Can national government that puts the interests of the American people ahead of short-term elite interests be achieved within the contemporary party structure?
The steady decline in
Finance. As for the financial system, the glaring contradiction between the recent surge in Goldman Sachs profits marching step-in-step with the surge in unemployment says it all. The U.S. national financial system still contains a good bit of money (at least so long as the Chinese don’t call in their loans); the allocation of that cash is the issue, and since the beginning of the new and now evidently endless Federal bailout of bankers and Wall St. gamblers, the elite has had little reason to complain about the allocation of the cash.
Environment. The environment is not even perceived by the elite as a “separate system;” rather, it is, for them, part of the financial system…just like health care. The environment, for the elite, consists of such goodies as national forests that their corporations clearcut, leaving behind a desert that cannot return to normal forest growth. Surely, the government (i.e., the taxpayer) at least gets a reasonable return for selling the national wealth to corporations? Well, no, actually the ruling elite essentially gives the trees away, in a classic “socialism for the rich” escapade that voters are too lazy to protest.
National security. National security is a bit harder for the average person to understand. The rapid spread of U.S. military bases throughout the Mideast and Central Asia (castles literally built on sand), the endless military victories in every “face-to-face” encounter between the world’s most high-tech force and 19th century insurgents, the dramatic media portrayals of the day’s little troop surge, and dominant position in national debate of stern-faced generals calling for more war (because the generals opposing war seem to get themselves sacked and then blacklisted by the compliant media) all give the impression that—whatever Washington may be doing to the rest of the world—at least U.S. national security is being well defended. Unfortunately, those foreign bases are like the dikes around
The bases, the surges, the endless expensive high-tech conflict all do have one undeniable characteristic, however: they are very good for business. Blackwater, by whatever name, is doing booming business running a mercenary army outside of Congressional control, and the need for weapons and machinery and construction is endless.
So for the elite, these four critical national problems that are as plain as day to citizens simply do not exist. The state of health care, the state of the financial system, the environment, and the state of national security are, for the rich and powerful, not problems but opportunities. Speaking in another era about a different issue, in his series of 1858 debates with Steven Douglas, Lincoln criticized Douglas’ defense of racism as “blowing out the moral lights around us, eradicating the light of reason and the love of liberty in this American people” [as quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals, 207].
Many problems in life are unfortunate situations that man must learn to cope with. It is important to remember that the state of
The rich are surely deluding themselves if they imagine that their exploitative behavior can endure endlessly, but there is little reason to think that they are worrying much about the lives their children will live: the view of the complacent is a short-term one. As far as their own personal prospects are concerned, on the other hand, the rich tend to know exactly what they are doing.
It is, for example, now well known that Wall Street investors were so sensitive to the possibility that they would be indicted under anti-gambling laws for the highly dangerous new derivative investment practices they planned around the turn of the century that they persuaded their Congressional allies to pass a law exempting them from the anti-gambling statues. So they gambled, they lost—provoking the worst recession since the Great Depression in just five years, and right before leaving office the Bush Administration used taxpayer funds to compensate them for their losses. The Democratic side of the ruling group, complicit in passing the original exemption under
And the key national security decisions being made by Washington in recent years have been choices not necessities, far different than, say, the unpalatable constraints faced by decision-makers when Hitler began his global adventure. But it is not just the obvious fact that
Given the depressingly rapid evaporation of the enthusiasm evoked by the electoral message of “change,” it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Democratic side of the ruling elite is far too complicit in the fundamental elitist policies on health care, economics, the environment, and national security to offer a strategic alternative.
In sum, it appears that only a reorganization of the national political structure akin to that when the then-innovative and crusading Republican Party was invented in 1856 will open the door to the policies required to protect American society in the 21st century.
The very secretive White House discussions about
Similar arguments could be made for the attitude toward alternative policy options in the other key arenas, but perhaps a brief checklist of what those alternatives might be will suffice:
- Empire – oppose it, for empire is democracy’s worst enemy; cut back foreign bases and resurrect diplomacy as the conflict resolution tool of choice; on Afghanistan, take the moral high road by focusing on ending the drug trade and minimize American boots on the ground by urging a global Islamic crusade to protect the Afghan population; on Israel, support the population but oppose the Greater Israel mini-empire project;
- Health care – a service and a right for all;
- Environment – start with strict enforcement of current laws to protect the nation’s air and drinking water; restructure the tax system to, at a minimum, make corporations pay reasonable market prices for access to national forests and mineral resources; include environmental degradation in calculations of cost;
- Economy – regulate first, compensate second; compensate individuals first, main street second, Wall St. last; tax to encourage work rather than financial manipulations (e.g., tax each derivative trade at a rate greater than the income tax rate paid by the average American worker).
Those are just a taste of the banquet of policy options available to a patriotic