we must change the ability of money to dominate our elections if we hope to ever affect real political change.

Palin next drew a clear connection between the rich that control politicians and how those politicians give in to the rich.  She continued to call the rich and powerful the Permanent Political Class.

Yeah, the permanent political class – they’re doing just fine. Ever notice how so many of them arrive in Washington, D.C. of modest means and then miraculously throughout the years they end up becoming very, very wealthy? Well, it’s because they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money – to taxpayer dollars.  They use it to bail out their friends on Wall Street and their corporate cronies, and to reward campaign contributors, and to buy votes via earmarks. There is so much waste. And there is a name for this: It’s called corporate crony capitalism. This is not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts, of waste and influence peddling and corporate welfare. (Palin, “Restoring America”)

Palin revealed that the rich are often rich because they get government favors.  They spend a part of their income to influence candidates and choose which candidates go into Congress or the White House.  The newly-elected leaders quickly move to give more government favors to their own financial supporters – a financial give-and-take that leaves the rich wallowing in wealth and power, and the rest of the taxpayers wondering where their votes and their money went.  In short, the use of money in politics controls later government decisions, which in the end hurts government efficiency, economic growth, and the general public.

Unfortunately, Sarah Palin then went on to attack President Obama and the Democrats for many of their corrupt deals while largely overlooking the details of her own Republican Party’s similar deals with oil companies and other corporate interests.  Even as she says the American voters must overturn the whole system, she does not name Republican leaders as participating in corrupt bargains.  “So, this is why we must remember that the challenge is not simply to replace Obama in 2012. The real challenge is who and what we will replace him with. It’s not enough to just change up the uniform. If we don’t change the team and the game plan, we won’t save our country.” (Palin, “Restoring America”)  Her statements are still focused, though, on changing the money and advertising systems that largely choose which candidates win elections – she still advocates changing the “game plan” in a fundamental way.

However, she fails to give any ideas likely to change the existing system.  Instead, she begins her plan with a general statement on supporting capitalism but hating corruption.  “I believe in the free market, and that is why I detest crony capitalism.” (Palin, “Restoring America”)  Palin fails to see that crony capitalism is the direct result of what one might call “free market politics.”  Capitalism is the theory of investment, risk, and profit as a reward.  Allowing free market economic ideas into political campaigns naturally allows the rich to invest the most money and, therefore, dominate the election results.  That is how Free Markets create Crony Politics.  Palin fails to see that obvious connection, and therefore fails to understand that giving all candidates equal funding and making it illegal for any candidate to take private money are the best ways of avoiding Crony Politics.  (All of these ideas can be read in detail at www.machineryofpolitics.com)  Instead of advocating for government-funded elections that would eliminate private money, Palin calls for the following policies to end Crony Politics:

1. Reduce Federal government power

2. Create Free Market Health Insurance programs

3.Entitlement reform, but with no suggestions for changing Social Security

4. Drilling for domestic oil sources to make U.S. into an “energy superpower”

5. Eliminate Federal income taxes on corporations

6. Cut corporate loopholes to end Corporate Welfare

7. Create a fully Free Market Economy

Conservative politicians have been demanding such policies since at least the 1980s.  When looking at the outline of her ideas for ending corruption, it is clear that her program will do little to end the dominance of money in our campaigns or in political advertising, and therefore will not change government corruption or eliminate waste.  In fact, many of her ideas could make the current corruption worse by inviting the rich to spend even moreto control government policy.  Opening up all U.S. oil reserves to private drilling companies would convince those companies to spend lavishly on political candidates in order to ensure that their company would gain access to the oil.  Eliminating federal taxes on corporations would give companies even more money to spend on politics, especially if some companies fear losing the profits they currently gain from Corporate Welfare.  Demanding a fully Free Market Economy, Free Market Health Insurance coverage, and reducing government power would likely give even more wealth and power to the rich that already seek to avoid having to follow government laws and regulations designed to protect the public.

In total, Sarah Palin gave a strong description of how money corrupts our politics, how corrupted politicians make wasteful and harmful decisions, and that the existing money-in-politics system must be changed if we hope to save the United States from catastrophe.  She clearly understands the problems that plague government today, but seems to have little idea how to solve those problems.  She powerfully called for a change to the “game plan,” but her conservative ideas distracted her from what the game is and confused her plan for changing it.

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Lessig’s Shortcomings

The recent rise of “Tea Party” and “Occupy” Movements clearly reveal an unhappiness with the American electoral system.  Much of this unhappiness has boiled into anger and aggression.  Both sides openly talk about revolting against a political system so inherently corrupt that it is incapable of solving the massive economic and social problems the United States faces today.  Most Americans view both Congress and the presidency as inept, childish, and unreliable.  Americans keep voting for “change” – only one president since 1976 has won office without advertising himself as an outsider sent to Washington on the promise to clean up the mess – but keep getting the same results.  Most Americans understand that “change” is difficult to achieve when elections are won by money 90% of the time.

