Reader’s Forum — Al Bell

A Commentary on An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back by Elisabeth Rosenthal

DSC_7664My first question to any elected official I contact about health care legislation (and I will) will be: “Have you read Elisabeth Rosenthal’s book, An American Sickness?”

If the answer is yes, my second question will be: “How have her ideas been incorporated in health care legislation you will sponsor or support?” You can probably imagine the course of the ensuing conversation.

If the answer is no, my second question will be: “Why not?” If the answer is, “I haven’t heard of that book,” or any pathetic derivatives of that answer, I will proceed as follows.

“Here is why you should buy it and read it. Elisabeth presents a comprehensive picture of why and how the medical industrial complex in America mistreats patients, the people we used to believe were the beneficiaries of what we used to think of as our health care system. Patients: that is us. She reveals why and how the complex focuses on profit and not health; why it is a cartel and not a system. She goes on to offer advice on how to work around the obstacles to effective health care despite the non-system by providing information on important sources of aid. She closes by explaining what needs to happen to reclaim a responsive health care system from the piranhas that now call the shots. She reminds us that we have a cadre of superb medical professionals, some of whom have become complicit in this disaster, but most of whom ache to carry out their role as healers and menders to those in need.”

“If you are not willing to read it yourself, then assign it to one of your brightest staff members and insist that she/he communicate with Elisabeth before getting back to you with recommendations on how to proceed. Then contact me and let me know what you intend to do, when you intend to do it, and who else you have joined forces with to make it happen. I especially want to know the names of any in the latter category who are not members of your political party.”

While it may be generally agreed that health care has become a major, if not the major, current concern of Americans, it is also self-evident that the medical industrial complex has shanghaied our political world and inoculated it against any conceivable common sense fix. The same force that is necessary to rescue our dysfunctional federal governance miasma from itself is the one that will turn health care around as well: we the people.

We the people need a tool for opening doors, slamming inattention to the floor, and prying open windows to an approach that will actually work. Elisabeth Rosenthal has given us the pry-bar; it is now up to us to wield it.

Elisabeth is not asking the doctors, specialists, technicians, hospitals, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies, and others to sacrifice reasonable income and profit. She is making the case that extortion in those areas is not legitimate, especially when we pay with not only our money, but our health outcomes as well.

A message to my 60-some active contacts and my elected (some newly) officials in Arizona urging them to read and act on An American Sickness will go out this week.

Oh, one more thing. Thank you, Elisabeth, for the immense public service you have performed in crafting this report to the American people. Bravo, indeed!

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.



Politics for the People

Conference Call

An American Sickness

With Author Elisabeth Rosenthal

Sunday, Dec. 2nd at 7 pm EST.

Call in number:  641-715-3605 

Passcode 767775#


Reader’s Forum: Five Readers Weigh In. Call with Author Tomorrow

Book Image



Greg Orman’s book is absolutely right on and just a great book. This is the best book I have read on Independents. He really is able to put into words how a lot of us Independents feel and why we became Independents.

Page 10 makes an excellent point and it is so true that both parties make us feel more different and divided than we really are.

Page 27: What Government should and shouldn’t do for the poor.IMG_2134

Page 41: We are polarized.

Page 78: Constitution is a quilt of political….

Page 103: Parties certainly have gate keepers, me and Cynthia Carpathios were kinda talking about that the other day. It is tough to get to elected officials as an Independent.

George Trapp describes himself as active voter who has been on both sides of the aisle and chooses to be an independent.  George volunteers with Independent Voice of Ohio.


I really enjoyed Mr. Orman’s book “A Declaration of Independents.” It reminded me of how our political identities can be formed by our parents. My father was a proud union member who truly believed in the legislative process. The Democrats were the “party of the people.” Slowly I began to realize that both parties were the parties of big business and special interests, and we needed to build an alternative. I remember the first time I Martavoted for an independent candidate. I tried to convince myself that a third party vote was not a wasted vote. Up until election day I was still conflicted about pulling the lever for Walter Mondale or for an unknown independent candidate. The irony is that I did waste my vote. It was my first time voting in New York City. On these pre-World War I machines you are you pull the lever, vote, and then pull the lever back. I pulled the lever twice and lost my vote. I guess that’s how I dealt with my conflict.

