Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"The Grand Deception Continues"

Despite my enthusiasm for Barack Obama during his campaign and up to the time of his inauguration, my confidence in him has steadily eroded since he took office. I see him much less as an inspirational leader and more of a ruthless, raw politician, in the game far more for himself and his rich and influential buddies than for the American people. However, that should come as no surprise against the backdrop of how our so-called “democracy” actually works. Promise the peasants the moon up front and throw them a few crumbs after the fact. While politicians play behind the scenes with the high rollers and lace their pockets with tons of money, they simply keep us, the masses, fat, dumb and happy so they can conduct their business without so much as a whimper. The main stream media fawns all over them and keeps us focused on diversionary issues so we don’t know or aren’t aware of what is really going on.

Our resident houseguest at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue does a masterful job of talking out of both sides of his mouth. Any semblance between his campaign promises and what we actually get is purely coincidental. However, community organizers manage by consensus. Hence his obsession with partisanship to the point of being ridiculous. That style of management mocks real leadership.

Those sitting in opulent offices in the Capitol Building need to realize we are living in tough and dangerous times. We need a strong, honest leader who has a hefty set of gonads and isn’t afraid to show them when the situation calls for it. I, for one, have had a belly full of having them blow smoke up our asses and distract us with an endless stream of platitudes while they administer another dose of Washington politics as usual. I am tired of being robbed, patronized, seduced and oppressed by the political scum covering our nation’s capitol. We need to see a resurgence of real honesty, genuine integrity, a well-grounded sense of morality and the courage to do what needs to be done in order to fix the system. We don’t need any more hot air and lofty speeches to cloud the issues and sugar coat the problems we face.

If we really want meaningful reform within the Beltway, let’s call a spade a spade and get on with real reform, clean up the mess and truly get on with the “people’s business.”

Let’s start by legislating a separate and independent news media, free of corporate ownership and control, and one that has a mandate to be a bona fide watchdog on government. I don’t see that it would take a cadre of lawyers and intellectuals to put that one together.

If corporations have too much power, then strip them of their status as human beings and redefine their status for what they are. Let real people keep them honest and properly regulated. Let them serve us rather than the reverse. They belong to us, not the other way around. They have gotten away with their favored status only because some legal clerk either deliberately or inadvertently screwed up and precedent took over. Mistakes can be corrected and it sure looks like this is one that is crying to be rectified.

If big money and the lobbyists who represent them are corrupting our government and the people who represent us, then pass a law outlawing the whole damned practice. That shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish. If elected officials need campaign contributions, then let them go back home, face their constituents and earn their support for another term. If they need campaign funds, let them ask for them from those who put them in office, not a bunch of corrupt and self-serving parasites pursuing their own ends at our expense, and destroying the nation in the process. If they need technical assistance in order to draft a particular piece of legislation, let them hire a consultant and pay them with government funds that are subject to government audit and oversight. They have become far too insulated and arrogant what with living in their Georgetown mansions, Virginia estates and surrounding posh environs. We vote them into office and they should damn well be accountable to us. Although they act like it, they have not morphed into royalty by virtue of having been in office too long. They drop their drawers the same way as we do.

If complacency and power become problems because of tenure, then perhaps we need to revisit the whole notion of term limits. The question we need to address is, “Whose interests are best served by what we have and how do we ensure that they will always be those of the electorate, not the elected?” Just because we have always done something a certain way doesn’t make it right.

The sacred notion of seniority and all the trappings that go with it trouble me deeply. Why is that necessary and by what right is greater power bestowed on the incumbent because he/she has managed to stay in office longer? By what right does his/her constituency enjoy greater influence and privilege because of tenure? It all seems rather unfair and makes no sense. There ought to be a better and more democratic way to accomplish this rather than what is assumed by the amount of time one has enjoyed squatter’s rights in office. It breeds an unhealthy hierarchy and concentrates too much power in the hands of a few. The only real benefit I see is what may accrue to the incumbent and the amount he/she is permitted to steal before his/her colleagues rise up in a token display of righteous indignation.

We need a real oversight and audit function with both the power and independence to make a discernable difference in the way we collect and spend the people’s money. Every arm of government and every agency should be subject to the same scrutiny and accountability, including our defense establishment. What we have appears to be much too weak for what has to be done, given the vast amounts of money involved, and the disproportionate amount of influence enjoyed by different agencies within the overall structure of our Federal Government. This is no place for sacred cows.

I think “diversity” is one of the biggest piles of bull crap I have ever seen. I am sick of the hollow rhetoric, while myriad splinter groups pursue their own vested interests, and our so-called elected representatives give away the store in order to court their favor and garner their votes. If they represent all of us, why is there such a concerted effort to incur their political favor? If the spoils to be had by “service” as an elected official weren’t so lucrative, why in the hell do they do everything they can to remain in power? Duh! How does this practice unite us as a nation?

We profess to be one people, but have you noticed how it has crept into our national fabric to place our ethnicity first and our nationality second? Why do we refer to ourselves as Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, etc., ad nauseam? Rather, should we not operate within a frame of reference such as “I am an American of Irish descent,” or “I am an American of African descent,” or “I am an American of Japanese descent, etc.?” Does that not more accurately reflect what we should think of when we call ourselves “Americans?”

