The Decline and Possible Fall of America

The time is approaching Christmas in this year of 2011. A weak president occupies the White House. Congress is deadlocked. Seven candidates from the opposition party, possibly more, sense this weakness. The election of 2012 is well underway. Much money has been spent, much airtime devoted to numerous debates in which candidates attempt to show that they can fix the nation’s ills and that no one else can.

And if there’s one choice that the electorate would want on the ballot, it’s “None of these.”

Why? Despite the plentitude of platitudes, none of the candidates has a clue about what’s wrong, or what to do to fix things. Politics? They know how to win elections. Platitudes and mudslinging, it’s the new formula. Governing? Not possible. Whatever ‘governing’ does occur seems to be by afterthought, something the president must do that Congress doesn’t, because lawmakers can hide in the pack and then spin their activities later. The judiciary? The judicial system is corrupted by money, where expensive lawyers delay and play to the media, where corrupt business practices often result in a relatively minor fine and no admission that wrongdoing occurred.

If it all were simple, someone would have fixed it. Keep that in mind.

Complex problems won’t be solved by simplistic answers. Too long, we’ve believed our candidates, our leaders, actually knew what they were doing. We believed they had the well-being, the best interests, of the nation at heart. We believed.

We were wrong.

Politics, and politicians, should reflect the will of the people. It, and they, no longer do this. The political system is for sale. Numerous polls are taken showing what the public desires to happen. Lawmakers ignore them. It’s breathtaking arrogance and the conviction that later on, when election time nears, there will be little real choice for voters, and bags of money to buy misleading, even false, advertising. ‘Meetings’ will be held in which selected supporters come to listen to heavily rehearsed speeches which never mention any particulars. Platitudes, posturing, spin; it’s all that the voters get. And we don’t demand anything better.

Despite the pious claims of those at the top, competition is not the methodology of the US; just as soon as a person, a company, an industry reaches a position where they have the money to do so, they buy enough lawmakers to push through legislation to protect themselves and to keep their profits artificially high; to suppress competition, in other words. There are often parallel efforts to gain advantage by suppressing taxes so that one industry, even one company on occasion, is favored at the expense of others. The image of competing businesses working hard to compete is demonstrably wrong, at least among businesses which are large enough to affect political decisions. Some, indeed, have become virtually uncontrollable by any single nation.

They’re multinational in scope. When business in one nation declines or becomes less profitable, the multinationals simply enhance their operations in other nations. They can choose which nation they will favor by locating a headquarters or a manufacturing plant there and such decisions are strictly economic. If a nation provides a favorable tax situation, that’s where the headquarters is. They will continue to do business elsewhere, iand they may not do any business where their headquarters is located. Instead of economic entities competing, now nations must compete for the favor of the multinationals.

This, indeed, may be the way of the future. Economic entities, companies or industries, may be the new nations, performing all the offices that nations once did. But that future is not yet.

Our task in the 21st Century is to define the problem that affects the US specifically and the world generally. The US is failing; let there be no doubt of that. Platitudes and promises can no longer cover up the looming catastrophe; education, voting in blocs, control of political leaders, fundamental change of total systems, it’s all going to be necessary. We can now do this in a way that the founders could never imagine. We have the internet. We have the potential to become organized as never before. It’s been done, so we aren’t leaders in this; witness the Arab Spring. Computers, smart phones, communication can motivate and organize a population and direct a mass movement.

One of the things that will be required is modification of the US Constitution. The reasoning behind the original document no longer holds true. The Constitution, with it’s safeguards designed to prevent all-powerful government from oppressing the citizen, still has a place; but now we have the new tyranny, the all-powerful economic entity, the corporation, and we have few if any safeguards for our protection.

The political process should protect us from this tyranny. But it doesn’t. Instead, the oligarchs who run the corporations (as a shorter term than ‘economic entities’) through holding the positions of management or through interlocked memberships in boards of directors control politicians and through them, the political process. Call them the 1%, although that’s not mathematically correct. It serves better than ‘oligarchs’ or ‘the corporate elites’.

So: the system is broken. Can it be fixed? I think it can.

But it begins with education, not the education of schools but the education of voters. Voters must develop some understanding of politics and of economics. They must understand education and be able to apply that to their children. They must also understand something of the judicial system and regain control of courts and legal matters. Above all, they must develop some understanding of economics, at least enough to know when politics and politicians no longer serve the people but are servants of the 1%.

This is the introduction to a collection of essays that will deal with economics, politics, education, and the judiciary. It’s meant for the ordinary concerned citizen and it will avoid technicalities. The essays are not meant for entertainment, but for education. I hope you gain some understanding of the complex issues that affect our nation in this period of history. If you do that, then the work will have been worthwhile.

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