VOTE AMERICA CARD

By J.D. ALT

Happy New Year. Now let’s get to work. There is much to be accomplished. The first order of business, from my perspective, is the issue of reinvigorating our democracy—specifically:

What are zealously proactive progressives thinking about? Instead of hauling the Republicans into court over their voter I.D. statutes, we should be exuberantly embracing the very idea of a voter I.D. Yes! Let’s take conservatives at their word: The purpose is not to make it more difficult to vote, or to discourage certain classes of citizens from actually casting ballots—the goal is to make certain that only qualified, living and breathing voters vote, and that they only vote once. We agree wholeheartedly! And to ensure this is what happens, we propose that every qualified U.S. citizen be issued a VOTE AMERICA I.D. card—and that a concerted, organized, federally funded, national effort should immediately be commenced to implement this goal.

Think about it. There is much to be gained in this approach (in addition to forcing disingenuous conservatives to play defense against their own offense).

First of all, there is something democratizing itself in requiring every U.S. citizen to go through an identical (but very simple) process to obtain an official personal voter I.D. card—a VOTE AMERICA CARD. Whether you are a poor southern share-cropper or a Wall Street financier, you have to go to your local Post Office, or Church, or Elementary School, or Starbucks or Whole-Foods (the registration mechanism is merely a smartphone App which can be administered by any VOTE AMERICA volunteer anywhere) have your photo taken, your thumbprint scanned, and your birth-certificate or naturalization papers searched on the data-base of Vital Statistics maintained by each State—and, voila! Your VOTE AMERICA CARD is issued by a small laminating-micro-chip-recording printer attached to the volunteer’s smartphone via a USB connection. (Google are you listening? Google, you can figure out how to make this happen in a heartbeat.)

Second, there are suddenly all kinds of ways to incentivize those American citizens who are lazily disinclined to go to the trouble of either registering or voting—to re-energizing, that is, our democracy itself. If you open the free IVoTE app on your smartphone, you’ll find a long list of special discounts and purchasing options offered by participating patriotic merchants—“coupons” which you can uploaded directly to your smartphone when you enter your VOTE AMERICA I.D. code.

Third, while you’re musing over the IVoTE app—waiting for your free hot-chocolate latte—you can review the next upcoming local and state elections, who the candidates are, read a short position statement from each, note what referendums are being considered for the next ballot, and read op-eds supporting different positions. Maybe listen to testimonials from local or nation celebs about the issues. At least the possibility is there to register a blip on your private political radar screen.

Fourth (and best of all), on Election Day, your smartphone will automatically ring the TIME-TO-VOTE jingle alarm (sung by whomever you’ve chosen as your favorite rapper, vocalist, or hip-hop performer) once every hour, until you cast your vote—whereupon all your coupons are automatically renewed!

All this may sound tongue-in-cheek, but of course I’m completely serious. (Google, are you listening?) The biggest danger we face right now is that our American democracy—the process of our democracy—will become discredited, untrusted, dysfunctional, and overtaken and manipulated by authoritarian power structures. This is not an idle threat: Read a history book about the 1930s, or look at what’s happening in North Carolina or Poland as we speak. At the same time, our biggest opportunity lies in actually strengthening and enabling the process of our democracy—making it function so it accomplishes what it is intended to do: express the actual thinking and will of the majority of American citizens. A universal VOTE AMERICA CARD could, in fact, go a long way toward accomplishing that goal. I have to say it one more time: Google, are you listening?

One last thought: the kind of system I’ve outlined will also come in handy when, at some point in the not-to-distant future, politicians begin explaining and debating their positions on the proper management of modern fiat money. This is going to take a lot of repetitive reinforcement, and something like an IVoTE app―a kind of political You Tube―could be extremely useful in breaking down the cognitive barriers.

28 Responses to VOTE AMERICA CARD

  1. James Cooley

    I have a proposal that is neither as hi-tech nor as complicated, but might be even more effective for those share-croppers who are greatly underrepresented in Congress. I would like to see every voter in federal elections receive a $100, refundable tax credit against their federal tax liability. What better way to use our fiat money to ensure an accurate and reliable turnout in all national elections?

