(ALBANY, NY – December 21, 2011 ) I received this today via gmail:
Across the world, there is a growing protest movement, from uprisings such as in Tunisia and Egypt, to the numerous occupations across the United States. At the center of these public outcries are the demand for a genuine democracy. It is no different here in the United States.
Yesterday at Occupy Albany, protesters gathered to publicly release the following statement:
“We have joined together to Occupy as an affirmation of the virtue of democracy, where each person has an equal voice in shaping our common future. While we come from diverse backgrounds and worldviews, we stand united in the recognition that our current system of governance is failing us - the voice of the People is drowned out by the corrupting influence that concentrated economic power exerts on the government. The interests of those who purchase influence are rewarded at the expense of the People, from whom the government’s just power is derived. We believe that this failure in our system is at the core of many interconnected issues we face as a society, and its resolution is key to a just future. We therefore demand true democracy, unshackled from the corrosive influence of concentrated economic power, and call all who share in this common goal to stand with us and take action toward this end.”
“This statement may seem broad on the surface, but the degree to which our democracy has veered off track has become simply too dangerous, and the issues surface in almost every aspect of our lives from health and the environment to freedom of the internet and military spending.
On its current trajectory, the world our children will inherit will little resemble the free and democratic society that was once envisioned for our country”, said Heather Phillips.
While Occupy Albany supports and encourages a diversity of tactics, the Occupiers clearly agree that the country is fundamentally on the wrong track - not a small detour, but a vast diversion from the ideals our country was founded on. There has been an insidious ‘mission creep’ that the Occupiers demand recognition of and resolution to.
While many issues are voiced, it is understood that they come from the common goal to return the government to the People. Political strategies, an Occupy Albany working group, has been developing a road map to address in the near term the issues of campaign finance, lobbying influence, and the “revolving door”.
“Our electoral system is stacked against the voter. Candidates must sell themselves to the highest bidder to finance their campaigns, and once in power they are put under intense pressure by lobbying firms, firms who in many cases write legislation and directly hand it to them. And all too often, the people appointed to oversight certain industries have interests directly linked to the very industries they are to regulate. So whose interest is the government serving?”, John Jaye asked.
To illustrate the impact of our bought political system, a number of individuals from both inside and outside the movement spoke on why stopping the corrosive influence of concentrated economic power on our government is critical to the issues and interests which they believe in.
According to Adriana Lima, a law student who spoke about community economic development and the inequality of women and people of color, only 0.5% of the population contributes more than $200 per election year. She said, “We need to remind politicians that just because we didn’t contribute the large sums that 0.5% of the population did, that we still matter and that our voices still count.” She ended her statement with a sentiment refrained by many of the speakers, “I stand here today to demand a government of, by, and for all the People, regardless of wealth. I stand here today to demand True Democracy.”
Zena Nason, a registered nurse, explained that money in politics is a healthcare issue, an issue of life or death. According to Nason, the United States spends more per capita for health care than any other industrialized county, and CEO’s of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies have topped Wall Street bankers in salaries. This money is rolled back into the system to influence policy in their favor. Nason states, “a Senate point man for healthcare reform, Sen Max Baucus, has received $1,170,313 from the insurance industry during his career, and Senator Ben Nelson received $608,709 in 2007-2008 alone.”
Daniel Micah Morrisey, concerned about sustainable and healthy upstate communities, said of the hydro-fracking issue, “the effects of the fracking industry on our country’s political climate are insidious”.
According to Morrisey, fracking companies gave $430,000 to state legislators since the beginning of last year, and $747,000,000 was spent by the gas industry to lobby Congress over the past decade. He concluded, “What the gas industry got in return is hard to believe:
the Energy Policy Act of 2005 includes complete exemptions for drilling companies to the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, CERCLA, the Superfund Law, and numerous other laws”.
Jonathan Shapiro, a psychologist, is concerned about tax fairness and growing income disparity in our country. He said of taxes, “I pay them, you pay them, but apparently despite a supposedly high corporate tax rate of 35%, many corporations do not - examples include Boeing, GE, PG&E, and Verizon to name a few, which for the period between 2008-2010 paid no corporate income tax, and yet these same corporations spent over $261 million lobbying during this same time.
And of course, part of what they lobby for is a continuation of industry specific tax breaks and loopholes”
Steven Sacco, a law student, spoke about the correlation between campaign contributions from the financial industry, and the governments failure to regulate that industry after the financial collapse. He brought up the example of Goldman Sachs, who spent over $14,000,000 lobbying since 2008, and who was represented amongst the top contributors to both the McCain and Obama campaigns. Is it any wonder meaningful reform has not been forthcoming? He said further that, at first, he was hesitant to join the Occupiers because of the lack of specific goals, but he now understands that this is largely about the erosion of democracy and urges others to join.
According to Matthew Edge, who objects to unjust and debt-skyrocketing wars fought oversees, the 29 Democrats who voted to give Bush authorization to invade Iraq received an average of seven times more money in campaign contributions from the petroleum, energy, defense, and pipeline construction industries, than did the 21 democrats that voted against the war.
“We believe, that by the very nature and design of our current system, our representatives serve with deep conflicts of interest, conflicts between the public good and the interests of concentrated economic powers which have corrupted the system”, says Jaye. “This is not sustainable, nor is it tolerable.”
It is an issue that has been acknowledged by the public, but never systematically addressed. The members of Occupy Albany are no longer willing to let the voice of objection be sidelined.
Tags: Occupy Albany, Occupy Albany
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