Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Though it is the Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, we have a very different country “worth saving” today

We live in a country where the corrupt, dysfunctional two-party Democratic/Republican Party System is failing us; where venture capitalists and hedge fund billionaires are buying and destroying our democracy; where 401(k) s are fraudulent games of theft and greed played within the wealthy financial sector; where numerous senators and representatives are pawns of the American Legislative Exchange Council; where “the privatization of health services has corresponded closely with skyrocketing costs, leaving millions of Americans without access to care or deeply in debt for seeking treatment for their illnesses.” 

We live in a country where a major credit-rating agency was accused of “manipulating pension data”; where “Koch-supported groups have strongly worked behind the scenes on the federal and local levels to eradicate Social Security and Medicare as overly costly entitlements given to working class people,” and where the Koch Brothers and major corporations sponsor pension reform seminars for judges.  

We live in a country where Moody’s Investors Service, FitchRatings and Standard & Poor’s “gave out AAA ratings to sub-prime mortgage-backed securities. These securities turned out to be toxic, but the agencies were paid anyway. What's worse, when Wall Street ran out of questionable mortgages to securitize, it created a whole new market based on bets on those securities, bets called ‘derivatives.’ The Big Three kept on handing out AAA ratings to these complicated new products, and were again paid handsomely to do so. The rating agencies made hundreds of millions of dollars, but in the end, it was American taxpayers who paid the price -- losing their savings, their homes and their jobs in addition to having to pay billions to bail out banks…” 

We live in a country where breaking a constitutional contract with retirees and public employees is deemed morally and legally justifiable by legislative liars and thieves; where public employees and retirees are victims of plutocratic, concentrated economic privilege and power that accommodates and reinforces an enormous inequality of organizational resources for corporate self-seekers; where public schools are for sale; where public school teachers have been assaulted by a barrage of attacks on their autonomy, dignity and self-respect; where labor unions have lost political power and influence; where there is no pay equity or job security for college adjunct faculty, and where “memories of the university as a citadel of democratic learning have been replaced by a university eager to define itself largely as an adjunct of corporate power.” 

We live in a country where the plutocratic free market theory caters to self-interested desires and profit to the detriment of millions of Americans, while promising “freedom and prosperity;” where Free market principles advocate that the rich and poor should be taxed at the same flat rate, despite creating a vast inequity; where education, health care, retirement pensions, national parks (and most any function intrinsic to essential governing) become privatized to reap in more profits; where publicly-owned companies, services and their assets are auctioned off to private investors; that besides allocating vast amounts of wealth and resources from public to private ownership, there is a transfer of private debts to the public sector while public ownership and service are systematically dismantled.

-Glen Brown

According to Bill Moyers,  “…The historian Plutarch warned us long ago of what happens when there is no brake on the power of great wealth to subvert the electorate. ‘The abuse of buying and selling votes,’ he wrote of Rome, ‘crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread in the law courts and to the army, and finally, when even the sword became enslaved by the power of gold, the republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.’ 

“We don’t have emperors yet, but we do have the Roberts Court that consistently privileges the donor class. We don’t have emperors yet, but we do have a Senate in which, as a study by the political scientist Larry Bartels reveals, ‘Senators appear to be considerably more responsive to the opinions of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle-class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect on their senators’ roll call votes.’  
“We don’t have emperors yet, but we have a House of Representatives [and now a Senate] controlled by the far right that is now nourished by streams of ‘dark money’ unleashed thanks to the gift bestowed on the rich by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case.  

“We don’t have emperors yet, but one of our two major parties is now dominated by radicals engaged in a crusade of voter suppression aimed at the elderly, the young, minorities, and the poor; while the other party, once the champion of everyday working people, has been so enfeebled by its own collaboration with the donor class that it offers only token resistance to the forces that have demoralized everyday Americans…  

“It is simply astonishing that in this rich nation more than 21 million Americans are still in need of full-time work, many of them running out of jobless benefits, while our financial class pockets record profits, spends lavishly on campaigns to secure a political order that serves its own interests, and demands that our political class push for further austerity. 

