Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A New Nation, Conceived in Greed

In these United States, the myth of the president's election by "the people" persists, but in fact the office always goes to the candidate who raises the most money for pursuing it. The myth that the Congress makes laws also persists. In fact, legislation is written by people called lobbyists, who are paid handsomely to shape the law of the land to the will of the oligarchs who really run the country.

President Eisenhower called them "the military industrial complex" but we ignored his warning. Now they are enormously more powerful and exponentially more sinister than they were when he left office. The United States of America we knew, whose government, in Lincoln's immortal phrase, was "of the people, by the people and for the people," may soon perish from the earth.

In its place today is rising the United States of Goldman Sachs, whose government is "of the rich, by the very rich and for the obscenely rich." Its motto is "In Capitalism We Trust" and it has a state religion: the worship of Profit. It is dedicated to the proposition that big companies are more equal than small ones. And the people? It ignores them, save for using the fruit of their labor to feed the maw of corporate greed.

If the old USA was the very model of successful democratic government, the US of GS is the very model of oligarchy successfully masquerading as democracy. It maintains token trappings of democracy -- a bicameral national legislature, a judiciary and a chief executive. 

These vestiges of a former democracy are but window dressing on the work of the lobbyists. They carry large sums of cash and other rich emoluments from office to office on Capitol Hill, giving the representatives of the people their instructions on what to legislate.
Lobbyists and their oligarchs are the interchangeable parts of government of the rich, by the very rich and for the obscenely rich. They head the bureaucracies of the executive branch, dictate to the legislative branch and fill the judiciary with lawyers beholden to them.

The oligarchs determine which corporations are "too big to fail," and squeeze the people for taxes to assure that they don't fail, no matter how badly managed. Detailed explanations of how this works can be found by Googling "bailout," TARP or Geithner.

Lobbyists coach the elected representatives of the people in how to appear to heed the voice of the people while in fact ignoring it. In the Oval Office, this is done through well-crafted speeches that say one thing while appointing cabinet officers who do the opposite. Google "Summers," "Brennan" or "Gates" for examples. On Capitol Hill this is done by a process called "markup" which takes place "in committee." Here's how it works:

A). The people clamor for, say, cleaner and cheaper energy, cleaner air and water and genuine efforts by government to address the scientific facts of global warming. Advocates write a bill whose provisions might in fact achieve most of those goals.

B). The bill is assigned to "committee" for "markup." The oligarchs of industries that would be affected by the bill's provisions then summon their lobbyists, instruct them in how to eliminate those provisions and substitute provisions that would serve to increase the industry's profits at the cost of the health, welfare and interests of the people. The lobbyists write new versions of the bill, take their bundles of cash and emoluments, and go from office to office in Washington. The representatives of the people "mark" the lobbyists' changes into the bill.

C).The "marked-up" bill is sent to the floor of the House, or the Senate, for debate. But the god of Profit is supreme and corporate greed is limitless. Those representatives of the people who received the largest bundles of cash, the richest emoluments, from the lobbyists for the oligarchs, dominate the debate, abetted by the media, who give equal weight to every bleat no matter how ludicrous.
D). A final bill even worse than the marked-up bill eventually passes. The representatives of the people trumpet their work as another masterpiece of democracy in action. The corporate accountants, who were in on the joke all along, continue chortling in glee. 

E). Profits rise. God is happy. The elected representatives of the people once again have successfully opposed the people's interests without appearing to oppose the people's interests.

 The United States of Goldman Sachs has one of the worst health-care systems in the industrialized world. Its oligarchs have the best health care in the world. Their lobbyists have superb health care. The elected representatives of the people have their choice of a number of truly excellent health care plans, provided and administered by the U.S. government.

 It's only the people -- 46 million of them -- who don't have health care because they can't afford it. And what of the millions more who have health-care insurance that only covers people who aren't sick, or haven’t been sick yet? Or have health insurance written by companies that employ tens of thousands of people to find reasons to reject claims for benefits? Or whose insurance companies won't pay health-care providers who are "out of network," or do not participate in the HMO? Or who dare not quit a low-paying job for a higher-paying one because they'd lose their health insurance?

The people clamored for something better. Their elected representatives pledged to enact legislation to reform health care in the US of GS. They wrote bills, which are now in various committees for mark-up. The bought-and-paid-for representatives of the people, instructed by their fat cat speech experts, began to prattle about "socialist agenda," "government takeover," "rationing," "denial of choice" and "death panels." Their blather bestirs many in the voting class, including those who need government-run health care most, to oppose it with blind anger. The language that achieved this counter-intuitive result – fooling the people into opposing their own interests -- continues to be deployed until the real point of the debate is lost in hot air and smoke.

You can guess what happens next. But why guess?

It cost the energy industries just over $202 million in lobbying money to emasculate the energy bill as “marked up” by the two houses of Congress.
The very profitable health industries have already spent nearly $300 million lobbying against health-care reform. They are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether this nation, or any nation so dedicated, can long endure. They are met on a great battlefield of that war, called health-care reform. They can spend millions more on that field, without beginning to tap the last full measure of their devotion to Profit.
Sorry, Citizen, but those who are Too Big to Fail have decided that you're too small to succeed. Take two aspirin, go to bed, and if you're not better in the morning, there's always an emergency room -- somewhere.

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