By Janet Loughrey
Congress has made it official: American democracy is dead. Our government more closely resembles fascism than the republic our forefathers fought and died for.
House members initially rejected the Wall Street bailout, then caved to corporate and executive pressure, passing the measure on Friday. Their votes were bought with pork and lipstick, including an additional $110 billion in tax breaks for the rich.
Naomi Wolf eloquently outlines the steps towards fascism in her book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. This version of fascism refers to the hijacking of government and media by corporations. We didn't just witness a hijacking this week; we watched the biggest heist of government money in world history.
Americans contacted their representatives in droves, calling their offices and crashing the House website. Sentiment ran 10 to 1 against the bailout. Eighty percent of Americans want the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be ended. Yet Congress recently passed a $612 billion military spending bill that continues funding for the wars. An overwhelming majority of Americans want some form of universal health care. Yet there has been no serious discussion by our representatives. Most citizens even support the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for their egregious crimes perpetrated on our country and the world for the past 8 years, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose to kick the can down the road for someone else.
We have paid the ultimate price for two stolen elections, 8 years of failed policies, and Congress's ongoing refusal to represent us: the loss of our democracy.
George W. Bush may go down in history as the worst US president ever. But surely this Congress will be seen in an even harsher light. They have repeatedly subverted the will of the people for the benefit of their corporate masters. They took an oath to represent the people, and to protect and defend our Constitution and these United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Those who voted "yes" for this ill-conceived transfer of US taxpayer dollars to Wall Street coffers have violated their oath and should resign. So should those who continue to fund the two illegal wars we are mired in, wars that have contributed to the moral and financial bankrupting of this nation.
Apparently, Congress thinks Americans don't know what's best for them. They also don't feel the need to listen to the 200 economists who opposed this bill. None of these economists were consulted by Congress to come up with a plan that would actually address and fix the problems. There were many other possible solutions, but Congress only considered the one that was proposed by Wall Street. Most disturbingly, supporters admit they don't even know if the bailout will work.
King George uttered ominous warnings about a complete collapse of our economy if Congress didn't give in to Wall Street demands. Just like we were rushed into war because of weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. Wall Street said, "Stick 'em up," and Congress handed over our money. King George cried "wolf" again and the American people got it. Apparently, though, Congress didn't.
This wasn't about saving our economy; it was crony capitalism at its worst. The beneficiaries of this bailout were freed 8 years ago from regulation, then proceeded to orchestrate the most obscene orgy of gambling and amassing of profits on Wall Street in memory. Now that the casino has called in their bets, they get to keep their winnings and foist the losses on the taxpayers. Most economists agree the bailout offers a temporary fix at best, and will ultimately make the problem worse.
Our $700 billion will be disbursed at the discretion of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former Goldman Sachs executive. Some of it will be used to write down bad loans made to foreign banks, those institutions that keep loaning our government money to keep it afloat. Whether the $700 billion is borrowed or printed by the US Treasury, it will increase the deficit and inflation and further weaken the dollar. Our government is bankrupt, and we are living on borrowed money and borrowed time.
With just a month until the elections, we have the opportunity to vote out the incumbents who refuse to represent us. Unfortunately, even though Congress has a record-low approval rating of 9 percent, historically, 90 percent of incumbents get re-elected. Furthermore, Republicans are already hard at work to steal another election. Reports of caging, purging of voter rolls and fraudulent mail ballots are already widespread. Most voters are now forced to use electronic voting machines, which are easily hacked.
With all of our urgent problems, campaign finance and election reforms are far down the list of priorities. But they should be at the top. Unless we institute public campaign financing and return to paper and hand-counted ballots, our democracy is doomed to failure.
We need fairly elected leaders who will invest our money in jobs, healthcare, infrastructure and alternative energy, not corporate welfare and wars. We need leaders who will restore our damaged reputation in the world and who understand the threat that American imperialism poses to global stability. We cannot solve our issues here at home until we restore accountability on Capital Hill, until our government serves the needs of Main Street, not Wall Street.
Janet Loughrey is a freelance photographer and writer based in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of Gardens Adirondack Style and has written on topics including horticulture, global warming and other environmental issues.
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