“Meanwhile, roughly 46 million Americans live at or below the poverty line and, with the exception of Romania, no developed country has a higher percent of kids in poverty than we do. Yet a study by scholars at Northwestern University and Vanderbilt finds little support among the wealthiest Americans for policy reforms to reduce income inequality…  

“The Unfinished Work of America: In one way or another, this is the oldest story in America: the struggle to determine whether ‘we, the people’ is a moral compact embedded in a political contract or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others…  

“But there is nothing idealized or romantic about the difference between a society whose arrangements roughly serve all its citizens (something otherwise known as social justice) and one whose institutions have been converted into a stupendous fraud. That can be the difference between democracy and plutocracy…  

“And so we are. One hundred and fifty-one years ago, Abraham Lincoln stood on the blood-soaked battlefield of Gettysburg and called Americans to ‘the great task remaining.’ That ‘unfinished work,’ as he named it, remained the same then as it was when America’s founding generation began it. And it remains the same today: to breathe new life into the promise of the Declaration of Independence and to assure that the Union so many have sacrificed to save is a union worth saving” (The Great American Class War -- the rich against the people).

The Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate -- we cannot consecrate -- we cannot hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. 

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. 

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863


  1. This hits a raw nerve in me.
    Actually, it hits several raw nerves.
    "-- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain..."

  2. I've been saying all of this years. People didn't want to hear it, didn't believe it, and didn't want to be depressed. Maybe it just takes people like you (and Bernie and films like "The Big Short" to get the message outside of our circles--let's hope so. And on the subject of education, The Atlantic has an excellent article this month about Common Core in the pre-school years--it's heartbreaking. In fact, it goes right back to the problems you stated in your article. We are teaching our children at the earliest ages to "not love learning." Pre-school children are sitting with worksheets all day in teacher-directed classes and are taught to read in pre-school--no thinking, no discovery, no enjoyment of learning, no time for arts--and it's all coming from the same billionaires who are destroying every facet of this country. this is exactly how Hitler educated the children of Germany.

  3. We live in a country where nearly 62 million people elected a president who is contemptuous and ignorant of the Constitution of the United States of America (specifically the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and fourteenth amendments).

    We live in a country where nearly 62 million people elected a president who denies the reality of climate change and will allow the Keystone pipeline to move forward, lift restrictions on fossil fuel production, and dismantle environmental regulations.

    We live in a country where nearly 62 million people elected a president who extols Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, and Kim Jong-un and who also plans to cancel every executive action and order of President Obama.

    We live in a country where nearly 62 million people elected a president who defrauds people through his bankruptcies and his so-called “Trump University,” a person who is also a defendant in a sexual assault case of a minor, a person who exacerbates hatred toward Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Muslim Americans and who has degraded veterans, women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, and the disabled.

    We live in a country where nearly 62 million people elected a president who disrespects the Gold Star parents and their dead son, who has pledged to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, who wants to ban Muslims from entering this country, and who expressed a willingness to use nuclear weapons.

    We live in a country where nearly 62 million people elected a president endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and other white extremists and populists, a person who has empowered fascists and white nationalists and appointed a white supremacist and anti-Semite as his presidential advisor.

    We live in a country where nearly 62 million people miscalculated the unequivocal danger in voting for an unstable-unremorseful-impetuous-vulgar-xenophobic-vindictive-irrational-inarticulate narcissist, racist, bigot, sexist, misogynist, and liar: now to become the 1st president of the Unhinged States of America.

  4. “…If we are serious about transforming our country, if we are serious about rebuilding the middle class, if we are serious about reinvigorating our democracy, we need to develop a political movement which, once again, is prepared to take on and defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation. The billionaire class cannot have it all. Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent…

    “[We] believe every American is entitled to the right to a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing, and time off from work, the right for every business, large and small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and domination by monopolies. The right of all Americans to have a decent home and decent health care…

    “We must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy… We must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt. It is a system, for example, which during the 1990s allowed Wall Street to spend $5 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions to get deregulated...

    “It’s time we [have an America] for working families, not just Wall Street, billionaires and large corporations. It means that we should not be providing welfare for corporations, huge tax breaks for the very rich, or trade policies which boost corporate profits as workers lose their jobs. It means that we create a government that works for works for all of us, not just powerful special interests. It means that economic rights must be an essential part of what America stands for.

    “It means that health care should be a right of all people, not a privilege. This is not a radical idea. It exists in every other major country on earth. Not just Denmark, Sweden or Finland. It exists in Canada, France, Germany and Taiwan: a Medicare-for-all single payer health care system… Medicare for all would not only guarantee health care for all people, not only save middle class families and our entire nation significant sums of money, it would radically improve the lives of all Americans and bring about significant improvements in our economy…

    “We [must] have a government policy which also does not allow the greed and profiteering of the fossil fuel industry to destroy our environment and our planet… We have a moral responsibility to combat climate change and leave this planet healthy and inhabitable for our children and grandchildren… [Furthermore], the largest corporations must pay their fair share of taxes…

    “We must create a nation of economic and social justice. It also means that we must create a vibrant democracy based on the principle of one person one vote… It is unacceptable that we have a corrupt campaign finance system which allows millionaires, billionaires and large corporations to contribute as much as they want to Super Pacs to elect candidates who will represent their special interests. We must overturn Citizens United and move to public funding of elections…” –Bernie Sanders, November 2015.

