January 2, 2007

Discredited American Political Elite

It's easy to give examples of the discredited American political elite. At the end of this piece I offer a few positive steps that can be taken to remedy this crisis.

In South America "Mass political and social movements, many of whose members live on less than a dollar a day, have learned to run successful political campaigns and carry out extended protests on people power and a shoestring budget --- a phenomena terrifying to both the nation’s discredited political elite and U.S. economic interests." [1] This level of direct democracy has yet to boil up in the United States; however, the 2006 mid-term elections were a hint of the potential. Others, like Noam Chomsky, observe that Americans political apathy reflects acknowledgement of a dysfunctional, entrenched political elite.

Discredited Electoral Process: Many people recognize the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen. There's a ton of documented evidence compiled by people like Greg Palast, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and John Conyers, who will chair the House Judiciary Committee in the coming Congress.

But that's just the most egregious aspect of deeper discredit. Because of the influence of television on public perception, and the high cost of access to TV due in part to media ownership consolidation, politicians are beholden to money. Because corporations, and the wealthy elite, have consolidated most of the Nation's wealth, most politicians are beholden to these narrow, monied interests. So, Americans have lost faith in an electoral process that only allows them to pick between dumb and dumber.

The Judicial System: The ineffectual role of the Florida Supreme Court, and the radical bias of the US Supreme Court in the electoral process has been exposed. Consider an example of blatantly tainted judicial impartiality, and it makes your skin crawl. Given the bias revealed by his public statements, Scalia should have stepped aside in the Hamdan case, regarding the legality of trying bin Ladin's former driver of war crimes. But it goes deeper. It takes money to defend oneself (defend oneself?) against a slapp suit in our current judicial system. It is nearly impossible to challenge the violations of a huge corporation.

Commercial Media: The mainstream media, the 4th branch, has become part of American political elite. Ownership has been consolidated from about 50 outlets in the 1980s to about six huge transnational corporations. How can General Electric NOT have a conflict of interest? Media personalities have become highly-paid celebrities, with a lot to loose if they don't toe the corporate advertiser line. We all have written off Faux News, thanks to Greenwald's investigations, documented in "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism." We have documentary evidence that Fox News is anything but "fair and balanced." But it doesn't stop at Fox. Jeff Cohen's book, "Cable News Confidential," puts to rest any doubts that the media oligopoly is a market failure of capitalist economic theory. They should not only have their FCC licences revoked, but risk challenges to their corporate charters.

Divide and Conquer:
To the chants of Si Se Puede, we are all reminded that the political elite cannot manage immigration. Republicans tried to use it as a divisive issue in 2006, and failed. We see the 9/11 Commission recommend more security along the Canadian boarder, and the political response is congressional funding of a wall along the Mexican boarder. This mentality isn't limited to Republicans. The Clinton administration began militarizing the border with Mexico in 1994. That the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented in the same year as Clinton's Operation Gatekeeper is no coincidence. "When this all began, (INS officials) told Congress that immigration would spike after NAFTA because it would displace workers." [2]

I could go on:
The fact that we got into the Iraq war. The failure to resolve the Israel/Palestine debacle. The Privatization of US highways, and other "privatization" initiatives, which reflects political impotence to maintain infrastructure, The failure of corporate globalization and desperate talk of tariffs by Democrat Charles Schumer, which seeks to cast blame on China for failing to revalue the yuan. OK China, go ahead. Devalue the dollar (the relative effect of raising the value of the yuan). Bankrupt policy options of the political elite. Did I say "bankrupt?" How 'bout that bipartisan bankruptcy bill? Katrina victims? not just the failures in advance and soon after the levees broke, but the blatant property grabs that amount to ethnic cleansing. Yes, on and on one can go pointing out why America's political elite is discredited.

But what to do about it?


1. Universal Health Care. Why? By reducing this burden on employers, they can be more competitive. Medical innovations will still be able to compete for use. It cuts out the inefficient insurance middle-man. It helps redistribute wealth, which is needed to reduce the growing strain of inequity on our society.

2. Restrict corporate rights at the constitutional level. No informed person can deny that corporations are literally getting out of human control. Inanimate corporations are re-writing our laws and affecting judicial precedent through the perversions of their enormously consolidated power. This will go a long way toward reforming our discredited commercial media and electoral systems.

3. Windfall Profit Taxes. Government largess is well known. Invest about $100 million into further investigation, and we can surely regain $100 billion for tax payers. This will help redistribute wealth, which is needed to reduce the growing strain of inequity on our society.

4. Get a Handle on Hedge Funds. When commodities, like wheat, become the playground for wealthy gambler's, honest farmers pay the price... literally. When foreign currencies can be cornered, countries like Thailand are forced to take seemingly authoritarian steps to protect their economies. Unless the political elite want agrarian revolt or war, they need to reel in this gambling parlor.


[1] Kathryn Ledebur and Gretchen Gordon, 22 November 2005

[2] EDWARD SIFUENTES, North County Times (San Diego), October 3, 2004.


Walt said...

I'm not sure I agree with your remedies, but give you credit for going beyond bitching.

Campaign Finance Reform should be added to your list.

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