Zaman Stanizai is professor of Mythological Studies at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara.
"The ideals and core values of America have been seriously challenged if not outright trampled upon in the conflict between the people as the rightful source of political legitimacy and the profit-driven corporations riding the unbridled greed of plutocracy. As a result the balance of power has shifted away from the people to corporations who have bought all four branches of the government—the corporate media included—through the utility of the military-industrial-congressional-prison complex."
"With the tacit approval of the executive branch, in the past five years these corporations literally looted the national treasury three times: 1) the sub-prime rate fiasco, 2) the bank bail-out robbery, and 3) the deficit reduction crisis. Not a single person has been prosecuted for the sub-prime rate fiasco while most banks are still hoarding the bailout money that was meant to help avoid foreclosures."
"This widening gap between the super rich and the dirt poor not only undermines our economic stability; it also calls into question the sustainability of the core values of the American democracy. The 'too big to fail,' call was heeded to protect the rich while the 'too poor to leave unprotected' fell on deaf ears."
Downgrading American Democracy: Is There Any Left for the Rest of Us?
Aug 08, 2011
The greatest summer attraction of 2011 in Washington has been the qualifying rounds of the re-electability acrobatics played on the stage of political theater advertised as the ‘national' debt default and deficit reduction crisis brought to you by Corporate America. The warning calls about the downgrading of American democracy have been drowned in the hue and cry of the downgraded economy. The prospects that our ideals might be in jeopardy didn't seem to bother any body. Perhaps we should pinch ourselves for a reality check?
The ideals and core values of America have been seriously challenged if not outright trampled upon in the conflict between the people as the rightful source of political legitimacy and the profit-driven corporations riding the unbridled greed of plutocracy. As a result the balance of power has shifted away from the people to corporations who have bought all four branches of the government—the corporate media included—through the utility of the military-industrial-congressional-prison complex:
The Supreme Court of the United States declared that corporations are people. These newly ‘peopled' corporations can contribute any amount of money to any candidate in any election, in essence overpowering and overwhelming any candidate who dares to oppose their agenda thereby undermining popular support. Imagine Abraham Lincoln turning in his grave as he describes ‘the best democracy money can buy' and mumbles "a government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations."
The Supreme Court also produced perhaps the first unconstitutional president of the United States in a stolen election in 2000. The court prevented a complete recount in progress in which Al Gore was gaining ground and was only a few hundred votes shy of winning; and instead endorsed the results of a flawed election with clear indications of ballot box tampering, hanging chads, fraud, and outright voter disenfranchisement. In this manner the Supreme Court gave the presidency to a friend of the corporations instead of a friend of the environment.
The United States Congress is also indebted to corporations who finance their election campaigns, and virtually draft their corporation-friendly bills. Even after an official's term of office, corporations hire them as lobbyists. The recent deficit debate is a case in point as a payback gesture. Poll after poll indicated that the majority of the American people of all walks of life wanted the deficit reduced through taxing the rich and the super rich (the under 2% minority who make more than $250,000 year) and the oil and gas companies—beneficiaries of the decade-long tax breaks. Yet, the House and the Senate exempted the rich and passed the bills on the backs of the middle class and the poor who nickel and dime to survive.
Popular measures to reduce the national debt (% support)
Raise taxes on incomes greater than $250,000
All voters 72%, Democrats 87%, Republicans 54%, Independents 73%
Raise Social Security taxes on incomes greater than $107,000
All voters 66%, Democrats79%, Republicans 44%, Independents 70%
Raise taxes on hedge funds
All voters 64%, Democrats 70%, Republicans 47%, Independents 70%
Raise Medicare premiums for wealthier retirees
All voters 61%, Democrats 68%, Republicans 50%, Independents 66%
Raise taxes on oil and gas companies
All voters 59%, Democrats 66%, Republicans 55%, Independents 60%
Washington Post-ABC News poll; July 14-17, 2011
Similarly, in 2003 an overwhelming (80%+) majority of Americans did not want a war with Iraq, yet the majority of both houses gave the president all the powers needed to start an illegal war in violation of Article 2 of the U.N. Charter.
