The Status Quo And How Washington Ensures It
A major impasse appears to exist these days between Democrats and Republicans on virtually every issue. On the surface, it would seem it’s all ideology-based. But upon closer inspection, their hostilities are, in large part, incited by media-manufactured outrage, where partisan vitriol and ideological demagoguery drowns out all thoughtful discourse.
Unfortunately, our country is in a mess, and on many fronts. And the proposed solutions (including the watered-down health care reform bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee yesterday) are more about symbolic change than meaningful change. Nothing gets done, nothing changes, because the biggest problems plaguing our country actually enrich powerful interest groups who are dead-set on keeping it that way.
Were the public (from both parties) to spend more time deconstructing the issues, and connecting the dots, they’d understand their anger is — more times than not — displaced. Yes, each side strongly believes the other’s ideological perspective is deeply flawed, but their inability to logically discuss issues in a meaningful way, or to pay close attention to lobbyist contributions to their own parties, ensures that they continue to miss the pink elephant in the room whom their elected representatives are tripping over to feed.
The two parties’ key ideological talking points revolve around the following:
The Republican Mantra — the government is everything that is wrong with society. It taxes hard-working citizens and gives it away to those who don’t work as hard. Big business can be trusted, and a laissez faire approach to the marketplace is essential to economic growth. Essentially, government is the problem, business is the solution.
The Democratic Mantra — the government is generally good. It was created by the people for the people. When market conditions are ripe, corporations will profit by exploiting labor and price gauging the public. They need to be reigned in to some degree by government. Essentially, business is the problem, government is the solution.
While there are some truths in each, NEITHER addresses how the realities inherent in both the American political system and its marketplace minimizes the significance of some of their most cherished beliefs.
A large part of the Republican mantra is a myth:
First and foremost, the government DOES exist to best serve the public interest. It WAS created by the people, for the people.
To embrace the Republican ideology, you must convince yourself not only that government is bad and incapable of doing anything, but that corporate interests are aligned with the public interest. In reality, NOTHING could be further from the truth. Corporations have a responsibility to no one, but their shareholders. They exist to maximize profits by any legal means.
If a corporation can save its shareholders millions of dollars by legally dumping toxic wastes into fresh water supplies, or by outsourcing all their jobs overseas, or by denying coverage to the uninsured, or by denying the claims of the insured, or by selling ‘snake oil’ as medicine, or by price gauging when competition doesn’t exist (like in the pharmaceutical marketplace, where patents ensure monopolies) then these corporations have a responsibility to their shareholders to exploit it to the fullest — to the detriment of the public they serve.
As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put it: “Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.”
Take a look at George W. Bush’s laissez faire policies:
Bush drastically cut the funding of the FDA, thereby reducing government oversight over the food and drug industries. How did the food and drug industries fare when left to their own devices? We experienced more food recalls in those eight years than in my entire lifetime. Click into Bush’s report card of October 2006 by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It outlines Bush’s significant FDA cuts, and the calamity that resulted.
Take a look at Sen. Lindsey Graham’s success in pushing Wall Street deregulation during both the Clinton and Bush years:
In one remarkable stretch from 1999 to 2001, [Graham] pushed laws and promoted policies that he says unshackled businesses from needless restraints but his critics charge significantly contributed to the financial crisis that has rattled the nation.
He led the effort to block measures curtailing deceptive or predatory lending, which was just beginning to result in a jump in home foreclosures that would undermine the financial markets. He advanced legislation that fractured oversight of Wall Street while knocking down Depression-era barriers that restricted the rise and reach of financial conglomerates.
And he pushed through a provision that ensured virtually no regulation of the complex financial instruments known as derivatives, including credit swaps, contracts that would encourage risky investment practices at Wall Street’s most venerable institutions and spread the risks, like a virus, around the world.
Warren Buffett, the world’s most astute and successful investor, warned us as far back as 2003 of the threat posed by these derivatives:
The derivatives market has exploded in recent years, with investment banks selling billions of dollars worth of these investments to clients as a way to off-load or manage market risk.