I liked the point Orman makes about duopolies . We have many in this country not only in politics: in the media, in business. They give us the illusion of competition. But they really serve individuals to keep their jobs, sell their products and get re-elected. Looking forward to the call.

Jessica Marta is an independent activist with Independent Voting and the New York City Independence Clubs.  She lives in Manhattan is an Adult Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.


ramonI want to express my appreciation to Greg Orman for letting us ride in his journey for independence. In particular, page 96 Summer Soldiers and Sunshine Patriots the first 2 lines defines it all.  “THE ONLY WAY FOR OUR COUNTRY TO ADDRESS THE POLITICAL STALEMATE GRIPPING OUR NATION IS FOR A REAL MOVEMENT OF INDEPENDENTS TO TAKE HOLD.” When I read that I understood that Greg Orman knows what its like for the struggles of the independent movement.
This book became very personal to me. Cannot wait for the conference call.
Ramon Pena lives in New Jersey and is a long time independent activist.


As a long time builder of the independent movement, 30 years, I applaud Greg Orman for having the guts to challenge the bi-partisan gridlock in Washington that permeates across the states in the Blue-Red paradigm. In working on various campaigns over the years have learned that candidates will give lip service to certain political reforms important to independents but ultimately cave to the pressures of the two parties.

It appears that Greg is running to challenge the system to be more inclusive to open the 14947948_10209598211565790_78427255916291282_ndialogue in order to solve tough issues. In the past many opponents of the independent movement have said, “ What do you mean challenge the system and have it be more inclusive?” They will go on to say that independents do not stand for anything. The two-party paradigm is designed to pit groupings of people against each other that disagree on critical issues rather than bring them together to create new solutions.

Greg does a good job in describing measures that can open up the process and break the gridlock. In his book he speaks about the corruption of Gerrymandering, refers to the two-party game as a “duopoly”, the rigged primary process, partisan media and failing campaign finance rules.

Greg’s campaign is timely. Besides giving praise to Greg I am delighted that 43% of the voting population now consider themselves independent and proud to support the youth leading the – March For Our Lives – movement. According to recent research by the Pew Research Center: Millennial voters continue to have the highest proportion of independents of any generation.

Just as Greg is reaching out to all voters Democrats, Republicans, third parties, and Independents the young people leading the powerful March For Our Lives movement are reaching out to everyone. The White leaders from Parkland, after the tragic shooting, stated they need to support inner-city youth where gun violence has had them staring down the barrel of a gun for many years.

Naomi Wadler, an 11 year old leader, who spoke at the DC rally on March 24th said she was onstage to represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. In my opinion, the powerful youth leaders such as Naomi along with independents such as Greg are all working to include everyone in new and different ways that are not tied to the Democratic or Republican parties.

Howard Edelbaum is active with the New York City Independence Clubs and is an Accounting Consultant.


This is an outstanding and very timely selection. Greg’s book is sitting on my shelf of 20 DSC_7664indispensable books related to independent voting and the movement’s intersection with the degraded political environment that we seek to rescue from itself. Greg Orman is one of the brightest lights on the scene and I am delighted that: 1) he is running for an important public office,

2) his book is now on our P4P agenda, and

3) I now have a reason to reread it after over a year’s lapse, rather than simply referring to it in bits and pieces when some new incident triggers a quick return to the book to see what Greg had to say on the subject. I look forward to a refresher course on the great American mind of Greg Orman.

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.




With Author GREG ORMAN

A Declaration of Independents

How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream



641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#


P4P Reader’s Forum–Al Bell writes about $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America




It is disconcerting in the extreme to acknowledge that America, the consummate success story in the historic struggle of nations, is at once a first, second, and third world country. We often see information about this bizarre paradox. Too often, sources filter the information in ways that leave us perplexed regarding what we can or should do about it, if anything. $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America conveys our reality with penetrating impact.

It doesn’t just tell the story through the lives of real people with whom the authors have shared real time—as boldly crafted as that part of the book is—it does so with breathtaking wisdom. Informative, insightful, authentic, and often moving as well. However, it is the wisdom of its conclusions and the pragmatic good sense of its guidance that distinguishes this book.

Absent insight about the lives of real people who live on the front lines of personal disaster day in and day out, most of us would probably find the exceptional action insights in the last chapter unhinged from reality. It is everything but unhinged. The focus of my commentary is on this part of the brutally honest confrontation with poverty revealed in the previous 156 pages.

