Why should the President be the only one who presents his views on the current status of the nation? This is my assessment of the State of the Union.
The government of the United States is increasingly becoming an aristocracy. The gap between the top 1% and the rest of us grows ever wider, and the law no longer applies to the elite, but is instead used as a weapon to keep the populace in check. The checks and balances built into our structures of government have been circumvented, and new evidence putting the lie to our nation’s ostensible democracy accumulates daily. It is no exaggeration to call the present circumstances a crisis.
Overpopulation and Climate Change
We are destroying our planet. This is a global problem, but one the US contributes to disproportionately. Our population is unsustainable and growing, and the issue is being largely ignored. Climate change is a reality. If we continue on our current course, Earth is expected become largely uninhabitable by the year 2300. Where is the widespread mainstream panic? It is missing because most people are completely unaware of the problem. Some are listening to talking heads denying reality, and others just haven’t been adequately informed of the danger. Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy will be a drop in the bucket to even what is already inevitable of the coming catastrophe. Immediate change is fundamentally necessary to the survival of our species.
One of the greatest contributors to environmental problems is the factory meat farming industry. These large corporations calibrate their business models to take advantage of the fact that the government fines they receive for the large scale destruction they wreak on the environment are significantly cheaper to pay than it would be to actually handle waste properly. Since the vast majority of the meat available to average citizens is produced by these companies (and it can be difficult to get accurate information about its origins), the most effective thing most of us can personally do to help the environment is to eat less (or no) meat.
Obviously we’d benefit from greater awareness of the situation and legislative and policy changes being made to address the issue. Freely available birth control, education, and encouragement to take advantage of it are some key, sorely needed reforms.
Foreign Policy and the Bill of Rights
The President has, in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution and other laws and international treaties, granted himself and all future Presidents the power to secretly assassinate or imprison and potentially torture you without formal charges, warrants, or any other sort of due process of law. In addition, he has extended and expanded the secret, unwarranted spying on all Americans started by Gee Dub in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and just over a week ago we learned that the databases governing both of these functions will be combined and secretly administered by the same government agency.
Obama has also, in violation of the First Amendment, continued and expanded with the war against whistle blowers who expose government corruption, demonizing Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for their heinous acts of
journalism espionage which could potentially illuminate to the American public what is really happening in the halls of power.
Other than that, American foreign policy hasn’t changed much in the last few decades: we continue our crusade in the Middle East and around the world for freedom and democracy (i.e. the interests of American elites, regardless of the opinions of the affected populace) and against despotism (i.e. governments and leaders not eager to conform to US interests, regardless of how they gained power). The current outlook has the war industry enjoying the self-perpetuating War
of on Terror with no end for the foreseeable future.
Unmanned drones are the tools currently being increasingly used to
inspire anti-American sentiment in bring justice to Arab nations. They are advertised as being extremely accurate at taking out specific targeted groups of random citizens militants whose identity doesn’t even need to be known before they are murdered, thanks to our Nobel Peace Prize winning leader’s policy of “signature strikes.”
The greatest threat to the global domination agenda at the moment is considered to be the possibility that Iran may at some point gain access to nuclear weapons. Since this would deter the US from attacking that country at will, it cannot be borne. During the next presidential term, regardless of who is elected, it seems likely that there will be a push to attack Iran, over the objections of most other nations.
The Economy and Privatization
Our money is more of an illusion now than ever, yet it is at the heart of everything that has been happening. We bailed out the banks with the money of a government trillions of dollars in debt, and now allow those banks to borrow more at 0% interest and then lend it back to the government for a profit. No, it doesn’t make sense.
Money is sometimes said to be the root of all evil, but that’s not really true. Money has no morals; it’s just a construct, a number, inherently ethically neutral. But in a sense that’s the problem. Free-market capitalists believe in the ideal of meritocracy, where the people who rise to the top of society get there based on merit. The market will weed out the injustices; surely customers will not purchase a product in support of criminal behavior. If a corporation is party to gross injustices, surely a competitor will arise who won’t do the same and the customers will flock to the better brand. (Assuming customers have perfect information and the time and ability to process it.)
