In the United States, our findings
indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal
sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of
citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.
Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S.
political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor
policy change, they generally do not get it. Gilens
We should be voting for an agenda, as well as candidates.
Candidates say different things to different audiences to get elected.
In a real democracy, supposedly
rules, but it is becoming clear that we are
not a democracy. As Lawrence Lessig has written in his freely-downloadable, public domain book, we have lost our
Since the outcome of elections
is questionable, the only way to judge the legitimacy of the government
is to observe whether it acts in accordance with the wishes and needs
of the people. Since Trump, it is not even close.
Allow Government to Negotiate Drug Prices
Give Students the Same Low Interest Rates as Big Banks (78%)
Universal Pre-Kindergarten (77%)
Raise the minimum wage (76% Gallup)
Fair Trade that Protect Workers, the Environment, and Jobs (75%)
End Tax Loopholes for Corporations that Ship Jobs Overseas (74%)
End Gerrymandering (73%)
Let Homeowners Pay Down Mortgage With 401k (72%)
Debt-Free College at All Public Universities (Message A) (71%)
Infrastructure Jobs Program — $400 Billion / Year (71%)
Require NSA to Get Warrants (71%)
Disclose Corporate Spending on Politics/Lobbying (71%)
Medicare Buy-In for All (71%)
Close Offshore Corporate Tax Loopholes (70%)
Green New Deal — Millions Of Clean-Energy Jobs (70%)
Full Employment Act (70%)
Expand Social Security Benefits (70%)
Strengthen the EPA (more than
Federally Funded Healthcare (58% Gallup)
Military Spending is too High (52%)
Polling to determine the Agenda - Elections don't do it.
Who decides the American agenda ? Not the
The late Sheldon Wolin wrote:
"Representative institutions no
longer represent voters. Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily
corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them
responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the
major corporations and wealthiest Americans. The courts, in turn, when
they are not increasingly handmaidens of corporate power, are
consistently deferential to the claims of national security. Elections
have become heavily subsidized non-events that typically attract at
best merely half of an electorate whose information about foreign and
domestic politics is filtered through corporate-dominated media.
Citizens are manipulated into a nervous state by the media’s reports of
rampant crime and terrorist networks, by thinly veiled threats of the
Attorney General and by their own fears about unemployment. What is
crucially important here is not only the expansion of governmental
power but the inevitable discrediting of constitutional limitations and
institutional processes that discourages the citizenry and leaves them
politically apathetic." Sheldon Wolin
Dysfunction in U.S. Presidential elections
is partly because
establishment journalists aren't interested
in meaningful public discussion: Willie
Horton, Swiftboats, Benghazi, (not Iraq) etc.
Discussion of the candidate's
issues, leaves real ones (those that matter to governing) back-burnered
and debate that is not constructive. Media,
always beholden to big money is complicit in distracting Americans. Citizens United, a Supreme Court decision by Republican Party hacks, exacerbates
...changes in government policy, Hacker and Pierson
argue, account for the radical change in the distribution of
American wealth. This isn't the rich getting richer because they're
smarter or working harder. It is the connected getting richer
because their lobbyists are working harder. No Political philosophy
- liberal, libertarian, or conservative --should be ok with that."
Republic, Lost (p157)
After election, the winning
candidate claims he has a mandate
and media guesses the public agrees with his agenda. This is always
arguable, but national polling would better determine what direction
people would like to take.
Noam Chomsky wrote “There is an enormous gap between public
opinion and policy. In 2005, for example, right after the federal
budget was announced, the Program
on International Policy Attitudes,
which also studies domestic issues, did an extensive poll on what
people thought the budget ought to be. It
turned out to be the inverse
of the actual budget: where federal funding was going up, an
overwhelming majority wanted it to go down. The public opposed
increases in military spending overall and supplemental spending for
Iraq and Afghanistan, which is going up even more now. Where the budget
was going down; social expenditures, health, renewable energy, veterans
benefits, the United Nations right across the board, the public wanted
spending to increase. I asked a friend to see how many newspapers in
the country reported this. Apparently not one.”
