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Hands Off Democracy

Bruce Barbour - October 2020

The USA Experience

Corporations must not be allowed to have anything to do with the workings of democracy. The consequences of corporations interacting with political parties can be easily seen in the USA where corporate America undoubted control the Republican Party and have huge influence in the Democratic party which effectively amounts to control. Even if elected the Democrats won't do anything to upset their main political funders - corporate America. The people that lead the Democrats from the back rooms will do all they can to ensure that their party is not taken back by someone like Bernie Sanders or AOC, who would introduce meaningful change, change that may impact the party's corporate backers. Instead you get Biden and Clinton and, I hate to say it, Obama. All bought and paid for by corporate America.

When combined with the American voting system the result is that there is no leftist party of consequence in the USA for the people to vote for - just a party of the right and another party a little bit more left but nowhere near a left alternative. Due to their reliance on contributions from the corporate America to maintain the parties both have been bought and controlled by the corporations. The consequence of this is that there are a lot of voters in America which have no representation of their views in the political sphere - they can see the Democratic party does not represent their views so therefore they have no one to vote for and so can see no point in voting.

Equally there are a whole lot of other voters who have been hit dreadfully by the societal and work restructuring by the political system controlled by the corporate America. The aim of this restructure was to boost the profits of corporations without any concern about the social consequences. For many voters the American dream is more of a nightmare. Their position in society has been marginalised, their future is one of working in insecure jobs on low wages with no status and little prospects of improvement. They can see that this has been caused by the political elite - from both parties - so they are angry. They want to tear down the structures that have put them in this position. When they get a politician of no principle coming along and telling them he will tear down the structures that put them in this position and to "drain the swamp" they become supporters. It doesn't matter that it is mostly lies - though in the case of Trump he is tearing down some structures of Government and replacing them with his cronies - one lot of swamp dwellers is being replaced by even worst swamp dwellers. The disillusioned believe the lies because it offers hope - false hope - in their hopeless world. They are angry and they just want to punish the people that have gotten them into this position, and are gullible enough not to see that Trump is part of the same system that has marginalised them. He is not for them, he is for himself, mainly, and for his rich elite friends. He was, and is, a false saviour. Bernie Sanders would have been a better saviour but there was no way the controllers of the Democrats were going to allow that.

Youtube Link:
Why do 38% of Americans support Donald Trump?

Web page Link:
ABC - Stan Grant - Neither Trump nor Biden have answers to a broken America in this election

I understand their feelings, in someways I sympathize with their feelings. If it was another time I might be tempted to say - yes blow the place up - the USA needs to be reset, to properly embed democratic principles in their structures, to get rid of the control of the elites and corporations. There are two issues with this. Firstly Trump is not there to fundamentally change and fix America - despite what he says - it is all fake news. He is not about making fundamental change or change that would benefit his working class supporters. Secondly the issue is climate change. Action is needed immediately - not in four years or eight years but now. Trump would do nothing if re-elected - except increase greenhouse gas production. However Biden is espousing substantive action - so long as he follows through if elected and is not just telling the people what they want to hear to get elected - and then continue business as usual. That is very possible and that would be disastrous.

This raises a question to me. Why aren't more candidates raising these issues of the embedded problems in the USA political system? And proposals to fix them. Though I did hear Sanders recently saying that if the Democrats win by a large margin, possibly gaining control of all three parts of Government, the Presidency, Congress and Senate, they should use the rare opportunity presented to bring in substantive changes to embed social justice and democratic principles back into the system. If the Democrats don't implement change when they have the opportunity that would confirm their corporate control.

Youtube Link:
The Unraveling of America: Is This the End of the American Empire?

It is interesting that the Democracy Index - 2019 - lists the USA as a "Flawed Democracy", ranked just 25 out of 169 countries - pretty poor for the self described "Greatest Democracy on Earth". (Australia is ranked 9.) For the sake of their democracy, for the sake of America, give back the power to the people. Let the people dictate the operations of society - not the corporate elites.

The point of this diatribe is that I want Australia - and in fact the rest of the democratic world - to heed the warning that is America. Protect your democracy regardless of what you perceive as the costs of that protection. The costs of not protecting it is very much higher. Don't go down the same path as the USA.

Is Australia at Risk?

Is Australia vulnerable? While there are aspects of the Australian voting system (the AEC, compulsory voting, and preferential voting to name a few) that to some extent mitigate the risk and the parties still have many people in them that believe in the overriding principles of democracy, there is risk going into the future to Australia. To mitigate this risk it is imperative that the corporations be kept well away from our precious jewel that is democracy.

Corporations should not be  able to donate to or have anything to do with political parties. Corporations should not be able to donate to any sort of right wing (or left wing for that matter) think tanks that may interfere in the political process. The people that own the corporations should only be allowed to donate to parties at the level allowed of any other private citizen. Party fund raisers would have to be highly regulated so they don't become a backdoor means of making large donations. If they break the regulations it would be punishable by steep fines to the corporation or the individual and the political party. The corporations would not be able to donate to parties directly nor to third parties that would run political advertising in support of a party. High wealth (and low wealth) individuals would have similar restrictions.

Instead a tax surcharge would be imposed on corporations and organisations and the public (like a medicare levy) to support the political process. It shouldn't be anymore expensive to business - probably cheaper for many corporations as it would be instead of their usual political donations. For elections political parties would be paid by the tax payer on the basis of an amount for each vote they garner. If they are successful they would be paid a small monthly amount while in Parliament, in addition to their wages, to support their political organisation, in addition to what they can garner from individual memberships. The parties would have a lot less money to run elections. But that will be alright. Media outlets would be "encouraged" to donate time - say 3 - 5 minute TV windows and internet links - to all political parties to enable them to explain their policies. No thirty second attack ads - they would have to explain their policies and the reasons they claim they are superior to their opponents.

I have heard the argument that "you can't have the taxpayer pay for the political parties. It is too expensive." If we, the taxpayer, don't pay for it the parties are most likely forced into the arms to the people and organisations that have the money. And the corporations have the most money and they can see the benefit of controlling the political parties and process to their bottom lines - otherwise they wouldn't give. Given the risks highlighted in the previous paragraph it is a heck of a lot more expensive if we allow the corporation and the rich elites to control the political parties - just look at America.

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