Tuesday, June 03, 2008

BIG MONEY RULES ALL


The Corporate State and the Subversion of Democracy

Posted on May 31, 2008

By Chris Hedges

I used to live in a country called America. It was not a perfect country, God knows, especially if you were African-American or Native American or of Japanese descent in World War II or poor or gay or a woman or an immigrant, but it was a country I loved and honored. This country gave me hope that it could be better. It paid its workers wages that were envied around the world. It made sure these workers, thanks to labor unions and champions of the working class in the Democratic Party and the press, had health benefits and pensions. It offered good public education. It honored basic democratic values and held in regard the rule of law, including international law, and respect for human rights. It had social programs from Head Start to welfare to Social Security to take care of the weakest among us, the mentally ill, the elderly and the destitute. It had a system of government that, however flawed, was dedicated to protecting the interests of its citizens. It offered the possibility of democratic change. It had a media that was diverse and endowed with the integrity to give a voice to all segments of society, including those beyond our borders, to impart to us unpleasant truths, to challenge the powerful, to explain ourselves to ourselves. I am not blind to the imperfections of this America, or the failures to always meet these ideals at home and abroad. I spent 20 years of my life in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans as a foreign correspondent reporting in countries where crimes and injustices were committed in our name, whether during the Contra war in Nicaragua or the brutalization of the Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces. But there was much that was good and decent and honorable in our country. And there was hope.

The country I live in today uses the same words to describe itself, the same patriotic symbols and iconography, the same national myths, but only the shell remains. America, the country of my birth, the country that formed and shaped me, the country of my father, my father’s father, and his father’s father, stretching back to the generations of my family that were here for the country’s founding, is so diminished as to be nearly unrecognizable. I do not know if this America will return, even as I pray and work and strive for its return. The “consent of the governed” has become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science are obsolete. Our state, our nation, has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations and a narrow, selfish political elite, a small and privileged group which governs on behalf of moneyed interests. We are undergoing, as John Ralston Saul wrote, “a coup d’etat in slow motion.” We are being impoverished—legally, economically, spiritually and politically. And unless we soon reverse this tide, unless we wrest the state away from corporate hands, we will be sucked into the dark and turbulent world of globalization where there are only masters and serfs, where the American dream will be no more than that—a dream, where those who work hard for a living can no longer earn a decent wage to sustain themselves or their families, whether in sweat shops in China or the decaying rust belt of Ohio, where democratic dissent is condemned as treason and ruthlessly silenced.

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, it was a betrayal.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was sold to the country by the Clinton White House as an opportunity to raise the incomes and prosperity of the citizens of the United States, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA would also, we were told, staunch Mexican immigration into the United States.

“There will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home,” President Clinton said in the spring of 1993 as he was lobbying for the bill.

But NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, had the curious effect of reversing every one of Clinton’s rosy predictions. Once the Mexican government lifted price supports on corn and beans for Mexican farmers, they had to compete against the huge agribusinesses in the United States. The Mexican farmers were swiftly bankrupted. At least 2 million Mexican farmers have been driven off their land since 1994. And guess where many of them went? This desperate flight of poor Mexicans into the United States is now being exacerbated by large-scale factory closures along the border as manufacturers pack up and leave Mexico for the cut-rate embrace of China’s totalitarian capitalism. But we were assured that goods would be cheaper. Workers would be wealthier. Everyone would be happier. I am not sure how these contradictory things were supposed to happen, but in a sound-bite society, reality no longer matters. NAFTA was great if you were a corporation. It was a disaster if you were a worker.

Clinton’s welfare reform bill, which was signed on Aug. 22, 1996, obliterated the nation’s social safety net. It threw 6 million people, many of them single mothers, off the welfare rolls within three years. It dumped them onto the streets without child care, rent subsidies and continued Medicaid coverage. Families were plunged into crisis, struggling to survive on multiple jobs that paid $6 or $7 an hour, or less than $15,000 a year. But these were the lucky ones. In some states, half of those dropped from the welfare rolls could not find work. Clinton slashed Medicare by $115 billion over a five-year period and cut $25 billion in Medicaid funding. The booming and overcrowded prison system handled the influx of the poor, as well as our abandoned mentally ill. And today we stand in shame with 2.3 million of our citizens behind bars, most for nonviolent drug offenses. More than one in 100 adults in the United States is incarcerated and one in nine black men ages 20 to 34 is behind bars. The United States, with less than 5 per cent of the global population, has almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

@ Truthdig

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DITTO!

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19 comments:

DEN said...

In case you are thinking of protesting the fascist takeover:

The Active Denial System was developed in secret for ten years before being unveiled by the Pentagon in 2001. As of 2004, it was being described as ready for use in Iraq within the next 12 months. This has still not occurred, and according to Secretary Payton, use of the weapon in Iraq is now "not politically tenable" because after Abu Ghraib "you don't ever, ever, ever want a system like this to be thought of as a torture weapon."

However, the failure to deploy the weapon as planned has raised suspicions that the real intention is to use it for domestic crowd control.

In 2006, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne was quoted as saying that the device should be used first on Americans, because "if we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation. ... If I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press."

Raytheon, which developed the system for the Pentagon, is currently selling a more limited-range civilian version of the system, under the name "Silent Guardian," which it promotes as being suitable for "law enforcement, checkpoint security, facility protection, force protection and peacekeeping missions."

