One citizen. One dollar. One vote.

Written By: - Date published: 9:38 am, October 23rd, 2011 - 36 comments
Categories: activism, class war, democratic participation, International - Tags: ,

The Occupation movement in most locations seems to be staying true to its ideals. Decision making is a participatory (not a representative) democratic process. That has advantages, it’s inclusive and egalitarian. It also has disadvantages, there’s no strong leadership. The movement is often accused of having no clear goals or purpose.

Out of the confusion, however, some powerful messages emerge. The first and strongest was “We are the 99%”, stressing the obscene concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the richest 1%.  Now a second message is gaining strength: “One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” Here’s a popular summary:

“We demand that integrity be restored to our elections. One citizen. One dollar. One vote. Only citizens should make campaign contributions. Campaign contributions by citizens should not exceed $1 to any political candidate or party. Help us reclaim democracy …”

This became a slogan for the “Day of Rage”, and has been covered in various places (Google search).  Tracing it back to its source, the meme was forged by writer Dustin Slaughter:

To Liberty Plaza’s Patriots: “Change The Hearts Of The Oppressed”

Something important is happening at Liberty Plaza in Lower Manhattan. The encampment that began there on Saturday, September 17th, is a vocal and stark reminder of growing American youth discontent. Banks and other corporations are sitting on record profits and CEO salaries continue to climb at an unprecedented rate, while students and the average American worker face an anemic job market and growing economicdisparity. The occupation in Lower Manhattan may be the start of a sea-change in so-called American democracy. But if it is a true change (and other organizing efforts in cities like Chicago and Atlanta, including an ongoing one in San Francisco suggest that it may be), certain things must change in order for this nonviolent revolution. …

Growing a movement means bringing others from different segments of society together. It quite often starts with the radical left (intellectuals and the youth), as the Egyptian revolution this year and the student-started revolution in Poland that eventually brought down the Soviet Union show us. But in order to sustain these movements, one demand or even a short list of demands must be crafted to appeal to larger segments of society. …

So, permit me to make a suggestion: “One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” Getting special interest money out of politics changes the whole game, and addresses a myriad of concerns expressed by not just the Liberty Plaza occupiers, but an overwhelming majority of Americans.

It’s a plea to reclaim democracy from corporate entities, vested interests and shadowy money.  It’s simple and powerful idea – though the actual dollar amount would need to be adjusted for population size.  In effect it would mean, in small countries like New Zealand, the state funding of political parties, which I believe would go a long way to cleaning up politics.  So yes, bring it on.  One citizen.  One dollar.  One vote.

36 comments on “One citizen. One dollar. One vote.”

  1. Heck, I actually think thats a good idea.

  2. burt 2

    rOb

    I like the idea behind this (One citizen. One dollar. One vote.) in that it would indeed reduce the influence of big money on electoral campaigns.

    But it would only work if political parties were unable to do what they hell they want spending as much as they want claiming the rules were confusing and others were doing it too.

    If such a policy was implemented would you support harsh application of the law if parties were deemed to have breached the rules or would the red team be allowed to make up the rules as they go along because the outcome of them doing that is acceptable to your world view?

    • logie97 2.1

      burt you started well but a shame you couldn’t try for just a moment to remain balanced and impartial …

      • burt 2.1.1

        logie97

        You can have any rules you want but they mean absolutely nothing when political parties can use parliament under urgency to say they didn’t break the rules. I’m on topic – odorous as it is there is a problem in NZ with politicians not wanting to be bound by the rules they put in place for themselves.

      • burt 2.1.2

        Remember the “must declare donations over $10,000” we had… how well did that play out ?

        • logie97 2.1.2.1

          … instead of 50 plus one to pass legislation, perhaps anything requiring change should require 75 pcnt of parliament’s votes.

          • burt 2.1.2.1.1

            Would be a lot simpler to have the politicians bound by the rules they pass for themselves. See they make the rules then claim the rules were confusing, that the way they did it is the way they have always done it and the greatest childish response of all – others did it too.

            Do they ever get held to account for rules way more relaxed than $1/1 person/1 vote – NO!

            So what would be the point of making the rules even tighter when parliament are allowed to decide when parliament have or have not acted within their own rules ?

        • Ari 2.1.2.2

          It wasn’t properly enforced. It’s rather ridiculous that under that system, the Greens had the highest declared donations- mostly, because they actually declared everything.