In the United States, our findings
majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually
determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with
economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.
Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S.
political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor
policy change, they generally do not get it. Gilens
"If you wonder why the United States is the only
country in the industrialized world not to have a national health
care program, if you're asking why we pay the highest price in the
world for prescription drugs, or why we spend more money on the
military than the rest of the world combined, you are talking about
campaign finance. You are talking about the unbelievable power that
big-money interests have over every legislative decision."
Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt)
politicians appear before an audience, they usually tell them what they
want to hear. It is most likely different for each audience. They can
do a 180 degree turn after the primary electiions, because the general
election requires them to say something else. Trump has backed off his
most incendiary statements after the election, Romney famously executed
an etch-a-sketch maneuver.
People should determine the agenda,
and politicians should carry out the wishes of the people.
Polling can measure candidates distance from the public,
to rate the Federal Budget on its disparity
with public preferences, and to determine our
Periodically, there should be a large-scale, academic,
non-partisan poll of major
First, People would rank, say on a scale of 1 to 10, the
relative importance of each issue. No doubt it is important how
questions are framed. Here are examples that
come to mind:
* Should we expand social programs like Social Security, Medicare,
Eldercare, or income assistance ?
* Should Community Colleges be free ?
* Should Medicare be expanded to cover everyone ?
* Compared to other countries, Federal assistance to public media is
very small. Should it be increased ?
* Should the Federal Government have a jobs program like the WPA ?
* Civil engineers rate condition of infrastructure as poor. Should we
spend more ?
* Scientists are near unanimous is saying climate change is a threat.
Fossil fuel use causes CO2 emissions that will persist for centuries.
Should we invest more in conservation and renewables ?
* Fossil fuel taxes constrain usage, should we raise them ?
* The U.S. military is the world's largest, should we spend more ?
* Immigration reform is needed to assure sufficient agricultural
* The U.S. is the world's leader in incarceration. The war on drugs is
largely responsible and is a failure. Should we eliminate the war on
* Secrecy in government has permitted activity that no one would
approve: torture, renditions, assassinations, universal surveillance,
secret law, militarized police... Should there be aggressive oversight
of secret government ?
* Land based nuclear weapons are on hair-trigger alert. Should Congress
have embarked on a ten year trillion dollar upgrade ?
* The School of the Americas has trained terrorist, death squads.
Should it be cut ?
* Should we increase assistance to needier countries ? (We do not keep
up with the Scandinavians.)
* Should election procedures be reformed ?
* Should we support the UN ? (We don't.)
Second: After ranking the importance of each issue, the next
step would be to apply a percentage to each line with a positive or
negative percentage for each. The percentage might indicate agreement
or funding depending on context. For example, I might think military
expenditure should decrease by 25%. The
School of the Americas should
be canceled altogether. Land based, hair-trigger nuclear ballistic
missiles should be eliminated, Citizens
United should be fixed, the Supreme
Court should be enlarged because a single person should not be in
position to determine the direction of the country.
After summarizing such a poll, we would not have to guess so
much what the agenda should be.
Candidates should be required to complete the poll also. That
would get them on the record and allow comparisons. Completion of an
issues survey should be a condition of candidacy.
We could then rank the candidates depending on how closely
they agree with the publics polling results.
Then, in debates, they could attempt to justify their
departure from the norm. This would help to identify the best
Results should be placed in a free and open-source, public
database, so that it would be possible to select, as a group,
scientists, economists, Republicans, Democrats, minorities, and others
for comparison of opinion. We could reconcile differences between
informed opinion and public preferences, and thereby identify areas
that media should work on. The database should be accessible to
the public for further analysis so that independent scoring could be
done from different viewpoints and by various techniques.
To keep the database public, it would need to be done either
by a non-profit, or by some public entity.
