Politics: Election Day Blues and Other Observations
By J. Marlando
When I was a kid growing up I was raised absolutely believing that what my government cared about was the people…the people’s safety, the people’s freedom and the people’s right to pursue their own happiness in their lives. When I saw the American flag I always felt a lump grow in the throat. Well, my Uncle Jack, who I was named after, was back from helping to win World War II and making the world safe again.
I was a five year old patriot at the time. A few years later—during the 1960s—I served in the U.S. Army but fortunately missed seeing action in Vietnam. (I would eventually see Cambodia but not until years later). In any case, I grew up a “my country right or wrong” guy until I began to realize how really naïve and obviously stupid that attitude is; until I realized that this is the attitude of puppets and not patriots…followers and not thinkers.
Government in Overview
Most of my friends are right wingers and so over the past few months they have kept bombarding me with emails calling Obama the wicket warlock of the West and referring to Romney as the “great white hope” of American Politics. Romney was a successful governor of Massachusetts, a small state bloated with wealthy people on both sides of the political aisle. He did well…among his peers!
According to my Republican and Conservative friends—some of which are ditto heads, a term that clearly describes the non-individualist —are truly sincere Americans, devoted, if you will, to God, Home and Country. And these sincere Americans keep telling that “the left” is threatening to take away our freedom and our heritage of rugged individualism and independent entrepreneurism. Well, I said the same things for years!
I used to say the same things but then I realized that what put the patriotic song in my heart was not the America that I was living in but the Ideals of America. The ideals of a land of the free, of altruistic intent and Abe Lincoln honesty—you know, all the stuff you are taught in school. I also realized that when it came down to it, my “gun-ho” friends were advocating the same thing—not the reality but the ideals!
Some years ago when I was writing for a brand new magazine I was interviewed and asked if the rag was going to slant to the right or left. I will always remember my response. “Neither,” I answered, “The left is in the business of dirty politics and the right is in the politics of dirty business.”
I still feel the answer is a perfect metaphor for America’s one party system in the guises of two ideological differences. Indeed, Republicans tell us that we must reduce government and that the left only wants to increase it. Name one Republican who ever reduced government or any modern president who ever did anything to give the people…more freedom. As for the Democrats they talk about assisting America’s impoverished and keeping the middle class secure but name one Democrat who has ever truly attempted to narrow the gap between rich and poor. Think about it and don’t kid yourself, wealthy Democrats are standing with wealthy Republicans on the banks of that deep chasm of a “gap” looking at the poor across from them with equal aloofness. “Hey, look, there’s a whole bunch of them folks falling off the edge.”
“Yes but what about my perks, it’s the end of the month you know and I’m off to the Alps!”
While this may appear sardonic on my part, it isn’t. I remind the reader that government is a bureaucracy and like all bureaucracies no matter how altruistic they are at their beginnings, after a period of time they ALL turn out far more self-serving and self-centered than anything else.
It is as *Hilloyd (An IB writer) tells us: “Most Americans don’t realize it but Congress routinely exempts itself from every law it passes.” Equality is obviously left by the wayside here and there are those Americans who are indeed above the law…well, except for in our ideals of course where justice prevails.
In our ideals, we are all equal under the law and no one is above it…I recently just read that congress members do not even have to pay back the government loans they get that assures their children’s college educations…I just read awhile back that congress members can legally use insider information to invest in Wall Street. If we know this much…how much do we not know?
In thinking about this, we recall the words of Andrew Jackson, our country’s 7th president: “I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives, and the rights of the people have been bartered for promise of office.”
When I was a kid every morning we would say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I liked that because it made me feel part of the community and as part of the community part of the freest nation on earth.
I’ve heard every president talk about American freedom over the years but I have not heard one of them define it.
I suppose I am not very smart but I have never been able to figure out how we can be the freest place on the planet and have, per capita, more people imprisoned than anywhere else.