A single sentence by the authors captures for me the essence of the book’s common sense. It says, “the primary reason to strive relentlessly for approaches that line up with what most Americans believe is moral and fair is that government programs that are out of synch with these values serve to separate the poor from the rest of society, not integrate them into society.” Yes. Stigma doesn’t work.

We often fail to see complex and unpleasant truths clearly. Why? Because we so often view them through filters instead of prisms. Filters block out light intentionally, just as ideological mind sets block out honest reality and coherent thinking. Prisms, on the other hand, reveal light in its myriad components, revealing clarity impossible to see unaided. This book is a prism.

Would that we could supply prisms to our Legislative and Executive branches (the Judicial is another story) as oaths of office are administered. At least on the issue of poverty in America, we now have a prism with which we can work.

The conventional wisdom is that the poor who barely subsist and often fall below even that miserable metric are a terrible burden to society. Though not directly stated, what I take away from $2.00 A Day is the exact opposite. They are an incredible untapped resource that, if provided with a common sense support system, could not only join society, but significantly enhance it as well. The reality is what it is. How we view it and what we do about it is a matter of choice. Edin and Shaefer offer far better choices than we have seen thus far.

If those who seek to understand the economic, social, and technological trajectory on which our society is now embarked are even in the ball park, how we choose to unfetter this vast human resource can lead the way to the much broader strategy required to head off the massive disconnects we face on a much larger scale. It was one thing to hack off the futures of horse shoers over a hundred years ago as the automobile age hit us full throttle. It is quite something else to contemplate huge swaths of workers across our enterprise sectors finding themselves economic and social salvage.

A great deal is at stake here. This little book vastly outweighs it modest size with the power of its content. So much so, in fact, that I am sending a copy to our two Senators in Arizona, urging them to use their (increasingly) distinctive voices in our current governance wilderness to shape the dialogue on the poverty of our nation in more productive directions.

I cannot end this commentary without expressing my deepest appreciation to Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer for providing such a sorely needed breath of fresh air on a subject suffering so long under stifling ambiguity and distortion. They have given us a tool worth picking up.

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.

Please Join the Politics for the People Conference Call

With Kathyrn Edin

We will be discussing:

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

Sunday, December 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call In and Join the Conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

Reader’s Forum—Al Bell


Al Bell at 2017 National Conference of Independents

I was forced several times in reading Ratf**ked, by David Daley, to stop and reread the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. It contains 52 of the most powerful words in the vast heritage that has brought us to this point in The Great American Experiment. The unprecedented We, the People… leads off this statement of vision, purpose, mission—and that foundation quietly emerges time and again throughout Mr. Daley’s book. It is an echo, as it were, of the point of the whole story.

Ideas generated by the current selection of the Politics4thePeople book club clearly demonstrate the value of exchanging ideas and hearing different voices, a key quality that powers the club. While there have been fewer posts (so far) on this selection than some in the past, their content is highly instructive and provides valuable insights that aid the rest of us in processing what the author is telling us.

Dr. Jessie Fields provided an excellent overview of the essence of the Republican Party’s successful campaign to gerrymander legislative districts at state and federal levels to enable the party and its candidates to select voters rather than the reverse. The responsible perpetrators express pride in what they have done. That mentality is a pathetic distortion of Americanism. It perverts everything we stand for.

Then, comes along Lou Hinman’s pointed commentary that makes explicit what haunts many of us in the independent voting movement: both parties have become cynical masters of political intrigue and gamesmanship by which they collaborate in crowding out any voices they do not wish to hear from We the People. Lou clearly unmasks the mutual game of chicken the major parties play in controlling our political process. As Mr. Daley points out, the Democratic party is belatedly tuning in to the power of Maptitude as a means of unraveling as much of the Republican party’s advantage as possible. The game remains the same; just the actors change.

The bottom line here is that the Democratic and Republican parties, over many years, have jointly shanghaied our democratic republic. While they properly share the blame, the Republican party currently owns the front lines, paid for in cash.

Oh, one more question. Why, exactly, did We the People let them do it? That is a question for another dialogue.