For a country that can engage in universal surveillance of
communications without telling anyone, this could be done at a small
Meanwhile, it could be possible to summarize likely results
from existing polling, candidates statements, and other data.
The really crucial question: is ANY reform of our bankrupt
system possible ?
politics is a kind of roulette in which candidates, after 'election', do
what they want.
Studies show that U.S. policy choices reflect the wishes of
the wealthy, not the people.
Being money driven, Congress
usually gets it wrong.
Some goals are so important and so enduring that they
should be incorporated in to the Constitution.
Failure to work to these goals
should be cause for removal from office. Here are some goals we
could agree on.
Most important is that we don't destroy ourselves...or future
degradation will be an existential problem. The science is in.
Candidates should agree to mitigate the disaster as much as possible.
It's probably too late, but we might slow down the almost certain crash.
- For the same reason, we should stand down
and stop their further development. It is simple luck that we have not
yet destroyed ourselves.
- Infrastructure is rotting and our failed leadership has
not to do anything about it. We are spending so much on the military
that we no longer can maintain our basic needs.
- Population overshoot is
possibly a more certain threat. Jared Diamond has written about local,
historical examples, but this time we have exceeded the carrying
capacity of the planet and are not slowing down. Capitalism must have
growth, and it knows no limits, so collapse appears to be inevitable
and even sooner than climate collapse.
The Well-Being of People should be the Highest
Guess what: this is already written in the Constitution. Republicans just don't recognize it.
Families are assuming increasing amounts of risk and it is
largely because of the GOP's hostility to social
worship of the 'free market', opposition to labor
unions, and greed.
The result is plain to see: falling wages, disappearing
instability, millions losing their homes, widespread unemployment,
unaffordable higher education, unprecedented bankruptcies,
infrastructure in poor condition, and social
programs that are disappearing.
Risk is being shifted on to individuals who are mostly without
savings and accumulating debt. Childhood poverty
in the US is at
an all-time high. Republicans, while increasing perks for the
already wealthy, will lead the majority
of Americans into debt
servitude. If you are working two minimum wage jobs, you are not free.
Republicans regressive agenda is a large part of the problem.
R's would privatize Social
Security, further aggravating the problems. It is clear that
privatized health care is no solution.
The flat tax would exacerbate our extreme income inequality.
The 'family-values' R's engineered all this. They profess
concern for the unborn... not the living.
They are the party of the
greedy, wealthy oligarchs. See Fascism.
If Republicans were really concerned with our safety, they
would stand down the nuclear arsenal. Instead
they are building even more.
The economy should work for
people, not the other way around.
is extremely unfair. Because it is growing, the US has become a
plutocracy, and the wealthy are further
gaming the system. Congress
responds to the wealthy, not the people.
The wealthy should be taxed more
heavily than hard working people, but, as Warren Beffett has said, they
are taxed less. A stiff graduated tax like we had in the
Eisenhower years would
help. An inheritance tax should assure that the children of the wealthy
don't have it too easy and we don't become an aristocracy.
The economy, like currency, is a
man-made artifact. It should be designed as a self-correcting
system: a steep graduated income tax can
income disparities damped down, demand
strong, and adequately fund the common
good. A strong social safety net
should protect the vulnerable and the
unemployed as automation takes over many of the jobs that now sustain
people. Taxpayer funded healthcare should be provided for everyone
without exception...even tourists.
A tax on
speculation could help to
stabilize the economy. To the extent that financial volatility can
destabilize the economy, social programs should provide balance. In
a downturn, welfare should grow.
Regulation of the financial sector
is essential. Glass-Steagle should never have been
removed. Bank speculation should not be insured by taxpayers... but it
The new-deal had a lot of policy
right, but Republicans opposed it then as they do now. They never
learned the lessons of the great depression and we are paying a
heavy price for it.
There are limits
Concentration of power should be limited.
Because the wealthy can game
the system, the US has become an oligarchy.
responds to the wishes of the
wealthy, and that accounts for a large part of our failure of
leadership. Our institutions are dysfunctional.