@RAW

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And you thought tinfoil hats were stupid, better knit a tinfoil suit now.

DEN said...

Jimmie C. endorses BIG O!

BIG O Clinches nomination!

Super Tuesday indeed.

micki said...

Put a little science in your life

Science is the greatest of all adventure stories, one that’s been unfolding for thousands of years as we have sought to understand ourselves and our surroundings. Science needs to be taught to the young and communicated to the mature in a manner that captures this drama. We must embark on a cultural shift that places science in its rightful place alongside music, art and literature as an indispensable part of what makes life worth living.

micki said...

I'm happy for all those who are in a celebratory mood. Even though Obama emerged as the front-runner some time back, he did not secure the nomination without the Superdelegates to boost him to the magic number.

Being the factchecker that I am, I recall the FACT that many Obama supporters were apoplectic when they thought that the Superdelegates might break for Clinton because it would have been "proof" that the nominating process was unfair.

If Obama supporters are smart, they'll can the vitriol and help move the country forward -- Obama will need those Clinton supporters.

Congratulations to Senator Obama.

(But, he's not the "official official" nominee until the convention. Same as McCain isn't until the Repug convention.)

Saladin said...

You can count on McInsane clinching it since America seems to have serious issues with peace and liberty. So, she will get what she deserves.

David B. Benson said...

Issues: Doha; Biofuels; Climate Change; Farm Bill; and the CFTC

Over 800 million people are going to bed hungry tonight.

DEN said...

Wanna help some of those people? Some Americans?

DEN said...

Or help the Worlds people?

DEN said...

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Tuesday he's confident the government's license application to build a nuclear waste dump in Nevada will "stand up to any challenge anywhere."

Bodman spoke at a news conference hours after the Bush administration submitted the formal application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to build the underground storage facility at Yucca Mountain more than 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Nevada officials, who have fought the waste dump for years, vowed to launch hundreds of specific challenges to the proposed design of the facility, arguing the Energy Department has not proven it will protect public health, safety and the environment from radiation up to a million years.

Responding to the filing, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons reiterated his promise to fight the waste dump which he said "threatens the life and safety of the people of Nevada."
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Somebody better tell that man to visit Google Earth, type in Yucca Mountain and see it is already a toxic waste site from all the atomic tests that were done there creating craters large enough to see clearly.

A toxic wasteland now.

tytandanmar said...

Dr. B

Where does your number come from and who is at fault?

Hajji said...

Just wanted to say "Thanks" to all the encouragement I've gotten here in the past few months.

Looks like it is time to buy a new pair of walkin' boots...these are falling apart...

Anybody know a good buy on a pair of "seven league boots"? These are only half a year old and worn right through...

Anyway...thanxz!

-t

Hajji said...

Den,

btw a mattress seems to be a good shield for this weapon...

Soon mattresses, displayed in public, will be a capitol offense!

Kraft-matic body armor anyone?

See KBR.com for details!

-T

DEN said...

Hajji, Sportsman's Guide looks like they have deals on boots and shoes.

I bought a tackle box and got it fast.

Or the Red Green cure: Duct tape

DEN said...

Ty, the number is probably conservative and it is your fault if you do not support your fellow man if you are financial able.

Pay up sucker!

tytandanmar said...

Den,

The poor in this country were okay long before there was a federal tax. The poor in this country are considered rich compared to many nations across the globe. Me and my wife conribute weekly to our church which in turn helps others. We also contribute yearly to the St. Jude's hospital and support other charities as well. That is with our personal dollars after taxes. Your idea of charity is taxing americans at confiscatory rates which only leads to people hoarding or hiding their personal income. There is a breaking point. I have to take care of my family first and I always will. I will donate to charities when and if I can. If the government of your choice takes my money to do the same, albeit less effectively and with more bureaucratic red tape than you could shake a stick at, guess what I am going to do?

tytandanmar said...

Den,

Case in point. Johnson and his war on poverty only created a nation of citizens dependent on government charity. 2/3 of every federal dollar spent on this war was for administration costs. 1/3 to those whose only desire was to see the mailperson deliver that check every month. Many who were able bodied and could work for a living but relied on their government sugar daddy to take care of them.

Pay up sucker!

Alan said...

Case in point. Johnson and his war on poverty only created a nation of citizens dependent on government charity. 2/3 of every federal dollar spent on this war was for administration costs.

Sorry Ty, but I don't believe your figures. Source that info, woodja?
Take Social Security as an example. I've always understood that they have a great ratio of results vs overhead. Is that government agency unique? or are others filled with the same kind of civil servants with similiar results?

*Obama made a damn good speech tonight

DEN said...

For those that remain in their own worlds of family, church and home, dropping money in a collection plate might relieve your guilt but reality is "You are your brothers keeper"

Your world is a self focused one as many others, denial of homeless veterans and homeless Americans eating out of dumpsters while you sit in your cozy little world snug and safe.

You are but one major medical issue or job loss away from joining them and if you did join them you would appreciate any help you could get from anyone.

So go shine up your toys, mow your well manicured lawn and live in your dream world of cleanness and serenity with your family and your church with the knowledge that a family within 5 miles of where you live is sick and hungry with no one willing to help.

And don't recite reich wing welfare drivel to us because we know better than to believe that crap.

carol said...

Your last post was spot on, Den!!!