Point of the Spear Politics
Get the Rascals’ Attention
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So said Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.
How say you?
How far have our two major parties strayed from their professed ideals, their roots?
Let me count the ways. No, you count them and let us know. This is your site too.
Whatever, it's plain to see there is but one course left to us --
THROW THE RASCALS OUT!
But how can we do this? We don't have any real choice of candidates. How can we tell who is good and who is bad? And once they get into office, they seem to find all kinds of money to finance their campaigns -- and they campaign all year around, mainly at the public expense.
Well, did you notice our slogan in the banner above, Point of the Spear Politics? It's an old concept, almost as old as human warfare. Remember the Macedonian Phalanx? Ranks of spears upon which assaulting cavalry destroyed themselves. Of course, this wasn't the whole story.
For example, the men with the long spears must have been pretty busy when the attacks came simultaneously from all quarters, or when the enemy's foot soldiers closed in to wrest the spears from the Greeks. But I expect Alexander had his own cavalry and mobile infantry to counter such tactics. The phalanx, like the modern tank, or the long range bomber, or the intercontinental ballistic missile, must have been the point of the spear. Then, too, there was the element of surprise, Alexander having penetrated into the heart of his opponent's home land before its ruler had the time to devise counter tactics and discipline his forces in their execution.
Anyhow, the same principle is at the core of the modern Blitzkrieg, or Bush's ill-advised "shock and awe" drive into Bagdad. A relatively small fighting force with armor, artillery and air support at the front, drives a column into the vulnerable heart of the much larger and even more powerful but less mobile enemy. The point of the spear tactic works. But as our failed tactics in Iraq plainly showed, it works only if you have sufficient supporting troops to pacify the entire enemy population. Otherwise your forces will be surrounded by hostiles who can attack at any time and bleed you to death.
In our political scheme the political party itself is the vulnerable heart of the larger, more powerful, and less mobile citizens of our nation. The much more mobile financial elites and less mobile but very powerful corporations control both major political parties with money, money they use to buy and corrupt the men and women the political parties put into public office. And in return, these ruling elites demand discipline from the elected representatives. Discipline, meaning they must vote the way the party leaders demand, or suffer loss of support in the next election. Such discipline is essential if the party king-makers are to remain in control of Congress.
Oh, from time to time some politicians may occasionally survive solely on the basis of the loyal support of their constituents even though they may not always follow the demands of their leaders, but not many.
So how does that help us? Well, stated simply, we must demand of the elected representatives of both parties that they, for example, institute a new rational, efficient, and equal system of taxation. Get to the heart of the problem. Money makes the mare go and money dominates politics. But money is also necessary to support our governments, no matter what form those governments may take or how broad or focused their services may be. And that kind of money can only be raised by taxation. Borrowing, going into debt by selling selling bonds won't cut it; it just makes the problem worse. Thus, servicing the national debt, i.e., running the system and paying the interest, is the third single largest area of expense in our national annual budget, exceeded only by military expenditures and social services.
the ultimate payoff--reduced taxation and special legislative exemptions for the wealthy.
No more special benefits for the rich and powerful! Like the tax deductions they take for the cost of propagandizing us through their "think tanks", which we end up paying for. A tax system which mandates, without the need to resort to complex legislation, that those who derive the greatest benefits from society shall pay the greatest proportion of the costs of maintaining the social order. Just a teeny weeny tax of .25% on every financial transaction, collected from the flow of money as it courses through the body politic like blood through though the human body. An incrementally small tax that in any given instance will never be felt and therefore will never be resisted. A tax on every financial transaction -- over a floor of, say, $400 which will round it out to dollars and give the people a break for expenditures for groceries and other necessaries of life -- where money or other things of value are exchanged, to be borne equally by both parties to the transaction. And collected by the computer.
It's called the Automated Payment Transaction Tax (see, e.g. APTTax.com/) or Transform America Fee (see, e.g. http://www.house.gov/fattah/ issues/i_tax_iss.htm), as two different groups of proponents have named their very similar proposals. It has also been called a currency tax, a money tax, or just simply a transaction tax.
However, despite the obvious utility, simplicity, efficiency and fairness of this proposal, the silence of the professional politicians has been deafening. And why is this? Because our crafty politicians know that the flood of money that comes their way under the present system of taxation because of their ability to provide exemptions and special benefits for their friends and masters will cease immediately upon the program going into effect. Money is the source of our financial elites' power, and money is their Achilles' heel, their soft belly. Drive the point of this spear -- really almost as invisible as Cupid's arrow -- into their greed-ridden guts.
But, you say, the politicians will continue to ignore us. And why not? Who the hell are we, just ordinary citizens, to tell them what they ought to do?
Ah ha! First of all, they can't know really how strong we are. Warden's axiom declares that Politics is the art of creating the illusion of power. (In all due modesty, I must admit I jest. This is the basis of the bandwagon effect that constituted the drama of those old presidential nomination conventions. Don't see them any more; the big money deals are made behind closed doors and never see the light of day.)
