Many people, when they hear about protests and marches, feel fear instead of excitement. While they are angry about bank bailouts, foreclosures, inflation, unemployment and underemployment, it is tempting to believe that if we just hold on and sit tight, everything will get better and go "back to normal."
But what if it won't? What if there are fundamental flaws in our system? What if our campaign funding structure itself encourages corruption that will only get worse until we clearly call attention to it, thereby stopping it? And what if that corruption, if left unchecked, will continue to eat away at our standard of living?
The field of ethics warns us against putting people in positions with inherent conflicts of interest. For instance, a person shouldn't be employed by someone they are charged with monitoring. You can't be someone's boss and employee at the same time. Yet that is exactly what private financing of political campaigns does. Whoever pays a person is, by definition, their boss.
At the same time as the wealth of our country has gotten increasingly consolidated into the hands of the few, campaigns have become more expensive. Thus, candidates must raise huge sums from the few who still have disposable income-mostly, the top banks and their closely affiliated corporations.
This is a vicious, downward cycle-investment banks engage in profitable, yet risky practices. This isn't regulated because the regulators have been promised future lucrative jobs; and because their top bosses-Congress and the president-depend on these banks for campaign funding. Bank's unsound practices, which include investing in and betting against the same securities, of course eventually crash and the politicians bail them out while the economy plummets. Most citizens then have even less disposable income, so candidates must depend even more on banks and large corporations for campaign funding. This cycle has gotten tighter and quicker.
This unholy alliance between politicians and banks has led to increasing poverty worldwide, and I believe is the core impetus for Occupy Wall Street and all the "occupy" movements in over 1,000 cities internationally.
How to reform campaign finance? Most current elected officials, by definition, want to keep things status quo.
Hawai'i's own Makana sang his solution to our president and numerous world leaders at APEC last week, "We'll occupy the streets; we'll occupy the courts; we'll occupy the offices of you, 'til you do the bidding of the many, not the few.