  3. Lanthanide 3

    In the American case in particular, if political funding were so severely curtailed (effectively a maximum cap of $300m to share between all parties for an election, realistically more like $20-$50m) they would have a very difficult time actually getting their message out to the voters.

    How are voters best-served by being ignorant about what a parties policies actually are?

    I thoroughly agree with only citizens being able to donate to parties, but a $1 cap is unrealistic.

    • Rich 3.1

      They could use volunteers. If they have genuinely wide enthusiasm, this should be easy. If not, they shouldn’t be getting elected.

      • Zo @ Fix 3.1.1

        Good point Rich. Furthermore, voters are already ignorant about party policy because all you see is billboards everywhere with vague slogans. Without these citizens would actually have to do some reading and research when voting rather than basing it on gut instinct that is influenced by the number of ads they’ve seen. That said, $1 per person is pretty miniscule, but I think the slogan was mainly designed to be punchy and clear in its intention, not taken literally word for word as a policy.

        I’ve always thought there should be a central website and booklet that outlines all the policies of every party standing for election, which is run by the elections team. Each party would submit their own blurb. If you’re not online, you could collect the booklet at any postshop and before voting on election day when you go to vote.

    • Colonial Viper 3.2

      Then let’s go to a $2 cap per citizen, matched dollar for dollar with a Federal election spending contribution.

      So up to $4 per citizen.

      And require networks to provide airtime to all political candidates at just 5% of standard rates.

  4. logie97 4

    … reinvigorate the street corners and hustings.
    Ban all media advertising and hoardings.
    Monitor closely messages on the media (including patsy interviews).
    Back to good old fashioned campaigning.

    • burt 4.1

      Good old fashion campaigning in NZ is secret trusts, undisclosed donations and parliament know better what the law was supposed to say…. We actually need to get away from that – not stay with status quo pretending that we have $1/1 person/1 vote.

  5. Nick C 5

    Seems like OWS are taking a hint from Herman Cain. Can we call this the 1-1-1 plan?

    I presume however that OWS are quite happy for individuals (or indeed organisations such as unions) to make unlimited non monetary donations of time and skills to political parties.

    • Lanthanide 5.1

      And therein lies the rub. What OWS are calling for will only shift the problem from one thing to another.

      Political campaigns don’t go out and raise $100m for shits and giggles. They do it because they need to publicize their policies and (increasingly) their brand to get people to vote for them. If we cap campaign contributions at $1 per citizen, we have not actually removed the need for campaigning and advertising, we’ve just made the means by which it happens much more difficult and an alternative means will have to evolve to replace it.

      So at the moment a company might donate $1m to some political campaign. That campaign would then go out and hire a campaign manager for $100k salary and spend $900k on whatever else they need. Under the proposed rules, that same company is not allowed to donate any money, so instead they put one of their senior accomplished administrators on sabbatical for a year and ‘donate’ their time as campaign manager. I would argue that this is worse – we now have even less transparency in what is going on with the relationship between the political campaign and the company and the political campaign is no longer free to hire whoever they can get for $100k, instead they must rely on donated personnel which is going to be a much smaller pool of talent and much more open to corruption than a free market.

      Similarly, the campaign can’t spend $900k buying advertising on TV and radio. Instead, TV and radio stations that are partial to that campaign will ‘donate’ advertising time to them. So now we have Fox donating advertising to the republicans and no one else.

      I think what OWS have noticed is the increasing arms race going on in terms of campaign funding. If your opponents have raised $100m to spend on their campaign, then you damn well better match or beat that $100m or you’re going to be at quite a disadvantage for getting your message out. The only way to reasonably do that is to seek donations from companies. This in turn appears to create bias in favour of corporate interests, judging by the behaviour of these politicians once they get into office.

      The solution to this is not to pull the funding rug from underneath the campaigns, because this does nothing to change their underlying need for advertising and campaigning. Instead a better solution is to cap the total amount of money that is allowed to be spent so everyone is on more of a level playing field, like we do in NZ. This means that if you have a wide general grassroots support you can compete in fundraising terms without necessarily having to chase corporate donations.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1

        Under the proposed rules, that same company is not allowed to donate any money, so instead they put one of their senior accomplished administrators on sabbatical for a year and ‘donate’ their time…

        Which would be seen as a donation and thus illegal.

        Similarly, the campaign can’t spend $900k buying advertising on TV and radio.

