George Coutis

“We the people” is the foundational principle of America and we are allegedly in charge. When we see all the good Americans doing good things for other Americans and see our thousands of brave, courageous, dedicated military people protecting that principle, we are happy. However, something is totally amiss in our great country.

Some years ago, I questioned an incumbent member of the U.S. House of Representatives who had been quite effective in two terms but wasn’t going to run again. I was shocked and asked him, “Why not?” His answer — this is almost a direct quote — was, “George, there’s a decades-old culture in Washington, D.C., that is very sick and not doing the will of the people. I can’t stand it and I can’t change it, so I’m getting out with my sanity.”

So what is that sickness? The most current example and what this commentary is about is the passage of a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives in March. The bill’s number is H.R.1 and it’s affectionately known as the “For the People Act.” It passed narrowly in the House was then sent to the Senate. Right now, months later, it is sitting in the desk of one man and being blocked for even being heard it in that Senate by him alone. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is the culprit. He has said — and I quote — it’s “because I get to decide.” Four out of five loyal Americans have voted in polls across the country in favor of the passage of this “For the People Act” into law! So what does it say that makes Mitch believe that he’s somehow above that will of “we the people”?

No. 1 is that it drives big money out of politics by calling for a constitutional amendment to negate the disastrous decision of the Supreme Court in 2010, known as the Citizen’s United decision, which allows unlimited campaign contributions to candidates of choice. It does so in the name of free speech and has created an oligarchical monster that finds the super-rich basically running our country by getting their candidates elected and those people then being beholden to their Dark Money corporate sponsors.

It leaves we hundreds of millions of common Americans behind in the dust.

No. 2 is that it protects the right to vote after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and the elected officials, mostly Republicans, across the country raced to pass voter suppression laws. H.R.1 enacts automatic voter registration, ends partisan gerrymandering and promotes early voting, online registration and other initiatives to expand citizen participation in our democracy.

No. 3 is that it calls for draining the swamp — for real this time. Trump and his administration are walking, talking violations of basic standards of ethics, morality and laws. His administration has enabled and continues to enable a total corporate takeover of our government with corporate lobbyists and executives in charge of regulatory agencies. Again, that leaves we hundreds of millions of common people behind in the dust of big money dirt. One only needs to look at the names, the histories and the backgrounds of these people to know the truth of that statement.

Lastly but certain not in the least, H.R.1 will force the president to reveal his or her tax returns, sell off his or her business interests, impose new ethics rules on lobbyists and slam shut the revolving door between government and industry.

There is much more and you’re invited to do your own internet search to find the rest of it out. Remember that knowledge of all the facts by double- and triple-checking those facts on any issue are what form the bases for our beliefs and opinions. If one only looks at what supports their beliefs, they are not fully informed to make intelligent decisions.

As big money and oligarchy continues to impregnate D.C. with its un-Americanness, there is another key part of the sickness. We tend to believe that we live in a “capitalist” system. Adam Smith, the renowned Father of Capitalism, is turning over and yelling and screaming from his grave at what we call “capitalism” because it’s not. We have “greedyism” and “pure selfishness” as our system. In pure capitalism, all workers are paid a living wage and the risktakers get however much or little is left. Obviously, today’s super-rich are taking theirs first, not last, and in unimaginable quantities of money. They care very little about living wages for others. That enormous gap translates to many of the imbalances we have in America — one in five people living at or near poverty levels; working more than one job just to make ends meet; unaffordable, inadequate health care that’s costing we good taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars in indigent and emergency room costs; unwanted but needed reliance on social services and food bank-type operations; more crime and more drugs sold to make ends meet; more mass gun violence and the real “biggie” — more undocumented, untreated mental illness for which there are few resources for. That is all tied in. I hope you see all of that because it’s very real. Do you honestly think those one in five believe that America is great?

Obviously, a big part of the sickness in D.C. and with ol’ Mitch sticking this bill in his desk is that losing corporate sponsorship in the millions of dollars means that some of that crowd of 535 senators and representatives might not get re-elected. Of course, term limits are another issue but not for this commentary. In any case, it’s time for you and for me to say,”Well, guess what Mitch? This is still a democracy and with four out of every five Americans wanting this as law, I/we demand that you allow this bill to be heard and acted upon in the Senate.” The best way to pressure him is for us to contact our U.S. senators and demand that they become co-sponsors for this legislation. And I mean DEMAND in capital letters.

So what are you going to do? Are you going to be patriotic and get off your backside to do your part in seeing that “we the people” get heard or are you going to just sit on your hands with your decent job, two weeks’ vacation, etc., and let America continue to regress further into being an oligarchy and not a democracy? I challenge you to get busy for “we the people”

George Coutis is a former Pocatello City Council member and retired teacher at New Horizon High School in Pocatello. He also opened the first all-natural food store in Pocatello in 1972.