What The Chamber of Commerce Wished For vs. What You Voted For

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce released its “wish list” for the 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly. The list contains a whole host of "reforms" The Chamber has been seeking for some time: the elimination of organized labor in the private sector and a severely restricted ability for teachers to organize, the elimination of lunch and other breaks for private sector employees, the elimination of township governments (these governments are a primary source of poor relief and fire protection, so this means less poor relief and a push for for-profit fire fighting), an unemployment fix that reduces taxes on employers and lowers unemployment benefits, the elimination of worker classification (so they can work you full-time hours and not pay you full-time benefits), the elimination of most business regulation, including any punishment for businesses who hire illegal immigrants, and last, but not least, The Chamber wants business tax cuts (has anyone EVER heard a conservative group propose legislation that didn’t include tax cuts?).

            All this sounds like what you voted for right? I mean, when you voted for Republicans in order to "send a message" to Democrats, that message was "take away my lunch break!!!", right?

            Ironically, The Chamber of Commerce is also one of the primary financial backers of the Tea Party. The Tea Party, through its general membership and candidates, frequently complained that government didn’t listen to the people. They wailed about special interests controlling the legislative process and locking out the “little guy”. The Tea Party built itself around the populist anger of the "little guy". They called for "Reform!!" that empowered the people and expanded freedom. Yet, the Chamber of Commerce has set a legislative agenda that ensures the “little guy” gets punished with less power and less freedom while big business is allowed to do basically whatever it wants. Will anyone in the Tea Party stand up to The Chamber on this subject? Will any member of the Indiana House or Senate majority stand up to The Chamber on any issue? Of course they won’t, because neither the Tea Party nor their Republican officeholders have any desire to propose reforms that might actually reform government for the better. It’s all about lining the pockets of the campaign contributor, and Republicans have a lot of lining to do thanks to Mitch Daniels’ Aiming Higher PAC.

            “Reforms” that take away economic power from the people, as the wage and benefit cuts of The Chamber’s legislative proposals would, do not empower the people. “Reforms” that take away the freedom of association from one group while retaining it for another group, as The Chamber’s proposals would, do not promote freedom. “Reforms” that do not address campaign finance in any way cannot be called reforms. Reforms that promote freedom and empower the public do not include guaranteed profits for big business.

            If the goal is empowering the “little guy”, as the Tea Party claims it is, then why not start by calling for state-wide electoral reform. If you really want everyone to have a voice, start by changing the two-party system. The Single Transferable Vote and Alternate Vote (forms of Instant Run-off Voting) are both being used in the United States and have withstood both state and federal constitutional challenges. These voting systems allow many more political parties to become viable because each voter is able to rank their preference among candidates. There is no risk of a “wasted” vote for a third party.

            Next, if we really want to empower the public and have “regular” folks run for office, let’s pass a constitutional amendment that shifts all of our elections to public funding. Unlike Tea Party members, I’m not one for amending the United States Constitution on a whim, but the Citizens United v. FEC ruling has made the amendment a necessity. Unlimited corporate spending on elections undermines the popular sovereignty, it reduces political efficacy, and corrupts the entire system. No more of that.

Also, no more buying our politicians with large campaign contributions. No more big money lobbyists writing our public policy. No more wealthy individuals spending 160 million dollars of their own money trying to buy a governor’s seat. The playing field is level. The wealthy and corporate types get to stand in line to see our elected officials just like the rest of us. Their money no longer buys them their own private entrance.

            Finally, let’s allow an independent commission to design our legislative districts. Florida and California both passed ballot measures last month to lessen the ability of political parties and incumbents to design districts that favor them. Let the districts be drawn as evenly as possible and let the best candidate win. No one knows what state legislative or Congressional district Perry County is going to end up in. It’s a safe bet that no Republican office holder at those levels wants Perry County in their district because they all still lost here in one of the best Republican years in more than a decade. We’re either going to be divided 6 different ways or be placed all in the same district. One district would make more sense, but Republicans are drawing the maps in Indiana this year and they despise concentrations of Democratic voters.

            The language the Republicans, The Chamber of Commerce, and their Tea Party lackeys use over the next 2 years is going to be laced with “reform”, but some of us realize what the word reform means. The snake oil they’re peddling doesn’t come close.