I would be negligent in failing to note the significance of Arizona in this tale of woe as told by the author. Citizens established Arizona’s Redistricting Commission by initiative. State Republican leadership sought to eliminate it via court action and lost at the Supreme Court. More recently, our Republican Legislature enacted laws to seriously impede citizen initiatives and referenda. Citizens are now organizing, seeking to reverse that action. Mr. Daley describes the earlier challenges faced in the Arizona redistricting process with considerable insight. It was not flawless, but it is easy to envision a significantly more political—and Republican dominated—outcome had the Legislature remained in charge of the process. Politics will always be a factor. The real question is, can such deliberations at least avoid political considerations as the sole driver? The Arizona example says yes. So far.

I will come to our author’s defense for focusing on the Republican party in this sense. The GOP has initiated a new level of political weaponry, escalating quickly from muskets to machineguns. Whether Mr. Daley has it right or not about the Democratic party’s leadership default in this case, he reveals the new weapons of political war that currently victimize our nation. That naturally leads to the question of what to do about it.

The author suggests seven strategies to reverse or at least mitigate this cynical onslaught against our electoral processes. They include:

  1. Support Democratic efforts to recapture enough legislative seats by 2020 to enable them to lead a “permanent gerrymandering disarmament plan”. In other words, lead toward the high ground, don’t just recapture lost ground.
  2. Seek establishment of even more independent redistricting committees at state levels than now exist.
  3. Wherever possible, seek initiatives to reverse gerrymandering practices.
  4. Continue to push for Supreme Court decisions that impose controls on gerrymandering and reverse the most egregious cases of it (now an active arena; see the current North Carolina case).
  5. Experiment in at least one state with multi-member districts to defuse the partisan control mechanisms.
  6. Enrage and engage more voters in supporting redistricting reforms to enfranchise voters instead of parties.
  7. Aggressively motivate progressive voters to vote in mid-term elections in contrast to historic minimum turnouts in such elections to wrest control from the Republican vote gathering machine.

None of these is easy, nor are they feasible everywhere. However, chinks in the armor can be achieved one initiative, one state, one city, and one court case at a time. It will take a long time, certainly more than anyone aggrieved by the current system would prefer. Mr. Daley offers ample motivation to start down that path.

Another tactic strikes me as having value in reinforcing his suggestions. It consists of a relentless effort by many of the public interest organizations and their memberships in the U.S. to conduct media, public education, and political campaigns at whatever level or levels they may operate. Campaign messages could make any or all of the following points. It would make sense to target Democratic and Republican transgressions similarly, wherever they occur.

  1. Depriving any qualified voter from exercising his/her franchise is unconstitutional and cynically anti-American. It is an insult to the very foundation of our nation. It blatantly denigrates the sacrifices of the more than 1.3 million Americans whose lives have been lost in defending our right to self-governance under the Constitution.
  2. Perpetrators of the so-called RedMap system manifest a perverse rejection of the basic premise of our Constitution: that it belongs to all of us. They have a right to their opinions, but they have absolutely no standing to destroy the very foundation that underpins every citizen’s rights, including their own! They do not own our vote; we do. At least, so we thought.
  3. Spending dark money to intimidate candidates, structure legislative districts that cut citizens of any political persuasion out of an effective voice in electing our leaders, and imposing voting districts that advance this mentality, is cowardly behavior. It reflects a pathetic lack of confidence in the legitimacy of their positions and seeks, instead, to avoid challenges by neutering other voices. It is logically incomprehensible and solidly hypocritical for passionate believers in competitive free enterprise concepts, to throw obscene levels of money at arbitrarily suppressing the competition of ideas. There is a name for governance structured this way and democratic republic isn’t one of them.
  4. The RedMap system is a tool for destroying this nation and the governance it so desperately needs in these times of overwhelming division, complexity, rapidity of change, global challenges, uncertainty, technological breakthroughs, and all of their cumulative and profound social and economic implications. Intentional destruction of governance systems for essential dialogue and reasoned negotiation is irredeemably Anti-American.
  5. Disenfranchisement by any means is essentially a form of theft and extortion. It seeks to slice targeted Americans out of the governance process. It is anything but a legitimate source of pride.
  6. We often hear that “all is fair in love and war”. Many would readily add: “and in politics, too.”

No it isn’t.

Of course, politicians and their supporters, past and present, have demonstrated atrocious behaviors in politics. At some level, that will continue by Republicans and Democrats alike (see Mr. Hinman). Still, real American leaders set points beyond which they will not go. The stakes have become so great because of cumulative misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance by both parties that it is time to talk openly and loudly about the price we are paying for their hypocritical behavior. If they will not, we must.