    • John Zelnicker

      @James Cooley – There are millions of citizens, especially the elderly on Social Security or those receiving disability benefits who are not required to file a tax return. Tax credits, even refundable ones, don’t help these people. And, adding the $100 to their benefits is not possible with the current systems.

    • James, I think all the ideas presented here should be put in the mix for consideration. I like yours. But a good many folks we need to get involved don’t have any tax liability. So we need a strategy to involve them as well….

  2. Precincts should be, under law, small and poll watchers should know the voters. Personal recognition beats IDs. Crowded precincts and long lines are used to suppress votes too. The most onerous aspect of the process is that the media actually calls elections. After they make the call the counting of ballots, if there are any real paper ballots, stops. The game is over. Stein attempted to get ballots counted. That was their main effort, not a “recount.” Millions of ballots were never countered and Stein was blocked in her effort to have them countered. Additionally, we should be told who we are voting for as long as we keep the electoral college. We vote for electors and should know them, understand how they think in making their choice for president. They should campaign, not presidential candidates as long as we have an electoral college. The current system is broken and it is time for all to recognize that fact.

    • Charles, those are all critical issues and points of contention. They need to be incorporated in the effort. But I do not see how to get to them without a coordinated, national effort to get people (a) legally registered and (b) motivated to participate and vote in some semblance of an informed basis.

      • JD, “they” can continue to ignore votes no matter how many get registered and show up to vote. What we need are laws plus a process for conducting elections that makes sense. What is needed is a from the ground up effort to put people in state houses and the congress who are not beholden to the existing system and who will put a sensible process in place. It cannot be done overnight but it can be done.

  3. madame de farge

    LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT!!!!

  4. Pourquoi pas? Why not? C’est magnifique, cette idée! Well done. Google — listening?

  5. Frankly…
    this sounds to me like trying to fix the malnutrition problems of the poor and homeless by making everyone take a vitamin pill every day.

    The problem with elections include:
    gerrymandering
    rigged primaries
    all the money that’s needed to run
    hackable and flawed voting machines
    winner take all (first past the post) system
    no run-offs or proportional representation
    lack of information, and lies, abut candidates, and the mass media
    no guarantee of competence or integrity of people who work the poles and count the votes
    candidates who say one thing and do another, with no accountability before next elections
    lack of timely access to both ID issuers and polling booths, with equipment breaking down and long lines
    homeless people have no place of residence for registration
    millions of felons and former felons – many wrongly convicted — and disenfranchised
    having to work on Tuesday precluding being able to go to polls

    The list could be much longer. The primary problem is that the entire system is rigged against the people and for the ones in power being able to stay there. Cases of voter fraud (not election fraud) where people who are not entitled to vote cast a ballot are miniscule, and not a significant problem at all.

    The political (and economic) system in the US has become fundamentally anti-democratic, but is a plutocratic oligarchy where the people and working class have had virtually all real power stripped from them. A little smear of lipstick on that pig won’t accomplish anything.

    • Pilgrim: You take my tongue-in-cheek too much on its face. Everything you list is undeniably TRUE. And I agree, your list could be much longer. But what would you recommend to turn the “oink” into a legitimate expression of our democracy? You can’t just play the naysayer–progressives cannot allow themselves to fall into that abyss.

      • Blue Pilgrim

        The problem is complex, and solutions must be multi-faceted.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhe286ky-9A
        How to Fix America’s Corrupt Political System

        Can be part of it.
        So can http://www.democracyatwork.info/ working on more worker owned and run businesses.

        Both of these approaches are centered on working locally first, starting from bottom up, and, of course, widespread self-education of people. But we also need to develop better horizontal organization and coordination methods.
        This has to include year-round social services through distributed leadership and organization — more than just electoral politics every 2 or 4 years, such as Greens or SEP tend to do. The only time I heard about Greens is when they wanted my vote or donation. Look at how the churches grew and served the conservative wing by taking Granny to church and helping her with shopping every week. When they turned to politics the organization was already there and people knew each other.

