Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When 'We the People' Lost America

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

We have forgotten what it was like in this country during the Reagan administration. A great reminder may be found in the words of E.L. Doctorow, writing in 1989, who summed up the legacy left to Bill Clinton by the conservative administrations of Ronald Reagan/Bush:
"The philosophical conservative is someone willing to pay the price of other people's suffering for his principles. And so we now have hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of our citizens lying around the streets of our cities, sleeping in doorways, begging with styrofoam cups. We didn't have a class of permanent beggars in this country, the United States of America, fifteen or twenty years ago. We didn't have kids selling crack in their grade schools, or businessmen magnifying their fortunes into mega-fortunes by stock manipulation and thievery. I don't remember such epidemics of major corporate fraud.

A decade ago you did not have college students scrawling racial epithets or anti-semitic graffiti on the room doors of their fellow students...So something poisonous has been set loose in the last several years as we have enjoyed life under the power and principles of political conservatism. ...part of this poisonous thing that I'm trying to describe is its characteristic way of dealing with criticism: it used to be enough brand a critic as a radical or a leftist to make people turn away. Now we need only to call him a liberal. Soon "moderate" will be the M word, "conservative" the C word, and only fascists will be in the mainstream. And that degradation of discourse, that, too, is part of this something that is really rotten in America right now."

--E. L. Doctorow, Jack London, Hemingway and the Constitution
Doctorow continues to describe the change in America during the Reagan/Bush years:
"...we have seen a national regression to the robber-baronial thinking of the nineteenth century. This amounts to nothing less than a deconstruction of America, the dismantling of enlightened social legislation that had begun to bring equity over half a century to the lives of working people, to rectify some of the terrible imbalance of racial injustice and give a fair shake to the outsiders, the underdogs, the newcomers. We have seen the ideals of environmental sanctity sacrificed to the demands of business thinking in which we have done only as much to protect our environment as industry has found convenient, as if only a few songbirds and some poor dumb animals were at stake, as if the bleeding hearts of woodsy environmentalists were the issue, and not our lungs and skins and genes, and the wholeness and health of our children and their children."

--E. L. Doctorow, Jack London, Hemingway and the Constitution
One day, a new generation will awaken to the harm done this country during those halcyon years when Uncle Ronnie made the 'gopper-inclined' feel good about themselves as only goppers and the gopper-inclined can feel good about themselves while stepping over people made homeless by their policies. Was it under Reagan that we lost that last remaining ounce of empathy? The dishonest among us will deny reality, call us a 'name'', or pretend not to know or understand what we're talking about. The rest of us may agree --yes --it was during the Reagan years that our shaky moral footing slipped. Before Reagan, there was hope albeit inspired by dimming light. After Reagan, nothing mattered but wealth and power. Life held little promise. Thus was born of goppo-nomics a nilhistic world in which nothing mattered as all fame is fleeting and wealth is whatever someone else wants at the moment and, perhaps, worth nothing tomorrow when resources grow scarce and oil has run its course.

Corporate Special Interests Come of Age

This 'sea-change' in American attitudes and politics has been dated to the 70s by many 'progressive/liberal' writers and journalists primarily because it was during the 70s that America seemingly abandoned a ' firm commitment' to eliminating poverty, helping the poor, extending the benefits of education to all classes. These were the ideals of FDR's 'New Deal' and LBJ's 'Great Society' and, of course, the so-called 'radical 60s. The 'revolution' was lost, however, with a conservative counter-revolution: the rise of corporate person-hood which was itself the reductio ad absurdum of the corporate special interest system now flourishing openly in the offices of various lobbies on K-street.

How and Why Washington Dysfunctions!

The Power Game: How Washington Works by Hedrick Smith describes the process by which power in the House of Representatives was 'de-centralized'. The year was 1974. Certainly --there were no 'second coming' headlines announcing the sea-change that would result when 22 committees delegated much, perhaps most, of their authority to 172 sub-committees. While the process by which this occurred may be little understood, the results that followed are more obvious, primarily, the resulting mass of competing special interests operating --at first --secretly but now openly, blatantly in fancy offices on K-street! Once discrete, corporations now lobby openly, flagrantly, in an on-going auction of our government.