And we do have a practical weapon: We tell them that unless they support our proposal, we will vote against them in the next election, and that we will vote for their closest opponent, no matter if he's a yellow dog. Now this, in effect, constitutes a double vote.
Our staying at home doesn't mean diddly to the politicians and their masters. In fact, they welcome it, because this means they have fewer people to manipulate, to placate, to confuse, and therefore they can concentrate their power in carefully selected areas, just as the Republicans demonstrated in the last presidential election and the Democrats always do in every urban pest hole.
But a vote for the other guy, well now, that's another matter.
Well, so what? There's only a few thousand of us today, a million or so in a year, just a drop in the bucket projected over the entire nation.
So we look for wobblers, incumbents of both major parties who are not at all certain of reelection, and we let the wobblers know that we are going to throw our entire support against them and in support of their opponent. Now he starts to sweat. He doesn't know exactly how strong or how weak we really are; he just knows that we have a formula that could be fatal to him. And so he starts to think for himself and decides that perhaps a fresh, new tax proposal isn't such a bad idea after all. And he starts pushing it, presenting himself to his constituents as a forward thinking man of the people -- he thinks he will take care of the money boys after he gets re-elected.
So, you say, he's a two-faced thief at heart, a typical politician -- we can't trust him. Like old Honest Abe said, An honest politician is one who, when you buy him, stays bought. Besides, anyone who trusts a politician is a fool.
So, whoever our target politician might be, once he professes to see the errors of his ways, we must keep keep him in our eye, keep his feet to the fire.
Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty.
And our message gets out, and gets out mighty fast, because these people who have to run for office and want to stay in, get very nervous around election time. And with the point of the spear headed toward their guts, they become quite attentive to the sweet voice of reason.
Well, you say, it will never work. There are too many of them. They have too much money. We're too weak.
Excuses, excuses. Listen to this one-- it's a hell of a story, and what got me started on to this Howard Beale project in the first place.
A few years ago I was writing letters on matters of general interest, like how to save Social Security from Bush's depredations, and sending them to an ever-growing list of e-mail recipients. Well, one day I got a reply from a college professor in Alaska. She had a copy of one of my letters, thought it was a great idea. Asked me if she could use it in her political science class.
Naturally I was delighted.
But then I got to thinking. Although my mail lists were pretty large by this time, I couldn't place her name. So I checked through my lists (the computer's Find function is fantastic), but her name didn't come up. So I wrote to her. Where did you get my letter? I didn't send it to you.
Oh, she replied, my brother in Los Angeles sent it to me.
Well, her brother wasn't on my mail list either. So I asked her to ask her brother were he got it. A couple of weeks later she e-mailed me. Her brother got it from a friend, who got it from a friend, who got it from a friend, who got it from a friend who doesn't remember where he got it.
How do you like them apples? One e-mail passed through all those hands, and God only knows how many more! Halleluiah!
There's no communication system as effective as word of mouth, from friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor. The old party line in the early days of the telephone.
And there's no way the politicians can gauge its strength or stop it.
Look at how they all lined up like good little soldiers when the American people started squawking about the security of our ports being controlled by an Arab country. Talk Radio grabbed onto it and the politicians of both parties, despite the smoke-filled room support their leaders had given to that incredibly stupid plan -- probably because they liked the feel of all that Arab money lining their pockets -- fell all over themselves declaring their alarm and undying opposition to the proposal. We don't want to go into the November elections hearing from our constituents on this issue, they cried in obvious distress.
For the first time in decades there was unity in Congress. The people had spoken and the politicians heard their voices loud and clear. And the Arabs withdrew from the deal.
But keep your eyes open. These wheeler-dealers are relentless. Who knows what shennanigans will come of this. Next thing we know Congress will be paying the Arabs our tax money to compensate them for their damages!
So we talk to our friends and neighbors and write e-mails, letters and telegrams to our elected representative. Just like they did in Network when Howard Beale blew the whistle on a similar Arab buy-America deal. Paddy Chayefsky was quite a prophet, wasn't he? Angry as hell, and, to look at his picture, such a quite, peaceful man.
And look at what is happening in the illegal immigration controversy -- an upwelling of public indignation that gives the connivers of both major political parties many sleepless nights, for all their money, power, and media support.
The politicians can spend millions on fancy high-priced media campaigns, like Aaahnold did in the California special election last year, but TV ads have nowhere near the impact of personal contacts between a public that has had a belly full of politics as usual and so the Terminator ended up with pie all over his mighty face.
There is no media message that can match the personal recommendation of a friend.
