RECENT OPINION PIECES
Vermont Public Radio, January 7, 2015
Elect All Vermont Legislators by Majority Vote
By Rick Hubbard
Concord Monitor: January 7, 2015
Can Lawrence Lessig help get big money out of politics?
Vermont Public Radio, June 30, 2014
Reclaiming Representation - As we the people gather together in remembrance this Fourth of July, it’s a good time to ask ourselves this simple question: How well are my individual interests, and our collective interests, being represented today by our Washington politicians?
By Rick Hubbard
Vermont Digger, February 12, 2014
I Put My Money On Public Financing of Political Campaigns
By Rick Hubbard
Vermont Digger, January 30, 2014
Vermonters Join the New Hampshire Rebellion
By Rick Hubbard
LATEST PRESS RELEASES
RECENT ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS
In the figure shown in the link which follows, Pavlina shows in Growth For Whom, how income growth has become more inequitably distributed with virtually every subsequent economic expansion during the postwar period.
In the 1949–53 expansion, the overwhelming majority of the income growth went to the overwhelming majority of the people—the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution. After that, the bottom 90 percent’s share of income gains gradually shrunk, decade by decade. This trend accelerated in the 1980s, to the point that the richest 10 percent began receiving the majority of the income growth. And from 2009 through 2012, while the economy was recovering from one of the biggest economic downturns in recent memory, 116 percent of the income growth went to the top 10 percent (with the top 1 percent alone taking home 95 percent of the income gains); this absurd result is possible because the bottom 90 percent actually saw their incomes fall, on average, during this growth period.
A large amount has been written, researched and spoken about to document the resulting perversion of law, regulation and policy caused by the way campaign money is raised by our Washington politicians. If you'd like to know more, here are a few of the myriad starting points.
Each of the following books sheds different light on the problem.
One good place to start is the book, “Republic Lost – How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It,” by Lawrence Lessig. He’s the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Lessig also founded Rootstrikers[i], an organization dedicated to mobilizing Americans to focus on this issue of corruption.
As stated by Rootstrikers:[ii] “Our government is corrupt. Not corrupt in any criminal sense. But corrupt in a perfectly legal sense: special interests bend the levers of power to benefit them at the expense of the rest of us. Both parties are part of the problem. Both have become dependent upon the campaign funding of the tiniest slice of the American people – not to mention the funding of corporations and other non-citizens. That dependency is this corruption.’
‘Only the people can force lasting change on this broken system. That change begins with understanding: The people must recognize that corruption is not just one among many important problems. Corruption is the root problem that makes solving the others so difficult.”[iii]
Another even more recent book by Lawrence Lessig is "The USA is Lesterland". Reaching across partisan lines, this incredibly hopeful book is a map for how we can save this Republic, updating the original book, Republic Lost.
In his recent research and resulting book Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America Martin Gilens raises the question: Can a country be a democracy if its government only responds to the preferences of the rich? In an ideal democracy, all citizens should have equal influence on government policy--but as this book demonstrates, America's policymakers respond almost exclusively to the preferences of the economically advantaged. Affluence and Influence definitively explores how political inequality in the United States has evolved over the last several decades and how this growing disparity has been shaped by interest groups, parties, and elections.
With sharp analysis and an impressive range of data, Martin Gilens looks at thousands of proposed policy changes, and the degree of support for each among poor, middle-class, and affluent Americans. His findings are staggering: when preferences of low- or middle-income Americans diverge from those of the affluent, there is virtually no relationship between policy outcomes and the desires of less advantaged groups. In contrast, affluent Americans' preferences exhibit a substantial relationship with policy outcomes whether their preferences are shared by lower-income groups or not. Gilens shows that representational inequality is spread widely across different policy domains and time periods.
Mickey Edwards, in his book “The Parties Versus the People,” published by Yale University Press in 2012 speaks with passion, as a former Republican congressman, about a political system so paralyzed by partisanship it is almost incapable of placing national interest ahead of the blind pursuit of political advantage. Mickey discusses and makes recommendations about several possible improvements.
Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein
The New York Times bestseller book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” published by Basic Books in 2012, and written by Mann, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, and Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, provides another insightful look and the problem. They discuss the vehement adversity that exists between our two political parties and the effect of the rules governing their behavior that make it extremely difficult for majorities to act. They also assign blame for this adversity more heavily to the Republican Party that, in their view, is implacably refusing to allow anything that might help the Democrats politically, no matter the cost to society.
“The Price of Inequality,” by Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel prize in economics, published by W.W. Norton & Company in 2012, is a great look through an economist’s lens at the interaction of market forces and political machinations which underlie the resulting inequality in America today. Stiglitz shows how, over time, our politics has shaped the market in ways that advantage those at the top at the expense of the rest of society.
David Cay Johnston
“Free Lunch – How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill),” by David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, and published by Penguin Books in 2007, provides an in-depth look with many concrete examples of today’s government policies and spending that reach deep into the wallets of the many for the benefit of the wealthy few.
“Who Stole the American Dream,” by Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and Emmy Award-winning producer, published by Random House in 2013, chronicles how, over the past four decades, a series of seismic changes dismantled the American Dream. Smith reveals how pivotal laws and policies were altered while the public wasn’t looking, why moderate politicians got shoved to the sidelines, and how Wall Street wins politically by hiring over 1,400 former government officials as lobbyists.