        One way neoliberals have succeeded is by breaking down the social structures and relationships and isolating people (cf Bowling Alone). If someone needs a babysitter, or work, or other help, who can they turn to? Government social services, which are bureaucratic and being reduced? Where are the unions, communist and socialist parties, or Liberation Theology Catholics? They are fought against by the neoliberals and imperialists, breaking them down — because the fascists and oligarchs know they are in opposition. That’s why people need to reorganize themselves in such ways (real grass roots, not astroturf or rely on populist demigogues). It’s happening, but it needs to happen more, and we need more understanding and solidarity, and not to get distracted, diverted, or manipulated by the politicians and media. It’s needs to be decentralized, with limited hierarchy so leaders can’t be attacked by the authoritarians and the movement destroyed, but has many leaders and many sources. It’s hard to kill off all the crabgrass in a lawn because it’s distributed everywhere and pulling up one plant leaves all the rest, and it keeps growing back It’s the ideas and information that are so hard to kill because they keep spreading and regenerating (distributed, like the internet, which the PTB are trying so hard to control now). Decentralization is the key.

  6. America is a democracy? Not what this study (http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746) says.

    Executive summary: scholars examined nearly 2,000 issues for which broad popular support existed. How were they decided (99% of the time)…as the oligarchs wished, not as the population wanted.

    • Okay, so you prove my point. Why do you want to frame it in an apparently negative light? Are you pleased with results you report? Do you want to counteract them? If so, what do you propose?

  7. Tuesday, January 03, 2017

    How to Make America Great Again with Other People’s Money

    A lot of the sharper-minded commentators have recently started pointing out a problem with Donald Trump’s plan to “make America great again”: lack of funds. The US is bankrupt: sinking ever-further into unrepayable debt, unable to achieve a rate of economic growth that could ever catch up with its growing debt burden. It is in the midst of a giant financial bubble that is propped up by various scams and rackets, from car loans whose term exceeds the useful lifetime of the car, to retirement fund shortfalls caused by effectively negative interest rates, to educational debt that condemns ever more young people to a lifetime of indentured servitude, to the medical racket which is now eating up over 20% of the economy while delivering some of the worst levels of well-being in the entire developed world… Attempts to fix any of these problems would inevitably run into long-standing, intractable political conflicts and contradictions and go nowhere while also bursting the financial bubble and turning the political realm into one very large and angry poop party. Better not even go there!

    The Rest:
    http://cluborlov.blogspot.mx/2017/01/how-to-make-america-great-again-with.html

    We need a serious, non-wonkish, concise, MMT reply to “America is Bankrupt.”

    • That is simply untrue. All legal US money is created by the US Treasury and there is no limit to the quantity that can be created. The notion of America being bankrupt is totally ludicrous. People who spread that falsehood believe book keeps are the Kings! The US has and still does create and spend money they do not borrow. Lincoln did it and the law he used is still on the books. US Notes were printed and spent until 1971. A nation must have resources to accomplish things; that is the hard part and the important part. Money is the easy part. It is free to the national government.

      • Monetary History Calendar – JANUARY 13 ,1808
        BIRTH OF SALMON P. CHASE, US SENATOR (OHIO), GOVERNOR OF OHIO, US TREASURY SECRETARY UNDER ABRAHAM LINCOLN, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE US SUPREME COURT :
        “My agency in procuring the passage of the National Bank Act, was the greatest financial mistake of my life. It has built up a monopoly that affects every interest in the country. It should be repealed.
        But before this can be accomplished, the people will be arrayed on one side and the banks on the other in a contest such as we have never seen in this country.”

        (Also from the Calendar)
        The National Bank Act established a system of nationally chartered banks. Before the Act, most banks were chartered by states. The Act permitted these new nationally chartered banks to turn government bonds into the US Treasury in exchange for the right to print an equal amount of debt-based Bank Money. This undermined U.S. Greenbacks, which was debt-free public money.