Since money, the measure of merit, is amoral, it doesn’t actually work this way. Money as an extrinsic motivator rewards, by definition, anything that produces more money. Right now our economy is closer to a free market than it has been in decades, and rampant corruption is the result. Money doesn’t inherently do anything to dissuade (rather it ultimately encourages) practices like child labor, unfair work hours, and fraud. If a true free market could possibly work, these problems would never have existed.
The widespread chaos of the complete breakdown of our economy was postponed (and likely exacerbated) with the government bailout of the banks. Unsustainable systems set up by the finance industry emulated the rising pressure of an active volcano about to burst. With the bailout, we paved over the volcano with three feet of cement, but you can’t trick physics. And when the eruption finally comes, it will only be more disastrous than if we’d let it happen in the first place. To be clear, the bailout itself isn’t the problem. It’s that none of the conditions that caused the problem in the first place have been changed; the same people who created this situation are still in charge. The pressure is still rising.
Our tax dollars were spent to save the financial institutions who had brought us all to ruin, and yet we have nothing to show for it; no concessions were made in negotiating the deal, and our government will gain nothing back from it. Why would they ever agree to such terms? Because the banks were on both sides of the negotiating table.
Many of the regulatory departments of the government have become captive to the industries they are supposed to regulate, through a combination of “revolving doors” and lobbying. Industry elites will move on to regulatory, judicial, or legislative positions where they can enact, uphold, or remove regulations in order to promote greater profits for those corporations, then leave office and reap the rewards. The same pattern of regulatory capture occurs in food and agriculture, finance, defense and intelligence, and likely most other areas one might care to closely inspect.
With enough money distributed among Congress and the President, we’ve seen that virtually anything can be made legal. Did you illegally aid the government in spying on all American citizens? No problem, we’ll make you retroactively immune from even civil lawsuits. Committed countless felonies in order to enrich your financial institution? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. You’re trying to steal the houses of millions of Americans through fraudulent foreclosures? We’ll make you immune to lawsuits, too, and while we’re at it we’ll even set up special courts just to expedite your theft. Limits on campaign donation amounts only mean that the bulk of the payoff will come in six-figure fees for single-hour lectures after the candidates leaves office. Effectively, any large private industry has the power to literally write the laws. Now, they can even write them after the fact.
Other elites in charge of the government see this and want in on the action. This explains the trend toward privatization of as many government functions as possible: education, prison administration, Social Security, healthcare (“Obamacare” does not create government healthcare, it forces Americans to purchase health insurance, taking away the power of consumers to choose not to participate if the prices are too high), intelligence, military, space exploration, etc.
We have arrived not at a meritocracy (rule by the most qualified), but a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy), an aristocracy (rule by the elite class). Reality TV has shown us that these people are no more fit to govern than the rest of us. And as a result, the wealthy pay the least taxes, and arrange the government budget to cut the programs that help the poor in favor of those that help themselves.
These elites are the leaders of both the Republican and the Democratic parties. While they espouse different stances in order to present the illusion of choice, their actions show a different set of motivations. What benefits the common interests of the elite is automatically adopted as the unanimous best course for the nation, and not even up for debate. In this sense, the Red and Blue parties are effectively just two parts of a single large political machine run by the wealthy; call it the Purple Party.
The policy continuity with Bush is a stark contrast to what Obama offered as a candidate. Look at the broken promises from the 2008 Democratic platform: a higher minimum wage, a ban on the replacement of striking workers, seven days of paid sick leave, a more diverse media ownership structure, renegotiation of NAFTA, letting bankruptcy judges write down mortgage debt, a ban on illegal wiretaps, an end to national security letters, stopping the war on whistle-blowers, passing the Employee Free Choice Act, restoring habeas corpus, and labor protections in the FAA bill. Each of these pledges would have tilted bargaining leverage to debtors, to labor, or to political dissidents.
