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Wanted: An American People's Party

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Can national government that puts the long-term interests of the American people ahead of short-term elite interests be achieved within the contemporary party structure?

The steady decline in U.S. national health care management, financial system regulation, environmental oversight, and national security in recent years--trends not reversed by the election of Obama--all point to one conclusion: it is time for the American people to start defending their interests against the elite. The elite levels of the Democratic and Republican wings of the "national conservative party" have merged to such a degree that a complete reorganization of political parties seems the only way for the people to obtain reliable representation. Today, the U.S. has a one-party system, with that party representing the elite. What must now emerge is a people's party.

In each of the above-cited arenas, the perspective of the elite is exactly the opposite of the perspective of the average citizen.

Health care. U.S. health care for the rich is superb; it is "only" the workers, not to mention the unemployed, and our elderly parents on pensions, and the children of young parents just beginning their careers who risk being denied affordable health care. Not only does the elite have no health care problem; the elite also benefits from the current lucrative health care industry by being able to invest with the certainty of a profitable return: there will always be plenty of sick people, and as long as the health care system is designed to make a profit, a profit is exactly what it will make.

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Finance. As for the financial system, the glaring contradiction between surging Goldman Sachs profits alongside surging unemployment says it all. The U.S. national financial system still contains a good bit of money (at least so long as the Chinese don't call in their loans); the allocation of that cash is the issue, and since the beginning of the new and now evidently endless Federal bailout of bankers and Wall St. gamblers, the elite has had little reason to complain about the allocation of the cash.

Before you protest that Washington is trying to help and that boom times on Wall Street during a depression on Main Street signifies nothing more than a temporary glitch, consider the highly successful efforts still being made by Wall Street to prevent the Government from reasserting its traditional post-Great Depression regulatory rights. Consider also the number of topic policy-makers still in office, such as Treasury Secretary Geithner, who helped pave the way for the current recession.

Environment. The environment is not even perceived by the elite as a "separate system;" rather, it is, for them, part of the financial system"just like health care. The environment, for the elite, consists of such goodies as national forests that their corporations clear-cut, leaving behind a desert that cannot return to normal forest growth. Surely, the government (i.e., the taxpayer) at least gets a reasonable return for selling the national wealth to corporations? Well, no, actually the ruling elite essentially gives the trees away, in a classic "socialism for the rich" escapade that voters are too lazy to protest.

National security. National security is a bit harder for the average person to understand. The rapid spread of U.S. military bases throughout the Mideast and Central Asia (castles literally and figuratively built on sand), the endless military victories in every "face-to-face" encounter between the world's most high-tech force and 19th century insurgents, the dramatic media portrayals of the day's little troop surge, and dominant position in national debate of stern-faced generals calling for more war (because the generals opposing war seem to get themselves sacked and then blacklisted by the compliant media) all give the impression that--whatever Washington may be doing to the rest of the world--at least U.S. national security is being well defended.

Unfortunately, those foreign bases are like the dikes around New Orleans: imposing structures but not designed for the job. Those bases would have stopped Stalin's late-1940s push into Iran cold; they would have stopped the Soviet 1978 invasion of Afghanistan cold. And they would serve marvelously as launching pads for regional aggression or "protection of pipelines." But in the context of Iraq or Afghanistan, they are recruitment posters for al Qua'ida.

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Washington's behavior--its aggressive policy of base expansions, threats, and preventive wars; its unwillingness to take the time for understanding or negotiation; its relative lack of concern for supporting the development of civil society; its lack of tolerance for Muslim actors who advocate real independence; its insistence on discriminatory rules that excuse its allies and punish its adversaries; and its endless commission of blatant acts of injustice--all serve to undermine U.S. national security by provoking hostility, undermining trust, weakening its moral leadership, and throwing its mutually antagonistic opponents into each other's arms. The financial strain of profligate tactics in a military adventure that spills from one front to another, with the fires of old battles still smoking even as it fans the flames of new ones, further weakens U.S. national security.

The bases, the surges, the endless expensive high-tech conflict all do have one undeniable characteristic, however: they are very good for business. Blackwater, by whatever name, is doing a booming business running a mercenary army outside of Congressional control, and the need for weapons and machinery and construction is endless.

So for the elite, these four critical national problems that are as plain as day to citizens simply do not exist. The state of health care, the state of the financial system, the state of the environment, and the state of national security are, for the rich and powerful, not problems but opportunities. Speaking in another era about a different issue, in his series of 1858 debates with Steven Douglas, Lincoln criticized Douglas' defense of racism as "blowing out the moral lights around us, eradicating the light of reason and the love of liberty in this American people" [as quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals, 207]. Lincoln argued that the "real issue" was "the same spirit that says, "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle" [208].

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I am an American political scientist specializing in the future of the global political system. I recently published "Mideast Peace or Fascism," "Palestine and Global Security," "Hammering Islamic Radicals," "Smarter Iran Policy Begins With a New (more...)

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Made better by concise analysis and proposed new s... by Margaret Bassett on Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009 at 8:16:45 AM
Your points are well taken.Democrats, especially s... by Arthur Avalon on Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009 at 11:32:08 AM
Arthur,Nice counterpoint. I highly recommend that ... by William deB. Mills on Friday, Dec 11, 2009 at 11:23:10 AM
To disrupt or distort that "new" declaration would... by shirley reese on Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009 at 1:04:07 PM
If you are serious about creating a Political Part... by Scott Baker on Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009 at 2:05:54 PM
The Populist Party of the post civil war period ha... by Pulladigm on Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009 at 3:03:42 PM
Only the Real News Network did a North American in... by Jason Paz on Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009 at 9:43:57 PM