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Friday, 11 August 2006 03:08

TABOR and Direct Democracy: An Essay on the End of the Republic - Thom Hartmann's "Independent Thinker" Book of the Month Review

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TABOR and Direct Democracy: An Essay on the End of the Republic
by Bradley J. Young

THOM HARTMANN'S "INDEPENDENT THINKER" BOOK OF THE MONTH REVIEW

There is a group of people -- who often refer to themselves as "conservatives" -- who are not only committed to the destruction of our republic, but actively (and successfully) crippling governments all over this nation. Their main weapon is "direct democracy" -- the initiative system by which citizens can get measures on a ballot and bypass legislators -- and a series of seemingly commonsense citizen-promoted limitations on the growth of government.

The initiative process was mostly written into the constitutions of several dozen states largely as part of the progressive and populist backlash against entrenched and corrupt political machines in the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War. The idea was that if legislators refused to follow the will of the public because they'd been bought off or co-opted by the Robber Barons or other "special interests," citizens could take things into their own hands. In some recent cases -- most notably medical marijuana and Oregon's "right to die with dignity" -- the system has worked pretty well in the face of spineless legislators.

But with the so-called "taxpayers bill of rights" or TABOR, the Grover Norquist-types of the world who think government should be destroyed, in large part, and replaced by a corporate aristocracy running everything from our schools to our power systems, have found a tool to fool citizens into building self-destruct mechanisms into representative democracy.

The main means by which this is done is a "ratchet" system that requires government to return budget surpluses to taxpayers annually, wiping out rainy day funds and other ways for government to deal with economic downturns, and limits the growth of government revenues to the sum of population growth and inflation.

Population growth plus inflation sounds reasonable, right? But GDP almost always (other than during severe recessions) increases more than the simplistic formula of population plus inflation. There's also the fact that productivity increases -- the very core of business growth -- and so the size of economies grow in real terms significantly faster than population plus inflation. Along with them, come the added needs for government -- roads, police, schools, etc.

But TABOR and other "tax limiting" measures prevent government from growing to meet the needs of it citizens -- instead actually shrinking government, and, because of the "ratchet" system, not letting it catch up when times are good. Schools deteriorate, roads disintegrate, and the social safety net goes from frayed to moth-eaten to gossamer. Eventually, conservatives will be able to say, "See? The schools are broken and should be replaced by a corporate system! Same for our roads -- let's sell them off to French toll-road companies! And private charity, through faith-based systems administered by Bush, will replace our secular social services systems!"

The mechanics of all this are brilliantly laid out in this handy, readable, accessible little booklet -- "TABOR and Direct Democracy." It also shows how direct democracy is a far more vulnerable system to wealthy and powerful special interests who can buy campaign advertisements to fool the average voter in ways that professional politicians would see through in a moment.

The Republic of The United States is very much under assault, mostly at a state-by-state level. This shock, informative, and powerful book is an absolute must-read for every citizen and -- more importantly -- every voter. You'll find it a critical addition to your library, and will probably want to get several copies (they're cheap and pocket-sized) to share with others. Mostly under the radar-screen, TABOR and its variations may well accomplish what the Robber Barons only dreamed of -- the final and ultimate destruction of representative democracy in the USA, replaced by a corporate elite in all parts of our lives.

THOM HARTMANN'S "INDEPENDENT THINKER" BOOK OF THE MONTH REVIEW

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Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show and a morning progressive talk show on KPOJ in Portland, Oregon. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection," "We The People," "The Edison Gene", and "What Would Jefferson Do?

Read 572 times Last modified on Tuesday, 26 January 2010 06:33