        You’re really stuck on the $1 bit aren’t you? It just has to be low enough so that everybody can afford it. And we probably need to put a time on it as well. How about a week? So that would be $1 per person per week. If we get back to the same party levels that we had in the 1970s then some parties could, quite literally, see incomes of hundreds of thousands per week (Actually, thinking about that, we’d probably need to put age limits in as well – there are rumours that some people were signing up their new born children and paying their fees). We’d still need max spending caps.

        This in turn appears to create bias in favour of corporate interests, judging by the behaviour of these politicians once they get into office.

        Judging by the actions of some politicians it doesn’t appear so – it is so. And don’t forget that trucking lobby guy who thought he was “helping” democracy by buying access to the politicians.

        Instead a better solution is to cap the total amount of money that is allowed to be spent so everyone is on more of a level playing field, like we do in NZ.

        That’s not a better solution as the funding then just comes from the corporates and they still get the influence that we’re trying to get rid of.

        • Lanthanide 5.1.1.1

          “Which would be seen as a donation and thus illegal.”

          How is it a donation if a company decides to give one of their senior staff a sabbatical, and then on their own re cognisance that person now makes the personal decision to work as campaign manager for a political campaign? How is that the company donating anything to the political campaign?

          “You’re really stuck on the $1 bit aren’t you?”

          I’m not sure if you noticed but the middle part of their slogan is “One dollar”.

          “That’s not a better solution as the funding then just comes from the corporates and they still get the influence that we’re trying to get rid of.”

          No, I don’t think so. At the moment politicians are incentivised to get every single possible penny that they can, so they actively go out and canvass as many large donors as possible. That will still happen when there’s a spending cap of course, but there won’t be anywhere near as much pressure to do so.

          In no way am I saying that simply putting a level cap on all campaigns would solve the problem. No single change will completely solve all the problems with campaign funding. But as far as single changes go, I think putting a level spending cap on the campaigns will work a lot better than saying $1 per person maximum. As I said up at #3, campaigns have to get their message out, and this requires money. If you’re going to drastically cut back on the money they have to do this, the net result is a more ignorant voting base than we have now, which I don’t think is a desirable outcome.

          • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.1

            How is that the company donating anything to the political campaign?

            The question should be: How can it be proved? And the answer is that there will be evidence somewhere. Could write a law that says something like:
            Anybody on a sabbatical from a business must not work for a political party.
            Harsh? Yes but it’s one of those things that may need to be done to protect our democracy from undue influence.

            If you’re going to drastically cut back on the money they have to do this…

            But that’s just it – it won’t necessarily be a massive funding cut.

            • Lanthanide 5.1.1.1.1.1

              “Could write a law that says something like:
              Anybody on a sabbatical from a business must not work for a political party.”

              That would likely be against the US constitution which allows for freedom of political association.

              “But that’s just it – it won’t necessarily be a massive funding cut.”

              Obama is planning to raise $1B for his re-election plan.

              $1 per citizen would cap it at $312m to be shared amongst all political campaigns. Realistically you could expect maybe 20-50m people would bother contributing under such a system.

              So yes, it would necessarily be a massive funding cut.

              Note: I’ve only been arguing this specifically in the context of the US political system, because that’s where the 1/1/1 proposal has come from and what it’s about. In NZ we already have laws about spending limits in the campaign period as I outlined above.

              • burt

                In NZ we already have laws about spending limits in the campaign period as I outlined above.

                We have laws…. and when the ref calls out that the laws have been broken the ref is denigrated as making a bad call and parliament decide if parliament followed them. If we were observing Fiji acting like this we would call it a dictatorship.

              • Draco T Bastard

                $1 per citizen would cap it at $312m to be shared amongst all political campaigns.

                So you’re sticking with the $1 per electoral period rather than going for the $1 per week option?

                Note: I’ve only been arguing this specifically in the context of the US political system…

                And yet this is a thread on a NZ board with NZers in it. Wouldn’t it be better to discuss what we can do about getting it here?

  6. Don McKenzie 7

    $1 , one citizen and one vote, in principle has much to commend. We good go further and apply Direct Democracy such as the Swiss enjoy. We nearly had it in the 1890’s. If the Swiss are any thing to go by , may be we as a nation would not have the great debt we will be grappling with after this election is done.

    • mik e 7.1

      The swiss are in debt as much as anyone else get your facts straight

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1

        314% of GDP in debt according to this.

        • KJT 7.1.1.1

          What is their net debt?

          Still have a triple A rating.

