I am now preparing for Hurricane Florence to pummel the crap out of my family and me. It is astonishing, angering, and outrageous to hear a tape of Donald Trump touting the great job he and his team did with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year. He is just such an appallingly poor excuse for a president I can hardly describe it without throwing my computer monitor out of the window. It’s that bad in my opinion. I thought G.W. Bush was bad, but now when I hear him talk, I long for those days! It’s just topsy-turvy in the extreme. My point in this blog is that I hope Hillary Clinton, Bill, Chuck Schumer, the DNC, and especially Debbie Wasserman-Schultz wake up every day and lament their actions in the 2016 Democratic Primary. The Ancient Athenian historian and general Ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more gifted fellows. For on public matters no one can hear and decide so well as the many”; he was speaking against oligarchy in favor of democracy. Though democracy has never been perfect, and our founders feared granting power to anyone but aristocratic white men, it seems abundantly clear that America’s oligarchy is repugnant.
I fear that hundreds could die if Trump botches this FEMA response to what it likely to turn out to be a catastrophic hurricane – part and parcel of the warming oceans caused by climate change (which the Trump Administration is conveniently ignoring) – just like nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico (despite the president’s insane appraisal of how great the government did). America’s oligarchy is repugnant, and we are living with the blowback every single day.
The disgusting irony of all this is starving the beast. That is a concept whereby Republicans complain that Democrats are ruining everything with their taxing and their spending and their big, wasteful government. Then, they fight to the death using big money from corporations and wealthy individuals, whereupon they do one of two dysfunctional things: a) either they run up the deficit and the debt with tax cuts and government spending on GOP priorities such as defense, or b) they claim that because the government is dysfunctional in theory and in practice, it should be starved like the beast it is. They then cut social programs and other services Americans tend to favor. Tax-cutting dogmatist Grover Norquist literally said this of the United States federal government: “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico and this rich asshole wants to drown the government. This is what we’re dealing with.
“Experience is a good teacher, but she sends in terrific bills.”
America’s oligarchy is repugnant, and we are living with the blowback every single day. I say that because a better and more functional government is easily possible. It’s not that there aren’t solutions to the many problems that were either encountered or created by us, it’s that we tend not to see them or want to institute them. It is as though the will of the people has been subverted by an oligarchy, a group of loosely-affiliate or independently-operating individuals in (politicians and bureaucrats and political appointees) and out of (wealthy campaign donors, lobbyists, etc.) government.
If there is one thing that liberals and conservatives can agree on is that the government is largely out of control. It spends, it bungles, it self-deals, it engages in chicanery, it fails. What is different is the assessment: liberals long for government to be more democratic, more responsive, more responsible. Conservatives tend to fall for the rouse peddled by Republicans that the solution is to disarm, dislodge, shrink, ruin, foil, and eschew such a government. They don’t seem to see that many countries have many aspects of governance that is far superior to ours. “What the average person has figured out, is that neither Party represents them, and that we live in an Oligarchy. So they’ve stopped playing. This has been bad for Democrats, since the passionately ignorant show up to vote in disproportionate numbers”,
For example, Iceland and New Zealand have very little corruption (relatively) in government. Canada and Switzerland have decent and functioning healthcare systems. Many Scandinavian countries have a democratic-socialist government which – hold on to your hat – believes that government should actually serve the people. Hell, Cuba has a better healthcare system than America does in certain ways. Certainly, Finland and even Qatar have better educational systems than the United States does. No country has more debt than America does, or a higher percentage of its citizens in jails.
“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”
Much of this reflects two trends: a) the decline in unions and b) the rise of dark money in politics. As well, there is a lust for privatization, as can be seen in both schools and prisons.
There is no doubt that there is a huge correlation (and I would argue, a causal relationship) between the hybrid-socialist governments of Scandinavia and happiness. Here is a demonstration. The happiest countries in the world? Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. It’s cold as ice there and not very sunny for most of the year, so it ain’t all rainbows and puppy dogs. They simply value things that America seems to fail to grasp: decent pay, a more horizontal/egalitarian philosophy about wealth ownership, good healthcare, good (virtually free) education, low crime, decent lifestyle norms such as paid time off and maternity leave, and a sense that government is responsive and responsible. This is something we can only dream about in America, where money is king and people like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz are its servants. America’s oligarchy is repugnant, the effect of decades of disempowered workers, depressed and disenfranchised voters, and dark money in our dark politics.
