Our ship of state cannot find a new, better direction by rearranging the deck chairs, hiring a new trumpet player for the band in the Captain’s Lounge, or repainting the life boats.
It really comes down to setting an entirely new course, even turning the ship 180º around if it’s heading entirely in the wrong direction. Nothing less will get the job done.
Yet, our often bitter national conversation __ sometimes a shrill shouting match __ is always focused on the tiniest details, irrelevant details which serves both to distract us and obscure the larger issues which are the real source of our national conundrum and chronic paralysis. Whether this is intentional or not, it has poisoned all of the air in the room and killed progress on the many critical __ as in life-or-death __ challenges confronting us.
We argue about capping student loan percentages and whether bankruptcy should be allowed for individuals who can’t pay for their student loans. Public funding for advanced education has been coming up short both at the national and local level. Public universities facing insolvency are either depending more on private __ as in corporate __ funding, or being completely privatized. Tuition is shooting through the roof. To assure profitability, institutions of learning are becoming more beholden to private industry. The disturbing upshot of these trends is that higher education is becoming unaffordable for the majority of young people, at a time when employers are demanding even more education of their prospective employees. Nevertheless, all we seem capable of doing is nitpicking away about the burgeoning student debt problem.
The real question is what kind of country doesn’t educate its population? Conservatives say the money isn’t there. Yet we spend in the upwards of $1 trillion a year __ that’s trillion with a ‘t’ __ on our military. We really need to ask: Books or bombs?
We argue about the upsides and downsides of Obamacare, wrangle over the exemptions and loopholes in the program, condemn governors who are opting out certain aspects of the Affordable Healthcare Act. These are certainly genuine issues but not the problem.
The real problem is twofold: There is nothing keeping the cost of health care under control __ we spend 17.7% of our GDP on health care, next closest are Holland at 11.9%, France at 11.6%, Germany at 11.3%, Canada at 11.2%, __ and much of what we spend on services is turned into corporate profits. You get sick, corporations make money. The sicker you get, the more money they make. Am I off here but isn’t there something bizarre or even cruel about turning human misery into an ATM machine?
So forget the details of this sub-clause and that policy rider. We need to address a very fundamental question about what kind of society we want. Is America a country where the proper care and health of its citizens is a fundamental and integral part of “the general welfare” __ is a basic right __ or is it a service commodity like getting your car tuned or your house painted? There is no other modern industrialized nation which does not lean toward seeing health care as a right, like voting, free speech, freedom of religion, and so on. America distinguishes itself by ignoring this most fundamental aspect of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Only in America will you be left to die just because your insurance doesn’t cover your problem or like 40 million others you have no health insurance.
We talk about whether we should go to war with Syria or Iran, whether we should continue to use drones, what we can do about North Korea. Yes, this is a dangerous world. But we ignore a simple fact. We are the ones making the world a more dangerous place. We are now viewed by the rest of the world as the greatest threat to peace and stability on the planet. With maybe a few obvious exceptions, we are the problem, not those we are constantly demonizing. We are becoming a pariah in the world community.
Because of the wholesale takeover by the military-industrial complex of our foreign policy apparatus, meaning wholesale embracing of a neocon imperialistic world view, we don’t even consider peace as an option. We don’t work for peace. We don’t think about peace. We rarely mention peace. The military option, from targeted drone bombing to full-scale war is apparently the only option. We have a one-size-fits-all strategy: Bomb, kill, destroy.
The real question is: Do most American citizens want America to rule the world by force? Do the imperial ambitions and delusions of global hegemony of our leaders truly reflect the values of the majority of our citizens? What insanity is Washington DC championing here on our behalf?
Who’s version of America arms the world __ we are the biggest arms supplier on the planet __ antagonizes every other world power, bullies its friends and foes alike, never takes ‘yes’ for an answer unless it’s a ‘yes’ for armed confrontation, and expects to survive?
This is a survival issue. Because if any significant number of the countries becoming increasingly fed up with America’s my-way-or-the-highway tactics unite, no amount of bombs and bullets will rescue us. Think about this: America hasn’t won a war since WWII. Oh right . . . forgot. There was Grenada. A country of with less than 1/4 million people with no standing army. We trounced them.