A second blow to Democracy came in the form of the SUN-PAC decision of 1975, a decision which 'legalized' corporate PACs --'Political Action Committees'. I can tell you from experience: this move energized, radicalized and mobilized the GOP as it most certainly had not been mobilized before. The effect then was not unlike the impact now of the recent ruling that 'corporations are people'. The GOP was equipped to go where no gopper had gone before'. In 1974, there were but 89 corporate PACs. In another ten years there were 1,682. I have no idea how many operate freely and openly today.

PAC victories came quickly and represented 'an enormous shift' in political power defined by the defeat of Ralph Nader's proposed Consumer Protection Agency. A galvanized, politicized 'corporate community' then celebrated the defeat of a proposed 'tax hike' which journalist Hedrick Smith said: "brought more bees after the honey." Those were heady days for those who now celebrate 'corporate personhood' as recently decreed by SCOTUS.

PAC donations and the resulting passage of laws favoring the right wing/GOP are easily correlated. By 1992, some 67 percent of all PACS were corporate. Their donations amounted to 79 percent of all contributions to political parties. Bluntly, the corporations had --at last --found a way to buy the government of the United States. The recent SCOTUS decision making these 'legal abstractions' persons is, of course, absurd, without precedent in law but even worse is the fact that while the right of individuals to petition Congress is guaranteed by the Constitution, mere real persons lacking donations, lacking funding, are, in fact, never granted access to their elected representatives. Artificial people --corporations --are given seemingly unlimited access.

The SCOTUS decision was and remains disingenuous, dishonest, blatantly contemptuous of the Constitution, disdainful of Democracy itself. I believe, therefore that the corporate special interest system is not merely unconstitutional on its face, it's affirmation by SCOTUS represents a coup d'etat which made official the fact that the U.S. is no longer a Democratic Republic but a fascist oligopoly whose raison d'etre is the waging of war. Worse --death and destruction are the only exports in which we lead the world.

In 1994 Republicans took over Congress, boasting that they would end 40 years of 'liberal' rule. In fact, the 80s were a profoundly conservative era and, tragically for the nation, Democratic politicians participated willingly. It was during the 80s, that corporate PACs hedged their bets by contributing 'liberally' to both parties, though Democrats got only 'sloppy seconds', almost always much less than amounts given GOP candidates.

Did Reagan's misrule constitute "high crimes and misdemeanors"? Many GOP-types will define "high crimes and misdemeanors" as simply "bad behavior". If that is the standard, then surely, Ronald Reagan should have been impeached, tried, convicted, removed! Bankrupting the nation is 'bad' behavior by any standard. Rewarding incompetence while incompetent is worse than driving while drunk! Blowing the world's last chance at nuclear disarmament is even worse, perhaps fatal, behavior. What about the bungling of George Bush Sr toward the end of the Persian Gulf war when he promised to protect the Kurds but allowed them to fall to a strong Iraqi military? Is that "bad behavior"? Certainly, it is! George Bush should have been impeached and so too Lyndon Johnson who staged the Gulf of Tonkin incident leading to wider U.S. involvement in Viet Nam.

The brutal murder of JFK --a cowardly act in which the Warren Commission may have conspired with the FBI to falsify and plant evidence -- was not sufficient to finish off the vestiges of our Republic. There was no single, defining incident in which the American 'republic' ceased to be. There was no dramatic sea-change comparable to the auction of the Roman Empire to nobleman Didius Julianus. There was no great or heroic battle waged and lost. There was no arrest of Essex. There was no play to 'catch the conscience of a King'. And now, there is no speech, no kiss before dying, no Shakespearean exit but a pathetic whimper before the lights are dimmed and a weary audience dismissed.


Anonymous said...