I suppose I am not very smart but I have never been able to figure out how we can hold these rights to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Dim witted as I probably am, I cannot grasp how we can have consensual crimes in our country and the right to the pursuit of happiness at the same time?
Oh well, the pursuit of happiness is certainly an absolute right in our ideals and when it comes to that particular freedom I agree with James Bovard who says, “The fact that some people lack self-control does not justify giving politicians and bureaucrats more control over everyone. Freedom necessarily includes freedom to screw-up one’s own life…”
When we are only free to do what politicians and bureaucrats want us to do, obedience alone becomes this badge of good citizenship. Remember too, the face of tyranny does not have to look like this, it can also look like this
Ideally our government is about protecting our freedom not about limiting it. Nearly 35,000 people are arrested every day in the U.S.—I do not know what the current statistic is but back in 1996 15 million Americans were arrested. Our very own justice apartment tells us that nearly every one of us have broken some law that we could be sent to prison for if it were enforced. (Is that not enough to scare any of us?)
Talk about scary it is fairly well known that Geroge H. Bush (The First) actually invested in the private prison industry because business was so doggone good. Think about that one…every prison bed filled means profit for somebody’s pocket.
Well, the argument is, a nation must have laws. And, sure enough, that is absolutely true. Without laws our country would become chaotic and fall victim to brute force in about an hour. Never the less, a free country needs only one basic “ideal” for all its laws: Each individual has the freedom to do anything…anything but infringe on the freedom of another.” Ideally, this is what our forefathers had in mind. Recall Jefferson: “the government that governs least governs best!”
Every election there are always the stock issues—employment, education and, the economy. Most of my friends blame Obama for the economic mess that we are in and Obama mostly blames George Dubya for the economic mess that he left behind him.
They are all wrong…at least in this way: The US economy is suffering because of poor management for a number of decades. Most recently I see they have made a movie out of Ayn Rand’s, “Atlas Shrugged” the radical right-winger that advocates winning through self-gratification in the Gordon Gekko sense…that greed is good. This reminds me of the Reagan years and Reaganomics. Ronald Reagan remains the poster image of political righteousness for the republicans just as Bill Clinton remains the poster image of political greatness for the democrats.
Actually Reagan broke the umbilical cord that stretched between being a credit nation and a creditor but a major point I wish to make here is the invisible “sameness” of our two parties which I term “the Great American Illusion.” For example, as mentioned earlier, we hear Republicans cry out that we must reduce government. Reagan’s most famous statement was that “Government is not a solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” However, during his presidency he increased government spending, (something the democrats are forever accused of doing) decreased taxes for the very wealthy and bigger corporations while cutting funds for social programs with a “you’re on your own” attitude that began the trek of today’s missive count of people living on the streets.
The democrats looked on with gasping shock: how can ‘them’ republicans be so cold? And the republicans blurted back: “We ain’t no bleeding heart Liberals.” The public on each side shouted “right on” but the truth is President Carter—who became the whipping boy for the right wingers (A democrat) had approved tax “reforms” that greatly benefited corporations and very wealthy individuals including an $18 billion dollar tax reduction. Indeed, in 1979, with gas prices up (for the times) and workers were taking cuts in pay while the chairman of Exxon Oil, for example, was getting a raise to $830,000 a year. In this year Exxon’s net income rose 56% (more than $4 billion) with three thousand independent gas stations going out of business. My question is where was the left’s great last stand for the little guy? My other question is how far apart is the right and left (really) once they are in office.
Anyway after Reagan the presidential shout had become “the era of big government is over” and so budgeting for welfare that was benefiting poor children was slashed again. Was it slashed by the villainous right? No. The poster boy on the other side, Bill Clinton, slashed it. When we think about this we realize that, in the far reaches of American politics, the politicians are by, for and of the system. The chatter between them is, by and large, show biz! Most of we common folk would fall off our chairs if we knew how many bills were passed by congress that were not even read. But with the above aside, what about money?