Then as we spend about as much on the rest of the world combined on our vast military machine, we scream and yell __ perhaps rightfully so __ about our national debt, about both our personal and public indebtedness, about home mortgages, foreclosures, credit card debt, of course, again student loan debt, how much we owe China and Japan, etc. Sure these are important matters. But they are only the dirty wine glasses on the Titanic.
Because the real question is: Why doesn’t the nation we pay our hard-earned taxes to have control of its own currency? Why don’t we as Americans have any say whatever in the way the money of the richest country in the world is handled by its central banking institution, the Federal Reserve? The Federal Reserve is not federal __ meaning a part of the federal government __ any more than Federal Express. It is a privately owned-and-operated corporation! Our currency is not issued by Uncle Sam. It’s issued by Uncle Ben, as in Ben Bernanke! How can we get our budget priorities in line when we don’t have any control over the very currency we use? This sounds on the surface like some abstract question but it is fundamental to creating a sound economic system. He who controls the purse strings controls the world.
And now is the really big one, which spawns all of the others. This is the big daddy sitting at the top of this shit pile of self-deception causing all of the yelling, blather, incoherence, gridlock, confusion, frustration, helplessness __ the ultimate bargain with the Devil.
We argue about Republican vs. Democrat, conservative vs. liberal, we have our standing jokes about Libertarians and spoiler candidates from the Green Party, and we point at the ultimate lepers of our time, socialists!
But the simple truth is that it’s not about Democrat vs. Republican. It’s about tyranny. The tyranny we have invited by our apathy and our self-invoked declaration of surrender. The tyranny that marches in when hope is replaced by hopelessness and toughness traded out for submission and compliance. It’s the tyranny of the power elite that fills the vacuum of citizen engagement and self-rule. It’s the tyranny of rule by a tiny core of elite oligarchs when voting becomes an exercise in futility, if not a complete joke.
All of this contentiousness, bickering, in-fighting, out-fighting, cage-fighting is irrelevant. Because we don’t have representative government anymore.
DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA IS DEAD!
Now that’s the real issue.
And until we address that issue, nothing else will get done. Politics will be a board game, about as relevant to governing our nation as Monopoly is to the real economy.
The evidence for this is clear.
No matter who is in power, Democrat or Republican, most everything just gets worse.
Ralph Nader made the controversial claim in his 2000 campaign for president that the two parties were Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum. That was both perceptive and prescient. Now in the coming mid-term and 2016 elections, it is even more the case than ever. Real choice within the two-party system is an illusion. Third party and other independent candidates are almost totally shut out, shouted down, or mocked by those who benefit from having a two-party system beholden to the corporate aristocracy.
So the questions we need to address here are not the hot issues of the day. The questions are practically never what is being discussed in the 24/7/365 tsunami of scandal, rumor, manufactured crisis, and drama queen reporting that passes for news these days.
The most important question is whether we can become a functioning democracy again.
Whether a Democrat or a Republican supports gay marriage or gun control or legalization of marijuana may seem like life-or-death issues. This is what we constantly hear from both media pundits and politicians alike. But these issues __ these “details” __ pale against the real question, the big question.
Do these men and women in suits __ Democrats and Republicans __ support America?
Do they support America, or is their true loyalty to the huge transnational corporations which are looting our treasury via corporate welfare and off-shoring their profits, turning our country in a big wasteland devoid of real opportunities for real Americans, trashing the environment, and bankrupting our political system by buying our elected representatives?
So what’s the point of all of this?
It’s very simple . . .
Until we fix the big problems, nothing will get resolved. Our educational system is rigged. Our health care system is rigged. Our foreign policy is rigged. Our tax system is rigged. Our monetary system is rigged. Our democracy is rigged. So . . .
We can sweat the small stuff but all we will end up doing is standing in a puddle of sweat.
I talked about this problem of scale __ the big fundamental systemic issues vs. the narrow typically charged and highly divisive ones __ quite some time ago in a previous blog called “You Don’t Use A Microscope To Find The Cow That Left The Barn“. I also discussed the epic levels of exaggeration which issues from our government institutions supported by the talking puppets in the media, essentially propaganda designed to convince the public that the dysfunctional blowhards we elect to public office are actually getting something done. That blog was called “Differences That Don’t Make A Difference“.
Back then __ respectively April and March 2011 __ neither seemed to make much of an impression. But considering it’s been almost three years now and things are just getting worse, maybe this would be a good time to revisit them.
As to the important business of steering the ship of state . . .
Maybe it’s time for a mutiny.