But Mr Buffett argues that such highly complex financial instruments are time bombs and “financial weapons of mass destruction” that could harm not only their buyers and sellers, but the whole economic system.
Had Bush regulators reeled back the financial industry’s exposure to these risky speculative securities, we could have prevented the collapse of insurance Goliath, AIG. But Bush, being the ever-hard-headed ideologue, rushed to enact even more deregulation initiatives right up to the final months of his Presidency in 2008 — at the same time we were experiencing the financial meltdown from his earlier deregulation. Since then, AIG has cost the American taxpayers $200 billion dollars, and the tally continues to grow. Its failure can be directly attributed to risky derivative speculation, and a lack of oversight:
State insurance regulators have said repeatedly that [AIG’s] core insurance operations were sound — that the financial disaster was caused primarily by a small unit that dealt in exotic derivatives.
Anyone who believes that less government (and more freedom for big business) leads to economic stability and is in the public interest, is either delusional, or a Lobbyist.
The Democratic Mantra For Bigger Government Ignores the Fact That Politicians Are ‘On The Take’:
Yes, unlike corporations whose responsibility is only to their shareholders, the government does serve to promote the interests of the American public. But the truth of the matter is they are beholden to powerful money interests whose political contributions determine whether or not they remain in office. If politicians refuse to subjugate themselves to these powerful interest groups — on grounds of principle — they not only forfeit their political contributions, the interest groups aggressively bankroll their opposition (in their upcoming election).
The power of these entrenched interests and their hold over our politicians has recently come to the forefront in the ongoing Health Reform debates. Look at the Democratic Senators trying to kill the public option, and see how much money they are receiving from the health insurance industry. Keep in mind they are defying the public will.
Even President Obama, himself, who has stated many times in the past that he prefers a single payer system, banished single payer advocates from even getting a place at the table to engage in the discussion. His closest advisers (Rahm Emanuel and Kathleen Sebelius) have been doing everything in their power to undermine the passing of a robust public option, despite the fact that Americans support a government-run insurance option by a nearly two-to-one margin, 61%-34%. A public option would guarantee a reigning-in of our nation’s staggering medical costs, and ensure universal health coverage. So why won’t Obama firmly commit to it and use his bully pulpit to drive it home?
In addition, Obama quickly cut a deal with the Pharmaceutical Industry protecting them from Congressional efforts to use its bargaining power to lower runaway drug prices. As part of the deal, he also agreed to prohibit American citizens from importing cheaper medications from Canada. The Pharmaceutical Industry, in turn, agreed to reduce drug expenses by a mere $80 billion — a guaranteed ceiling — and a pittance for such a profitable industry. In addition, Big Pharma agreed to pay $150 million in advertising for the White House ‘health reform’ agenda.
As the ‘old’ John McCain said back in 1999 (when he still had integrity):
We will never achieve these reforms until we first reform the way we finance our political campaigns. As long as the influence of special interests dominates political campaigns, it will dominate legislation as well. Until we abolish soft money, Americans will never have a government that works as hard for them as it does for the special interests. That is a sad, but undeniable fact of contemporary politics.
A Change of Behavior From Both Parties is Required To Turn This Country Around:
Republicans — Your ideology is misguided, and the proof is all around you. Your inability to acknowledge this fact and to seek new ideas only serves as a distraction in our country’s attempts to solve its pressing problems. You must ween yourselves from chasing after shadows cast by the likes of Rush, Hannity, Beck and Fox News. Your real enemies are not the government, per say. They are the powerful interests who’ve corrupted our government, and the propagandists who distract you from seeing it. Enough with the dramatic knee-jerk outbursts over hot-button — but meaningless — sound bites, and focus on getting at the real truth (in other words: stop turning to compulsive liars in search of answers).
Democrats — Policies are to politics, what location is to real estate. Policies, policies, policies! Get over the fact Obama won. Stop making excuses for him each time he breaks another campaign promise, or he’ll never deliver substantive change. Obama is proving to be one who takes the path of least resistance . So when you follow like sheep and cheer him on even when he’s selling you out, then you’re ensuring that the path of least resistance for him is the one aligned with the powerful interests — those heavily invested in the status quo — those working against the change you voted for.
