Most of us realize, if we’re reasonably awake, that our democracy is in deep trouble. Since I hear very few actual ideas (from either politicians or the media) for how to fix the problems that plague us, let me offer up a few suggestions here.
1. Get big money out of politics. Politicians of both major parties have become corporate shills, selling their souls to the highest bidder. Following the Citizens United ruling of 2010 (which allows corporations unlimited spending on political campaigns) we now live in the United States of Corporations. Did you know more money was funneled into the 2010 congressional elections by outside groups ($300 million) than every midterm election since 1990 – combined! To get elected these days, you need to be rich…..or have a wealthy godfather, like Newt Gingrich. For example, my own candidacy for president went nowhere in 2008, due to simple lack of funds—despite my persuasive letter in the Hoboken Reporter! Imagine that.
2. Make corporations ethical, by law. That’s what ESRA (the Environmental & Social Responsibility amendment) to the U.S. Constitution would do. An idea created by Michael Lerner and the Network of Spiritual Progressives (the most viable spiritual Left movement to emerge as a challenge to the Religious Right) ESRA would force big corporations to prove a track record of ethical behavior – to a jury of citizens – every 5 years, or have their charters revoked. Introduced into the congress by Dennis Kucinich, under ESRA the corrupt finance companies which ruined our economy in 2008 could’ve been sent packing before inflicting the damage they did.
3. Establish a 25-hour workweek. Despite the legal 40-hour week, most employers abuse their workers with punishing, soul-crushing work loads of 70 hours a week or more. This leaves people little quality time to spend with family, friends or community. Let alone to read, study, learn about art, take a siesta, feel like a human being, or engage in the vital activism and critical thinking which strengthen democracy.
4. Get rid of our mis-education system and replace it with actual learning. Whether you consider the reduction of arts and humanities in the curriculum, the rise of the anti-intellectual “business major,” or the creativity-killing regime of high stakes testing, far from producing citizens who can think critically, these days schools (and colleges) mostly churn out passive, non-thinking consumers. Not a healthy situation for the survival of democracy.
5. Create new social and cultural spaces in the community. Due to the current crisis in Democracy, citizens need to be together more – to discuss ways of moving forward, keep each other hopeful, and not feel so alone. One of the great successes of the 99 percent or “occupy movement” (which is supported by 60 percent of Americans) is making space for such convivial conversations.
6. Finally, and most importantly, we need a viable 3rd party (with ballot status by November if possible) to adopt the previous five ideas in their platform.