        Perhaps the more salient point today, in light of our efforts to mount not only resistance, but revolutionary change, is that the bankers’ “equal amount of debt-based money” is still in existence (by quantity) and we have continued to pay compound interest for the 150 years hence (and will do so in perpetuity )* , rather than being arrayed on the side of the Greenbacks.
        (*) as we do on every private bank-created dollar since the passage of the act.

        Awaiting, prepared, for the contest.
        For the Money System Common

      • Blue Pilgrim

        Yes, untrue, but perhaps not wholly untrue in that there are real limits to how much the treasury can create without some problems, such as the amount of money not representing the amount of real wealth, and the money going to the wealthy to create further inequality between them and the ‘99%’.

        There are two ways of looking at ‘being paid back’: one is in currency, where there is never a problem, and another is in what it can buy, which goes down with higher inflation — not even superinflation. If we measure all wealth not in terms of money but in tangible wealth, then trillions squandered on wars, or in gross inefficiency, or in unrecoverable transfer to the plutocracy (because they can’t be forced to let go of it), will not be paid back to the working class who produced it. In short, the adoption of sovereign fiat money can solve many problems but not can not change ‘the law of conservation of mass, energy, and tangible wealth’.

        The dollar is strong largely because of the US control of petroleum and other resources, exploitation of labor in other countries, and military force, but we have problems now in geopolitics because we can’t pay off those debts — can’t restore the death and destruction we have inflicted on the world, and increases in productivity due to technology are lagging behind, with ecological damage a grave threat. In principle, we can not keep growing forever on a finite world, and in practice that is now coming into force, and is not a theoretical problem in some far future. Creating currency and manipulating markets and perceptions can’t solve that — and neither can reforming the electoral process unless concrete systemic changes result from it. This is the fundamental flaw in Trump’s optimistic ‘make America great again’.

  8. I do not agree because I think it would contribute to more voter suppression. Another ID required? We already have required ID in the form of: 1) Social Security Card – Even babies are now required to be issued a social security card and number. In order to get one you also need a Birth Certificate (ID). 2) State IDs – All driver’s required to have a state-issued ID, and most if not all states have an alternative “State ID” for anyone. Also requires a birth certificate. It doesn’t help just to get people “fired up” to vote if they are also not voting because it doesn’t change anything – no one to vote for. There should be federal legislation that automatically gives all citizens the right to vote without any additional registration requirements.

  9. This resembles judo moves. This thinking could be applied in many ways. It could be a positive general strategy. Think “process,” not “events.”

  10. Elizabeth Burton

    It’s a lovely idea, but it has one big flaw—it requires a smartphone. Will all those potential voters who can’t afford one be provided with one at no charge? How about older voters who may not have any kind of tech skills? Will there be classes and/or one-on-one tutoring to ensure they’ll understand how the thing works?

    Always beware of middle-class bias. 😉

  11. John Zelnicker

    Very interesting concept, J.D. However, I see a couple of issues that need to be addressed.

    1. There are still quite a few people born as late as the 1950’s and even later who do not have official birth certificates because they were born on the farm or deep in the mountains at home or even in very poor areas of big cities with no official attendant to make sure the birth is recorded. In addition, state Vital Statistics offices are notoriously disorganized and some have had massive quantities of records destroyed by fire or natural disasters. Millions of records aren’t even on computers, so they are inaccessible by your system.

    2. There are millions of people who do not have mobile phones, much less smartphones, so they don’t get coupons, reminders to vote, etc. creating another have/have not situation. In addition, vast areas of the country don’t have reliable cell service for residents.

    3. If your USB connected laminating-micro-chip-recording printer is printing cards with the microchip embedded, which is what I think you meant (it’s not entirely clear), then you are creating a trackable, national identity card, allowing the authorities to know where we are and what we are doing at all times. We have, so far, avoided doing this in the U.S. and I think that’s a good thing.

    All this being said, I applaud your efforts at trying to come up with ideas to get more people to vote with as little hassle as possible. It is something we need to keep working on with some urgency to counter the attempts to shrink the franchise.