When Reagan came into office the national debt was around $900 billion dollars. When he left the debt was a round $2.6 trillion. (However, we must always be grateful for his part in ending the Cold War). Anyway, when Geroge Bush came into office the national debt was 5.8 trillion. When he left it had doubled to $10.6 trillion. Obamas National debt to date is around $15 or $16 trillion. In thinking about this we are, in general, given social memes to believe that China is close to “owning” us because of our debt to them. Well, before you bury your head in the sand thinking China is soon to take over Kansas, as I understand it, over 60% of the national debt is owed to Americans and American institutions.
In any case, another howl at the moon is that republicans are the war-mongers and democrats are the peace makers. Howard Zinn reports that, in 1999, for example, the Clinton administration lifted a ban on advanced weapons to Latin America. The Times called it, ‘a victory for big military contractors like Lockheed-Martin Corporation and the McDonnell Douglass Corporations’ and so it was. One point I’m attempting to make here is that after elections the system prevails no matter who is in. And the system is mostly maneuvered by the invisible voices behind “the throne.” That is, the very rich and the very powerful who whisper into Washington’s ear a matrix of world affairs.
Sure there are some fundamental differences between the left and right wings of the American politicos but what both most obviously share is that the government is by, for and of…itself. Ideally, our government was never supposed to evolve into self-centeredness. We were supposed to remain a people’s government; a government that protected “the people” from foreign invasion, to maintain laws that protect the liberty and “inalienable” rights of individuals through representatives that, in a term, well…actually represent the people in a caring and conscientious way. Granted, the world is a heck of a lot more complex than it was during the times of our forefathers but there is still no reason for principles to change with policies.
In regard to the above, the right loves to blame Roosevelt for being at the root of all the country’s welfare state but little actually changed after Roosevelt. Indeed, the rich still controlled the wealth and capitalism had, as Zinn says, stayed intact. What is interesting after all is that the left wing’s programing of Roosevelt’s war years was virtually followed by a prosperous and contented middle class of the 1950s. The poor of course were, as always, left to wallow in their poverty and the rich left to relish in their wealth. Nevertheless, most of the 1950s yielded a heyday for the middle class when American industry was still producing more for less as opposed to less for more. (If you want to know why so many things we buy today are “made in China” the surprising answer is that, if they weren’t, our cost-of-living would be prohibitive for most of us. A kind of bitter food for thought to digest!
When we take all this into account, I think the vital question that remains is: do we really have a clearly defined left and right in our country. And my answer to this is…what we have at bottom line is not two political parties as we are used to thinking about our system but rather the government party under two hats. This view of course does not include radicals like the tea-baggers or far left socialists who most basically exist on the fringes of Americanism in any case. What this includes are just your everyday politicians that really run the country at least in their spare time and after playing ball with the superpowers of world wealth.
As the reader can see there is zero to none of our country’s beautiful ideals at work except perhaps in the rhetoric of our politicians and a few moon-howling radio hosts.
A major problem in our country is obviously the economy. If I am not mistaken, Mitt Romney wants to return to a somewhat “Reaganomical/Bush” views and give tax breaks to the wealthy so they will be inspired to open more businesses, create more production and increase employment while giving the economy a facelift. This never worked for Reagan or Bush! Obama wants to tax the very wealthy as a fair-share policy and therefore take some weight off the backs of the middle class and, he says small business. And thus unfolds the tangled wings of the current race for the White House at least on the surface of campaigns.
What the people want are jobs, a little financial security and at least a touch of the American Dream back. The truth is, however, that the poor and yes, the middle class have been on a financial crash course for many decades—we’ve all heard the statement that tells us, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer
Historically we have seen this occur in every empire. Indeed, even the so-called democracy of ancient Greece was an elite system. It is not only poor governing that is causing extreme and expanding poverty in the U.S.there is also the fact that we are and have been in a transition between labor and technology for decades. The pick and shovel has given way to the machine and the dilemma is growing. Most virtually the only jobs left for the uneducated and unskilled are in the low-paying service industries. And, in this view, even supermarkets are reducing their labor needs by installing automatic check out machines. And this is going to be happening more and more throughout all major retail stores. And so, a lot of working folks are paying a very heavy price for the conveniences of…automation.
