Change Is The Oxygen Of A Vibrant Democracy; It Is Also A Double Edged Sword

Earlier today we saw how the Chilean left failed, through a plebiscite, to advance an idealistic progressive constitution. There are Americans on the left who would like to rewrite the American constitution as well. Like the Chileans, many progressives would like, for example, to abolish the anti-democracy Senate. In general though, the Chilean constitution is geared towards the interests of the business community, rather than towards working families. In a piece Bernie wrote for The Guardian Friday, he outlined some of the basics of what should underlay a new American constitution: “The most important economic and political issues facing this country are the extraordinary levels of income and wealth inequality, the rapidly growing concentration of ownership, the long-term decline of the American middle class and the evolution of this country into oligarchy. We know how important these issues are because our ruling class works overtime to prevent them from being seriously discussed. They are barely mentioned in the halls of Congress, where most members are dependent on the campaign contributions of the wealthy and their Super Pacs. They are not much discussed in the corporate media, in which a handful of conglomerates determine what we see, hear and discuss.”

Since 1975, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth in America that has gone in exactly the wrong direction. Over the past 47 years, according to the Rand Corporation, $50 trillion in wealth has been redistributed from the bottom 90% of American society to the top 1%, primarily because a growing percentage of corporate profits has been flowing into the stock portfolios of the wealthy and the powerful.
…Disgracefully, we now have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any developed nation on Earth and millions of kids, disproportionately Black and brown, face food insecurity. While psychologists tell us that the first four years are the most important for human development, our childcare system is largely dysfunctional – with an inadequate number of slots, outrageously high costs and pathetically low wages for staff. We remain the only major country without paid family and medical leave.
In terms of higher education, we should remember that 50 years ago tuition was free or virtually free in major public universities throughout the country. Today, higher education is unaffordable for millions of young people. There are now some 45 million Americans struggling with student debt.
Today over 70 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured and millions more are finding it hard to pay for the rising cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, which are more expensive here than anywhere else in the world. The cost of housing is also soaring. Not only are some 600,000 Americans homeless, but nearly 18 million households are spending 50% or more of their limited incomes on housing.
It’s not just income and wealth inequality that is plaguing our nation. It is the maldistribution of economic and political power.
Today we have more concentration of ownership than at any time in the modern history of this country. In sector after sector a handful of giant corporations control what is produced and how much we pay for it. Unbelievably, just three Wall Street firms (Blackrock, Vanguard and State Street) control assets of over $20 trillion and are the major stockholders in 96% of S&P 500 companies. In terms of media, some eight multinational media conglomerates control what we see, hear and read.
In terms of political power, the situation is the same. A small number of billionaires and CEOs, through their Super Pacs, dark money and campaign contributions, play a huge role in determining who gets elected and who gets defeated. There are now an increasing number of campaigns in which Super Pacs actually spend more money on campaigns than the candidates, who become the puppets to their big money puppeteers. In the 2022 Democratic primaries, billionaires spent tens of millions trying to defeat progressive candidates who were standing up for working families.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr was right when he said: “We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power” in America. That statement is even more true today.
Let us have the courage to stand together and fight back against corporate greed. Let us fight back against massive income and wealth inequality. Let us fight back against a corrupt political system.
Let us stand together and finally create an economy and a government that works for all, not just the 1%.

In yesterday’s NY Times, Carl Hulse reported on the efforts on the right to rewrite the constitution, but from a very different direction. Conservatives and reactionaries want a constitutional convention. Russ Feingold, wrote Hulse, “sees the prospect of a constitutional convention as an exceptionally dangerous threat from the right and suggests it is closer to reality than most people realize as Republicans push to retake control of Congress in November’s midterm elections. ‘We are very concerned that the Congress, if it becomes Republican, will call a convention,’ said Feingold, the the co-author of a new book warning of the risks of a convention called The Constitution in Jeopardy. ‘This could gut our Constitution,’ Feingold said in an interview. ‘There needs to be real concern and attention about what they might do. We are putting out the alert.’”

