A private E-Mail

– This is a private E-Mail I wrote recently which addresses ideas that I think we should all give some thought to.  It is an American-centric piece but it has implications for everyone.
– dennis
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There are things that benefit the population of the country broadly. This is, of course, the old idea about how a rising tide lifts all boats.  But there are also things that benefit a country disproportionately wherein the richest among us reap most of the benefits while the poorest reap virtually none.
Trade agreements negotiated in the past, with NAFTA being a good example, have promised at their outsets a lifting of everyone’s boats.  But in after-the-fact analyses, it’s been shown that such agreements have rarely lived up to their promises to benefit everyone.  And when there was benefit, it’s invariably been to the richest among us.

Indeed, if we look to see who the proponents of such trade agreements are, they not the average person on the street.  They are the corporate movers and shakers.  And they sell the idea to us on its supposed benefits for all of us while their actual motivations lie with those benefits that will accrue to them.

When Freddie questions my use of the word “inexplicable” as I’m discussing Obama’s apparent support for the TPPA, and when John responds to my concerns about the agreement by saying that if no other politician than Elizabeth Warren has deep concerns about it, then he’s comfortable with Obama’s handling of the issue, then I think I can intuit in both of their responses, an implicit assumption that Pres. Obama is truly a man who is doing the best he can and a man who’s working for the interests of all Americans equally.

And, in fact, I agree strongly with both of those statements.   Like Kael, I supported Obama’s candidacy in 2008 and I recall clearly having tears in my eyes when he won and feeling that some of the promise of America was still existent when such a thing could happen.

And I also get that Pres. Obama is indeed facing a hostile Congress and that he has to balance the spending of his political capital in such a way as to get as to get what he can given the situation he’s facing.

I get all of that. my friends.

But it seems weak tea to me and I’ll tell you why.
You see, my cynicism has grown since those heady election days and little of my new cynicism actually has to do with our President.
It has to do with the recognition that perhaps, while the Conservatives wanted very much to win the Presidency in 2008 to make their task easier, they didn’t consider it absolutely essential because they knew that they’d already usurped the system at deeper levels than any popularly elected President actually could interfere with.

We all know that the best interests of the American people are decisively not being served by the ongoing regulatory capture of United States legislative processes by big money.

And you will have all seen articles in the popular press in these last months stating that there is a growing perception that the United States is losing the ability to call itself a democracy because it’s legislative processes are ever more beholding to big money. These articles are saying that the country is evolving into an oligarchy or a plutocracy.   I don’t think these articles are spurious and sensationalistic.  Some of them have their roots in considered academic research.

For a country that sees itself as a beacon of personal freedom and an icon of democracy, this is deadly stuff indeed.

And it is not a new thing.
I can show you quotes from Napoleon – who was disparaging the bankers of his day:
“When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes… Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.
 
– Napoleon Bonaparte – 1815
And I can show you quotes from Theodore Roosevelt who was taking the financiers of his day to task:
 
Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.
 
– Theodore Roosevelt
and I know I don’t need to quote to you the remarks made by Pres. Eisenhower talking about the military-industrial complex in the 1950’s. 
 
The interference of big money in our political process is not a new thing.
Like all things it goes in cycles, sometimes better and sometimes worse. We are in a particularly bad period now

In our time,  corporations have become people.  The limits on corporations donating money to political campaigns has almost no limits.   And (I note with a nod to the process Freddie described to us) how laws are made now through a series of competing submissions from lobbyists on both sides of an issue to the legislative staff who then make quick judgments about which side they favor more and then move onto the next thing.

The days of our legislators carefully crafting laws designed to benefit the American people in general are gone.

The days of one-man-one-vote, in terms of influence, are gone.
The days in which popular elections actually decided the larger directions of the country also appear to me to be gone.

None of these facts can be lost on Pres. Obama.  Nor on anyone else who’s a keen observer of the American political process.

So, when I hear that President Obama is doing the best he can and that he is conserving his political capital in order to use it in the most effectively manner possible to eke out a few small victories here and there against the rising tide of corporate and big money domination, I wonder just what he’s optimizing and what it is he thinks he is conserving?