As it turns out Government does not have the all-powerful control over employment as most people believe they do and the opposing parties pretend to believe they do. Actually, all the debating between candidates about putting people back to work is more of a political routine than anything else. After all, futuristic employment depends a lot on American entrepreneurship with more and more local and federal laws creating such costly rules and regulations that entrepreneurship has lost its possibility for the little guy with nothing much more than a dream in his pocket.
While the rags to riches stories have always been exaggerated for Americans, the ideal of being the “land of opportunity” has been lost to the regulators. Packard began his car company in his garage—try that today. Start building cabinets or repairing motorcycles in your garage today and see what happens; try to pick up some extra money sewing at home for some company and, well, see what happens. Returning to Bovard again, he tells us: “One of the clearest violations of freedom of contract involves government licensing laws, which prohibit millions of Americans from practicing the occupation of their choices. Over 800 professions—from barbers to masseuses to interior designers to phrenologists to tattooists to talent agents—now require a government license to practice.” Indeed entrepreneurship—once the pride of the U.S.A. is now being choked to death by government’s interference into privacy.
And so as entrepreneurial initiative is being, so to speak, locked out of one’s own garage while the cost of living keeps escalating..
Admittedly, I do not know much about tariffs these days but Bovard tells us that “The United States now has over 8,000 tariffs, with levies on imports as high as 451 percent of their value. According to the Institute for International Economics, U.S. trade barriers cost Americans $70 billion. For every dollar that robbers steal in broad daylight or in dark allies, the U.S. Congress mugs consumers and business for $80.” And, did you know that every dollar you spend for gas these days you are paying 13 % on taxes. The poor and middle class economy is not suffering only because of over-purchasing and immature spending habits as the social engineers would have us all believe. Itis instead suffering as a result of a political-socio system based on the lobbyist and cronyism that has, for such a long time, simply not given any concern to the average consumer. As for the very poor among us—obviously from a political platform—they are simply dispensable.
To prove that they are actually dispensable the social engineers have created the word “welfare” into a loathsome term meaning “society’s leeches.” Never mind that unemployment and lack of entrepreneurship is often linked directly to the workings of the system. During Reagan’s presidency 30 million people were unemployed all or part of 1982. Thanks to the system, one reason for this was that 16 million people lost medical insurance which was a requirement for many companies. Soon enough, school lunches went away and 12 million kids were living in poverty. Yes, there were some parents who were dopers and no hopers but to believe the social engineers that (American) people bring poverty onto themselves is just so much cultural hype. Remember too that poverty like wealth is often inherited. (When you stop and think about it, this is a vital point to consider).
In any case, what most of the public do not know is that welfare takes very little of the tax revenue although we are led to believe that the very poor are bleeding the better off to death. Welfare incidentally is NEVER enough to give a self-motivated person a chance to climb out of his/her poverty and in most instances only enough to keep him or her…on welfare!
My question is, if we don’t care about our own poor how can we claim to give a damn about world poverty and so world suffering? And, never lose sight, that hunger…hunger here at home and hunger clear around the world is a condition of systems and NOT nature.
I am a distance from being a political expert but I know, in a term, what rubs me wrong.
One of the things that rubs wrong the most, so to speak, is that I do not see any of our ideals in play; I have not seen the America that I was told about as a child unfolding over the long years of my adulthood. I personally believed that we lost what I call “the Norman Rockwellian spirit” with the McKinley/Roosevelt/Hearst conspiracy (and history tells us that it was indeed a conspiracy) to launch the Spanish American War as a show of American international strength and to widen its international markets; the seeding of what would grow into the American Pacific Empire.
