Remember, We the People were also fighting a Monopoly of a Crown Corporation for our Independence well over 200 years ago?http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_India_Companyhttp://blog.buzzflash.com/carpenter/516
Our New Age of Betrayal
what Gilded Age President Rutherford B. Hayes confided to his diary, eleven years after leaving office: "This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government by the corporations, of the corporations, and for the corporations."
In the introduction to his magnificent The Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900, Jack Beatty notes a CBS News/New York Times poll, from 2004, in which 64 percent of the respondents answered in the affirmative to the first of these choices: "Would you say the government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves or that it is run for the benefit of all the people?"
Not very surprising, you say? Hardly even noteworthy? By itself, that would be true; even from an anecdotal approach one can quickly -- and accurately -- surmise that most Americans have little faith in their government's virtuous independence.
But Beatty's purpose wasn't solely to point out that 21st-century America is off to a rocky start, confidencewise. His purpose was, rather, to note the remarkable acceleration of civic America's discontent: when the same question was asked in the 1960s, only about half of the later number were willing to agree that "the government is pretty much run by a few big interests."
Within the same 40-year period -- and need I remind you that this was the era of Reaganism Rising, that prolonged epoch of propagandistic reassurances that a government much closer to the people was finally at hand -- the number of Americans who agreed that "public officials don't care about what people think" also nearly doubled, from 36 to 66 percent.
Moreover, two scholars of Congress, Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, were in the early 2000s offering academic evidence to confirm the popular opinion that when it comes to kowtowing to big business, the House of Representatives -- the people's house -- "more closely resembles the House of the 19th century than that of the 20th, of the Gilded Age more than the Cold War era."
What's more, as though more was needed, in 2004 the American Political Science Association issued a report, "American Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality," which bluntly concluded that "Our government is becoming less democratic, responsive mainly to the privileged and not a powerful instrument to correct disadvantages or to look out for the majority."
All the above comes from Beatty -- who, when not writing political history, acts as a senior editor at the Atlantic Monthly -- like a shotgun blast, packed as it is in less than one full paragraph. In other words, there's more, and Beatty's concentrated explosion is merely meant as a wake-up call, before he plunges into the Gilded Age politics that looked astonishingly similar to today's, or should I say, today's politics which look astonishingly similar to the Gilded Age.
To Beatty's searing critique, I would add this not unique observation: James Madison's theory of pluralistic politics, once promenaded on stilts, now seems to limp along on crutches. You may recall that this founding father had argued that a representative democracy was in fact a feasible system of governance in an expansive republic, even though, as his detractors pointed out, factions and special interests would grow intolerably with the geography. Yes, they would indeed grow, countered Madison; but, over time, he asserted, they would effectively cancel each other out. Hence republicanism, civic virtue, collective wisdom and all that would by and large, and ultimately, reign.
But that argument elided in large part the coming, immense concentrations of capitalist wealth in America, and how immensely powerful those concentrations would emerge in their influence on money- and reelection-hungry Congressmen. In short, "the people" can be well aware of and quite dissatisfied with big money's influence, and Congress, in turn, can be well aware of the people's dissatisfaction -- but, as they say, money talks louder.
And that's why there's such a depressingly familiar feel to every journalistic lede to every legislative story today, such as the NY Times' weekend piece that began, "As the health care debate moves to the floor of Congress, most of the serious proposals to fulfill President Obama’s original vow to curb costs have fallen victim to organized interests."
The following paragraph is just as expectedly familiar: "And now the last two initiatives with real bite that are still in contention" -- I was about to include what those initiatives are, but let's face it, that makes no difference; if they have "bite," they're toast --"are under furious assault."
And again: "Although the bills contain other measures aimed at medical costs, most of the surviving ones do not antagonize any organized interest." They antagonize only "the people," most of whom had re-cranked their faith in "the system" just a few months ago.
I'll repeat my dogged contention that President Obama is not to blame for this unmistakably sorry state of health-care affairs. As a young, incoming president, he needed, above all, a checkmark in the "W" column. That's just the way it is -- a presidential axiom as fundamental as the influence of money in Congressional politics.
But after this pitiable "reform" of health care in America passes Congress (assuming it does), Obama shall -- and should -- find himself liberated, I hope, to start kicking some Capitol Hill butt. However much asterisked, he'll still have his "W," and he might as well use it abrasively, before watching every other reform go down to Congressional graft.
He likely wouldn't succeed, liberally speaking. But does he wish to be remembered as a liberal president who failed because he compromised everything to death upfront, or as a liberal president who largely failed because he tried, against all the odds, to attain his ideals?
Otherwise it's a sure thing: he might as well commend to his diary -- now -- what Gilded Age President Rutherford B. Hayes confided to his diary, eleven years after leaving office: "This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government by the corporations, of the corporations, and for the corporations."
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THE FIFTH COLUMNIST by P.M. Carpenter