|Where's the Zombie when you Need one?|
But we all agree that's no longer the basis for governance in America. It is shocking to listen to a discussion that readily acknowledges that our government is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate interests, and the political leadership no longer represents the people, but rather the elites who allowed them to be elected in the first place. That this has happened is generally not in doubt. And the results of this sea change in democratic governance are there to be seen. Rising inequality. Falling tax rates. Less investment in government. Fewer services for the people. No prosecution for massive crimes committed by the political and financial elites. Again, how shocking is it to realize that we have sat in our living rooms and watched all this unfold without taking any action but complaining - much as I am doing here today.
I still remember my reaction to bush v. gore in 2000. I knew this was America, I had learned well our values and I fully understood both the role of the people and the role of the court. There was simply no way they would order election officials to stop counting votes - this isn't Guatemala, this is America. Here we count the votes and when we're sure we announce the winner. There's no thumb on the scale, there's no fear of any outcome except that which is rigged. And then our highest court installed the loser in the White House because it was the political outcome they desired. I felt empty - lost. Surely the people, the army, someone would stop this coup. And nothing happened, American democracy died, and we all went back to work on Monday. From there it's all been kind of inevitable, I suppose. The accumulation of Executive power, the use of Congressional rules to cripple the legislature, the consolidation of media ownership among the same corporate elites that were now fully engaged in the largest act of political corruption in history - corruption all the more egregious because they used their power to make it legal before they did it.
Now? Now we know the people are powerless, our institutions are bought and paid for and there is nothing we can do about it. We talk about it every day, on television, on the Internet, in books and magazines. And while there is a general sense that this is unfortunate, there is no real anger at what has been stolen from us, and the bleak future we have before us. The consensus seems to be that we should do something about it by working within the system, which is laughable because this is the same system they have already taken control of. We recently got to watch the spectacle of our legislators threatening to utterly destroy our economy if we dared to raise taxes on our most wealthy citizens. They stood up, without shame because they know who they serve, and they promised to ruin the lives of millions more Americans if we so much as cost their ownership even a tiny fraction of their immense wealth. And we watched it happen.
There are choices being made. That's all they are - choices. We could choose to build our economy and reduce the unemployment rate. We could choose to invest in infrastructure and education and R&D. We could choose to do many things - but we know without question that we are no longer the ones doing the choosing. We, the people, have no say in our governance. We are not even marginalized - we are ignored. We have allowed the power to be passed from the people back to the elites, and we have done nothing to stop it. This is no longer a functioning democracy, but rather a theatrical facade of democracy, where we are allowed to vote, but only for candidates that are already beholden to their ownership group, candidates who will act the role and tell us what they'll do for us, and we play along but we know well that whoever is elected will take their orders not from the people, but from the wealthy elites. Of course we know how it all turns out - we talk about it every day. That's the remarkable thing - nobody is even bothering to pretend anymore.
Of course, here's the question. How bad will it get for us before the elites allow us to make it at least a little better? At some point will the extraordinary economic inequality begin to cost the corporations profits? Will the time come when they realize that if they keep all the money, there will be none for people to spend at their stores? Or will they all just go someplace clean and safe and leave us in a world of hunger and disease and poverty? At any time the people could take their democracy back, but the challenge is overcoming the hate and distrust that keeps all of us from acting together. America is like one of those Bain Capital acquisitions we keep hearing about - they bought it, now they are leveraging it up and squeezing every dollar out of it, and at some point they will take their profits and walk away. And everybody knows it, nobody really denies it and no one is doing a damn thing.