  5. “…[T]wo of the country’s most distinguished political scientists, Alfred Stepan and Juan J. Linz, recently approached the puzzle of U.S. singularity in another way: they compared the number of stumbling blocks that advanced industrial democracies put in the way of their citizens’ ability to achieve their collective will through the legislative process.

    “Calling these inbuilt ‘majority constraining’ obstacles ‘veto players,’ the two scholars found a striking correlation: the nations with the fewest veto players have the greatest inequality. Only the United States has four such veto players. All four were specified in the slavery-defending founders’ Constitution that cannot be altered without the agreement of three-quarters of the states.

    “Other features of the U.S. system further obstruct majority rule, including a winner-take-all Electoral College that encourages a two-party system: the Tenth Amendment, which steers power toward the states; and a system of representation in the unusually potent Senate that violates the principle of ‘one person, one vote’ to a degree not seen anywhere else…

    “What makes the U.S. system ‘exceptional,’ sadly, is the number of built-in vetoes to constrain the majority… (226). In the dream vision of the apparatus Charles Koch has funded to carry out [James McGill] Buchanan’s call for constitutional revolution, it would be all but impossible for government to respond to the will of the majority unless the very wealthiest Americans agree fully with every measure. The project has multiple prongs…

    “[Koch’s] cadre is promoting a view of the Constitution that comes from a unique era of U.S. history: the period after the defeat of Reconstruction and leading up to the Great Depression. Buchanan acknowledged as much in the book that built his career, when he and coauthor Gordon Tullock said that nation’s decision-making rules were closer to the ‘ideal’ in 1900 than in 1960 [in ‘the age of both Lochner v. New York and Plessy v. Ferguson—decisions [that] blocked…meaningful employment reform…’] (227-28).

    “[T]he interpretation of the Constitution the cadre seeks to impose would give federal courts vast new powers to strike down measures desired by voters and passed by their duly elected representatives at all levels—and would require greatly expanded police powers to control the resultant popular anger… (228).

    “To advance their constitutional revolution, the donor network has pumped hitherto unheard-of-sums into state judicial races. While media attention has focused on the impact of Citizens United on the presidential and congressional races, the opening of the spigots in state judicial races may prove more consequential over the decades ahead as corporate donors invest in those they believe will interpret the constitution and the laws in their favor… (229).

    “As the push for aggressive judicial activism on behalf of economic liberty illustrates, for all the small-government rhetoric, the cadre actually wants a very strong government—but a government that acts only in a way they deem appropriate. It wants our democracy to be curbed as Chile’s was, with locks and bolts on what the majority can do.

    “Three additional battlefronts illuminate this truth, highlighting the stark restructuring of power under way. One is a power grab by affiliated state legislators reaching down to deny municipal governments the right to make their own policies on matters hitherto within their purview, not least local election rules. Pushed by [Koch’s funded] State Policy Network affiliates and guided by [Koch’s funded] ALEC-affiliated legislators, GOP-controlled states have been passing what are called preemption laws that deny localities the right to adopt policies that depart from the model being imposed by the network-dominated state legislatures… [Consider that] ALEC-backed legislators in forty-one states introduced more than 180 bills to restrict who could vote and how…

  6. “A related strategy further distorts political representation to advance property rights supremacist project. One part of this initiative was the most audacious gerrymander in U.S. history, with the purpose of ensuring systematic under representation of Americans viewed as troublesome by the cause and over representation of the more manageable—while lining up the supermajority of reliably controlled states needed to hold a constitutional convention… [Thus] transforming the nation by using decennial redistricting process to sharply boost the power of Republicans, even where majorities backed Democrats, and to pull the Republican Party to the right of its own voters in the process. (230-32).

    ”Understandably, many saw the power grab in purely partisan terms, but it was much more. The breathtaking import is conveyed well by Salon editor-in-chief David Daley: ‘Without the protection of a fairly-drawn district, the citizen is a pawn of billionaires who use the map of the country’ to get what they want…

    “A final example of the new bullying we can expect from the plan to enchain democracy also harks back to the mid-century South, with its inquisition-minded state and private bodies to investigate and intimidate dissenters. In 2015, the journalist Kenneth Vogel revealed that the Koch network had ‘quietly built a secretive operation that conducts political surveillance and intelligence gathering on its opponents, viewing it as a key strategic tool in its efforts to reshape American public life.’

