Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Grotesque Parody of Representative Government

Impoverishing the middle class


Bucks County Courier Times

Not quite one year into his presidency and Barack Obama is well on the way to joining the pantheon of iconic Democratic presidents with a memorable domestic achievement of his own. To FDR's New Deal and Truman's Fair Deal will be added Obama's "Raw Deal."

Instead of the falling wages of the past 30 years, tens of millions of Americans now have no wages. Instead of struggling to make the mortgage, millions of Americans now have no mortgage - and no home. Instead of graduating high school and going on to college, millions of young Americans will now graduate high school and go nowhere. Instead of looking forward to a secure retirement, millions of seniors are now looking at wiped out retirement savings and reduced medical care.

In a grotesque parody of representative government, Congress shadow boxes with lobbyists to discover what "reforms" their corporate pay masters will permit and the president pleads with the Wall Street robber barons to "be nice" to the American people.

And while Wall Street wallows in trillions of dollars expropriated from the American middle class and one in four American children now are reduced to food stamps, terrorists slip into the United States undeterred by an army in Afghanistan .

The terrorist apprehended in the Detroit airport on Christmas day couldn't wait to get off the aircraft before attempting to kill Americans. How many have had more patience?

In addition to the 68,000 troops now in Afghanistan , there are more than 121,000 paid contractors deployed there. When President Obama's escalation takes effect, another 30,000 troops will be added and, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service, as many as 56,000 more contractors - a Vietnam War force level of 275,000.

In a briefing paper, a Senate subcommittee reported that private contractors now comprise 69 percent of the Department of Defense's total work force, "the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel in U.S. history."

The health insurance lobby spent a reported $1.4 million a day to get the health care legislation and profits it wants. The finance lobby spent $3.2 billion in 10 years to get what it wanted, and in the last couple of months alone has spent more than $300 million to keep what it has.

How many millions do you suppose defense contractors are spending in lobbying and campaign contributions to keep America at war and their profits rolling in?

This legalized bribery of those elected to represent the American people will continue until the American people break the power of the corporate pay masters of the Congress.

There must be a package of public financing of federal elections, an outright ban on corporate campaign contributions and full, timely disclosure of all lobbying. Nothing short of this can take the Congress back from its corporate paymasters.

And to get the money to meet the urgent needs of the American people the wars must end and there must be substantial new taxes on Wall Street and the highest earners in the United States .

It is worth remembering how and when America became the world super power. It happened in the 1950s, when the modern suburbs were born and the middle class exploded in prosperity. Three policies of the American government enabled that advance.

One, America was at peace. President Eisenhower ended the Korean War, declined his generals' urging to make war with China , declined a similar invitation to join the Anglo French War in Egypt and in fact shut it down, and refused to plunge the U.S. into war with the Soviets when they sent the tanks into Eastern Europe .

Two, the tax rate on the highest earners throughout the 1950s and beyond was 91 percent.

You read it right, 91 percent. Instead of the wealth of America being concentrated in ever fewer hands, more prosperity was shared more broadly among more people than at any time in history.

Three, the G.I. Bill put millions in college and into homes.

Returning America to that level of broadly shared prosperity will be a bruising battle and the war will not be won in 2010 and not even by 2012. Already, the corporate interests are stuffing the campaign war chests of incumbent members of Congress, to keep them in office and in line.

So there must also be a means to bypass the corrupted federal center and the rapacious elites who have hijacked it, and restore control of the future more directly to more Americans.

That measure is the creation of publicly held state banks, to create new credit and investment, directed locally and bypassing Wall Street and Washington. Such a bank already exists in North Dakota . And in addition to low interest loans for businesses and students, investment in infrastructure and jobs, creation of a secondary market for mortgages and a lower cost market for municipal bonds, the Bank of North Dakota will return more than $60 million to the state's general fund this year.

The alternative to these measures is Mr. Obama's Raw Deal - the impoverishment of the American middle class, the funneling of vast wealth to mega banks and corporations, and a concentration of power in a corrupted federal center.

January 07, 2010

Mike Krauss is an international logistics executive and author, and a former officer of Bucks County and PA government. Reach him at

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