One can say many things about such behavior. It is fundamentally inexcusable. No amount of rationalizing doubletalk can explain it away. Those who perpetrate this approach to our governance structures are exhibiting unpatriotic behavior in the extreme. We must not “give a pass” to those who are numb to the needs of our nation and proud of disenfranchising their fellow citizens by playing clever games. Why would we allow them to hide behind their arrogant defenses? Let’s call them out for behaving as enemies of the people. We the People.

Reinforced by David Daley’s clear documentation, we cannot repeat his message too often and in too many places. Today it is the Republican party. Tomorrow, by its own admission, the Democratic party intends to storm down the same path. Thank you, David Daley, for bringing such a clear picture of this Anti-American swamp to our attention. Now it is up to us.

All of this is enough to make you want to be an independent voter! Hmmm.

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.


Conference Call with David Daley

Author of RATF**KED

Sunday, June 4th at 7 pm EST

Call: 641-715-3605
Pass code: 767775#


Ratfucked book image

Highlights from P4P Conversation with Matthew Desmond



On Sunday, October 23rd, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour talking with Matthew Desmond about his book, EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City.  I am sharing a few highlights below and you can listen to the entire conversation at the end of this post.

(Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Our first audio clip includes my introduction of Matthew and an exploration of his process, his examination of poverty as a relationship between rich and poor, and how that framework brought him to look at and study the eviction crisis. I also talked with Matthew about the destabilization of New York City’s public housing taking place under the NextGeneration plan. This section ends with some of Matthews most surprising discoveries meeting people living in poverty across the country and the ways in which they refused to be defined by their hardships.  Have a listen:

Ramon Pena shared his personal experience being evicted in New York City after “20 years of having never missed a rent payment.” He goes on to share his journey through homelessness, the shelter system and finally to a home out of state. Ramon and Matthew explore what our elected officials should be held accountable for. Hear their interaction below.

Sarah Bayer found out she is a Cambridge, Massachusetts neighbor of Matthew’s as she delved into a fascinating exchange on her 25 years of work within the family shelter system, what she describes as our nations’ own “internal refugees”, and the unique financial constraints placed on a city like Boston. How does Matthew see the role that the shelter system plays in the eviction crisis?

Tiani Coleman, president of New Hampshire Independent Voters talked about her days of working in the court system in Salt Lake City,

“I did pro-bono work for my church community and was able to see first hand the impact of lack of representation for families that were facing eviction. I had to handle some evictions, and even had opposing council get rather annoyed with me and tell me I was unnecessarily complicating things… What do you think is the biggest impediment to getting the eviction crisis and the representation issue in housing court addressed?”

Matthew began his answer by acknowledging the important kind of community investment Tiani spoke of, “Thank you so much for your work, you were slugging it out in housing court… When folks have a lawyer by their side their chances of keeping their home go up dramatically irrespective of the case.” Hear their interaction below:

Attorney and Independent activist Harry Kresky shared his observations since moving to New York city to attend Columbia in 1962. Throughout his time here and through his work on the NYCHA housing crisis he’s seen that increasingly “so much of the face of New York is now for the wealthy people…. A lot of the focus is on so called ‘affordable housing’ which deals with middle class people and union members and people that have political clout,” but troubling to Harry was the absence of a coming together of “the affordable housing people,” and “the people living in intractable poverty and fighting to save public housing.” Matthew And Harry explore why that might be:

 As we looked forward, Arizona P4P member Al Bell asked Matthew whether he had heard of any members of congress who truly understand this issue of eviction and could potentially become an advocate. Matthew shared some encouraging updates with news of happenings on ‘The Hill’ since the publication of Evicted.  Give a listen:

Michelle McCleary helped take our perspective from the macro to the micro-level. “If I knew someone was hungry, I’d buy them a sandwich. If they were cold, I’d give them a coat” she shares, “What is our personal responsibility to our fellow man?!’ “I personally think this is where the conversation has got to go if we are going to make any lasting change…” Matthew replied. “By 2025 about 1.6 billion people will live in substandard housing or unaffordable housing… climate change and housing are the biggest issues facing humanity.”

You can hear Matthew and Michelle’s conversation below.

You can listen to the full conversation with Matthew Desmond below, ENJOY.