"I hope that we are trying to recover the illusion of our identity."
The last, best hope of mankind.
A body at rest tends to stay at rest.
I wrestle with the fact that an enormous system is in place here in the U.S. The tendency will be to leave it in place, whatever the "goals" of the citizenry might be.
I question how many of my fellow empire dwellers consider any question higher that a sports game or a sex scandal on teevee.
I do believe that there is little perception of history, that myths are now more substantial in the popular imagination than anything near to an actual event.
The whole nation is now guided by Madison Avenue, consume, work and keep your mouth shut.
It has been very effective, the Nazis could have done no better in convincing the masses of the party line.
Bush telling us to "go shopping" after 911 is something that should be inscribed upon the walls of a monument.
Fear of foreigners, fear of the economy, fear of the police state, these are things which will not be changed with a wave of a magic wand.
I do not feel that I live in the country of my birth, I now doubt that such a place ever existed.
Good piece of writing, Cowboy, Thanks.
Don Smith

Anonymous said...

Four Dead In Ohio--it would have been bloody but when we backed down there, they knew they had us. It was our last chance to save our human values.

Unknown said...

Wow! Well said.

How sad so many have been like the gullible mouse convinced that marching into the cat's mouth is a GOOD thing. And good for all the other little mice, too. And anyone who says otherwise is obviously anti-American because it's clear to see that cat-mouth-marching is good for EVERYONE. Harrumph, pay no attention to those mouse bones in the cat poop. Move along. Nothing to see here. Hey! Quick, look over there!

I weep for our country.

Unknown said...

Don sez...

I do not feel that I live in the country of my birth, I now doubt that such a place ever existed.

Brilliantly, put, Don. That sums up my feelings as well. I also know NOW why I SELDOM got on well with my history professors. I almost never recognized the country they talked about.

Anonymous sez...

Four Dead In Ohio--... It was our last chance to save our human values.

Yep! They were supposed to have been firing either blanks or non-lethal bullets. Upon whose orders was a lethal switch made? Once again --MURDER by the state is not investigate, not prosecuted.

Andy sez... is good for EVERYONE.

A perfect metaphor. Another is the march into the mouth of Moloch.

PeerlessCynic said...

I'm a Canadian who once worked and travelled throughout the States, and I observed much of what you describe. I like how you put into historical context the evolving iterations of corporate/conservative ideology. My fear is that the next swing of the pendulum will be severe, especially given the dominance of conservative media and the reactionaries that consume it.

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PeerlessCynic said...

I'm a Canadian who once worked and travelled throughout the States, and I observed much of what you describe.

I've often wondered how our good friends north of us perceive the near lunacy to which we often succumb. These are horrible times. Unless many more people wake up, primarily those with influence, the U.S. might do well to break up into several separate nations. The northeast has great potential --business acumen and large, viable cities: New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore.

The 'red states' in the middle are a write off --reactionary, declining educational standards, contempt for science.

The 'South'? It has yet to deal with the aftermath of the Civil War. Bigotry has simply gone underground. Offshore oil gave coast states a reprieve but oil is not the future of the U.S. If it had been, the U.S. would not have waged war on Iraq in either instance.

It has not yet occurred to a vast majority in America just how bad off they are! And they are OWNED! By China.

damien said...

Len, you really have to see this. Very, very interesting claims of nuclear devices on 9/11. Even if one doesn't accept the claim of Dimitri Khalezov (a former officer of the Soviet nuclear intelligence), there are still some remarkable features of the events of 9/11 that are explained by this account.

Unknown said...

damien, thanks for posting. I still have an open mind on that specific point despite the following statement by Prof Stephen Jones:

"Several months ago, I tested WTC dust samples (from an apartment at 113 Liberty Street, NYC [1]) and a solidified metal sample (from the Clarkson University WTC monument [1]) for radioactivity using a Geiger counter. (Daedalon Corp., model EN-15.) I found ZERO RADIOACTIVITY (meaning nothing above background). This experimental evidence goes strongly against the mini-nukes hypothesis since measured radioactivity was simply at background levels. I used the same counter to measure the radioactivity of sand gathered from a nuclear-bomb test site decades ago for comparison – and the Geiger counter showed (2.94 +- 0.15) counts/sec. (The fused-sand was in fact from a New Mexico test site where an atomic bomb was detonated in 1945.)