Democracy is no panacea, and Alfred North Whitehead commented that “Democracy…is a society in which the unbeliever feels undisturbed and at home. If there were only half a dozen unbelievers in America, their well-being would be a test of our democracy.” Art Spander, however, quipped that “The great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid.”
“We value justice, democracy, peace, and tolerance, to name a few other desiderata that might or might not correlate with well-being. But the future calls us to measure and then make policy around well-being rather than just around money.”
I believe that Republicans in power are the bane of this Union. However, Bernie Sanders points out that Democrats, though better, have also been negligent. He said, “Indeed, the Democrats have been much better than the Republicans. But I don’t want anyone here to forget that it was a Democratic president, not a Republican president, who deregulated Wall Street. It was a Democratic president who made the first major initiatives on disastrous trade policies. Let’s not forget that either.” This leads to historian Eric Alterman’s dour conclusion that “Face it, the system is rigged, and it’s rigged against us.” Of all people, convicted uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff has this to say: “Though democracy is not perfect, it is certainly the most effective polity; as Winston Churchill averred, democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest. Human social systems usually last but a few generations before collapsing into the abyss of entropy. It is, therefore, quite remarkable that our republic just celebrated its 236th anniversary.”
I hope Hillary and Bill and Debbie and Chuck and the rest of the oligarchs (which I am afraid has to include Barack Obama) wake up every day and are ashamed and regretful they ushered in a madman like Donald Trump. We should have let Bernie win fair and square and at least had one branch of government that was liberal, true, and under the influence of the citizens of the United States. I say, America’s oligarchy is repugnant, and we are living with the blowback every single day. I just hope it doesn’t destroy my house tomorrow when Hurricane Florence bears down on me, or that the toxic waste sites don’t become inundated with water, and that the folks who are fleeing and suffering realize that we get the government we deserve.
“Today’s Congress is a polarized, dysfunctional body, rendered helpless by partisanship, more focused on scoring short-term political points than on solving our nation’s urgent problems. In short, the Washington of the past decade has been awash in nincompoopery. And that was before Trump.”
The state of the union is in dire peril, and I hope we can reverse the damage that this corrupt and dysfunctional government is doing at the ballot box in the midterm election. Based on the number of women, democratic socialists, and people of color running for office, we may be seeing the turn of the tide – and not a moment too soon. America has prevailed in many dark times, not the least of which was facing down the Nazis and the Japanese in World War II. However, money has a much tighter grip on our institutions, leaders, and hearts, and as with all deals one makes with the devil, the payment is going to be severe.
A few quotes by Bernie Sanders to further demonstrate my claim that America’s oligarchy is repugnant and that we need more democratic socialism ASAP:
“…[W]hat you want is a government which, broadly speaking, represents the people and not a handful of billionaires. And once you have that, once you have members going forward saying “No, of course nobody in your community wants to cut social security and give tax breaks to billionaires. Okay, how do we address this issue?” Then we can work together. But right now, to me, the major job we have is to build a strong, progressive, grassroots movement where millions of people become active in the political process in a way we have not seen in the modern history of this country.”
“You’ve got the Koch Brothers and other billionaire families who are prepared to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in elections to buy the candidates of their choice, often extreme right-wing candidates. I am the former chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, and I can tell you that I don’t believe that the men and women who defend American democracy fought to create a situation where American billionaires own the political process.” ~ Bernie Sanders
“Honest people, my conservative friends, differ with me. That’s fine. That’s called democracy. It’s a good thing, but I’ve got to hope, and I have to ask the media’s help on this thing: Allow us to discuss the important issues facing the American people. Let’s not get hung up on political soap opera, and all the other aspects of modern campaigns.” ~ Bernie Sanders
“I wonder now, in this day and age, whether it is possible for any candidate who is not a billionaire, or who is not beholden to the billionaire class, to be able to run successful campaigns, and if that is the case, I want you all to recognize what a sad state of affairs that is for American democracy.” ~ Bernie Sanders
“The people on top get away with their absurd policies because they assume that people don’t know what’s going on—the media won’t report it—or that people have given up to such a degree that they’re not capable of fighting back, or that they could always raise enough money in a campaign to run lying, thirty-second ads and they’ll win anyhow.” ~ Bernie Sanders
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