          Mind you. If we made a democratic decision to get into debt it is our own fault.
          We can equally make a decision to reduce it.

          Or to fund it internally. Print our own zero’s instead of allowing overseas banks to do it.

          • Colonial Viper 7.1.1.1.1

            The Swiss are fine, they have a highly productive and industrialised economy, a Switzerland centric banking system and a position in the world financial markets which allows them to print their own money.

            Plus the rumour is that they still have a lot of gold stashed away. A lot.

  7. erentz 8

    The problem with something like this is, unless you make it a constitutional amendment, all that will happen is over time it’ll be eroded away and you end up in the same mess again. The US needs electoral reform to ensure fair and proportional representation.

    • burt 8.1

      The rules only get eroded when the same people who make the rules decide if they have followed the rules. How do you think the rugby tonight would go if the two opposing teams were allowed to decide if they had played within the rules ? (Oh and the winning team can make up the interpretation of the rules as they go)

      • KJT 8.1.1

        Pretty much what happens now.

        The winning team, the banks/the 1%, broke all the rules, then got them changed so we have to pay for it.

  8. Afewknowthetruth 9

    ‘ Help us reclaim democracy …”

    That is an interesting concept, bearing in mind that so-called democratic nations have never actually had democracy.

    Initially only landowners could vote. The vote was eventually extended to most males but by then corporations were starting to dominate western societies.

    By the time women were given the vote in most western nations corporations and money-lenders had gained nearly complete control of the economic and the political systems.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      That is an interesting concept, bearing in mind that so-called democratic nations have never actually had democracy.

      True, but it’s been getting better over the last couple of centuries. Now that capitalism has reached it’s final crisis it seems that the RWNJs are getting desperate to get rid of it again.

  9. Jenny 10


    How ordinary Americans, (and Kiwis) have their democracy stolen from them.

    “Why democracy only works when people are in charge”

  10. Jenny 11

    How corporate politics works.

    A sole politician who dared to stand with the people, is expelled from the Greek Socialist Party.

    The corporate politicians can tolerate, not even the slightest dissent from their rule.

    Greek lawmakers have passed a deeply resented austerity bill that has led to violent protests on the streets of Athens, despite some dissent from one Socialist lawmaker.

    The new measures include pay and staff cuts in the civil service as well as pension cuts and tax hikes for all Greeks.

    The bill passed by majority vote in the 300-member parliament.

    Former Labour Minister Louka Katseli voted against one article that scales back collective labour bargaining rights.

    She voted in favour of the overall bill, but Prime Minister George Papandreou expelled her from the party’s parliamentary group. The move whittles down his parliamentary majority to 153.

    The vote came after violent demonstrations that left one person dead and 74 injured.

    AP news

  11. Jenny 12

    Corporate History Timeline

    1949 – U.S. President Harry Truman, announcing a program for foreign technical assistance, states that self-sustaining peoples are “underdeveloped.”

    The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund begin operations. They extend money to poor and newly decolonized countries to foster economic growth on the model of industrialized nations.

    1972 – The U.S. ends the gold standard. Banks and corporations can now move money to and from worldwide operations with a phone call.

    1972 – Poor countries are unable to repay loans. The World Bank imposes austerity programs that eliminate health and welfare. Local currencies are devalued to facilitate investment by transnational corporations.

    1982 – Mexico, deeply in debt, agrees to World Bank austerity programs. Factories along its U.S. border increase four-fold to take advantage of weak environmental laws and wages that are 1/10 of those in the United States.

    1986 – The Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade begins in secret meetings of bankers, executives and government leaders. As a result of these secret agreements, the Mexican government agrees to break up its traditional cooperatively owned farms and signs all rights to corn production to U.S. corporations.

    1989 – Forty-seven of the top 100 economies of the world are not nations, but transnational corporations.

    1992 – Villagers in India can now be arrested for using the twigs and leaves of the sacred Neem tree. 500,000 farmers and their families protest the corporate patenting of their ancestral plants.

    1994 – The North American Free Trade Agreement goes into effect.

    1995 – The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade becomes the economic law of the world. The World Trade Organization begins operating. Transnational corporations now have the right to override environmental protection, worker-safety regulation, human-rights laws, or government subsidies if they are judged as barriers to trade.

    D.6 1995 – Indonesian workers get 15 cents per hour to assemble athletic shoes that Nike sells for $135.

    1996 – Because of a WTO ruling, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is forced to re-write its standards to allow dirtier gasoline to be imported and sold in the US.