If we don’t get a robust public option, or our troops withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan; and if we don’t get more transparency in our government, or an investigation into Bush’s torture abuses and other illegalities, or meaningful global warming policies it WON’T be because of an uncooperative Republican minority. They’re largely redundant. The battle for real change is taking place within the Democratic Party.
Obama Stops at Cliff, Peeks Over Edge, and Decides to Shift Afghan Strategy
Finally, some semblance of rationale is beginning to emerge within U.S. foreign policy! The New York Times is reporting that:
President Obama’s national security team is moving to reframe its war strategy by emphasizing the campaign against Al Qaeda in Pakistan while arguing that the Taliban in Afghanistan do not pose a direct threat to the United States, officials said Wednesday.
It appears the shift will nullify, at least in part, Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for 40,000 additional troops.
The Obama administration is reportedly split over this purported policy shift:
While Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has argued for months against increasing troops in Afghanistan because Pakistan was the greater priority, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have both warned that the Taliban remain linked to Al Qaeda and would give their fighters havens again if the Taliban regained control of all or large parts of Afghanistan, making it a mistake to think of them as separate problems.
Fortunately, Obama appears to be listening to his Vice President.
There is one granddaddy of false assumptions reigning amongst the neo-con set — that being that a foreign occupation somehow makes an occupier safer. This fallacy, when acted upon, financially bankrupts nations — as we are now discovering. The strongest countries are, and always will be, the ones most financially secure. Over the last eight years our financial stability has precipitated into a frightening place. THAT threatens America’s security like no other. How will the United States guarantee its own national security when it eventually defaults on its staggering debt obligations (largely created by an effort to occupy the world), and when China no longer cares to write another blank check? There is already a concerted effort underway to minimize the world’s dependency on the ever-declining American dollar. China plans to diversify away from U.S. assets (Treasuries) and into other currencies (including Euros). That means our cheap and ever-accessible foreign credit line will become a thing of the past.
We, as a country, need to withdraw our troops — stop the fiscal hemorrhaging — and proceed to get our financial house in order.
Apart from the gravity of our financial situation, it is in our country’s foreign strategic interests to cease operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. When a country militarily occupies another people, its very presence ensures the occupied’s resolve for resistance. And unless those being occupied happen to have a bald headed, bespectacled leader by the name of Mohandas Gandhi, they will most certainly resort to guerrilla warfare. How else could a poor resistance movement make a meaningful dint in the armor of a powerful occupier? This means ‘terrorism’.
We are essentially borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars in what is quickly becoming unmanageable debt trying to occupy a third world country — all to keep a small band of terrorists hiding in the Pakistani hills from returning there and setting up camp. Well, who ever said they wanted to leave the hills of Pakistan? Would their return to Afghanistan somehow make them more dangerous to us then their remaining in the hills of Pakistan?
Our attempts at occupying these countries is paramount to building them terrorist factories to churn out new angry, desperate, anti-American extremists who would have likely remained law-abiding civilians, had we not killed their loved ones, and become their occupiers. It is misguided, thickheaded policy to occupy a country on the grounds of security, because it ensures the very opposite.
The Republican talking points this week will surely emphasize the words ‘winning’ and ‘losing’. Make no mistake about it, we’re neither winning nor losing a war over there. We’re fiscally self-destructing, while simultaneously turning generations of people against us. Osama bin Laden must be sitting up there in the Pakistani hills, toking off his Hookah pipe, laughing himself to sleep at night, thinking about how he — this fanatical, deranged, lunatic and his small band of hoodlums — single-handedly, lured the most powerful country in the world off a financial cliff.
Fortunately, it appears that Obama is beginning to see the futility in our military presence there. Let us hope that he continues to turn a deaf ear to some of the fear-mongering neo-babble escalating around him, and gets us the hell out of there.