Next Politics for the People Selection:

Terrible Virtue


by Ellen Feldman

Our conference call with the author

will be on January 22nd, 2017 at 7 pm EST





Readers’ Forum–Al Bell and Catana Barnes. P4P Call Tonight

Our final commentaries on EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City are by Al Bell from Arizona and Catana Barnes from Nevada.

Dial in this evening at 7 pm EST for our conversation with the author of EVICTED, Matthew Desmond.  The call in number is 641 715-3605 and the access code is 767775#.


Al Bell (R) with Arizona democracy activists, Tim Castro (L), Patrick McWhortor, Amanda Melcher and Adriana Espinoza


Evicted is a story we need to know. It can only be known by living within it, not talking about it. Matthew Desmond knows and we are privileged to be exposed to that knowledge.

Your respondents have made the clear case that most of us have never had to face the life Matthew Desmond shared with us in Evicted. Many thing can be said of this powerful story. One of them is that, if one has ever lived in circumstances like those Mathew describes, his ability to convey what that feels like is exceptional, indeed. While our family was never evicted in the way Matthew depicts, I do remember living as a kid in a trailer camp where the four year old girl next door burned to death because she tipped a can of kerosene on a hot plate on the floor of the sixteen foot trailer her family lived in (same size as ours). When the trains roared by, a couple hundred feet away, everything shook and rattled. We were in our own world and the “other” world where real people lived was something of a mystery. The vast difference between that experience and those Matthew describes, however, is that we had a way out and it eventually worked.

Yes, housing does matter and we escaped owing to unique circumstances. The people Matthew writes about will never enjoy those circumstances as long as our current housing culture prevails—and probably not even if it changes for the better. Lag times and generational gaps are immense. Having spent 47 years in the community planning business, I could go on all day about the multiple dimensions of how the dice are loaded for people like those in Matthew’s book. You’re lucky: I won’t do that!

What is truly incredible about Matthew’s story is how he lived it himself—an act of commitment most of us would never contemplate, let alone carry out. This story reveals so much because it is told through the eyes of real experience, not vicarious tales. I was waiting through most of the book to find out if this is real, or some feat of imagination. Then came the last chapter and an avalanche of insight and revelation.

In contrast to most investigative reports, I spent a significant amount of time with his chapter notes. They could be a book all in themselves.

I know you will express our book club members’ gratitude for Matthew’s commitment to revealing reality by living it himself. That is true dedication. I have no idea how he did that and managed to live his own life at the same time. We are truly in his debt. His wife must be some kind of saint! You can certainly add my name to the list of appreciative and highly impressed readers.

And thank you, Cathy, for exposing us to this amazing work.

 Al Bell is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.

Catana Barnes

catana barnes speaking

Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is one of the best books I have had the pleasure to read. The accounts of real life struggles brought me to tears more than once as I watched someone I know going through the very issues being faced in the book as well as the very real struggles I face myself. I was also struck by the number of societal pitfalls that ensnare those who are not fortunate enough to buy their way out of their plight.

I grew up poor, by all American standards, and have become even more impoverished throughout adulthood. As I was reading Evicted, I came to the realization that the lives of my children, many of my friends and I have been significantly influenced by the societal pitfalls Matthew Desmond alludes to in his book. Unfortunately, it appears that the societal pitfalls are becoming more expansive at the same time there is greater monetary reward for landlords.

One of the most striking chapters I have read so far is Chapter 2: Making Rent. I learned a great deal about the impact of corporations moving their companies out of the country in search of cheap labor as well as the impact of President Clinton’s welfare reform that took place in the early 1990s. I also learned that there are people who have had to and are paying up to ninety percent of their income on rent alone and the fact that laws and policies protect landlords and punish tenants.

Matthew Desmond does a superb job at reaching the conscience and heart of the reader. He also does a superb job at educating the reader about a highly destructive societal pitfall. As I stated previously, I consider “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” to be one of the best books I have ever read and highly recommend it to everyone.

Catana Barnes is the founder and President of Independent Voters of Nevada.


Politics for the People Conference Call

With Matthew Desmond

Sunday, October 23rd at 7 pm EST


Call In Number: 641 715-3605

Access code 767775#

Reader’s Forum–Al Bell


Al Bell (R) with activists from Open Primaries and Independent Voters for Arizona, May 2016

A Marshall Plan for America:  a review by Al Bell of Part Six of Who Stole the American Dream? By Hedrick Smith: Challenge and Response

Hedrick Smith tells the story—quite tellingly—of how and why the American Dream is in trouble. He ends by suggesting ten steps—a Marshall Plan for America—for turning that around. This review focuses on those steps.

