This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

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Monday, April 21, 2014


Millions of Americans are concerned about the government’s unwillingness to seriously address the consequences of global warming.  Many thousands are actively resisting Keystone XL, fracking, Big Coal and Big Oil and LNG exports that would only add fuel to the fire, but most people who accept the reality of global climate change have no idea just how horrific its effects will be. Even if we were to meet the most optimistic goals for emissions reduction tomorrow, some scientists believe we have already passed the extinction point. While no one can know that for sure, it is probably a conservative estimate that at least a billion people are fated to die from decisions we have already allowed our leaders to make, no matter what choices we make now.

The global population is already unsustainable. The World Watch Institute determined that if resource consumption rates relative to income were constant, the world could only achieve a steady-state economy (one capable of sustaining the planet’s population indefinitely) by drastic population reduction or even more drastic economic deprivation. It estimated that even if we eliminate inequality, the planet could only sustain a population of 2.1 billion people with an average income of $35,690.   If instead we continue to allow individuals to amass unlimited wealth, global poverty can only continue to worsen. Currently wealthy nations would not be spared. We cannot grow out of the problem by increasing world GDP due to the finite nature of many critical resources. We have to make difficult choices soon, because every year we delay will result in millions of unnecessary deaths. Global climate change sets an upper limit on how long we have to act before human civilization itself collapses.

There is no doubt that the power of denial is strong. Even when the survival of human civilization is at stake, a substantial number of people will grasp at any argument that allows them to believe they needn’t worry. The fact that the chances against doing anything to change the trajectory of global climate change seem astronomical is another reason to deny the reality of what is happening to the world we are going to leave our children. While a growing number of former skeptics are accepting the reality of global climate change, most stubbornly refuse to consider the likelihood that it is caused by human activity. They are unwilling to consider the likely consequences if they are wrong.  Perhaps if they could picture what will happen if we do not act now, some of them would be shaken from their complacency.  Just as importantly, people who merely fret about the problem now might get active.

I have yet to read a detailed description of what happens when the water level rises to the point where it swamps populated islands and sea coast cities. The refugee problem in the US would dwarf the Katrina disaster, but the consequences would be much worse for poorer nations around the world. Who would feed these refugees, and how would they be protected from exposure?  The world food supply would be devastated by drought, desertification, storms and disruptions of the food distribution chain. Prices would increase, especially given the role of speculators whose manipulation of commodities markets have already contributed to mass starvation. This is a problem that will only get worse as population pressures rise, agriculture suffers and the inevitable consequences of supply and demand kick in.

The availability of clean water is already a serious problem in much of the world. Increasing droughts in many areas would make this problem a crisis, especially in third world nations. Even under current conditions, water consumption is estimated to increase by 40% by 2025.  Africa would no doubt suffer the worst, even though African produces only a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gases generated by wealthy nations. Making matters still worse, water privatization is becoming the norm around the world, even in the US.  It is the poor who will suffer the most as water becomes an inaccessible commodity that is not even made available in rural areas, since rural infrastructure is so much less profitable than only supplying water to cities.

With overcrowding, malnutrition and lack of clean water, disease will become pandemic. With tens of millions of Americans lacking access to timely medical care, how much worse will it be for the world’s poor? Already, 1.5 million children under the age of five die every year of cholera, dysentery and typhoid fever. 7-8 million people die each year from a combination of starvation and lack of clean water, another 2-3 million from preventable disease and a half- million from the direct effects of war.

We cannot prevent the loss of untold millions of lives from decisions already made, but we can assure the survival of civilization if we start to work now on the difficult task of establishing democratic rule in the US and the world. That work has already begun, but millions of people whose children’s lives will be affected by the outcome have not yet become engaged. The only way to create a government of, by and for the People in the US or anywhere is to succeed in the nation that has the most military, economic and political power in the world. We must rid Washington of the tools of the corporate elite to create a government that will put human need over the greed of the corporate Puppetmasters of the Current Occupants of Congress and the White House.

The way to do that is to make a campaign issue of support for a constitutional amendment declaring that spending money to influence the outcome of elections is not speech and corporations do not have constitutional rights.   Learn more about the Pledge to Amend campaign here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


As any literate citizen knows, the global economic crisis was brought about by the unregulated banksters who run Wall Street. Few realize that in the aftermath of the near-collapse of the system of international credit, they have expanded a shadow economy that has been financed by taxpayer dollars. The total value of the derivative and commodities markets is now many times the world GDP. This system amounts to a pyramid scheme. If unchallenged, it is destined to leave the rich more powerful than ever and the 99% destitute. The growth-based debt economy is not capable of recovering, yet mainstream economists cannot seem to fathom why.

Classically trained economists are beginning to see that prospects for economic recovery in the post-bailout era are dismal to nonexistent. Although increasingly recognizing the consequences of crony capitalism, they must learn to question their most basic assumptions to understand the problem and its solution. The answer to the continuing global economic crisis requires a complete restructuring of the economy based on principles of environmentally sustainable local production and trade, worker-owned enterprises and nationalization of monetary policy.