With the tacit approval of the executive branch, in the past five years these corporations literally looted the national treasury three times: 1) the sub-prime rate fiasco, 2) the bank bail-out robbery, and 3) the deficit reduction crisis. Not a single person has been prosecuted for the sub-prime rate fiasco while most banks are still hoarding the bailout money that was meant to help avoid foreclosures. Worse yet they continue to wrongfully foreclose on many Americans, making them homeless and jobless when the economy is in dire straits. The dream of homeownership has turned into a nightmare, in particular for ethnic minorities who were largely targeted by the sub-prime mortgage securities, while big corporations are raking in record profits. The executive branch may have appeared indifferent, but the credit rating agencies were outright accomplices as they bestowed upon these financial institutions on the verge of collapse the highest ratings, higher than they are willing to rate the U.S. government.
This widening gap between the super rich and the dirt poor not only undermines our economic stability; it also calls into question the sustainability of the core values of the American democracy. The 'too big to fail,' call was heeded to protect the rich while the 'too poor to leave unprotected' fell on deaf ears.
None of this is new, but the magnitude and extent of exploitation has reached a historical height. In critical junctures of history, it has always been the middle class that has responded to the call of America. When the rising tide of Communism threatened the United States, it was the lower and middle class America that formed labor unions whose participatory nature in the management-labor relations provided a viable alternative to the proletariat that made a sham of the Soviet system. In a similar fashion Social Security warded off socialism as Medicare and Medicaid provided the necessary safety net for the deserving and the needy. Now the lower and middle class, the labor unions, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are all under attack by the upper class right-wingers.
The American entrepreneurial spirit has been stalled by the greed of misdirected globalization. Corporations will go to the end of the world to find the most vulnerable, underpaid, and exploitable labor force. When they find even less fortunate ones, they dump them in the industrial waste and move on to even cheaper labor markets. In the process they not only create poverty and economic instability in the developing countries, they also deny the American middle class descent jobs back home. In order to minimize their tax liabilities to the U.S. treasury through loopholes in the tax code they register their subsidiaries overseas and move even more jobs abroad.
War profiteers through the industrial-military-congressional complex support weapon production and export and have a hand in propping up dictators and ‘civil' wars in order to create markets for the military hardware they produce. This creates political instability and alienation in the third world countries a problem that is exacerbated by the more than 800 American military bases on foreign soil, but it also makes our industries less competitive. This obsession with militarism and weapon production makes our industry less competitive and has often hijacked U.S. foreign policy drawing it into irresolvable regional conflicts. Never mind the tarnished image of the United States as a beacon of democracy in the eyes of the world.
Domestically such misguided national priorities have turned our prison system into minority detention camps due to the incarceration of disproportionately large number of minorities. The per capita or otherwise highest incarceration rate in the world makes our beautiful country the land of the most imprisoned, calling into question our claim as the land of the free.
The home of the brave doesn't fare any better as our soldiers rarely face enemies in a real battlefield to exhibit their valor as they did in the past. Instead they have turned into assassination squads that break down people's homes in the middle of the night, insulting people's cultures and moral standards as they look for enemies they don't recognize. The trigger-happy ones kill for fun and collect human body parts as trophies; the joystick-happy drone attackers terrorize people into sleepless nights in far away lands. This is done in our name to people who have not harmed us and are merely victims of circumstance in the ideological battleground. Their only encounter with America is staring at the barrel of a gun in the hands of a soldier who spits the f-word as fast as his machine fires bullets. The splashing images of pyramids of naked human bodies tortured half way to death are what symbolize America in the eyes of the world today.
If these are not our values, why do we allow them to happen in our name?
There were times when Europeans and East Asians saw American soldiers as their liberators from the menace of racist militarist ideologies. To the rest of the world Americans were Peace Corps volunteers who had left the comfort of their homes and were liberating the third world from poverty, illiteracy, death, and disease. The last good soldier of the first type was President Eisenhower who warned us about the military-industrial-congressional complex. The last good soldier of the second type was President Kennedy who gave us the inspiration to pass on the torch to a new generation. The evolving American militarism seems to ignore Eisenhower's warning and Kennedy's call to serve peace. The uncertainty of time demands soul-searching and introspection.
Stay tuned for shared suggestions of possible solutions and reflections.