Now, four years after its writing, is this still worth reading? Absolutely. Are the action steps still relevant? Same answer. The reason: force and counterforce have reached fever pitch in the current political attack on historic governance institutions. Anger at everything, trust of nothing, and mountains of money seem to drive our politics. Limited progress on a few fronts leave the situation still grim.

This book joins many others in proposing approaches to long-festering American issues. This is beyond the focus of the Independent Movement specifically, which seeks to enfranchise independent voters, enabling them to participate in and influence our governance. Yet, I believe these excursions are essential. After all, a major purpose for seeking a better electoral process is to achieve a better governance outcome. Strengthening voting is both an end and a means.

I have clustered the steps in a somewhat different order and add only one step from a different source (the author’s sequence appears in parentheses). This is, in part, my attempt to consider circumstances now compared to 2012. You are perfectly welcome to shoot holes in my sequence; just don’t shoot the messenger!

  1. (5) Fix the Corporate Tax Code to Promote Job Creation at Home.
  2. (4) Make the U.S. Tax Code Fairer

Like it or not, politics follows the money. I view these as an indivisible couplet. A sliver of bipartisan light seems to be shining on improving our bizarre taxation system. Congress needs to demonstrate—for itself and for Americans generally—that it can actually solve real problems. Maybe these will break the logjam.

  1. (10) Mobilize the Middle Class
  2. (9) Rebuild the Political Center

This is the terrain of and others focused on voting equity for the largest segment of American voters. I note that: 1) the independent voting movement is already well started and will continue to mature, 2) these initiatives currently operate despite congressional, presidential and party nonfeasance, and 3) success on steps one and two could potentially help steps three and four along.

  1. (2) Push Innovation, Science and High-Tech Research
  2. (1) [Substantially Expand] Infrastructure Jobs to Compete Better

I combine these two because they are central to essential job growth and promote a desirably wide range of employment opportunities. Strong intergovernmental and public/private partnerships—many already in place—will be essential because these are such interrelated initiatives. Return on investment is immense.

  1. (3) Generate a Manufacturing Renaissance
  2. (7) Save on War and Weapons

These two steps are a natural pairing because they will need to be phased in over an extended period. Jobs lost to defense related work will need to be picked up in broader manufacturing categories. We have done this before; those memories need to be refreshed and recalibrated.

  1. (6) Push China to Live up to Fair Trade
  2. (8) Fix Housing and Protect the Safety Net

I am inclined to pull the safety net component out for specific attention and tie it to steps one and two. China relationships and the housing market are so long-term in nature that we might think of them, respectively, as ongoing foreign policy and domestic programs. Attention must be relentless and collaborative.

I suggest an added step proposed by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein in their recently updated book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks Was. It could be entitled “Restore Workable Procedures to the Senate.” It should appear near the top of the list. They argue that partisan tinkering with Senate rules has weakened the governance capability the Constitution expects of the Senate (this book should be high on our reading list, too).

It is often said that we are a nation of laws. That is an incomplete sentence. We are a nation of imperfect laws, written by imperfect people, through an imperfect process. Counterculture though it may be, we have to keep paying attention. Mr. Smith provides clues on where to direct that attention. We are not big on attention span, especially given the toxic war the political parties have declared on America.

It has been argued that Americans do best when confronted by a powerful and imminent threat. It’s here. It’s us, just as Pogo once observed. Nobody said that keeping a republic alive and well would be easy and they were surely right. Hedrick Smith offers ample evidence. He also presents a coherent strategy for rebuilding confidence in ourselves.

This Mr. Smith brought Washington to us. Bravo!


Reminder: Politics for the People

Conference Call With Hedrick Smith

Sunday, June 19th @ 7 pm EST

(641) 715-3605   Code 767775#


Al Bell Reviews The War on Alcohol

The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State

By Lisa McGirr


Al Bell with Sarah Smallhouse and Deborah Gain Braley, Phoeniz, AZ


At first, I did not tune in to why Lisa McGirr’s new book is so incredibly relevant to our current political war zone. It turns out to be one of the most valuable books I have read in recent months—and I read about one a week.

