Sunday, October 27, 2013

Suicide in Which Sense?

Inside the Republican Suicide Machine, an article by Tim Dickinson in the October 9th edition of Rolling Stone, attempts to uncover the funding, organizational and ideological split currently severing the Republican Party, and leading to the shutdown.

The article does reveal how the Citizens United deregulation of campaign finance has turned the US House of Representatives into the private fief of a handful of billionaires and gigantic political action committees.
Last November, this redistricting effort produced a shocking subversion of representative democracy. In the popular vote, almost 1.4 million more Americans cast their votes for Democratic House candidates than voted for Republicans. But Republicans maintained a commanding majority in the House. "Gerrymandering saved them," says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
It's become frighteningly apparent to the rest of the world, if not to Americans, that our political system is unstable and unable to serve the best interests of the majority of people inside, as well as outside the United States.

But the problem is more than just disagreements over the budget.  The question of whether the masses can govern ourselves or whether wealthy self-appointed feudal lords will hold the reins of power is not going to be resolved by 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans between now and December 15.  That's the divide behind the disfunction.  "Less government" is a euphemism for "less democracy."

"Common Ground," is the watchword of the day. Just as many wealthier Americans see the poor and needy as unworthy of Federal aid--or even food, health care and education--many working and middle class people see the wealthy as greedy and grotesquely over privileged.

As much as we would like to oppose "them" with the wealth and status belonging to "us," an honest look at reality shows that to be a false and harmful contrast.

Historically, people who work hard, successfully, and benefit society the most, don't grow wealthy from it.

In fact, in an unregulated capitalist system such as we have now, gigantic concentrations of society's wealth accrue not to the most deserving, but rather empower single families or small groups to completely dominate government, media, energy, warfare and vast swaths of economic and political activity. Such dominance is usually the result of inheritance or some combination of timing and luck, but is ultimately completely disproportionate to the individual's contribution to society.  But Feudalism is a doomed economic model.

Even the brightest, most industrious individual could produce scant lasting wealth outside of the context of a healthy society and government. Government is the soil in which capital grows.

Everybody agrees that those who contribute most are entitled to more rewards than those of us who contribute less.  But it's the wealth of generations, of society as a whole, that circulates through our economy, not the wealth of individuals.  Yet, regardless of the value or harm of their role in society, individuals in our system can lay claim to fortunes, not of their own creation, but cultivated by the flow of wealth through history, social progress, and technological development wrought by generations of hard working progenitors and fortuitous laws and political circumstances.

But why would the masses be interested in perpetuating a system where the richest 400 people own as much wealth as the poorest 150 million? An economic system that creates and exacerbates such disparities is doomed.  People would be unreasonable to tolerate it.

Tax rates and government priorities change over time. We had forty years of higher taxes, and now we've had thirty years of lower taxes.

It's strange that we who have benefitted so much from the investment and sacrifice of those in the past, would resist government social investment through taxes upon large amounts of the wealth we consider to be "ours,"  when such bridge-building, wetlands preservation or scientific research would greatly enrich posterity.  Granting that innovators and inventors of penicillin or laptop computers should prosper, most of the innovation and invention involved is the bequest of previous generations, and should therefore benefit society at large, not just a few fortunate individuals.

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