By Ralph Nader
Congress is the Constitutionally delegated repository of the sovereign authority of the people (the Constitution which starts with “We the People,” not “We the Congress!”). Most of the changes, reforms, and improvements desired by a majority of people have to go through Congress. Incentives for change often start with Congressional elections or grass-roots organizing. But sooner or later, change has to go through the gates of our national legislature on Capitol Hill.
This point is so obvious that it is astonishing so many reformers fail to regularly hammer home that we must intensely focus on Congress.
Just 535 humans (Senators and Representatives) need your votes far more than they need fat cat campaign contributions.
Guess what the following twelve redirections or changes have in common with one another?
- A living wage, much higher than the long-frozen federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
- Full Medicare for all or what is called a “single payer” system covering everybody, with free choice of doctor and hospital, is much cheaper and has better outcomes than the present complex, bureaucratic, price-gouging, claim denying, profits-first chaos in the U.S.
- Moving swiftly to a renewable, solar-based, wind-powered, more efficient energy system, that diminishes climate disruption and toxic pollution.
- Cleaner air, water, soil and food for a healthful environmental for today and for coming generations.
- Clean elections reform and strong, enforceable laws against public corruption.
- Criminal justice reform, especially regarding non-violent offenses and additional reforms of sentencing and prisons.
- Stopping taxpayers from being required to pay for very costly corporate welfare, or what conservatives call “crony capitalism” in all its many forms.
- Enforcing the criminal and civil laws against corporate rip-offs, thefts, hazardous products, and hearing the voices of workers, consumers and those from beleaguered communities (especially on the public’s airwaves unfairly controlled by the monetized gatekeepers called radio and television stations).
- Protecting access to justice for wrongfully injured people to have their full day in court with trial by jury as demanded by the country’s founders and our Constitution.
- Protection of the public lands – the national and state forests and the national parks and wilderness regions from corporate profit-driven encroachment and despoliation.
- Re-evaluating the loss of lives from unconstitutional, boomeranging wars abroad that spread death and destruction abroad making more people our enemies. These wars have also taken trillions of taxpayer dollars from rebuilding our community infrastructure – schools, highways, bridges, public transit, libraries, health clinics, drinking water/sewage works, and environmental cleanups.
- Make it easier for consumers, workers, and small taxpayers to band together for civic action and a powerful seat at the table with big businesses and their government toadies.
These twelve advances have the following in common:
(1) They have majority public opinion support – in some cases huge support– which means many liberal and conservative voters agree, which can produce an unstoppable political movement.
(2) Most of them cost nothing or little to implement, bringing more efficiencies and less damage to our society. Wisdom is less expensive than constant folly or deep greed!
(3) They are understandable. People relate to the experiences, agonies, and dreams for a better life and livelihood for themselves and for their families.
(4) They provide people with a sense of empowerment and accomplishment – traits necessary for a worthy democracy to work. Cynicism and withdrawal begin to be reversed in favor of engagement and new civic institutions needed by our posterity.
(5) They all have to go through our Congress – a good majority of only 535 people whose names we know become much more responsive to citizen action, people-driven town meetings, civic agendas, and democratizing procedures inside Congress.
Start by inviting the old and new members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to your town-meetings. Five hundred citizens clearly signing a petition will get a Senator to attend; considerably fewer names a U.S. Representative.
When you have them face-to-face with no flak, you’ll see what “we the people” can accomplish. It has happened before in American history; it must happen again. (For more advice, see ratsreformcongress.org).