Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Restoring the American Dream - Part II


"Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day." – Theodore Roosevelt, April 19, 1906

What's Happened to Our Democracy? Here we are, touted as one of the greatest democracies the world has ever had, but, in this day and age, our democracy is a sham, a farce, perhaps even a lie. Oh, we have many of the trappings of a democracy. We preach democracy to the rest of the world. We praise those countries in the Middle East who are struggling for democracy themselves. But, irony of ironies, we don't really have a democracy ourselves. We don't even have a democratic republic.

The American polity is infected with a serious imbalance of power between elites and masses, a power which is the principal threat to our democracy. – Paul Wellstone

So, What Do We Have? The democracy which we all learned to treasure so much exists no more in this country. In its place, we now have not just an oligarchy – a political system governed by a few people – but a plutocracy. – a political system governed by the wealthy people. They have become our masters, and we have become their serfs. Another irony: Our forefathers came to this continent to escape the aristocracies of Europe, only to leave the door open for their descendants to be ruled by a form of government that closely resembles aristocracy.. Average citizens may not have iron shackles around their ankles, but they are shackled financially and serve at the mercy of the plutocrats.

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” –Thomas Jefferson (1812)

We're not a democracy. It's a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we're a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy." -----Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General (2007)

Plutocracy and democracy don’t mix. Plutocracy too long tolerated leaves democracy on the auction block, subject to the highest bidder. Bill Moyers

How Did This Happen?  Over the past thirty years or so, Congress and big money interests have developed a mutually-beneficial, symbiotic relationship. Big Business has been increasingly generous to elected officials. And elected officials have been exceedingly generous to them in return. Favorable tax breaks, incentives, fewer regulations and lax enforcement have resulted in massive amounts of under-controlled and under-regulated capitalism and free enterprise, which has been allowed to run out of control. As a result, the top 1% of our population now takes in 25% of the income in this country, holds 40% of the total wealth, and virtually control the lives of 99% of the population.

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." – Louis D. Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice (1916-1939)

The owners and top-level managers in large income-producing properties are far and away the dominant power figures in the United States. Their corporations, banks, and agribusinesses come together as a corporate community that dominates the federal government in Washington. – William Domhoff, Who Rules America: Power and Politics in the Year 2000,p. 1

Are the American People to Blame?  It would be overly-simplistic to say that we, the people, are to blame – that we were asleep at the switch, or that we were too apathetic to get involved. Yes, it would indeed be overly-simplistic, and it would be wrong. That is like saying that the victim of a crime is also the to blame for the crime. And there is no way the American people would have visited this kind of mess on themselves. They were lied to and misled. They had information withheld from them and spun to cover up the truth. In the end, they, were bilked out of their life savings and their homes by financial experts. Even more than that, they were bilked out of their democracy.

Who, Then, Is to Blame?
Here is a list from of entities who are blamed for creating our present financial crisis. (Source:

As can be seen, there is more than enough blame to go around for everyone. Do they all share the blame? Perhaps, but in differing proportions and for different reasons. However, David Stockman, who was Ronald Reagan's Director of the Office of Management and Budget and closely tied to the development of Reaganomics, but now he points to massive failures by Republicans

The new (GOP) catechism, as practiced by Republican policymakers for decades now, has amounted to little more than money printing and deficit finance — vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes. This approach has not simply made a mockery of traditional party ideals. It has also led to the serial financial bubbles and Wall Street depredations that have crippled our economy.” – David Stockman, Wall Street Journal, (7/21/10),

Because of overlapping complexities and responsibilities, we will probably never know where the major blame should rest. In many cases, there was greed. In other cases, there was deliberate deceit. In still other cases, there was misplaced trust in governmental, quasi-governmental, and financial institutions. What should concern us now is getting ourselves out of this mess that our “leaders”have brought upon us. And, since we and our children, and our children's children will be paying for this mess for decades to come, we need to have a strong voice in any solution.

Continue to Part III 

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