As we move toward the 2014 Maine legislative contests, many individuals who desire to serve our state on both sides of the aisle will decide to run as clean elections candidates. Maine’s public funding of elections aims at leveling the playing field against special interests in state House and Senate elections, allowing genuine grassroots candidates to come forward, letting aspirants for office talk issues not cash collections, and increasing citizen confidence that their concerns are being truly openly addressed in campaigns.
It is also the season when some beholden to outside cash collecting attack clean elections funding by calling it “welfare for politicians” while bankrolling their own campaigns with private funds that despite any disclaimer carry quid pro quo implications. Make no mistake, politicians that resort to such slurs will move to gut or kill clean election funding if elected when the first opportunity arises.
Public financing of elections needs to take place in times when the state is flush with funds and also in lean years to meet the goals of clean elections. Reducing moneyed interests or privately funded campaign machine advantages to give wider opportunity for non-wealthy voices and non-financially connected office seekers to address the issues that affect our lives is not a luxury. Clean election funding is about protecting our democracy from unspoken quid pro quo expectations and providing equal access to the electoral processes. It is about leveling the playing field for all candidates of all parties and ensuring we have everyday citizens’ voices in our citizen legislature.
Maine has built a clean election model to be proud of with extremely broad popular support and it is an essential service to Maine’s citizens that deserves to be protected in concert with many other essential services. We should be proud that we have had a large number of clean election candidates committing themselves to the reduction of money interests in our state’s history during this law. However, we acutely and especially need public financing in lean times to protect our elections from being bought during moments of economic weakness. Lean times are prime times for threats to democracy.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Thursday, October 24, 2013
The war has ended. You have been destroyed. You have been conquered. You have been forced to capitulate. You are now at the mercy of your conquering masters.
Twice in this century
faced these prospects. In the first instance, the nation was forced into paying
reparations and extreme austerity. The result was chaotic and financial ruin
that seeded political insanity bent on vengeance. In the second occurrence of Germany
at the mercy of victors, a reordering of social priorities and massive infrastructure
rebuilding investments yielded a strong economy and good governance that produced
a rational political partner with its former vanquishers.
Economically within the
States we are at a similar juncture and
could learn from the lesson of the two German outcomes. Many personal balance
sheets containing falling housing equity, eroded retirement savings, and education
debt have been a result of actions by our conquerors from the financial industry
and their tight circle of corporate allies. Our jobs, indeed our livelihoods,
have been commoditized for maximum return through minimum care and rendered
available for impersonal trade and export.
We are at a fork in the road but unlike the tale of the two
we have an ever narrowing window of political possibility into which we can
insert ourselves to help determine the terms under which our future will be
formed. It is not conspiracy peddling to recognize that huge financial
interests consisting of a relatively few large corporations, a handful of investment
banks, and financial instrument dealers have purchased great political clout
and are ready to dictate the terms of our capitulation. Recognizing this dynamic
should compel us to act with political expediency.
There are many choices that face us in charting a better economic course for our own future and that of succeeding generations but the core choice is between austerity, onerous painful payment of reparations in service to the narrow, and vibrancy, focused investments to back the broadest components of our society.
Austerity in the form of slashing government services and long term investment, continued financial allowance of debt entrapment, cutting entitlements to place more money in limited private hands for esoteric gambling by financial instrument hawkers, and above all a focus on market machinations that serve a selfish few places us all in the destructive pattern exhibited in post World War One Germany. And the results will perhaps be some on paper declines in national debt with mega-trading wins back and forth between a few wealthy individuals and corporations for perhaps a decade or so. In the end this reparations for our past “misdeeds” will lead to a yoke that must be revoked and it will engulf those who commanded austerity in a destructive epilogue to their era and error of profiteering. Despite all talk of long term fundamentals, the masters of finance are incredibly shortsighted and the outcome of austerity is a weakened and limping economy begging for political chaos.
The beneficial outcome from aiming for vibrancy on the broadest levels for the greatest number of people, businesses, and institutions of value is the lesson to be taken from the rebuilding of post World War Two Germany. Massive investment broadly applied will yield massive returns with both financial and societal benefits. By aiming our publicly shared investments at infrastructure, education, health, environment challenges, and even personal debt remedying we can move into full employment, stabilize societal disarray, and just as importantly engender the predictability, reliability, and opportunity that allows businesses that produce goods and services for people to thrive. We need to avoid a misguided focus on cutting public services and debt devoid of strategic investments that in the long run will yield a strong economic model to pay for services and debt that provided a good return on our investments. Bracketing our investments with an overarching goal of supporting long term sustainable outcomes across widest possible spectrum of definition is an added factor we should also embrace.
The two German post war outcomes provide an allegorical representation of how we might approach this county’s future. We can serve narrow or broad interests. We can make our economy work well to serve a few fortunate placed individuals and corporations or the very broadest swath of individuals and businesses of all sizes. We can choose short term maximized returns confiscated from society or long term sustainable returns shared by many to stabilize society.
We have come to the fork in the road; our choice is between austerity or vibrancy.