This demonstrates unequivocally the presence and long life of radioactive residues due to nuclear bombs, and the ability of the sensitive Geiger counter to measure that radioactivity. The sand still yields high Geiger-counter readings decades after the nuclear bomb blast, yet the WTC dust and slag and steel yield nothing. In addition, a steel member from the WTC (again from the Clarkson University WTC monument [1]) was recently tested for neutron activation by the author. The WTC steel showed 100 counts in 4m 26s, or (0.38 +- 0.04) counts/second. The background counting rate showed 100 counts in 4m 18s, or 0.39+- 0.04) counts/second. These data overlap within the statistical error, meaning that zero counts over background were seen from the WTC steel."

DPirate said...

I hope this wasn't supposed to read like a praise of Reagan. The Iran/Contra thing alone demonstrates how far off the mark his administration was, not to mention that his tenure saw the beginnings of the governmental debt balloon.

Maybe it is just that you came of age then and remember it as being better, but it was even better under Carter, Nixon, Johnson. I think you must go back to Kennedy to grasp the promise of America. If I had to choose a moment when our descent into fascism began, it would be then. Not his murder, but our meek acceptance of the party line after the fact. That ensured the death of Bobby, as well, though who knows whether Bobby had the nads to rebuke the Black-ops branch of government like his brother did.

Unknown said...

DPirate sez...

I hope this wasn't supposed to read like a praise of Reagan.

You're kiddin' me, right???? Praise of fuckin' Reagan???? Am I reading this right? Clearly --you have NEVER read this blog. Until BUSH JR outdid him, Reagan was clearly THE WORST FUCKIN' WALKIN' DISASTER to have ever befallen this often unworthy nation since Andrew Johnson. I am frustrated in my quest to find the VERY WORST SO-CALLED PREZ in American history because among the GOP there are SO MANY CANDIDATES!!! Gimme a fuckin' break. BTW --when I said that aside from the Shrub Reagan was the worst President I had ALL the official stats and the Final Report of Iran-Contra Special Prosecutor to back me up!


Praise, my ass! He should have been locked up!

The Iran/Contra thing alone demonstrates how far off the mark his administration was, not to mention that his tenure saw the beginnings of the governmental debt balloon.

I COVERED Iran/Contra as a major market/network correspondent. Don't presume to lecture until you've done your homework.

Maybe it is just that you came of age then and remember it as being better, but it was even better under Carter, Nixon, Johnson.

Again --the FIRST RULE of writing i: DO YOUR FUCKIN' HOMEWORK. You are the one writes as if you were born yesterday and, secondly, you are STUPID to characterize me in any without first reading the archives. You idiot!

I think you must go back to Kennedy to grasp the promise of America. If I had to choose a moment when our descent into fascism began, it would be then. Not his murder, but our meek acceptance of the party line after the fact.

You were probably not born when JFK was Prez. I did not meet JFK but knew Bush Sr personally LONG before he became President. I interviewed him on NUMEROUS occasions for local radio stations, major market broadcast outlets and major networks to include CBS and ABC.

Next time, do some homework before you make a total fucking fool of yourself.

Now --if you have ANYTHING other than your misconceptions and ignorance upon which to base a comment, knock yourself out. Otherwise, you flunk the course. And the next time you post this kind of crap, I will just delete it. It's not worth bothering with unless it is, like yours, an EXAMPLE to be cited and ridiculed.

Unknown said...

DPirate, what you did was read the FIRST sentence and then ASSUMED that it was an homage to Reagan.

First rule, don't WRITE ABOUT THINGS you have NOT read. Clearly --you did not even read the blockquoted paragraph by Doctorow.

Clue: DOCTOROW IS SLAMMING REAGAN. He's talking about how America was LOST during the Reagan years.

Jeeeez!!!!! Way to miss fuckin' point, D.

No wonder America is completely lost!

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