Concentration of power is a consequence of disparity in incomes. Although the
Constitution wisely anticipated the problem when public, It is just
as dangerous when private. Corporations, as they have
concentrated, have evolved into predators.
have lost sight of the
fundamental Constitutional principle that concentrated power is a
public or private. They have allowed Rupurt Murdoch to all but take over their
even though he has been found
unfit to run a major international company.
We have ignored anti-trust action
allowing corporations to grow to sizes
that remove competition. This is particularly bad bad news for media and the internet,
Media should be diverse
For government to be open and transparent, the press
should suffer no sanctions when telling the truth, but they should be
sanctioned if they knowingly lie.
Media companies have continued to
consolidate over the objection of everyone except
broadcasters...with the help of John
McCain and the FCC.
Corporate media is controlled by a small number of
corporations that are all right-wing zealots and they have an agenda.
bring a massive windfall for them,
they do not allow serious discussion of issues, and their point of
view is always...corporate. Media, an essential element for any democracy, is
firmly controlled by the plutocracy
and there is no credible effort to change that.
Privatized media is responsible for widespread public
misinformation and toxic politics. Without reliable news, there can
be no informed public nor can we have democracy
Our election process is severely
flawed: Election machines are
made by partisans, range
voting or IRV are necessary to defeat the two-party duopoly, voter
have been subject to manipulation, voter suppression is rampant in
GOP controlled states, candidate selection that produced Bush needs careful examination, the primary
process does not work, the Electoral College is largely deplored,
redistricting can assure election outcomes, big money corrupts the
process, and dirty tricks have seemingly been practiced mostly by Republicans. Election rigging
be a high crime.
Even if the election produces a result consistent
with the vote counts, we take a gamble that the elected ones will
do what they said they would. It's always a guess what they will
Instead of voting for individuals, we should be voting for an
agenda. Politicians should be working for
us and it should be clear from a democraticaly
determined procedure what
direction they should take. They should not be deciding for us
because they often bend toward the money. Guessing policy from
individual election results is a bad bet.
United decision, if not overturned, will cost us our republic...if
it hasn't already.
Fair elections are a precondition for democracy,
but is not
really under consideration right now.
Government Should Be Open and Transparent
The Federal budget
does not reflect priorities of the people (when polled.)
(Government that actually benefits
the people. Sorry, that's not on the table either.)
Secrecy hides corruption. Much of US
government is NOT visible to citizens. It has allowed mass
surveillance, torture, a long string
of gratuitous, but profitable wars, hidden atrocities,
militarization of the economy, and empire
building. We have government that can't do anything unless it is
for military. Warmongering Republicans
are at the heart of this
We are losing our civil liberties
to secretive, unaccountable
government. The Bill of Rights
has been all but shredded. Universal surveillance is not up for public
discussion, but it will certainly cost us our civil liberties.
Patriot Act inverts the constitutional requirement that
people's lives be private and the work of government officials be
public; it instead crafts a set of conditions in which our inner
lives become transparent and the workings of the government become
opaque. Either one of these outcomes would imperil democracy;
together they not only injure the country but also cut off the
avenues of repair. Elaine
We Should Have Justice
includes the right of
habeas corpus, due process, and a duty to observe international agreements that have
been signed in the
past. Torture is unconstitutional and should
The Supreme Court has been
packed with Republican corporate supremecists. The law
is only for people who can afford it.
It is disgusting how cavalier Republicans have been with
principles. They do not respect international
law, work to undermine the UN, nor have they
leadership that might have improved its quality. Due process of Law in the US has become
Republicans have shredded the Constitution.
The law has been rolled back
centuries to when there was no habeas
corpus. The US has engaged in torture,
renditions, built secret prisons, and
shown the world that the US is no longer on the moral high ground.