President Obama is in his second term now so he has no more election prospects ahead of him. And, if he’s conserving his political capital in order to benefit future office holders, then I have to wonder at the wisdom of that.  Because if they too conserve their political capital to benefit the office holders that come after them, and so on, then I just see a chain of delaying tactics which are certain to lose in the end.

When Freddie questioned my use of the word inexplicable”, he was asking me what do I really want to see happen?  He was asking if I have a better idea than what’s actually going on now?

Well, I do.

When playing by the rule book no longer works and you can see that the long-term trend is ever more losses, then it’s time for a new rule book.
Here are two examples of new thinking:

This is something that occurred on TV in 2011 that I thought was especially telling when I saw it. The news anchor lost his temper at the folks he was interviewing from the Democratic and Republican parties; both of whom were urging short-term solutions that were for their own party’s benefit in its battle against the other and without much if any thought to the long-term consequences to and needs of the country.

And here’s another article that appeared in the Nation magazine recently in which an activist calls for us to completely throw over the idea of “Earth Day” and get on with something more radical because, as he says, the green ethic, the working within the system, the let’s-all-recycle-together, ideology is simply not working and it’s time we recognize the deep and profound truth of this fact.  As a strategy to effect significant change to improve our ecological future, it has been a huge failure.
I resonated deeply with both of these examples.   I too am tired of strategies that doesn’t work, of analyses that should convince reasonable people that we have deep systemic problems, but which seemingly convince no one.

So what do I want?

I want the president, who’s in his second term and has little to lose, to come out and state the bald faced truth using the unmatchable bully pulpit he has access to.
I want him to do this point-blank for the future of America, for the future of the world and for the future of our children.

If he is truly for all Americans equally, and I actually believe he is, then he needs to realize that coming out and using his unparalleled access to the global media to reach people is the strongest lever he has to wake us up to the sad truth of what is happening to us.

His waffling around now preserving his political capital and eking out a few small victories here and there is a game of slow defense that is sure to only delay the ultimate outcome and leave the real issues in the shadows.   

 
His not stating the truths that are crying to be spoken boldly, the truths that deserve to be discussed over every dinner table in America, is to me a failure on his part to realize where his real leverage lies and how great the need is to break strongly with the business-as-usual way of doing things in favor of disrupting the current “let’s not talk about the real substantive issues” approach.
His trying to do things like balance off the recognition of impending long-term environmental disasters for burning more carbon against the short-term jobs that the keystone pipeline might bring to the public is, in my opinion, a failure to recognize that this is his moment to make real history.  To make history that will be remembered far into the future.
If there are still people around in the future to write the history of these times, and I think there will be, they will see us as having deluded ourselves about the problems facing us.  They will see us as having fiddled while Rome burned.
Who among us has the pulpit he has available?  Who has the credibility available and has the time he has remaining in office to speak truth to power and to call into the light all that is hidden in the shadows?
I’m speaking of the deep corruption of the legislative processes by money, the revolving door system between industry jobs and government regulators, the Teflon power of Wall Street that is, incredibly, too-big-to-fail.  The rise of corporations to citizen hood and the loosening of corporate purses to legally buy elections?

Like Roosevelt and Eisenhower before him he needs to stand up and say the truth.  Call it what it is.  And make a huge clamor about it.  Even if it brings the country into an enormous state of agitation.   

 
Because I will tell you, my friends, that the amount of agitation he might cause now will be well worth it if it results in significant reforms.  And if he does not act or if he acts and gets no result, then any agitation generated will pale before the other destinies that await us.

To quote Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night.

We are living in a world where most of the major economic systems we have employed, are based on the need for constant growth in order to retain their health.   How mathematical does one have to be to see that this is a completely incompatible idea with the simple fact that we are living on the planet of finite size.

There’s a truth that Should be stated as baldly as possible before the global populace because we as a species need to make some choices about it or we are going to suffer terribly.

The influence of money on the American political process is completely corrosive to the ideas of one-man-one-vote, to the idea of having a truly representative Democracy, to the idea that our legislators should be chosen by the people they are to represent and not by money focused to prejudice the outcome.

