Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Where is my representative?

The concept behind a representative government is a much debated philosophical construct. What does it mean to have a representative government? In basic terms it means having a system in place where decisions would be made by those duly elected by the public to represent their interests and themselves. The whole point of redistricting, from a purely theoretical sense, is to make sure that those who truly represent the population of those districts are elected.

What happens when there is such a difference between the elected and the represented that there is no feasible way that they truly represent the population?

We all know that times are tough and that things have been hard for the entire population. We also know that the income gap has been widening in the United States, but what of our inequalities between the elected and the represented.

The numbers here are staggering, and explained very well in BET of all places;
Both The Washington Post and The New York Times have reported data that indicate that the net worth of the average member of the House of Representatives skyrocketed. The Post reported that the figure more than doubled, from $280,000 in 1984 to $725,000 in 2009. And over the same period, they reported, the net worth of the average American family declined slightly, from $20,600 to $20,500.
In fact it appears that nearly half of all members of Congress — 250 in all, are millionaires and are in fact nine time richer than the rest of us. This rise in Congressional worth occurred while the rest of us are stagnant or deflating. There is an amazing analysis of this phenomenon in the Atlantic that shows a direct correlation between the wealth of the governing and how they govern;
The wealth gap explains why congresspeople seem so terribly disconnected from the plight of the populous. It explains why Congress is so polarized about trying to help the unemployed while creating hiring conditions for profitable businesses. It explains why arguments to lower taxes on the wealthy hold so much sway on Capitol Hill. It explains why anti-regulation, laissez-faire policies have won backing only years after a credit crash caused, or at least exacerbated, by poor regulation set off the Great Recession.
What we are looking at is more of an Oligarchy than a real democracy, an institution where the wealthy and "successful" are the rulers and lawmakers. These lawmakers are absentmindedly bartering over issues without a real realization that their decisions are affecting real people and, instead of actually working together on solving these issues, we end up in a stagnant government. They even allow for inhuman, soulless entities with no inherent morality such as corporations the same rights as humans. When real change is threatened, it is squashed by special interests, the legislative and monetary elite until a massive popular movement forces change. This is a situation that has been repeating itself since the days of Tammany Hall.

Thanks again, PAUL KRUGMAN, for this fantastic analysis.
Whenever growing income disparities threaten to come into focus, a reliable set of defenders tries to bring back the blur. Think tanks put out reports claiming that inequality isn’t really rising, or that it doesn’t matter. Pundits try to put a more benign face on the phenomenon, claiming that it’s not really the wealthy few versus the rest, it’s the educated versus the less educated.
These days things are a little different. Information is spreading far too quickly to be truly effectively quelled and if I was in Congress I would be shaking in my expensive boots. The Occupy Movement has already been lauded as a response to our current oligarchical system and the inequality staring the average American in the face today.

I would be frightful of the upcoming call to Occupy Congress a rally/protest slated for January 17th purposed at demonstrating the need for real change in our Legislators.

As an American, I know that this is something we need. We need the re-occurring revolution Jefferson promised us to shake things up. If this means class warfare then bring it on. It needs to happen for the survival of the American people and the American dream. Maybe it needs a war on the very idea of "class" of the idea as "wealth" as the goal. Maybe all it really means is that you HAVE to be rich to run for office. If that is the case, then our system is truly unfair and un-American.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Kyoto, Canada and the Durban Talks

The United Nations Climate change talks continued this week. A continuation from the efforts of Cancun, Copenhagen, and even the Koyoto Accords took place in Durban South Africa with surprising results. Two steps forward and one GIANT step backwards.

The UN has been working on Climate protection efforts since 1992 and we need to push things into gear and quickly if we want to not only change the mindset but even save ourselves. To really set the gravity of the situation I believe an article in the Allianz Knowledge Partnersite said it best:
We have five years left. If nothing changes by 2017, if we don’t revolutionize energy systems, if we can’t get countries to agree a climate deal, global warming will breach the 2 degrees Celsius barrier and we will be locked into runaway climate change.

There are many different factors that speak to a looming disaster on the horizon of this most recent installment of talks. The fact remains that the industrialized countries of the United States, Europe and Canada want new proposals and protections and the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) have their collective line in the sand wanting an extension of the Koyoto agreements. I, like many others, would congratulate Connie Hedegaard, the EU's climate chief, on her apparent victory in Durban. While BASIC have effectively pushed that through and while the UN leadership is hailing this as some sort of victory, we have to ask, how great of a victory is this really?

The United States is currently not a partner in the Koyoto agreements, India and China were exempted from emissions caps on the grounds that rich countries had done the majority of the polluting, and now it seems that Canada is taking the stance of backing out of the accords instead of trying to work on a new strategy. This should not be surprising, as seen in some of Canada's more recent legislative actions. Many could argue that these actions signify more of a failure in the Climate talks than a victory.

It is the base fear that setting limits on emissions and putting a monetary value on our environmental stability is detrimental to business and industry that is killing the efforts in the United States and Canada even though many experts in the past believe that this Climate negotiation and protection process will be greatly beneficial for industry.

What we really need to realize here is that we have been living on easy street for a while. The true cost of our effects on the environment are starting to be quantified and tabulated in monetary values. What I mean by this is that the losses to goods, costs to health, destruction to property as a result of climate change and our pollution is starting to register a monetary value. It is evolving to something more sophisticated then the "Cap-and-Trade" concept and is now moving towards trade agreements, taxes and even self-imposed fees. The only caveats here are that this could be a pipe dream without the proper support and populist push and, as previously stated, an effective monetary solution - or solution at all may come too late. Hopefully it wont take too many calamities, temperature changes, famines, exhaustions of natural resources or wars before we really focus on this issue.