Instead of downsizing government as they said they would, they
initiated a massive program of domestic wiretapping, surveillance, and tracking of US citizens. The
reported activities at airports are not only counterproductive,
they discourage travelers, tourism, and others with legitimate but
avoidable plans. As with the Nixon
administration, the targets
of these investigations have been dissenters, political
competitors, and peace advocates. What was
criminal for the Nixon administration is now legal.
It was inevitable that continued military
buildup would produce a national
We Should Not Build An Empire
Even though the framers wanted to avoid foreign entanglements
and contrary to public opinion, we are
embarked on a path to empire. . Worst of
all R's have brought us and advocated for an imperial presidency. The President does business in secret, without oversight, and has made
it clear that he is above the law. If he is not held accountable,
we almost certainly will get a dictatorship.
Even though Bush provoked gratuitous wars,
he insisted on big tax cuts. The cost of
the war is on the tab, war profiteering rampant, the pentagon
unaccountable, federal debt is steadily rising, yet R's would tell
you they are fiscally responsible. They are the party of oligarchs... and war profiteers.
We spend as much as the rest of the world combined on the military and we are going into heavy
debt to do it. R's want to spend even more on the military
including the dysfunctional, provocative BMD
program and a new round of nuclear weapons..
As we bankrupt ourselves, go into
heavy debt, and deindustrialize so that corporations
can use third world labor, we
are weakening economically. Our infrastructure is deteriorating, social supports are crumbling.
and financial instability is obvious. If we spent less on the
military, we might be able to solve some of our problems. The US
military is, by far, the world's largest. If we do not reduce it,
we will lose our civil liberties, and
become a police state.
Peace Should be a major goal
Republicans favor war instead of
diplomacy. They plan to spend
even more for the world's largest military.
Weapons manufacture is a lousy jobs
program. It is well represented in almost every Congressional
district. The military-industrial complex that Ike warned about
is now in control of our politics. Military Keysianism will motivate
perpetual war and ultimately destroy us.
We should downsize the military.
strengthen our diplomatic corps,
and increase foreign assistance to levels that are up to
international guidelines and that Scandinavian countries achieve.
We would find ourselves much less threatened by terrorism if we
were doing good in the world. We don't need the world's largest
military if we are not building a world-dominating empire.
(Unfortunately not on the table right now.)
Earth is our only habitable planet, and we have already
exceeded its carrying capacity.
We have been burning fossil fuels at
an accelerating rate for centuries and now we are seeing a dramatic
change in climate. We know that there
are limited amounts of oil resources and
much of it should be
reserved for future generations. For the sake of the habitability
of the planet, we need to change to renewable, non-polluting
resource use. R's are against this, and advocate maximum drilling
now. They are not conservative.
When population grows too large,
it can destroy the habitability of the environment.
Where there has
been massive deforestation, it is often followed by
desertification. Land becomes unproductive and people starve.
Malthus was right. He was too early for the exponential growth that
we are experiencing. Family planning, birth control, and other
policies opposed by R's would mitigate the problem. Republicans
promised more Supreme Court judges
like Alito and Roberts, which is code for an intent to overturn Roe V Wade. In a few decades it
may be necessary to impose population policies like China. R's
solution is more growth. Taking these things
into account, here is
We Should Join the Community of
No one is exceptional, not even countries. We should live up
to our international agreements,
join the International Criminal Court, take a leadership role at the UN and not undermine it. Our most serious challenges
are global and can only be dealt with effectively by global institutions.
Contrary to international agreements we have signed, we are building a
new generation of nuclear weapons, not
dismantling them. It is only blind luck that we have not yet destroyed
We have not done our
share to help suffering people in other
countries. Instead, the US is
the leading arms supplier to the world.
Climate change denial will earn
the U.S. world-wide ill
Three Principles of the United Slate
Senator Sanders Speech to the National Press Club (Video about an hour)
Ten Policy Goals
Development Goals: All You Need to Know
Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Campaign for America's Future
The Living New Deal
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State:
Agenda For A New Economy, David Korten (See his comments.)
Agenda For a Shared
Prosperity (Download a PDF copy of the entire book)
Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Matt Miller