– Matt Stoller, The progressive case against Obama
The fact is that the Obama Administration, like the Clinton Administration before it, knowingly engaged in a cynical wager. They bet that they could pursue a host of policies fundamentally odious to their core supporters and yet be reelected. The calculation depended on the premise that rank-and-file Democrats would have no other option.
Anyone who has ever gone shopping knows that their bargaining power depends ultimately upon his/her willingness to walk away.
– Robert E. Prasch, The Progressive Retreat from Obama: Who is to Blame?
Our cadre of financial elites have discovered the secret to disarming the checks and balances established in the Constitution. By forming a political monopoly, the Purple Party has reduced all three branches of government to puppets. How does this work?
The Purple Party presents two options. There has to be a difference between the two, so on the issues elites care less about, the Democrats and Republicans oppose each other. These are presented as the only two options: if any of the issues they disagree on is something you have an opinion about, your only option is to support the rest of the ideology of the party that shares your stance.
This may sound like some conspiracy theory that all this was planned from the outset, but really it isn’t. These two political parties have been in power for over a century, and this coordinated attack on all that our nation stands for is a much more recent development. But it is no accident.
Some might believe that this has been an unfortunate series of accidents, but it was not. It can be ascribed to the strategy laid out in the early 1980s by Rep. Tony Coelho, who was then the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and to the powerful influence of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), founded in 1985. Each of these groups worked long and diligently to end the Democratic Party’s long association with New Deal-type legislation so as to increase its appeal to economic elites. Additionally, they worked hard to sever the Democratic Party’s association with anti-war causes and the extensive 1970s effort to expose and place limits on the executive branch’s capacity for war-making, covert action by the CIA, domestic spying, and associated “dirty tricks.”
By 1996, this effort had come to full fruition.
Robert E. Prasch, On Voting Strategically in 2012: The Ultimatum Game
News media is delivered by large conglomerates owned by elites, and its content is colored purple by corporate interests, reducing journalists to little more than propaganda distributors. The Purple Party, on occasion, even exerts direct control over the facts. And the message is clear. We have two choices: oligarchy or plutocracy.
But are those really our only options? That premise is the foundation of the Purple Party’s political monopoly, so they will do all they can to convince you of it, but is it true?
In short, no.
The Purple monopoly, being political rather than financial, in a nation of even our handicapped democracy, is subject to a fundamentally different economy than a traditional monopoly. Its currency is not money but votes, and while cash goes a long way toward obtaining the needed votes, their security can never be absolute. It is possible for this situation to change.
The Only Nonviolent Solution
The Occupy Movement is a harbinger of the unrest this situation has created. So far, shouting in the streets has achieved little. And if these conditions are allowed to continue, a violent revolution seems the inevitable result. But right now that isn’t necessary; there is a way to reach resolution, taking advantage of the structures and systems already in place:
We elect our own candidates, to every government position we can.
Third parties haven’t stood much of a chance in real elections for over a hundred years. You may not agree with everything (anything?) above, perhaps because your information came from different sources. What platform could possibly encompass the entirety of the 99% and enable the consensus needed to defeat the Purple Party?
That is, a system where everyone gets to vote on specific policies and laws rather than just candidates. The Founding Fathers were opposed to direct democracy, but they weren’t omniscient, and note that they too were elites; creating a representative democracy was in their self-interest. Of course, at the time the technology to support a large scale direct democracy didn’t exist. Now it does.
How would this work with our current system? A political party and online system would be created in keeping with the E2D International Manifesto: party candidates vote on and raise issues in Congress and other positions only in the exact way that the public votes. I have several ideas for how the system should work which I will expand on later, but for now I’ll just say that the reason it can work is because there is only one issue on which the 99% need to agree. Only one question for each of us to answer.
Should your vote count?
In the meantime, we need to support non-Purple media outlets such as WikiLeaks, Democracy Now!, and We Are Change, and journalists like those whose work I have linked above. We must do everything in our power to facilitate the return of sanity to public office. And continue to consider the question: should your vote count?
I know my answer.