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August 16, 2008

You Decide: Republican, Democrat, or Other

By Harold Hellickson

The gross economic inequities of the past 3-4 decades result from failed policies of both the Republicans and Democrats, policies purchased by corporations and the super-wealthy elite, policies that have permitted capitalism to run absolutely amok. Can the duopoly be made to listen to the American voter?

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Earlier I wrote, “The elite top one percent in this country possess more non-home wealth, that which is available for discretional spending, savings or investment, than 95% of their fellow citizens, and the middle class earns less in today’s dollar, 2008, than they did in 1973, 35 years ago.”

Following more than three decades of national economic gain, the bottom 90% of Americans’ annual income has been on a slow, steady decline. Chris Hedges, speaking at Furman University, said the bottom ninety percent’s income peaked at $33,000 in 1973. By 2005, according to New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston in his book, Free Lunch, it had fallen to a bit more than $29,000. He pointed out that, “For each dollar earned in 2005, the top 10 percent got 48.5 cents. That was the top tenth's greatest share of the income pie,” Johnston writes, “since 1929, just before the Roaring '20s collapsed in the Great Depression.”

The rising tide of the nation’s economic growth has not raised all boats. The rising tide only created more depth for the already big yachts to get even bigger.

According to the Economic Snapshot of August 1, 2007 from the Economic Policy Institute, www.epi.org, for example, “All of the income growth from 2001 to 2005 (the latest available data) accrued to the upper 5% and, in particular, the upper 1% of households. In fact, the bottom 90% of households experienced a 4.2% decline in their market-based incomes.

The top 1% of households gained $268 billion of total income and the bottom 90% lost $272 billion since 2001.”

How could this happen? Simply put, the top five percent in general and the top one percent in particular have wrestled near complete control of our government and, in turn, our economy, from the rest of us. Bill Moyers has said their “rhetoric turns truth to lies and lies to truth. -- Now it means corporate domination and the shifting of risk from government and business to struggling families and workers -- and patriotism means blind support to failed leaders.”

The current philosophy that gave rise to such a policy shift can be traced to at least as far back as September 13, 1970 ,when Milton Friedman’s article, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits,” was published in The New York Times magazine. Quoted in part, Dr. Friedman said, “When I hear businessmen speak eloquently about the social responsibilities of business in a free-enterprise system, I am reminded of the wonderful line about the Frenchman who discovered at the age of 70 that he had been speaking prose all his life. The businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned merely with profit but also with promoting desirable social ends; that business has a social conscience and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing employment, eliminating discrimination, avoiding pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of reformers. In fact they are -- or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously -- preaching pure and unadulterated socialism. Businessmen who talk this way are unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades.”

The past decades of which Milton Friedman spoke would, of course, include the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s, the last three plus decades during which middle class income was rising, rather than being squeezed as it has been during the last three decades of the twentieth and first decade of the twenty- first centuries.

Capitalism can be managed or unmanaged, regulated or unregulated. Free market capitalism means unmanaged-unregulated capitalism. From encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia, “Ronald Reagan presided over the most far-reaching changes in U.S. government economic and social policy in half a century. His administration succeeded in eliminating or reducing many social programs begun by the federal government under presidents FDR and LBJ and in lifting many restrictions on business activities.”

Actually, both political parties, both Republican and Democrat are to blame. From the website “Liberalism Resurgent,” Steve Kangas points out: “As for deregulation, that actually began under Carter, not Reagan. Carter deregulated airlines, trucking, railroads, oil and interest rates, and set up much of the deregulation machinery that Reagan would later use.”

More from Chris Hedges: “I single out no party. The Democratic Party has been as guilty as the Republicans. It was Bill Clinton who led the Democratic Party to the corporate watering trough. Clinton argued that the party had to ditch labor unions, no longer a source of votes or power, as a political ally. Workers, he insisted, would vote Democratic anyway. They had no choice. It was better, he argued, to take corporate money. By the 1990s, the Democratic Party, under Clinton's leadership, had virtual fundraising parity with the Republicans. Today the Democrats get more. In political terms, it was a success. In moral terms deregulation -- the systematic dismantling of the managed capitalism that was the hallmark of the American democratic state -- was a betrayal.”

And more: “It was an incompetent, corporatized Democratic Party, along with the orchestrated fraud by the Republican Party. They let Bush, in violation of the Constitution, pump hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into faith-based organizations that discriminate based on belief and sexual orientation and openly proselytize. They stood by as American children got fleeced by No Child Left Behind. Democrats did not protest when federal agencies began to propagate “Christian” pseudo-science about creationism, reproductive rights and homosexuality. And the Democrats let Bush further dismantle regulatory agencies, strip American citizens of constitutional rights under the Patriot Act and other draconian legislation, and thrust impoverished Americans aside through the corporate-sponsored bankruptcy bill. It is a stunning record.