Tea Party activists and Occupiers both say that corrupt “special interests” spending money to win elections is the source of most American political crises.  Lawyers, Representatives, Senators, and even former leaders of presidential Administrations have proposed many different changes to our campaign finance laws aimed at eliminating the ability of the rich to win elections by merely outspending everyone else.  Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig proposed some of the clearest, simplest, and possibly most effective of these ideas in his book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress—and a Plan to Stop It (New York, Twelve: 2011).  Lessig’s ideas deserve far more attention than they have garnered in the mainstream press.  However, his plans fall short in the crucial area of “independent expenditures” – the ability of wealthy groups to build private media campaigns that often sway today’s American elections.

Republic, Lost gives a wonderful analysis of money’s role in American elections, how its dominant role in elections has hurt American economic and education systems, and how money “defeats” liberal and conservative attempts at changing the system.  The book is highly useful for any reader just beginning to learn about American political problems.  Lessig moves into a detailed presentation of his plan for changing the system later in the book.  His plan has four major steps:

            First, we convert the first fifty dollars that each of us contributes to the federal Treasury into a voucher.  Call it a “democracy voucher.”  Each voter is free to allocate his or her democracy voucher as he or she wishes.  Maybe fifty dollars to a single candidate.  Maybe twenty-five dollars to two candidates. . . .  The only requirement is that the candidate receiving the voucher must opt into the system.

Second, if the democracy voucher is not allocated, then it goes to the political party to which the voter is registered.  If the voter is not registered to party, then it goes to supplement funding for the infrastructure of democracy: voting systems, voter education, and the Grant and Franklin Project.

Third, voters are free under this system to supplement the voucher contribution with their own contribution—up to $100 per candidate.  One hundred dollars is nothing . . . to about 2 percent of the American public.  It is a great deal of money to everyone else.

Fourth, and finally, any viable candidate for Congress could receive these contributions if he or she agreed to one important condition: that the only money that candidate accepted to fund his or her campaign would be democracy vouchers and contributions from individuals up to $100 per citizen.  That means no PAC money and no direct contributions form political parties.  (Lawrence Lessig, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress—and a Plan to Stop It,New York, Twelve: 2011, page 267)

This seems to be a detailed plan for change, yet it is still short and simple enough for the average American to understand and easily use.  However, its major flaw is also obvious: the role of choice.  Remember: “The only requirement is that the candidate receiving the voucher must opt into the system” and “any viable candidate for Congress could receive these contributions if he or she agreed to one important condition” – that they only spend the voucher money plus the $100 contributions.  We simply cannot rely on politicians to choose to take small amounts of money rather than millions of dollars from single contributors.  Why would someone like Barak Obama choose to take such tiny contributions and reject the $700 billion he raised, and won with, in 2008?  The answer is simple: most politicians will reject public financing, as Obama did in 2008.  A better solution would force all candidates in any federal election to accept public financing as the only source of their campaign cash.

Another flaw in Lessig’s plan is equally important, though less obvious: the candidates’ campaigns are not the only groups spending money on media advertising.  Other groups, sometimes totally outside of any candidate’s campaign and not in contact with that campaign’s leadership, also spend huge amounts of money on political ads.  Some of these “independent expenditures” raise and spend tens of millions of dollars on attack ads aimed at jack-hammering worry and hatred into voters’ minds.  Such groups were limited to spending only $57,500 – until the Supreme Court killed those limits with the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.  With the limits erased, “independent expenditure” groups now spend unlimited amounts of money on any political message they want.  Lessig understands this to be a gigantic problem – and he even admits that his “democracy voucher” plan is helpless to stop such powerful and motivated groups.

The candidates would smile and tell us all that their campaigns were funded by clean contributions only.  And that would be true.  But all the dirty work in the campaigns would be done by “Americans for a United Future” or “Veterans Against Feline Abuse” or “United We Stand Forever” or whatever.  On the margin, these independent campaigns would determine who won and who lost.  And as the margin is the game, this world enabled by Citizens Untied could well defeat all of the independence that [the democracy voucher plan] was meant to buy.  (Lessig, Republic, Lost, pages 271-272)

Even if Lessig’s “democracy voucher” plan became law, candidates could accept public financing for their campaign with full knowledge that their friends would rush to build “independent expenditure” groups to wage the advertising war with unlimited money.  That is where the so-called SuperPACs would be even more powerful and unstoppable than they are today.  Candidates could claim innocence even while conspiring to bury American democracy under increasing amounts of dirty money.

