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Government of the people, by the people, for the people is no more; it has perished

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President Abraham Lincoln, in his famous 1863 Gettysburg Address, ended it with these words; "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." That beautiful thought has been dishonored as the U.S. Congress, and the Senate in particular, is no longer guided by the wishes and needs of the American people but, rather, accedes to the dictates and demands of corporate America.

This is the chain of authority now present in our American democracy: candidates run for the U.S. Senate, the people elect and send representatives to this legislative body to act in their best interests and that of the nation; senators listen to the wishes and needs of the American people and also those of the U.S. corporations. Senators then submit themselves to their corporate masters, do their bidding and hold out their hands for their reward.

I have previously written about how this now very faulted legislative body came into being and it's worth repeating here: "Our nation's founders, when working to complete the U.S. Constitution, had definite misgivings with the idea of including this governmental body in the legislative process of our nation. They knew full well that the idea of having two senators from each state, no matter the population of the state, was one that could cause difficult problems in the future. But, in the spirit of bipartisanship and compromise to finish the Constitution, many of them reluctantly agreed; and now we are suffering the consequences of their decision."

But that's, unfortunately, where we are today. The Senate, as constituted today, in no way represents democracy in America. This Senate, whereby a few, or even one, senator(s) representing tiny states can overrule the wishes of the vast majority of fellow senators and the American people, has created a system of gridlock that is destroying our democracy. Add the Senate filibuster rule into the equation and we are witnessing a legislative body that has become no more than a tool of their corporate masters.

This governmental institution is now so corrupted by the power of corporations that we have arrived at a point whereby critical legislation cannot be enacted even when the Senate Democratic majority, at least in theory, has control. One senator, a Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman has the power, considering the dreaded filibuster rule, to kill health care reform if they so choose. Suppose that 60% of Americans, roughly 180 million of us definitely want a strong public option. That the wishes of 180 million Americans can be overridden by just one senator is incomprehensible; but this is how far our democracy has now regressed.

The Senate of today can be described as the "best little whorehouse in Washington, D.C." It has now become crystal clear that it is largely controlled by the almost 35,000 registered lobbyists that ply their trade in the nation's capitol. Corporate America, mainly the banking, health insurance, pharmaceutical, and defense industries have far more influence on senators than the people of America.

That's because they control the massive amount of dollars that flow into senatorial campaigns. With the complete lack of effective campaign finance reform, the entire legislative process has turned into a giant auction where the prize goes to the highest bidder.

Let's divide the Senate into two sections; we'll call the first the "best little whorehouse" wherein resides the entire congregation of lock-stepping Republicans, a large number of Democrats, and one very tainted Independent. The second, very small section contains those Senators who I believe, and it's just my own opinion, are not controlled by lobbyists and special interests, and are trying to do what is in the best interests of the American people.

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In this latter category I would include these Democrats: Russell Feingold (WI), Sherrod Brown (OH), Byron Dorgan (ND), Tom Harkin (IA) Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Ron Wyden (OR); I would also include Independent Senator Bernie Sanders (VT). To be perfectly fair there may be a few more Democrats who would be included by other observers.

Americans want true health care reform, they want job creation, they want Wall Street regulations and reforms, they want an end to wars, occupations and massive costs of war. They are really tired of the gridlock of Washington and the Congress. They want creative thinking, they want action, and they want solutions to the myriad of problems that are threatening the future stability of this nation. It's simply not happening, not any of it. Where in the world is the agent of real change when we need him?

The degree of influence, power and intimidation that corporate America wields in the U.S. Senate is almost beyond comprehension; it can best be illustrated by the actions of the "right-wing Democrats" who are tearing this legislation into shreds; they have thrown out single-payer, the public option, the age 55 to 64 Medicare extension, and have needlessly brought in the subject of abortion. Their actions have been despicable and they have betrayed the American people.

Who are these rogue Democrats who want to kill health care reform or water it down to make it useless? Well, by now, everyone knows exactly who they are. Senators Max Baucus, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and Ben Nelson. They have been aided and abetted by the scheming, self-promoting Joe Liebermann. This entire group has been identified as among the largest recipients of campaign contributions from the health care industry, and in particular, the health insurance corporations.

This just in. The Senate appears to have finally come to some kind of agreement that gives Harry Reid the 60 votes to avoid a filibuster. After Senate approval, this now very weak so-called reform legislation will go to conference. And we will, once again, watch as the participants try to finalize a bill that they can send to the president; one that continues to put a protective shield around the health insurance industry. It's common knowledge that health care lobbyists spent millions to make sure that the legislation was crafted in their favor. And as they forced their agenda through the process, the Senate and President Obama watched in silence and submission to the corporate power of America.

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The Senate has shown very clearly just how weak and spineless an organization it is. But even if it had the inclination to do the right thing on health care reform, it would need the help of strong leadership and innovative thinking coming out of the White House. That has never materialized because of Mr. Obama's weak and lackluster leadership, and his failure to follow through on his campaign promises to the American people.

It's time for Americans to face this grim reality; that government of the people, by the people, for the people is no more, it has perished.


Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues; and especially with the great dangers involved with the proliferation of perpetual war, the associated defense (more...)

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My grandfather could have told you this 120 years ... by Jason Paz on Tuesday, Dec 22, 2009 at 11:35:41 AM
Jason:Two thoughts for you. First, I wasn't born u... by michael payne on Tuesday, Dec 22, 2009 at 12:14:03 PM