Elements on the right have for years been waging a quiet but concerted campaign to convene a gathering to consider changes to the Constitution. They hope to take advantage of a never-used aspect of Article V, which says in part that Congress, “on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments.”
Throughout the nation’s history, 27 changes have been made to the Constitution by another grindingly arduous route, with amendments originating in Congress subject to ratification by the states.
With sharp partisanship making that path near impossible, backers of the convention idea now hope to harness the power of Republican-controlled state legislatures to petition Congress and force a convention they see as a way to strip away power from Washington and impose new fiscal restraints, at a minimum.
“We need to channel the energy to restore and reclaim this country’s traditional values and founding principles of limited government closest to the people and individual freedom and responsibility,” Rick Santorum, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania who has become a convention champion, told a conservative conference this spring in the state.
Santorum was pushing for Pennsylvania to become the 20th state to formally call for a convention in recent years, out of the 34 states required. But it is not clear exactly how many states have weighed in, since not all have adopted the same language and some petitions were submitted decades or longer ago and may even have been rescinded.
… Feingold and his co-author, the constitutional scholar Peter Prindiville, say the problem is that there is no certainty that the convention could be forced to stick to a defined agenda. They say that a “runaway” proceeding would be a distinct possibility, with delegates seizing the opportunity to promote wholesale changes in the founding document and veer into areas where they would seek to restrict federal power governing the environment, education and health care, among other issues.
“A convention by its very definition is a free-standing, distinct constitutional body,” Prindiville said. “It would be the ultimate high-risk gathering.”
They say the reliance on language calling it a “convention of the states” is misleading— “ahistoric” in the view of Mr. Feingold and the book, which lays out the history behind Article V and previous attempts to invoke it.
“Despite convention proponents’ claims of legal certainty, the most important questions about how a convening held under Article V would be called and how it would function are unsettled,” the authors write in the book. “The framers left no rules. In this uncertainty lies great danger and, possibly, great power.”
What also worries the authors is that the leading proponents of the convention idea come from the right and include representatives of the Tea Party movement, the Federalist Society, grass-roots right-wing activists and figures allied with Trump such as John Eastman, the lawyer who wrote a memo for Trump outlining how he could seek to overturn the 2020 election.
But support and opposition for a convention do not break completely along partisan lines. Some Republicans have resisted appeals at the state level to pass resolutions in support of a convention, worried that such a gathering could open the door to a weakening of the Second Amendment and a rollback of gun rights.
And sonde liberals have welcomed the idea of a convention as a way to modernize the Constitution and win changes in the makeup and power of the Supreme Court, ensure abortion rights, impose campaign finance limits and find ways to approach 21st-century problems such as climate change.
“There are smart people and a few on the progressive side who are willing to roll the dice,” Feingold said. “For me, it is crazy to take the chance.”
[Fascist Texas Congressman Jodey] Arrington said he saw the fears of a runaway convention as overblown and noted that even if the gathering were to arrive at a set of contentious changes, they would still require approval by 38 states— a daunting task in itself. He said his hope was that the threat of a convention could force Washington to get more serious about fiscal responsibility.
… While a convention is a bad idea, [Feingold and Prindiville] say, accepting that the constitution remains chiseled in stone is almost as troubling. They argue for a discussion on new ways to move forward with constitutional change.
“The time has come to begin a serious national conversation regarding the future of the Constitution in American public life,” their book says. “We must reclaim the founding generation’s belief in bloodless revolution, reforming Article V to provide an amendment procedure fit for a modern, democratic society.”

Don’t see any possibilities for agreement in a society as divided as ours? I was looking at some polling by Data for Progress this morning that may surprise you. Abby Springs wrote that “Signed into law in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act guarantees overtime pay of at least 1.5 times a worker’s regular pay for hours that exceed 40 per week. But there are limitations: Most executive, administrative, and professional workers are not covered under the FLSA because they earn salaries over $35,568 per year. Today, only 15 percent of salaried workers are covered by the FLSA, compared to over 60 percent in 1975. On average, Americans work nine hours of unpaid overtime each week, resulting in over $17,000 in lost income per year at the full-time median wage. New Data for Progress polling finds that the overtime pay guarantees of the FLSA have widespread, bipartisan support. Eighty-eight percent of voters say they support the guarantees, including 91 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of both Republicans and Independents.”

That’s right, even 86% of Republican voters. Sounds like a good place to get the discussion going? If you watched the flow go Big Money in the recent Democratic Party primaries-- wielded through AIPAC, DMFI, the crypto-billionaires, Hakeem Jeffries-- you witnessed how democracy itself is up for sale. Almost every race where overwhelming cash was applied on the side of conservatives and values-free shills, conservatives and values-free shills won: Henry Cuellar (TX), Shontel Brown (OH), Don Davis (NC), Valerie Foushee (NC), Robert Garcia (CA), Glenn Ivey (MD), Haley Stevens (MI), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), Maxwell Frost (FL), Sean Casten (IL), Sydney Kamlager (CA), Morgan McGarvey (KY)...