It seems democracy has finally become a shell devoid of meaning on both sides of the Atlantic. Its original meaning as "rule of the people" no longer holds true. The people seem to be powerless to influence the powerful and the elite in our society. It is in fact more than that, when politicians say one thing before they are elected and do the opposite afterwards, your will to live begins to drain slowly from your body. Take, for example, the increase in VAT on goods and services by 2.5% to 20% by the coalition government in Britain when the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Nick Clegg, his deputy, described VAT as "regressive" before the election. Add to that the promise not to raise university fees by the Liberal Democratic Party, with MPs, including their leader, signing a pledge not to do so, only to break it once they tasted power and the luxury of being driven in ministerial cars.
You wonder why anybody bothers to vote. The anger of the public with bankers and their demands to make them pay for the mess they have created in the US and Britain seem to have fallen on deaf ears, and are ignored by politicians, even though British banks had a trillion pounds of public money pumped into them, with trillions more into US banks.
Simon Jenkins in Britain's Guardian writes that "bankers were reported to have rewarded themselves with personal bonuses of 7bn pounds over Christmas, two fingers to the public and three times the VAT rise on all their high street neighbours. Needless to say, there is no VAT or other transaction tax on banks. Money that properly belonged to shareholders and, in many cases, taxpayers, simply walked off the premises. What would ministers say if subsidized car workers decided to take half a dozen vehicles home each Christmas?"
Cenk Uygur, in his article on this site, reports that the majority of the American people want to see "taxes raised on the rich" and "to cut defence spending" to plug the deficit; instead the US government has just given "a $407 billion tax cut to the richest people in the country ".
The outrage of students in Britain, many of whom voted Liberal Democrat, because they believed what they were told and feel deceived and lied to, is manifesting itself with large angry demonstrations and with more planned. The government has responded with some minor cosmetic adjustments to their plans to raise University fees but the core policy continues.
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business secretary, talked tough about bankers and their bonuses before the election, only to become a clawless pussycat once in power. Politicians seem to have become so cowardly that they are unable or unwilling to stand up to the rich and powerful in our society. Have they got their eyes on lucrative directorships beyond politics? What is the point of the democratic process, if the powers that be, perching above politics, are always in charge?
It is dangerous to undermine democracy in this way. People in Britain and America believed that they were able to change the course in which their countries were moving by their vote. If they come to the conclusion that is no longer possible, what will they do? The cynicism and contempt with which people regard politicians have reached new heights. People who value democracy please take note
What are the Labour party and its new leader Ed Miliband saying about all of this? The answer is not much. Ed Miliband's criticism amounts to no more than arguing about minor changes regarding the degree of the cuts and their timing. No great vision here.
People are crying out for new politics that care about ordinary people and do not pander to powerful lobbyists, voracious corporations and the military-security-industrial complex.
Where are the leaders capable of articulating this worthy vision?