    “A case in point: when Jane Mayer began to expose the operations of the Koch brothers and their network, they dispatched private investigators in a fruitless quest to find dirt with which to discredit her and tried to convince her employer to fire her. Anyone who tries to expose what this cause is up to thus must ask…: Will I become the target of a similar scurrilous attack? Wouldn’t it be wiser to keep quiet? (232).

    “…For what is the substance of James Buchanan’s and Charles Koch’s idea of liberty but Harry Bird’s Virginia, the state subjected to the ‘most thorough control by an oligarchy’[…] Virginia enacts their dream: the uncontested sway of the wealthiest citizens: the use of right-to-work laws and other ploys to keep working people powerless; the ability to fire dissenting public employees at will, targeting educators in particular; the use of voting-rights restrictions to keep those unlikely to agree with the elite from the polls; the deployment states’ rights to deter the federal government from promoting equal treatment; the hostility to public education; the regressive tax system; the opposition to Social Security, [Medicaid] and Medicare; and the parsimonious response to public needs of all kinds… (233).

  7. “The libertarian cause, from the time it first attracted wider support during the southern school crisis, was never about freedom as most people would define it. It was about the promotion of crippling division among the people so as to end any interference with what those who held vast power over others believed should be their prerogatives. Its leaders had no scruples about enlisting white supremacy to achieve capital supremacy.

    “And today, knowing that the majority does not share their goals and would stop them if they understood the endgame, the team of paid operatives seeks to win by stealth. Now, as then, the leaders seek [John C.] Calhoun-style liberty for the few—the liberty to concentrate vast wealth, so as to deny elementary fairness and freedom to the many.

    “Is this the country we want to live in and bequeath to our children and future generations? That is the real public choice. If we delay much longer, those who are imposing their stark utopia will choose for us. One of them has announced flatly: ‘America will soon make a decision about its future. It will be a permanent decision. There will be no going back.’ As we consider the future of our democracy in light of all that has happened already, we may take heed of a Koch maxim: ‘Playing it safe is slow suicide’” (234).

    MacLean, Nancy. Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. New York: Viking Penguin, 2017.

    These are some of the well-funded Think Tanks and Doners of Radical Right-Wing America: George Mason University/Mercatus Center, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) (Koch funded), Cato Institute (Koch funded), Americans for Prosperity (Koch funded), State Policy Network (Koch funded), the Reason Foundation (Koch funded), Charles Koch Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, Olin Foundation, Earheart Foundation, the Tax Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, Federalist Society, Institute for Contemporary Studies, Institute for Humane Studies, Independent Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Leadership Institute, the Liberty Fund, Scaife Family Charitable Trusts, Mont Pelerin Society…

    We already have witnessed a takeover of the Republican Party, the weakening of our labor unions, right-to-work laws to keep workers powerless, the shutting down of the federal government, the denial of climate change from the executive and legislative branches of government, ALEC-backed legislators who created bills to restrict minority voting, the scapegoating of teachers, the attacks on retirees’ and public employees’ pensions, the deprivation of university and college adjunct faculty, the systematic dismantling of public ownership and services, the privatized exorbitantly priced healthcare system, the rewriting of the tax code to benefit the wealthiest Americans, the victimization of immigrant children and their parents, and other forms of oligarchic oppression.

    Are we also going to allow the continuing deregulation of our environmental protections; the continuing privatization of our public schools; the eradication of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; the transformation of the U.S. courts and the privatization of the justice system; and a reinterpretation of the U.S. Constitution to successfully oppress the majority of Americans?

  8. And today, November 19, 2019, we live in a country where a man falsely occupies the office of presidency despite his constitutional ignorance, his obstruction of justice and concealment, his lawless demagoguery, his pathological narcissism, his grandiose delusions, his anti-social personality disorder, his malignant arrogance, his moral relativism, his white nationalism, his perfidious nationalism, his hateful racism, his infectious nihilism, his outrageous iconoclasm, his ruthless competition, his puerile dereliction, his embarrassing idiocy, his provocative transgressions, his mocking disrespect, his impetuous vulgarity, his belligerent intimidation, his pathological lying, his obsessive vindictiveness, his hypocritical cowardice, his compulsive xenophobia, his callous misogyny, his insufferable bigotry, his disgusting buffoonery, his histrionic rallying, his dangerous idiocy, his droning voice, his sociopathic bullying, and his repulsive self.