The corporate state has rigged our system, hollowed out our political process and steadily stripped citizens of constitutional rights, federal and state protection and assistance. The Democratic Party is no longer the party of the working class. It has passively accepted defeat in elections it won. It has run candidates with platforms so tepid the best that can be said is that they are not as terrible as Republican candidates. This cycle of lowered expectations, Nader said, "produces a dying dynamic for our dismantled democracy that has no end point because every four years both parties get worse.”

Peter Camejo has written, “What confuses so many progressively inclined people is they do not really understand that our society is controlled by the corporate power of concentrated money. The corporations and the super rich – through their domination of the government, the media, and educational institutions and of course the two parties – run our society.

The front line in this denial of democracy is the Democratic Party because it is the instrument that controls, channels and co-opts the forces that otherwise could challenge the rule of concentrated money.”

“Financially, congressional Democrats had, through the 1980s and early 1990s, become dependent on campaign cash from corporate special interests, who gave to them not out of ideological sympathy but in return for tax breaks, subsidies, and other giveaways that gave the party the appearance--and often the reality--of decadence and corruption.” contends Nicholas Confessore, “The Myth of the Democratic Establishment,” Jan/Feb 2004-Washington Monthly.

Brody Mullins, writing in the April 2, 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal, “Business Donors Bypass McCain, Democrats Rake In Cash From Industry,” reports that “both Obama and Clinton have been cleaning McCain's clock among business interests that give mainly to Republicans.

Of seven major industries that have been the most reliable Republican resources, McCain has raised $13.1 million through February, compared with $22.5 million for Obama and $27.1 million for Clinton, the Journal reported.

Now, ask yourself, if the Democrats were the party of the people, if they were truly going to make the corporations serve the American people, would the corporate executives be dumping millions into their campaigns?

No they would not.

Right now, the American people are subservient to the corporations and their puppet politicians in both parties.”

And the Republicans currently? Speaking to the current administration’s impact on ordinary Americans, Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, recently commented in his newsletter. “It is one thing to read dry economic statistics which describe the collapse of the American middle class. It is another thing to understand, in flesh and blood terms, what that means in the lives of ordinary Americans. Yes, since George W. Bush has been in office, 5 million Americans have slipped into poverty, 8 million have lost their health insurance and 3 million have lost their pensions. Yes, in the last seven years median household income for working-age Americans has declined by $2,500. Yes, our country, for the first time since the Great Depression, now has a zero personal savings rate and all across the nation, emergency food shelves are being flooded with working families whose inadequate wages prevent them from feeding their families.”

Can we do better?

We must do better.

How can we do better?

Hopefully you maintain the pessimism of the intellect and the optimism of the will as suggested by Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci. Perhaps, to paraphrase Bill Moyers, you see the world as it is without rose colored glasses and want to try to change it despite what you know.

If so, it is going to be very difficult for you to vote either Democratic or Republican this year unless one of the political parties repudiates its policies and practices of the past decades, a most unlikely scenario. If they do not, you must decide on one of three alternatives.

* Ignore reality; remain passive, and don’t vote at all.

The old plantation mentality, exactly what those in the manor house want you to maintain.

* Ignore reality; vote for whomever you believe is the lesser of two evils.

Maintain current reality trends; put the Democrats in now, the Republicans later. Either way the plutocracy of the corporations and the super rich win at your expense.

* Accept-understand reality, let your voice be heard; vote for a third party.

All social change for the betterment of ordinary Americans originated as a lonely cry in the wilderness. Maybe third parties don’t win elections. But they do profess alternative ideas and policies. There continues the hope of the will, despite what we know, amongst more and more of us, that the concept of social progress and social justice may again in the future be adopted by one of the dominate political parties. Let your voice be heard. Only the mass of potential votes will sway a major political party to consider weaning itself from corrupting practice of reliance on the moneyed influence of private wealth and corporate America.

So, you decide: Republican, Democrat, or Other.

P.S. The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important major fight…a lot of other people have got to be willing -- for the sheer fun and joy of it -- to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it.

Swans Commentary, Joel S. Hirschhorn quoting I.F. Stone - June 16, 2008

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

The Uncle Buck Party, consisting of D.C. politicians and their lobbyists, in conjunction with corporate America has captured Uncle Sam and is now legally torturing him in a secret prison. He’s not dead yet but the future doesn’t look good for us. Let’s change it!

www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/11/07/5087/ The italic emphasis is mine.



Authors Bio:
A retired MBA, I am a former corporate ideologue, former 3rd party advocate and current curmudgeon. While a continued supporter of a 3rd party, I have concluded their efficacy cannot be demonstrated until our form of Government is changed to facilitate proportional representation. This will require an Amendment to the Constitution which Congress will not support.

I am skeptical of our democratic republic's turn to plutocracy as its form of governance. As a member of Convention USA, I support an Article V States Convention for the purpose of Amendment considerations beyond the influence of Congress.

My interests include ending our Government's policies of war and empire, restoration of monetary, fiscal, and trade policy sanity, reversing the income inequality trend, and improving social justice, the seven major defects of modern day America.

On these concerns and others, I am an open book; reference OpEdNews - Articles - Author's Page for Harold Hellickson

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