I learned this many years ago when I was a student at Berkeley and often visited my grand aunt, a little old lady who had been an Oakland Technical High School teacher for many years. Come election time her telephone never stopped ringing. Little old ladies all over town would call her: Fanny, how do I vote on this measure? Fanny, which Congressional candidate should I vote for? Aunt Fanny controlled more votes that the biggest fat cat contributor to either the Democratic or Republican party, and there wasn't a politician in Oakland who even knew she existed.
Don't let the politicians fool you, folks. The people in this country still have the power. They just don't know how to exert it. Let's show them how it's done. Take a lesson from Aunt Fanny!
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To show you this isn't just some old fool beating his toothless gums, and a mossback Republican to boot, here is an excerpt from William Greider's excellent analysis of late 20th Century American politics, Who Will Tell The People?, (Simon & Schuster, 1992.) If you want a well-written text on how our national government works--and why it doesn't work in our interests-- you can buy Bill's book--and several others of his illuminating work-- from Amazon.com. Just click on Amazon's form in the column to your right. Bill may be a young whipper-snapper :-) and probably was, at least at one time, a flaming Liberal to boot, but he sure knows politics.
Who Will Tell The People, pp. 268-269.
“In most parts of this country,” [Michael] McCurry [DNC communications director] said, “anyone who walked in the door with enough people could take it [the Democrats’ local organization] over and do what they wanted. The old timers would probably welcome the new blood because they’re dying off themselves.”
If people undertook such challenges and won control of the local and state party organizations, what would they win? Not much of anything, in present terms, since the local and state party organizations have no power either. The only purpose would be to make those organizations into something different—real assemblies of people. Elected Democrats, kept in power by their own political networks, might well react indifferently or hostilely at first. But they would be compelled in time to listen respectfully to a party organization that begins to speak authentically for their own constituents.
Despite the conventional wisdom, my own analysis is that the political status quo is also highly vulnerable to a concerted electoral assault from citizens. The rising popular resentment aimed at all elected incumbents demonstrates the potential for such an effort.
Certainly, many incumbents do feel insecure, despite their comfortable victories in the past. In the 1990 elections, for instance, some senators and representatives who had grossly outspent their opponents by margins as large as eight to one found themselves in dangerously close contests, winning by a few thousand votes over unknown opponents.
All politicians, regardless of their ideology or personal competence, understand the same basic thing about power. Losing the election is what matters in politics. Everything else is mood and methodology and fine talk. Any force that threatens politicians with defeat or even raises the percentage of risk can accumulate power.
If not losing the election means raising lots of money in advance, then power flows to the sources of money. If not losing means yielding to the specific demands of a single-issue organization, the gun owners or retirees or antiabortion forces, then those groups will gain some power. If not losing means responding to the agenda proposed by a democratic organization of voting constituents, then most incumbents will try to respond to that too—if not for lofty democratic reasons, then because they do not wish to become former incumbents.
Political power, in other words, flows to the new margins—to the new voters or interests that intrude on the status quo. They may not yet represent a majority but their assembled numbers can force a decisive shift in political behavior if they threaten to disrupt the settled assumptions about what wins or loses an election. This effect is especially true for elections in a representative assembly like Congress, although obviously less so in the broader national contests for the presidency.
In Congress, the power exerted by a relative handful of intruders radiates rather quickly through the entire membership as other politicians calculate the implications for themselves. In my observations, nothing captures the attention of senators and representatives more firmly than the shock of seeing four or five of their colleagues blindsided in an election—defeated by a popular issue no one had anticipated or by an assembly of citizens no one had taken seriously. Typically, regardless of party or political persuasion, the members try to adjust quickly to this new threat, if they can, so that they will not be the next target.
In other words, politicians do respond to the danger posed by newly engaged voters, if only to protect themselves. Conscientious citizens, entering the electoral arena in a purposeful way, would have to pick their shots carefully, but they would not have to organize the entire Republic in order to begin leveraging change in the political system.
The truly difficult part would be to develop focused political objectives that resonate authentically with the army of fed-up citizens—the political ideas that people could call their own and march behind confidently. In order to accomplish that, citizens would have to get serious about power themselves. Do they really want to be engaged with governing power and take some responsibility for it or don’t they?
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Although in these passages and elsewhere Bill Greider clearly sees the power of coalition politics, I don't think he has in mind the kind of coalition we are talking about. But, in other sections, he demonstrates the ways and the means the financial elites exert power over the politicians of both major parties, on Washington politics, and on the vast administrative apparatus of the federal bureaucracy. However Bill -- at least not at the time he wrote Who Will Tell The People? -- he has not yet visualized the nature of the spear with which we propose to destroy that insidious power once and for all: by the abolition of the Income Tax and its replacement by the Automated Payment Transaction Tax (APTTax) on which we write at length elsewhere and in particular in our Tax Reform, Social Security Reform, and National Debt sections.
And with good cause, for there is scarcely a national problem that could not be solved, quickly and efficiently, if we had a rational system for the raising of government revenues.
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