She tells the story of the Prohibition era from a much broader and deeper perspective than we get from the myth of Prohibition. That common version is driven by images of a failed social experiment best represented by visions of speakeasies, mobsters, flappers, moonshiners, and FBI agents breaking down saloon doors. Like most things that are alleged to be true, that image contains some truth, but it is highly inaccurate and, worse, painfully misleading.

If you only read one paragraph of this review, here it is. If you care deeply about our Nation and its unending struggle to reach its potential, The War on Alcohol offers insights that can significantly inform your contribution to that cause. It documents a classic case of advantaged Americans intentionally and aggressively intimidating and exploiting less advantaged Americans almost 100 years ago. We are there again, but magnified exponentially. There is much to learn here.

It is true that Prohibition failed on at least two counts: 1) it promoted drinking rather than eliminating it, and 2) it gave impetus (some would say, birth) to a wild and unrestrained cultural shift based on alcohol, first in the big cities and then spreading throughout the land. The price was high and it still is.

The story of Prohibition is not just about alcohol. That was the premise, but the premise was soon polluted by the targeted and highly discriminatory enforcement regimes that prevailed during the 14 years between the 18th and 21st Amendments to our Constitution. It is a story of arrogant Protestant religious zealots who looked down on “lesser” recent immigrants, Catholics, Negroes, minorities, and the poor, who were viewed as threats to traditional Christian moral standards of behavior. Meanwhile, those with money and political connections, as well as the criminally inclined, prospered and capitalized on the federally imposed constraints on access to alcohol. In truth, all of those who claimed special privilege violated the law, too. It’s just that relatively few of them were ever punished.

The power of this intensive investigation of the real nature of Prohibition is that it exposes the pain and tragedy visited upon the target populations by selective enforcement. This part of history is seldom told; those who suffer the most usually have neither the ability to tell their story nor the platform from which it can be shared. While I only note it here, the role of the Ku Klux Klan, in partnership with Protestant ministers, public officials and such activist organizations as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is a sad and reprehensible sub-plot in the story.

Other consequences are thoroughly revealed: the vast growth in Federal law enforcement organizations and roles; the extensive expansion of our penal system that continues to haunt us even today, with its terrible cost in treasure and lives wasted; and the lightning shift that moved the power base of targeted populations from their historic association with the “Party of Lincoln” to the Democratic Party. This latter sea change set the stage for the New Deal and subsequent legislation that dominated the political landscape for decades.

Reading this book is sometimes uncomfortable. That is what happens when the truth reveals things that we would rather hadn’t happened or would rather keep in the shadows if they did. Ms. McGirr casts light on the extreme hypocrisy of the times.

This slice of American history illuminates intended and, more importantly, unintended consequences of one group of Americans (us) telling another group of Americans (them) how they should live their lives, insisting that (they), being lesser humans, must now abide by rules of personal behavior that (we), being the real Americans, rightfully impose upon them. Really?

Does this sound familiar? Have you tuned in to the Republican Party Presidential candidates lately? Americans have heard this before. Ms. McGirr tells us when, where, how, why, and with what consequences.

A detail of her writing I must applaud is typically missing from histories and should be a universal practice. She routinely expresses cost information in both historic and current dollar values. This is the only way for the reader to appreciate the true magnitude of what is being presented. Bravo!

The author packs a great deal of information into just over 250 pages. It is not an easy read, but an extremely important one.


We are at a new level in the schism between Americans, but with vastly magnified capabilities to escalate distortion and dysfunction—and to do so at lightning speed. That schism draws much of its energy from a contemporary us/them emotional heat, just as we saw during Prohibition. Fear, anger, frustration, and distrust stalk the land. Much of it is justified. Once again, the search is on for scapegoats. They are readily available, as always—and the true culprits generally skate free.

The keystone of Lisa McGirr’s tale comes at the end. The same righteous mentality that drove Prohibition also empowers our so-called war on drugs, but on steroids. At some point, we need to confront the exponential cost in lives and treasure that mentality promotes. This book would be a fine beginning point for that dialogue.

For those Americans motivated to repeat this pattern, it might be worth a simple warning, based on our Prohibition experience: be very careful what you wish for.

Al Bell is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.

Reminder: P4P Conference Call

with Lisa McGirr

Sunday, April 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call in number (641) 715-3605

Access code 767775#

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