Editorial

I really admire those who work for participatory democracy

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor

“There ain’t nothing I can do about it.” — The Supremes, 1967, “You Keep Me Hangin’ on.”

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more.” — Howard Beale in the 1976 Oscar-winning film, “Network.”

My favorite documentarian, Adam Curtis, insists that politicians do not have the desire nor the ability to solve problems. With that mind, I offer a partial apology to the persistent leaders of the Friends of Leighton Township pressure group for getting more than the necessary number of petition signatures to put the air park issue on the ballot for a referendum next May or August.

I editorialized not long ago that the ballgame is over and it’s time to move on. I maintained the Township Board took all the proper steps in deciding to permit the private air park project and there was reason to believe the board was doing the will of the people.

The “Friends” would have none of that and proceeded to knock on doors and have the issue put before voters next year rather than decided only by the board. Call it participatory democracy.

Referendum was one of the really wonderful things that came out of the Progressive Era more than 100 years ago. Referendum simply means the people can decide an issue at the ballot box when they don’t agree with what their government representatives have done. It shouldn’t be done often, but it should be an avenue for people said to be living in a so-called free society.

This also shows our State Legislature is guilty again of not paying attention to the will of the people, rather to the wishes of their rich campaign donors. The proof is demonstrated by two grass-roots petition campaigns that also will be on the ballot next year — one to legalize marijuana and regulate it the same as alcohol and the other to abolish the current gerrymandering redistricting practices and replace them in a more non-partisan way. The State Legislature wants no part of either.

I wanted to see the people rise up in righteous indignation and put the fireworks issue on the ballot as well, but it was not to be.

Just as with the Leighton “Friends,” if government won’t do it, it’s up to the people to roll up their sleeves and get it done.

The disturbing realization here is that our legislators in Lansing and Washington D.C. are not passing laws for our collective benefit, but instead are making things better for the very wealthy and powerful. They are taking part in a system of legalized bribery, helped along by the infamous Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

Even worse, lawmakers seem to count on the people to be passive and complicit by not holding them accountable in elections.

As I said last month, I hope the people will rise up and hold Congressman Fred Upton accountable for his vote in favor of the recent “tax reform” plan hastily shoved through Congress by the GOP, virtually unread and not debated. And apparently toxic to the poor and middle class.

Just about all observers or economic analysts, not just Democrats, such as the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office, are squawking that this legislation cuts taxes on the rich at the expense of the poor and eventually may result in cutbacks in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Republicans, even the likes of John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake and Susan Collins, caved into the madness and voted in favor.

They’re not stupid, but they are not heeding the words of Santayana: “Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” Supply-side economics adopted in 1981 resulted in widening the gap between rich and poor. And this “tax reform” is just trickle down on steroids.

A passage from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament: “After being tricked once, one should be wary, so that the person cannot trick you again.”

It’s one thing to take to the streets and make things unpleasant for those who make bad decisions. It is much more important for working stiffs and common everyday folks to vote out those who do the bidding of the rich and powerful instead of us. That means taking out Upton after 32 years and making State Rep. Steve Johnson a one-term legislator.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Sir Edmund Burke

As far as taking the courageous step of firing bad lawmakers next year, we should appreciate the sarcastic wisdom of folk singer Tom Paxton:

“I learned our government must be strong,
It’s always right and never wrong,
Our leaders are the finest men,
And we elect them again and again.”

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