  12. The voting process is not why people do not vote. Take Bernie Sanders. His economic advisor is someone right from the MMT school of thought. Yet he still lies to the American people (or his economic advisor is a complete failure). How many times did he say we need to increase taxes to pay for his spending programs? Anyone with any knowledge of MMT knows the govt does not need revenue to pay for spending. Then there is Mosler – ran for the Senate in CT. A multi-millionaire who obtained his fortune doing the very thing that MMTers hate the most. Working on Wall street moving money around doing the real economy no good. These are the people we are suppose to vote for?
    Bernie (and his economic advisor) has a chance to redeem himself. He is doing a CNN interview next week. Hopefully his advisor will make him tell the truth. Social Security cannot go bankrupt or taxes do not necessarily have to go up to pay for spending programs. As for Mosler, let him spend his fortune educating the American people (instead of living a life in paradise while paying no taxes) and I don’t mean running a two bit blog. Do whatever he needs to do to go on the news programs or talk shows. Hell, take out an ad during the superbowl – spend that ill gotten fortune.
    Sorry if the truth hurts!

    • Markg: I understand your frustration with all these seeming contradictions and avoidances of the “truth”. But you have to appreciate the delicate difficulty of the situation: Nothing would have derailed Bernie Sanders’ campaign faster than an attempt to “redefine” what everyone believes money is. He (and his “advisor”) would have immediately been laughed into oblivion. So you have, correctly I believe, identified the crucial strategic puzzle that has to be solved. Any creative, concrete, realistic ideas about how to do that?

      • People need to be told what is truly obvious. Money is free to the Federal government. The US Treasury creates all legal US money and it is truly a free commodity. Resources are not always available but money should never be an issue. People instinctively know this. We just need leaders saying it is true. The Federal government has printed and spent paper currency since colonial times. Lincoln got the “greenback” law passed and paid for the civil war with money that was not borrowed. US Notes with the red serial numbers were printed and spent under the same law until 1971. Kennedy had silver certificates printed and spent without borrowing also. Coins minted by the Treasury are not borrowed. They are minted and spent directly into the economy.

      • Blue Pilgrim

        I think it revolves around how to get ‘the masses’ — the common people — to understand it. They need to be ‘tricked’ into, in the sense that they learn about without it being boring, too complicated, or outside their everyday lives (such reading blogs or taking courses).

        I’m not sure, but maybe a cool video game that incorporates it, maybe a good sitcom with an economics professor instead of a bus driver and sewer worker (old Jackie Gleason Show), or Archy bunker, maybe passing references in some other sort of entertainment. We need well done propaganda with as much quality as Hollywood, et al, used to convince people of the American myths they believe, but the current entertainment (propaganda) industry, with it’s billions, will be in opposition, of course, so it has to be somewhat ‘insidious’. We need a movement. And a great T-shirt.

    • Markg

      Well stated !

  13. I think the priority ought to be to get rid of all electronic voting machines.

    We have machines that can be programmed by the Republicans who are high officials in the red states, to e.g. take every 3rd vote for the Democratic presidential or Congressional candidate and assign that vote to the Republican. And the software on the machines is considered a “trade secret” by law– sort of like a patent where you can keep your software a secret from the public and from everyone. So if this hasaleady been done– or is ever done in the future– it is guaranteed by law that the fraud can never be found out by the public.

    That is really dangerous and may have already have subverted our democracy big time. The only reason they didn’t affect Obama’s elections is because Republicans just could not believe that the majority of voters would vote for a black man. In his 2nd term election, the GOP thought Americans would vote for the opposite party since the economy hadn’t recovered fully. Also, in Obama’s 2nd term election, the hackers group Anonymous claimed that they were able to to block Rove’s people from rigging the machines.

    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/12845-anonymous-karl-rove-and-2012-election-fix

    Of course, hackers groups like Assange and Anonymous currently seem to be working for the other side– for Trump and the Republicans.

    But regardless of which side the machines may be rigged by, and who may or may not try to obstruct the rigging, it’s all a disaster for the American voting public’s ability to get the people elected whom they actually voted for.

    It needs to be the highest priority to dump all of these electronic voting machines, in every state that uses them.