Our top elected official called the Constitution just a piece of paper
Merry Memorial Day: The political freedom we've known is at risk
May 30 was set aside to remember soldiers. Letís not forget what supposedly they were sent to war to defend. We condense an excerpt from the 2008 book, "Moyers on Democracy", posted on AlterNet, May 17, 2008. The author is the host of the PBS show, Bill Moyers Journal.
By Bill MoyersDemocracy in America is a series of narrow escapes, and we may be running out of luck. The reigning presumption about the American experience is that the present is "better" than the past and the future will bring more improvement. Now all bets are off. The great American experience in creating a different future together has been subjugated to individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power -- and to the claims of empire, with its ravenous demands and stuporous distractions.
A sense of political impotence pervades the country -- believing the dogma of 'democracy' on a superficial public level but not believing it privately. We hold elections, knowing they are unlikely to bring the corporate state under popular control. The vigor at local levels has not been translated into new vistas of social possibility or the political will to address our most intractable challenges. Hope no longer seems the operative dynamic of America, and without hope we wonít cooperate in shaping our destiny.
Our Constitution is perilously close to being consigned to the valley of the shadow of death, betrayed by a powerful cabal of secrecy-obsessed authoritarians. Terms like "liberty" and "individual freedom" invoked by generations of Americans who battled to widen the 1787 promise to "promote the general welfare" have been perverted to create a government primarily dedicated to the welfare of the state and the political class that runs it. Yes, Virginia, there is a class war and ordinary people are losing it.
The earth we share as our common gift, to be passed on in good condition to our children's children, is being despoiled. Coal mining tears the tops off mountains and dumps them into rivers, sacrificing the health and lives of those in the river valleys to short-term profit. The stock-market frenzy scorns long-term investments -- genuine savings -- in favor of quick turnovers.
The resultant speculative bubbles, which inevitably burst, leave insiders with stuffed pockets and millions of small stockholders, pensioners, and employees out of work, out of luck, and out of hope. Banking and securities regulations were designed during the Great Depression to prevent exactly that. Who pushed for the removal of that firewall? An administration and Congress who are the political marionettes of the speculators -- and who are well rewarded for their efforts with indispensable campaign contributions.
Even honorable opponents of the practice get trapped in the web of an electoral system that effectively limits competition to those who can afford to spend millions in their run for office. Like it or not, candidates know that the largesse on which their political futures depend will last only as long as their votes are satisfactory to the sleek "bundlers" who turn the spigots of cash on and off.
The property qualifications for federal office that the framers of the Constitution expressly chose to exclude for demonstrating an unseemly "veneration for wealth" are now de facto in force and higher than the Founding Fathers could have imagined.
The compensation of corporate barons soars to heights unequaled anywhere among industrialized democracies. As wage earners struggle to keep up with rising costs for health care, for college tuitions, for affordable housing, a shrinking middle class is awash in credit card debt. The rich get richer and with each increase in their wealth are able to buy themselves more influence over those who make and those who carry out the laws.
When the state becomes the guardian of privilege to the neglect of justice for the people as a whole, it mocks Lincoln's belief in "government of the people, by the people, and for the people"; mocks the democratic notion of government as "a voluntary union for the common good". In contrast, the philosophy popularized in the last quarter century that "freedom" simply means freedom to choose among competing brands of consumer goods, that taxes are an unfair theft from the pockets of the successful to reward the incompetent, and that the market will meet all human needs while government itself becomes the enabler of privilege is as subversive as Benedict Arnold's betrayal of the Revolution he had once served.
When "We the People" -- not just a favored few -- would identify and remedy common distempers and dilemmas, our democracy might win the gamble our forebears undertook when they espoused the radical idea that people could govern themselves wisely. The notion of a wholly privatized society of competitive consumers undermines a country that had changed the lives of masses of common laboring people -- but perhaps not forever.
JJS: Work with the clay at hand. America is a mass market, Americans are mass consumers. What might appeal to them, reform-wise, is a proposal to de-tax earnings but recover societyís surplus -- the money we all spend on nature and privilege -- then de-subsidize privilege and share our surplus equitably.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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