It isn’t hard to understand why the economic system cannot recover as currently structured. As jobs are shipped offshore, those being created in the US are mostly low-paying. This limits the flow of wealth upon which growth is based.  With declining demand, corporations are unwilling to invest in the real (productive) economy in the US. Economists who blamed the consumer for incurring excessive debt failed to recognize that the banksters had created an economy that depended on ever-expanding credit. Driven to consume ever more by systematic brainwashing, Americans amassed huge debt under the assumption that the economy and especially housing prices would continue to grow forever. Sadly, they have not learned the lessons that the collapse of the Ponzi scheme that fueled the economy in boom times have to offer. There will be no return to prosperity as long as we continue to equate economic health to growth in GDP.

The architects of this system walked away with billions while homeowners, taxpayers and those dependent on the social safety net paid the price. Austerity for the 99% is hailed as the answer because it is the only way to maintain the privileges of the 1%.  In the face of austerity, the growth-based economy is destined to fail. Continuing to amass government debt to promote war over natural resources, sustain a system of corporate welfare and provide even fewer protections to a population devastated by economic collapse consigns future generations to debt slavery. We can only escape this fate by transitioning to an economy that places human needs over corporate greed.

Capitalism itself depends on the assumption of endless growth. When the wealth and power of the economic elite depends on its ability to extract wealth from workers, production has to increase exponentially. This requires markets for the goods produced. If jobs are not available and workers cannot provide this demand, there is nothing to sustain them. Even is the global elite were to suddenly realize that wealth distribution were in their best interest, it could not save a growth-based economy that is ultimately limited by the planet’s finite resources. When the trillions of dollars in debt that the derivatives and commodities market begin to be called in as investments in the globalized economy fail, the collapse of 2008 will seem like a mild recession in comparison.

There is a solution. The United States is the driver of the global economy. If Americans want to create a world economy that is just to all, they will have to create a true representative democracy. That is the only way that the People can prevent human civilization from collapsing when the resources upon which it is based become inaccessible to the masses. It is up to us to unite to challenge the corruption that has made us the pawns of the global banking elite. We can start by making a campaign issue of support for a constitutional amendment that would establish that money is not speech and that corporations are not people with constitutional rights.

If we have any concern for our children we will put aside partisan differences and together, take back America for the People.

Readers interested in learning more about the consequences of endless growth and the principles of a steady-state economy are encouraged to read Enough is Enough by Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Oregon voters will likely have a clear choice in the US Senate race in November. Unless Senator Merkley’s Republican challenger is willing to endorse a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and the more recent McCutcheon decision overturning aggregate limits on donations to candidates and parties, it will be obvious which candidate is running to serve the interests of We the People rather than corporations and the obscenely rich. Merkley is a cosponsor of an amendment proposed by Bernie Sanders that would ban all corporate and union contributions and allow limits on individual campaign expenditures.

 In District 4, Congressman DeFazio has done him one better. He has cosponsored an equivalent resolution in the House along with another that would abolish corporate personhood, the doctrine that holds that corporations have constitutional rights. That is a key element in a whole series of Supreme Court decisions based on the fallacy that money is speech. This means that those who can afford it are able to speak loud enough to drown out the voices of the People and those who represent them. Ending corporate constitutional rights is the second condition that an amendment should satisfy to most effectively deal with the problem of corporate control of the US government.

For those who are fuzzy on the details of the 2010 Citizens United decision, it reversed a century of law in removing all limits on “independent” expenditures by unions and for-profit corporations to influence political campaigns. McCutcheon takes the idea that money is speech to its logical extreme in allowing the wealthiest Americans to spend unlimited amounts in direct contributions to parties and to give the personal maximum to as many candidates running for federal office as they choose. That means that not only is the presidency for sale to the highest bidder (as we saw recently when Sheldon Adelson invited prospective Republican candidates to apply for his support), but Congress is up for grabs as well.

The only way to counter an activist Supreme Court that is denying Americans the right to control corruption in campaign finance is to pass a constitutional amendment such as the one that Merkley supports. It is up to voters to see that this issue receives the attention it deserves during the campaign season. The only way that Merkley will succeed in his efforts to rein in the power of the banksters, fight free trade agreements that violate national sovereignty of accomplish any of the other objectives that Americans demand is for us to support him in his efforts to pass an amendment. The Oregon Democracy Coalition (ODC) is working to help make support for an amendment a campaign issue.

 If you are a resident of the United States, you can help.

ODC takes the position that the first step in dealing with corruption in government is to put into the constitution the principles that money is not speech and that corporations (including unions) do not have constitutional rights, including the “right” to put money from their general treasuries into elections. They are organizing around the state to get people to show up for campaign appearances and other events featuring candidates to ask them if they will support a constitutional amendment of this type. They encourage people to start groups in their home towns to fill these forums with people willing to put this question to them in public settings.

ODC also encourages individuals to write letters to the editor and to talk to local political, social justice, church and other groups about the issue. It is helpful to get organizations to endorse such coalitions and their efforts. This is the social justice issue of our times. It is ironic that the idea of corporations has its origin in the 14th Amendment, which was intended to ensure the rights of former slaves. As interpreted by the Supreme Court, it would mean that average Americans have essentially become slaves of corporate interests who control Congress. It is impossible to have a representative democracy unless voters have the opportunity to hear from candidates whose campaigns are not being financed be deep-pocketed special interest groups. Failing to deal with this issue would mean the failure of the democratic experiment in government.