People who love America’s ideals as I do hate to acknowledge that long ago we changed into a “might is right” nation internationally and a place of social-Darwinism on the home front. When I tell this to my right-wing friends they look at me as if I am the enemy—when I say we have always been a racist nation, they look at me as if I am a traitor, when I say we truly do need positive change in our system, they look at me as if I were some kind of a hippy- utopian. How soon they forget the words of their own icon-of-Americanism, Thomas Jefferson, who said, “The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.”
In regard to this, the gap I keep talking about between rich and poor is about the same size as the one growing between the American government and the American people. Remember representative government does not mean thinking for me. It means standing up for what I think and keeping me freed to pursue my own happiness. It doesn’t mean creating laws to protect me from myself or to keep me on anyone else’s yellow lines of behaviors but my own. Indeed, The ideals of my country tells me that as long as I do not coerce or harm anyone else, I can, in a term, do and be what I damned please. (That, we can say, is American idealism in a nutshell).
I was raised to fear and so despise socialism and communism but what of the statism that exists in our own land today? Especially the right wingers tell us how important it is to be an individualist and then, in the same breath, tells us exactly what an individualist should think, feel and act like. The left does the same thing only in the collective!
So what do we need to do to rekindle and live up to our ideals?
- We need to refuse the role of being a dominating world force while keeping strong defensively. But, as Howard Zinn says, to make a radical change in priorities and go “from spending $300 to $400 billion a year for the military, to using this wealth to improve living conditions of Americans and people in other parts of the world. For instance, it was estimated by the World Health Organization that a small portion of the American military budget, if given to the treatment of tuberculosis in the world, could save millions of lives. (In regard to this, do not lose sight of the fact that, as I indicate in the above, most of human suffering is the result of man’s inhumanity to man and his…systems).
I am not in any way suggesting here that we need not keep a strong defense budget. I am merely suggesting that war is not the path to peace, humanitarianism in human action is.
2. We need to strive to become the light in the window of the world again: We need to give example of American altruism and put effort into supplying clean water and (really) feeding the hungry. This needs to begin within our own borders and then extend globally.
3. We need to head a worldwide effort to supply everyone in need of medical treatment to receive the treatment and medicine they need. Indeed, when it comes to medicine all those in the profession(s) should heed the words of Martin H. Fisher: Only one rule in medical ethics need concern you - that action on your part which best conserves the interests of your patient. Something simply has to be done about the high cost of medical insurances and the high cost of medicine and medical treatment for people. No one should suffer or die because they can’t afford what is needed to get well.
4. We need to begin going back to teaching our children the basics of American humanism: The simple stuff like you play fair, you share, you never cheat; you treat others with respect. I suppose we began losing our values during the Industrial Age when social-Darwinism was hailed king; when there was no shame in running sweat shops for men, women or children to toil in and profit took priority over human life. We need to regain the American spirit for which our flag stood a long time ago.
5. These days I keep hearing a bunch of voices whining that we are “a Christian nation.” If this is so let us become the world’s Good Samarian and love others as we love ourselves. Clearly no other nation on the planet will ever do this until they have the example. We MUST start walking as we talk as we spread our wings around the globe.
6. In the cleaning of our own house, we need to absolutely stop congress people and senators serving any longer than six (6) years. Until we abolish cronyism and nepotism in this way we, the people, will be abused by both.
7. We need to slowly get out of the trappings of the ancient mode of centeredness and this can begin by opening our hearts and minds to the entire world. We need to stop asking our God to bless America and begin asking our God to bless the world!
Now then…even with all this in mind, I will not neglect to vote this year and I hope that you don’t either. There’s just a lot more to consider than the personalities of the parties.
—Hilloyd*Who is Your Congressman Really*InfoBarrel (Highly recommended)
Bovard, James * Freedom in Chains *St. Martin’s Press
Bovard, James * Lost Rights * Palgrave
Zinn, Howard * A People’s History of the United States *HarperPerennial
The Declaration of Independence