Again, the best solution would force all candidates in any federal election to accept public financing as the only source of their campaign cash.  Any realistic solution must also make “independent expenditures” illegal to fully kill their power to determine election winners.  We would probably need a Constitutional Amendment to make it happen, but that is the only way to be reasonably certain that money can no longer dominate our politics.  My recent book, The Machinery of Politics, proposes such an Amendment.  The entire book can be read and downloaded FOR FRE at www.machineryofpolitics.com.  Campaigns that are only publicly funded would allow We The People to truly determine election-day winners – and make this country into the democracy it advertises itself to be!

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Plan for a Green Energy Economy

The world today faces economic challenges of a scale that used to be beyond imagination.  Modern industrial economies have been using oil as their major energy source since the early 1900s.  Political leaders and economists commonly believed that there was so much oil to be found, drilled, and used that worldwide supply would only run out in the distant future, if ever.  Unfortunately, researchers have been warning for the past few decades that the unexpected growth of industry has used up most of the world’s oil supply, to the point that oil is becoming scarce while the size of newly-discovered oil fields have dramatically shrunk.  Today, the world faces the harsh reality that we are running out of oil and will have to change the world economy from being driven by oil to using a new energy source.  Today’s worries over the pollution, health hazards, and climate change associated with fossil fuels makes the need for change even more desperate.

Scientists have been studying many different proposals for new energy sources over the past few decades, and these studies have picked up momentum in just the past few years.  Biofuels (liquid fuel made from vegetation), Ethanol (from corn), Natural Gas Vehicles, Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (HFCVs), and Battery-Energy Vehicles (BEVs) have been proposed to replace our reliance on gasoline (an oil-based fuel) as the major transportation fuel.  Recent research has proven that Hydrogen (HFCVs) and Battery (BEVs) are most efficient and have the least amount of negative environmental results. (Mark Z. Jacobson, “Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security,” Energy and Environmental Science, 2009, pages 148-149.  The entire article can be read at http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2009/EE/b809990c)  However, the use of HFCVs and BEVs required the increased use of electricity, which the United States mostly generates by burning coal, natural gas, and nuclear material.  All three of these American electricity sources are dirty, contributing huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) that lead to pollution and climate change.  When one considers that coal and natural gas will also run out eventually, just like oil, we realize that we must also largely replace these U.S. electricity sources with clean, renewable power.

The following pages present a plan to do just that: build a renewable energy infrastructure that would supply all American energy needs projected for the year 2030.  The Plan assumes that most vehicles will be BEVs, so much of the electricity produced will go to charging electric cars.  We can generate enough electricity by relying primarily on wind, water, and solar power, all of which are natural, clean, renewable, and will never run out.  The cost for building such infrastructure will be high (about $16.5 trillion), but well worth the investment.  When compared to U.S. government spending during World War II, the last time the American nation faced a national crisis and successfully overcame it, one realizes that the American government easily has the ability to fund Green Energy construction without breaking its budget.  In fact, after considering the psychological, military, and economic benefits of not having to rely on oil, one realizes that the United States cannot afford to avoid building the Green Energy system for much longer.

 

Meeting U.S. Energy Demand

 

Research shows that world energy demand will be 16.9 trillion watts (also known as “terawatts” or TW) by the year 2030.  Research further reveals that U.S. energy demand will be 2.8 TW, or 16.5% of total world demand.  (Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, “A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030: Wind, water and solar technologies, can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy, eliminating all fossil fuels,” Scientific American, November 2009, page 60)  Jacobson and Delucchi also argue that the total cost of building a renewable energy supply system to meet all world demand will be $100 trillion.  (Jacobson and Delucchi, “A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030,” page 64)  Therefore, we can reasonably estimate the cost of building such a system in the United States alone from these three vital statistics, as the table below shows.

Energy Demand and Infrastructure Costs

Measure                                                   World                     U.S.

Energy Demand in 2030                 16.9 TW             2.8 TW

Percentage of World Demand        100%                   16.5%

Infrastructure Costs (trillion)        $100                    $16.5

According to recent projections, building a worldwide renewable energy system would cost $100 trillion.  If the United States demands 16.5% of world energy, then it will probably cost about $16.5 trillion to construct in the U.S. alone.  That is a huge cost, but within reach once we start planning on how to get the money.