It seems to me we should be one nation, with one common language, one set of laws for all and equal rights for everyone. Just because a particular ethnic group has taken it upon themselves to flaunt compliance with and break the laws of the land certainly doesn’t make it right. If we don’t all play by the same rules, how can there be any functional social order? If we continue with this silly obsession, we will become so distracted from who and what we are that governing will be more akin to a constant struggle for power within the context of a popularity contest, rather than a way of getting the work of the nation done through an open and honest government that serves us all, equally. Those who have come here legally and who have become a part of what we refer to as “one nation” seem to be getting short changed in the deal. That doesn’t seem quite fair to me. The Pledge of Allegiance ends with the words, “……one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for All.” I don’t see why those words should be a problem for anyone.

To the extent that our laws against discrimination do not serve everyone equally, then they should be strengthened or changed, and enforced to make sure they do. Let’s fix the problem, not abandon it. Quotas should not replace justice. Rights and privilege should go with citizenship, not ethnicity.

Now, I have a few questions for the “Charmer,” some of whose promises ring hollow and are clouded from the transparency we were assured would be a part of his administration.

Why has this administration chosen to shroud the dealings between the government and the financial houses on Wall Street in secrecy? What is really going on and how much of the taxpayer’s money have they really been given? Is it really just 750 billion dollars in TARP funds, or is it the one or more trillions of dollars that we keep hearing about? Better economic minds than those surrounding the President see things much differently and make a whole lot more sense. There is so little we do know and so much we don’t know.

Why has this administration cast its lot with the likes of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, both of whom have a track record and reputations for having compromised their objectivity by previous relationships with the very institutions on Wall Street they are supposed to be regulating?

Why has this administration dismissed, ignored or marginalized distinguished economists from any participation the discourse on dealing with the financial crisis? I refer, specifically, to Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University (Nobel Laureate), Nouriel Roubini of New York University, James Galbraith of the University of Texas, Paul Krugman of Princeton University (Nobel Laureate), Robert Reich of the University of California at Berkeley, and Simon Johnson of MIT and former Chief Economist for the International Monetary Fund?

Why was the President, ostensibly, unaware of the following? He doesn’t impress me as a person who has a problem with recall.

1. The AIG bonuses that his administration approved and signed into a bill.
2. The man nominated for Secretary of Commerce was under investigation in a bribery scandal.
3. The man nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services, one of the biggest lobbyists for the health care industries, had seriously compromised himself on his tax obligations.
4. The man nominated for Secretary of the Treasury had tax issues.
5. The man nominated for U.S. Trade Representative had tax issues.
6. The woman nominated for Chief Performance Officer had tax issues.
7. The man nominated to be the No.2 at the EPA was under investigation
for mismanaging 25 million dollars in EPA grants.

Why has the President deliberately engineered the process on a National Health Plan so those in favor of a single-payer system are marginalized from deliberations on the matter? Yet, over sixty percent of Americans prefer that option. He is pandering to those who bear sole responsibility for the outrageous escalation in the cost of healthcare, excluded millions from coverage and has millions of others forced into bankruptcy. Those who are fighting any kind of a national system are, like the financial industries, the very ones who have precipitated the crises we now face.

From 2003 to 2007, the combined profits of the nation’s major health insurance
companies increased by 170 percent. CEO compensation for the top seven health
insurance companies now average 14.2 million dollars!

Why has there been such a gross difference in the financial commitments to the automobile industries and his stimulus package, compared to the blank check given to the financial institutions? The disparity is glaring and smarts of a bias in favor of those who have, literally, plundered the nation and, indeed, the world. Meanwhile the common man suffers inordinately because of his failure to act proportionately and in a timely manner because of other priorities that they don’t understand, if they can be understood at all. Frankly, I don’t think Summers and Geithner are up to the job. There are better minds available and the administration is much too bright not to know that.

Why has the President back peddled on his promises regarding warrantless wiretapping?

Why has the President done an about-face on his campaign promise regarding the issue of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military?

Why has the President hedged his position on the closure of GITMO and the right of habeas corpus?

The President has a solemn obligation to be a role model that embodies the virtues of honesty, integrity and transparency we rightfully expect from our elected officials. To the extent that he has failed to do so, he has tarnished the image of the office he occupies. Given what we have been through the last 16 years, we expect and deserve better. This is not the time for political maneuvering, but it is the time for statesmanship. Instead, we got a calculating, ruthless politician of the worst kind. And all of us common folk are paying dearly for having put him in office.

For us to continue to believe that we have a two-party system is folly. Democrats and Republicans all share the same objectives, albeit a slight difference in the way they choose to get there. They feed from the same largesse of corruption that dominates and controls our nation’s capitol. Absent a viable third party, I don’t see any hope beyond an informed electorate and an iron-clad will to change what we have.

I recall recently watching Bill Moyer’s Journal on Public Broadcasting when his guest, an outstanding writer and scholar, said his biggest fear was that we were moving to a new form of government, which he labeled “Corporate Government.” Given all that I have seen since 1992, compounded by what has transpired in the last 5 months, I fear corporate government is already upon us. The pervasive power and influence of multi-national corporations, coupled with the scale of corruption in our nation’s capitol, and the prevailing level of ignorance and complacency among the populace is so formidable I don’t see how it can be stopped. The American form of democracy is so broken, I don’t hold out much hope that it can be fixed.

The ending in the last sentence of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address are these words, “---- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” In the span of just 146 years it appears as if the culmination of this magnificent experiment in American democracy has descended into the abyss of “a government of corporations, by corporations and for corporations.” Kind of scary, isn’t it?

The classic definition of credibility is “when a person’s actions are consistent with his words.” Our incumbent president has failed miserably in that regard. The nation awaits, with baited breath, for the unfolding of the future this administration has charted for us.

Do we get dressed up for a parade or simply bend over and grab our ankles once again?

Cowboy Bob
June 9, 2009