    1997-1998 – Southeast Asian economies collapse. Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia go bankrupt, causing world financial markets to plunge.

    1998 – The WTO rules that U.S. laws created to protect endangered sea turtles violate WTO regulations.

    1999 – The top 200 corporations control 70% of world trade, but employ only one-half of one percent of the global work force.

    2000 – Workers in Taiwanese-owned factories in Nicaragua earn about 20 cents for making blue jeans that sell in Wal-Mart stores for around 30 dollars.

    September 11, 2001 – the World Trade Center is destroyed.

    November 2001 – The UN Human Development Report estimates that the 650 billion dollars spent on the military worldwide is 14 times greater than the amount needed to eradicate global poverty.

    February 2003 – Weeks before the U.S. invades Iraq, contracts for rebuilding the country are secretly awarded to corporations close to the Bush administration. Congress is not consulted.
    The contract awarded to Halliburton gives it control of Iraq’s oil.
    The contract awarded to Bechtel gives it control of Iraq’s water.

    May 2003 – An executive order by the U.S. president grants complete legal immunity to transnational oil companies operating in Iraq.

    2003 – In South Africa privatization of water deprives ten million people of affordable access to water.

    Before leaving Iraq, U.S. administrator Paul Bremer signs a law making it illegal for farmers to save seed.

    2004 – The U.S. and the UK collect 70 million dollars in so-called reparation payments from Iraq. Nearly 80% goes to multinationals, including Halliburton, Bechtel, Shell, Nestlé, Philip Morris, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Toys R Us.

    November 2004 – early 2005: Pennsylvania and 13 other U.S. states pass laws that make it illegal to regulate genetically engineered seed at the local level.

    January 2005 – China enters the WTO. Global quotas on the amount of textiles and apparel individual countries can ship to Europe and the United States expire, and Chinese firms are free to export as much as they like.

    January 2005 – The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund join the UN and relief agencies to coordinate relief efforts in countries devastated by the December 26 tsunami.

    Total external debts of countries hit by the tsunami is nearly $1 trillion.

    October 2005 – Thousands of low-wage Asian laborers travel to Iraq to work for U.S. military contractors in the hope of sending money home to their families. Trapped and exploited under inhuman conditions, many of them are now fleeing the country to save their lives.

    D.13 November 2005 – Sytex, a subsidiary of Lockheed, the world’s largest military contractor, has become one of the biggest recruiters of private interrogators U.S.-run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    December 2005 – Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian who grew up in childhood poverty, won the Bolivian presidential elections. He is part of a wave of predominantly native led left leaning Latin American Nationalists who are challenging the power of the multinational corporations in their countries.

    February 2006 – A Kuwait-based construction firm is now building a new 592 million dollar U.S. embassy in Baghdad – the largest, most fortified U.S. embassy in the world. The company is accused of exploiting employees and coercing low-paid laborers to work in war-torn Iraq against their will.

    May 2006 – The Tata Group, one of India’s biggest and oldest multinational corporations, has taken over tribal land to build an enormous steel plant in Orissa.

    July 2006 – The Pentagon cancelled the contract for Halliburton’s military logistics in Iraq and put it up for open bid. U.S. taxpayers have paid Halliburton 20 billion dollars for work in support of the U.S. “war on terrorism.”

    March 2008 – Tibetans protest against Chinese oppression. It is estimated that over 100 mainly peaceful protests took place throughout March and April. The protests were violently suppressed by the Communist Authorities using riot police and armed soldiers, hundreds are beaten and detained and over 1,000 “missing”.

    April 2008 – New Zealand becomes the first Western country to sign Bilateral Free Trade Agreement with Communist China at a lavish ceremony in Peking.

    December 2009 – Work begins on a Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. The aim being to create a mega-treaty across 9 countries to forbid any policies or laws the signatory governments might adopt at the expense of the multi-nationals.

    May 2010 – Food Bill introduced into New Zealand Parliament to make it illegal to distribute “food” without authorisation. The Bill defines “food” in such a way, that it includes nutrients, seeds, natural medicines, essential minerals and drinks (including water).

    October 2011 -Anti- Corporate Occupy Wall Street protest begins in New York.

    Currently similar demonstrations are either ongoing or had been held in 70 other major U.S. cities and over 600 communities in the U.S.
    Internationally, other “Occupy” protests have modeled themselves after Occupy Wall Street, in over 900 cities worldwide.

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