“Wall Street … supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as a diversionary marionette theater. Should the politicians forget their lines and threaten the status quo, Wall Street floods the town with cash and lawyers to help the hired hands remember their own best interests.” – Mike Lofgren, Anatomy of the Deep State
The argument by the Ted Cruz’s, Paul Ryans and Rand Pauls of this world essentially revolves around the Reaganist perception that believes government is not the solution to the problem, it is the problem. The “Gipper” apparently didn’t mean the government that spies on us or feeds a ravaging military-industrial complex, the national security infrastructure or one that doles out tax payer resources to highly profitable oil companies and failed banks.
The assumption here is that left unfettered, the economy would run perfectly fine with no government interference. This is a belief that simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Every failing economy in this country has had to rely on government intervention at some level to help stabilize the markets. Some progressive governments have gone further with this than their conservative counterparts and the result has been the evolution of a strong middle class.
Libertarians, which make up today’s TeaParty crowd, are under the illusion that free-markets are guided by an “invisible hand” that will make sure that people’s self-interest never exceed excessive limits that irreparably hurt their fellow citizens. It is this misguided faith in free-markets that leads them to believe that capitalism alone has the answers to all of our economic and social ills.
This idealistic notion contends that when unethical and exploitative business practices are recognized by the consuming public their reaction will have a negative impact on the goods and services owned by these entrepreneurs of low character and thus force them to change their ways; hopefully regaining the public’s confidence. The key point to be made here is that which refers to public awareness. Without this public awareness there is little to prevent unscrupulous businesses to hawk their snake oil on unsuspecting consumers allowing for potential harm to personal health and social well-being. Honesty and integrity are often in short supply by people who seek to enhance profits over people.
The right to sue such miscreants is of course a part of the legal system and offers an avenue of retribution and compensation for the harm some products and services have inflicted. But the financial resources necessary to achieve this are often beyond the means of most individuals. When such lawsuits do make it to court the powerful moneyed interests have sufficiently influenced both the law-making bodies in this country and many of the courts to limit individual redress and punitive actions on the “corporate citizen”. Often to such a meager affect, leaving no monetary incentive for that business to avoid any future malpractices. It merely motivates them to repackage their product to appear to be something other than what the laws have specifically denied.
Let’s not forget either the corporate-friendly interpretations of our legal and political systems by the courts and legislatures that have beaten down the working class in this country or those which have thinly veiled giving greater power to the wealthy. Citizens United is the most glaring example of this where the Supreme court not only enhanced the silly illusion that corporations are a human’s equal but that money is the equivalent of speech.
Furthermore, public awareness suffers when ownership of media sources become the private property of people who ultimately aim to deceive people when necessary to profit themselves. All that the public has to protect their interests against the excesses of a powerful wealthy elite is our government. The one that was established to provide among other things, justice and to promote the general welfare.
But that government has sold out to the highest bidder. The crony capitalism that infests the executive, legislative and judicial branches of federal and state governments has become the real source of people’s angst. It is this condition that now exists which is at the heart of most people’s ire towards government, even if they haven’t fully grasped this salient point. The illusion in some people’s minds that the system isn’t rigged by wealthy special interests is a feat of magic that Houdini would be proud of. This sleight of hand has been achieved by a level of wealth owned almost exclusively by 1% of the population giving them the ability to purchase and thus control the means of communication in this country.
In the past there have been limits on how much media one person could own but again, law-making bodies and courts can be bought off and these barriers can and have been removed, where now only 5 huge corporations — Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) — now control most of the media industry in the U.S. The wealthy and powerful companies that are the result of so-called free markets now own the means by which the public is most frequently informed. Public awareness now becomes even further diminished and gives wealthy corporations greater leverage in avoiding the invisible hand of free markets that allegedly exists to inhibit human greed.
In the past, public awareness often came long after scoundrels had pilfered the consumers pocket and the damage had been done. But once caught, their nefarious deeds could be exposed and some compensation could be exacted. Now, with control of large broadcasts systems, even when the public becomes aware of unethical and even criminal behavior, large corporate interests can influence the message medium to show a side that confuses the public’s perception by employing a mythical concept referred to as the false equivalent in journalism.
Such was the case for the longest time with cigarette companies who challenged the evidence that demonstrated there were hazards to one’s health from smoking. Now the fossil fuel industries in this country are using similar tactics to deny the climate science that exposes their products as the primary contributor to the rapid increase of atmospheric green house gases causing the planet to warm beyond any natural rate. Similarly the chemical industry also pays to have the message distorted that attempts to expose their toxic products.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair
Character assassination has been around as long as their have been characters to assassinate. Effective character assassination has proven most successful with influential people of means. Because it is human to want more than we have, it is easy for those who have it all to convince the rest of us that their enemies are our enemies. Whoever they frame are falsely accused of preventing our inner urge to own more. This exercise conceals the fact that such actions are driven by people who only want to sustain a status quo. One that keeps them at the top of the income pyramid, not some fair-minded social conscience that seeks to establish a level playing field for all.
Government may indeed be the problem to many of our struggles but only because those who we have elected to represent us have over time abdicated their responsibility to honor the basic concepts set out in the Constitution’s preamble and to fulfill Lincoln’s vision of “the great task remaining before us”. A task that would preserve a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Not the special interest of the 1%. Any inherent good in government cannot exist when almost exclusively supported by a plutocracy.