Wednesday, February 17, 2016

All Votes Matter

"Study after study has shown that human behavior changes when we know we're being watched.  Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively are less free.''

As I have stated many times before, I receive emails from an organization called MegaVote, which details the bills voted upon by Congress, and informs me how my particular representatives and senators voted.  I also look for and read similar summaries as posted in my Sunday newspaper. 

I found this past week's votes illustrative of why Americans must stop whining about our elected public officials not being accountable, and start investing some time in noting how those public servants actually vote so, when we next cast our ballots we can do so with a clear understanding of why we support or do not support a particular party or specific candidate.

Last week in the House, a bill passed that requires the National Science Foundation (NSF) to explain in writing how its research grants are demonstrably in the national interest.  In accordance with these guidelines, seven areas of national interest were determined.  The bill passed pretty much along party lines with GOP support, DEMs against.  A proposed DEM amendment to the bill, which would have designated research into gun violence an NSF priority was defeated, again along party lines.  GOP support was based on the belief that the $6 billion in tax payer money controlled by the NSF should be put to its best use, an admirable goal.  Unfortunately, some believe that there may be environmental research grants that offend certain fossil fuel business interest that may be denied, just as the idea that understanding why America is so rife with gun violence, offends the NRA and its advocates, and is therefore not in the national interest to study.

The GOP controlled House also approved a bill delaying a new Food and Drug Administration requirement for restaurant chains of 20 or more to prominently post nutrition info for standard items.  In their minds, I imagine that this burden to the business community outweighs (get it outweighs) the growing obesity problem in America, especially in our children. 

Also, the GOP passed a bill which will require the secretary of the treasury to provide detailed information regarding federal borrowing and the growing national debt.  Sounds good.  Except that a DEM amendment was defeated that would have sought to broaden that report to include wage and salary disparities, consumer spending and the effect of spending cuts of economic growth.  In other words, lets not make sure that we understand fully why so many people require federal and state assistance to live (perhaps low private sector wages?), how much lower (collected) tax rates for corporations and the highest earners has contributed to our debt, and how spending cuts which over proportionally effect the middle and lower economic classes, lead to less money available to purchase goods and services. 

Certainly there are those who believe that all the above bills are good for America.  That is fine, we will agree to disagree.  The point is that if you do not think they are good, but are unaware of these kind of bills, are only aware of rhetoric that proclaims an overreaching federal government that needs to be restrained, you may not be cognizant of the fact that is the business community that these bills will protect, frequently at the cost of the everyday citizen.  You may think that your personal freedom is at stake (and there are government programs that do restrict your freedom), but those voting in Congress, especially the GOP, vote for programs that expand NSA intrusion into our private emails and phone calls, and only propose less government controls when those controls hold businesses accountable for shoddy products, misleading advertisements and outright abuses of their customers.

Now, in light of the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Scalia, we have the ugly appearance of "a tradition", of not presenting a new Supreme Court nominee during an election year.  Odd, considering how sacred Justice Scalia held to a strict interpretation of the constitution that his death would result in those of similar mind set to prefer a newer, more modern interpretation of our founders. 

Which all means that the next presidential election matters, and more importantly, the election of any and all candidates running for office, be it local school board, state rep or senator or federal representative or Senator.  All votes matter means all elections as well as all ballots cast.  We must spend more time and energy scraping away the bullshit of campaign rhetoric, and examine what the candidates actually stand for, and who they stand behind.

By the way, if you are wondering about the quote which began this post, it is attributed in the Laphapm's Quarterly, Spies which I am reading to Edward Snowden.  One might say it is a nutshell justification for his revealing how the NSF has been spying on American citizens.  I have added it to this post as my way of connecting the importance of voting to freedom.  Remember, if we no longer participate in the democratic process, if we accept that less than 50% voter turnout is OK because we are too busy, or too cynical about the process, then we accept that our freedoms will be eroded from the inside out, and that our country will no longer be equated with "that shining city upon a hill", but merely just another country that fell victim to a citizenry that took its freedom for granted and abdicated its right to determine its future by failing to believe that all votes matter.



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