Canada’s Liberal Party Victory is a big deal for democracy—the Liberal Party vowed to get rid of Canada’s undemocratic first-past-the-post voting system. If it does, the US and UK will look pretty lonely, clinging to an outdated voting system. But the UK’s shockingly undemocratic election results might be creating momentum for reform there, too.
Why does the US have gerrymandered districts and barriers to voting that let one party earn just a minority of the vote but still win a majority of seats in Congress? The US Supreme Court. What is the only thing that will let US voters elect a Congress we want and get the policies we want? Get the US Supreme Court to protect the right to vote and limit gerrymandering. What is the most important thing the next US president will potentially do? Appoint 3-4 members of the US Supreme Court.
This article argues that even if Bernie sweeps the presidential election, his policy agenda can not sweep the nation. True. But also true of any non-Republican candidate, not just Bernie. Presidential candidates run on policy agendas, and Americans think they are in charge of passing policies. But that is not true—CONGRESS (the legislature) is in charge of passing laws. The president (executive branch) is in charge of enforcing them. No president can pass policies without Congress. Thanks to first-past-the-post voting and gerrymandered districts, it increasingly appears that no Congress can pass policies.
But, but… you can co-sponsor the Citizen Equality Act, which would eliminate gerrymandering, guarantee the right to vote, and enable citizen funded elections. Yes!
Taxes should be for revenue and fines should be to disincentive bad behavior. When fines become a significant source of city revenue, the city starts looking for ways to impose fines, including fining poor people for their inability to pay fines. Add on top of that paying a private company a profit to collect the fines, and poor people get trapped in a spiral of revenue (and profit) collection that hinders, rather than helps, their ability to be productive members of society.
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If cities depend on fees and fines (rather than a fair and stable tax base) to fund the city, then the poor, who are unable to pay the fines and so get tagged with more fines for their inability to pay fines, will end up paying more. Also, paying private companies to carry out public services doesn’t make government more efficient, it just siphons people’s money off to private profit.
I recommend the documentary Billions in Change, which I watched for free on Hulu. The film covers Manoj Bhargava, founder and CEO of 5-Hour Energy, the popular drink. He became a billionaire several times over, and decided he had a responsibility to use his wealth for good. The film shows inventions developed through his philanthropy that can help the poor of the world, and also the wealthier. The film left me feeling optimistic that technology can help solve the world’s problems. Of course, political activism is still necessary, to prevent other billionaires who want to continue profiting from activities that will ruin the earth.
On another topic, previous Sightline articles have covered efforts of non-profits to trap beavers perceived as “nuisances” by homeowners, and move them to less developed surroundings where their water-saving behaviors can proceed free from human interference. But I found a news item describing how Watershed Guardians, an Idaho non-profit, is working with local officials and residents to provide technical fixes that will leave beavers and their lodges in place, while mitigating problems that upset human populations.
Note: John Abbotts is a former Sightline research consultant who occasionally submits material for Sightline articles.
Are you dying to have all of your questions about Honest Elections Seattle (I-122) and money in politics answered? Well, Wednesday is your lucky day! Alan Durning, Sightline executive director and I-122 drafting committee head, and Brianna Thomas, Honest Elections campaign field manager, will answer your Q’s! Next Wednesday, October 28th, at 3 PM PST, on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA). See you then. What’s Honest Elections Seattle, you ask? It’s a rad citizens’ initiative to return power to everyday people in Seattle politics. Find out more here.
(Friendly reminder: You have 11 days until elections. 11! Mail in those ballots, y’all.)