 

Raising the Money for Green Energy Investment

 

$16.5 trillion is an intimidating amount of money, about the size of the entire U.S. economy today.  The Federal government is the only body capable of raising so much cash, but the government’s total Debt is already 100% of its economy – which worries many economists.  Therefore, government should not attempt to borrow the money.  Government must find other means of paying for building the massive Green Energy infrastructure, even when we consider that we could break the $16.5 trillion up into ten years of spending at $1.65 trillion per year.  Several options to raise the money exist.

The best funding option is to raise taxes on a group of people that can afford to pay a slight increase and who have enough overall wealth to fund the Green Energy project.  We could raise a 2% tax on Wall Street transaction that would give the government an estimated $1.4 trillion per year.  That leaves $250 billion.  That last amount can be found by creating a $20 tax on every metric ton of carbon pollution created by the fossil fuel industry – which would raise about $118 billion per year while also giving an incentive for energy companies to move away from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity.  That would leave about $132 billion in money to be found per year, which could be taken from the estimated $1.179 trillion per year in revenue raised from a Fair Tax code proposed in the Plan for a Rational Budget (pages 39-42).  In total, we can fully fund the Green Energy project by creating the following system:

Sources of Green Energy Funding

Source                                           Tax Rate                 Revenue (billions $)

Wall Street Tax                              2%                                    1,400

Carbon Tax                            $20/metric ton                        118

Fair Tax Contribution                                                               132

Total                                                                                              1,650

The Wall Street Transaction Tax is capable of raising the $1.65 trillion per year needed to building the Green Energy infrastructure in ten years.  A 2% tax will not destroy the Wall Street class of wealth that currently dominates much of American politics while paying little in current taxes.  Most of the rest of the country pays about 7% in sales taxes, so Wall Street should not complain about paying a 2% tax for 10 years.  In fact, a 2% tax on Wall Street Transactions would mean that an investor looking to buy $10,000 worth of stock would only have to pay $200 in tax!  Such a small fee is obviously affordable to for the rich and will pay most of the cost of building a renewable energy system that will benefit all Americans.  The remaining $250 billion per year can be raised by a new carbon emissions tax and by taking the last leftover amount from the increase in federal revenue if we implement a new, fair tax system suggested in the Plan for a Rational Budget.

The money is there.  We just need to build the political will to tax it and use it for a Green Energy project that will improve the lives of all Americans.  We know that such national will exists because we have seen examples of it during past national emergencies, most clearly and powerfully during World War Two.

 

The Nation at War

 

The United States won World War II so decisively because its population largely believed that the war was forced upon them and that it was necessary to rid the world of dictatorship.  Building an expensive and ambitious renewable energy system will require a similar amount of motivation and dedication from most Americans.  American soldiers fought World War II on real battlefields while the American “homefront” fought on a moral battlefield against enemies they viewed as evil.  Americans were particularly motivated by a rage against Japan for its sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December 1941 (which many still use to justify the destruction of 67 major Japanese cities during the war and the atomic bombings of two more Japanese cities in 1945).  Americans understand that the United States today is faced with similar sneak attacks in the form of international terrorism that struck on September 11, 2001.  Middle-Eastern terrorists are obviously motivated by a desire to force the U.S. to end its meddling in Middle-Eastern countries.  Such meddling is only done to guarantee American access to Middle-Eastern oil reserves, so the best way to end that meddling is to build a domestic U.S. energy production network.  In short, we can defeat Middle-Eastern terrorism by investing in the Green Energy Plan, building an internal energy system, and withdrawing from the Middle-East – which would be far easier, productive, and humane than simply bombing terrorist groups into surrender.

Americans believed in the 1940s war effort because they wanted to save the world from Fascism and dictatorship.  Similarly, today’s Americans should realize that the oil economy creates possibly larger threats to human freedom because reliance on oil has clearly created nearly all of the United States’ current wars.  Oil is also getting more scarce, which means that energy prices (particularly gasoline) will rise dramatically.  Using oil has harmed humanity through pollution’s effects on human health and climate change.  Like World War Two, Americans should view the creation of a Green Energy system as a battle for the future of human freedom from war, scarcity, poverty, and health and environmental damage.

These ideas have been pointed out for many years, even by political leaders.  Even a U.S. president made these comparisons as far back as 1977.  President Jimmy Carter called energy conservation and rebuilding proposals “the moral equivalent of war” (Jimmy Carter, Address to the Nation on Energy, April 18, 1977, which can be read and watched at http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3398).  We can and must win that war in the next 10 years.  We know how much energy we will need, we know the technology already exists to meet those needs, we know how to pay for building the infrastructure, and we know that Americans have risen above similar national challenges in the past.  We only lack the ability to force our political leaders to put the plan into effect.  We may have to change the U.S. electoral and budget systems to gain that power over our politicians.  My suggestions for such changes can be read for free at www.machineryofpolitics.com

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