That’s the truth that should be shouted from every house top.  And who better than this president in his second term with the good reputation that he has and with the finest pulpit in the world at his disposal?

What are he and those like him waiting for? Do they assume that some future president will have a better pulpit?  Now is the time if ever!

So when I see half measures, when I see waffling about the keystone pipeline, when I see mixed signals coming out about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, then yes I’m deeply concerned that even this president, whom I highly respect, hasn’t realized the position he’s in and the possibilities open to him to use his position to try to affect some real change in America and in the world.  To at least try to create a conversation around every dinner table in America about the real issues.

But, to be skeptical for a moment, I suspected decades ago, when both of the Kennedy brothers were killed, that they were killed because they were not beholding to the existing political machinery of the time.  That they were considered to be loose cannons, to be too much of a danger to the existing order to be allowed to continue.

So, perhaps people like Obama know this and they know their limits.  That they know that even though they hold the title of President of United States, they still have a very small range of motion within which they can move safely.

I’ve said this next bit before.
My prognosis for the United States, if nothing significant changes, is that it is moving either towards a revolution or towards becoming a police state.

The stories that matter are not being reported in the American media because they’re owned by large business.   If you cannot see this, it is because you don’t miss what you never had.  Make an effort to read the world’s press to see how it all looks from the outside and give up the idea that the foreign press is just distorting everything from some misguided notion of hating America

The reasons why America goes to war are always touted to be for the dignity and freedom of foreign people.  But many of us realize that the real driving force behind the reason America goes to war is the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about.

These are large and very difficult truths.

There are many large and difficult truths lying about our feet and there have been such for sometime now.

The gathering of wealth by the 1%, the lessening buying power of the average American working man since the mid-70s, the capturing of the legislative process by big money, the dumbing down of America news reporting, and a whole host of other things are plagues on the American democracy – formerly such a bright spot in a dismal world history.

Those who would keep things the way they are are doing so because of their own profit motives. They sow disinformation into the media sphere to confuse the public.   They say there is no global climate change.  There is no military industrial complex. America is the moral policeman of the world,   Carbon fuels are not a problem.  The oceans are not rising.  The trade agreements being contemplated between the U.S. and Europe and the U.S. and the Pacific nations are simply about opening free trade.  American medicine and medical care is the best in the world.  Social Democracies are economic failures.  The NSA and the CIA are simply developing their intelligence assets to protect American interests against foreign threats.  Congress is not controlled by big money.  The American justice system is equally fair to people of all levels of affluence.

When I look at blog entries on the Internet and then read all the commentary that follows the articles, I find that there’s always a firestorm between liberal and conservative ideas.  Those people, for the most part, are convinced that they are fighting over the issues that matter.  When, in fact, they are all deluded.  The real systemic ills of America are seldom articulated there.

The issues they squabble over are illusions.  Because long-ago people at a higher level who are much smarter than the average bear realized how to undercut the entire process of politics in America and they grabbed the levers and gears of what actually controls things.
<10313061_10152069949762688_1434304502425871861_n.jpg>It is in their best interest that the American public continues to believe they’re engaged in debates that have meaning.  Debates about gun-control, debates about religion, debates about patriotism, debates about everything and anything but the things that really matter. I.e., who has really got the power?

In all of this enormous mess there are very few remaining people who actually have the power to be able to speak to the American public about it through the media without being filtered.

Pres. Obama is one of the very few who might be able to do this.   So, Freddie that is what I would like to have happen.

The direction America is headed in is not going to be changed by half measures nor by the conservation of political capital. They’re only going to be changed by serious and radical actions.

After a lifetime of working to achieve his goals, Pres. Obama has finally arrived at the pinnacle of American politics system.

If anyone is to speak out, he’s the one to speak, he’s the one to tell us the truth – to show us what’s behind the curtains.  He’s the one hope we have that things are not just going to go on and on into disaster.
 
So yes, I am disappointed in President Obama.  I think he, potentially, is one of the few bright hopes we have left for real change.  But he won’t realize it by waffling his bets.  
 
It’s time, as the writer who advocated dropping Earth Day implied, to drop all pretenses of being polite and to drop staying between the lines.  We are way past the 11th hour and midnight approaches.

 

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