Economic Barbarism
T
he Battle to Buy the Soul
of Democracy in the USA

by
James J. Roberts

All people, no matter where on the planet they may live, have a right to safety, liberty, justice, and fair wages.  While many politicians and patriots also purport to support this concept, they would do well to think twice before holding up the history of the democracy of the United States as the singular model other nations should follow to achieve these goals.

Today the collective consciousness of this country has slipped more and more into erroneously accepting easily digested slogans as a substitute for facts.  In another place and time, a malevolent force in world affairs named Joseph Goebels accurately proffered the idea that slogans were all that was needed to lead a dissatisfied public in any direction that a then rapidly growing popular party wanted to make it go.  Goebels' key premise in regard to slogans was simple: "Tell a lie (as a slogan) often enough and it becomes publicly-accepted as truth." 

Sadly, more and more Americans are falling victim to slogans these days rather than exercising their powers of critical, fact-driven, individual thought.  Instead, many now mindlessly consume propaganda that is often dressed-up as "news" and belief it as if it is fact.  Their resultant denial based, wildly-idealized view of U.S. history reveals just how effectively sloganeering has apparently  erased their memory or sensitivity to facts about our real history.

For all its good aspects, for instance, our democracy was not built on a foundation of providing "liberty and justice for all".  Far from it.  It was built on forced labor lashed from the backs of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, kidnapped from their families in other countries.  The "heroes" of our country brought them (those who survived the trip) here, and forced them into slavery at the threat of their lives.  For two hundred years our “democracy” encouraged and permitted the buying, selling, and trading of these poor souls, many of whom were treated like cattle (or worse) by some of our wealthiest and most successful businessmen, politicians, and families, not to mention religious leaders.  Many of “old money” families who sit in power today in this country derived that power from the slave trade.  It is power built on blood.

Nor was our country built on justice for all.  Instead it was built on genocide and land stolen from one Native American nation after another by government-supported slaughters that annihilated one tribe after tribe…and drove survivors from their homelands to starve, freeze, and wander.  Even biological warfare was waged against them through the heinous dispersal of “gifts” of scarlet fever-laden blankets.

In the not too distant past, our democracy denied women and blacks the right to vote.  Education, housing, employment opportunities and equal pay for equal work were  systematically denied to millions under democracy-sanctioned denial-of-rights programs called – segregation.

Through the 1970’s our “democracy” sterilized nearly 65,000 Americans, many without their knowledge, because our “democracy” determined it was too “costly” to permit them to reproduce.  Many victims of this atrocity were simply poor, uneducated, or black.    Although many later became everything from successful engineering consultants to fine craftsmen, our government had stolen from them the right to produce children.

Although the United States are remarkable in many ways, particularly in the generosity and courage of their people…fear, greed and a kind of “economic barbarism” always has driven its  “government by democracy”.  Economic barbarism triumphs over the idealism its people whenever capital interests grow politically and financially strong enough (and corrupt and uncontrolled enough) to unduly influence executive and legislative activity to the detriment of fairness, justice, and equality for all.  We are in just such a period now.

The battle between Justice vs. Economic Barbarism and unbridled Greed has been and remains the central struggle in American history.  It was so during the days of slavery and it is so today as money and deal-peddling special interests woo presidents and politicians as smoothly as snakes charming mice...before eat devouring them. 

Whether our democracy ascends to greatness or simply dissolves into the muck and mire of insatiable greed that drives economic barbarism depends on the viability of our justice system.  But its effectiveness is eviscerated when corrupt business leaders succeed at corrupting the Legislative and Executive Branches of government to insure passage of laws that benefit special interests -- but hurt everyone else; for, in the end, the judiciary only can interpret and enforce what has been written into law by Congress and signed into law by the President.  If those branches of government are unduly influenced or corrupted and create "special interest laws", the judiciary can do little to rectify the situation.  Fixing that problem requires a nation's people to rise up in unison to revolt against and eject the sinister forces that have infected their government. 

When more and more members of Congress and the Executive Branch of U.S. government succumb to the influence and rewards of dealing with small but corrupt club of capitalists and align themselves against the best interests of the People, the nation's soul cannot help but stagger under the insult of their blows.  Such is the case now in the United States, where the government is both out of "balance" and no longer answerable to an alert people. 

When a nation is beleaguered by such ethical bankruptcy at its highest levels of leadership, it can be saved from destruction only if an alert and engaged citizenry rise up in time to wrest control of the Ship of State away from the economic barbarians at its helm and return it to the people; for, without intervention, such ethically bankrupt, financial special interests simply would steer her into a reef, plunder her remains, and move on to their next nation-victim.  Only the People can set the Ship of State on a wiser, safer course...but to do so takes takes courage, action, and sacrifice.

From the outset of U.S. history, our Executive and Legislative Branches of government have been in and out of the grip of economic barbarism.  Lately, more in than out.  Proof of that resides in the recent mind boggling array of special interest legislation and “loopholes” that are now “law”.  When carefully traced, one finds ALL of these laws mysteriously sprang into existence following large campaign “contributions”, adroit manipulations of PAC money, seedy dispensation of congressional perks, junkets and privileges, and a salacious series of back room deals where the quid pro quo’s were so carefully worked out in advance of a Bill’s passage that the final "public" vote was nothing but a ruse to fool the "hicks" in the gallery into thinking they were seeing "democracy in action" as votes were taken or Presidents signed Bills into law.  The votes and the signing were a "show" for the easily entertained niave and foolish who didn't understand that a dozen dirty deals had been cut in shadowy halls where money and power traded hands faster than collectibles at a flea market to insure that the "vote" went the "right" way.  The real "vote", however, arranged well in advance, in a process kept totally invisible from the public.  Sadly, the workings of today's American democracy does not even remotely resemble the workings described in high school and college civics and poli-sci texts.

Some of the most onerous recent legislative/excutive "deals" written into law favor economic barbarism by enabling endlessly-avaricious corporate leaders to brazenly shift corporate tax burdens away from their corporations and onto the shoulders of less and less well-off individual taxpayers via complex schemes and financial scenarios.  These machinations improve corporate bottom lines, which, in turn, further fatten the already bursting pockets of some of today’s most obscenely wealthy corporate robber barons, who not only run national and international conglomerates, but also sit on each others’ boards of directors!

This cozy club is not only dominating U.S. policy making, but also is coming to dominate the course of world events.  In the U.S., the clique uses the tools of “democracy” subtly…and sometimes not so subtly…to pick the pockets of every middle class and poor American taxpayer, while thickening executive pay packages, siphoning funds into dummy offshore "shelters", and stuffing corporate coffers to fund "golden parachutes" for executives...while simultaneously reducing worker wages, deporting jobs, and cutting worker benefits.  All with the blessings of Congress and the President...who live well, vote themselves raises for selling out their constituencies' interests to special interests, and make deals while in office with their vote buyers for jobs with them when they leave office! 

Today’s bloated economic barbarians, having still not sated their greed, are now hammering (successfully) at the gates of Social Security, Medicaid and  Medicare.  Time to pick the pockets of the old, the blind, the infirm.  Behind sweet sounding slogans, their economic agenda is to gain entry to each of these programs and pillage the only social safety net America has…and, as you breathe, they are busily “contributing” to congressional campaigns, promising jobs to senators and representatives when they leave government - if they vote "right", wining and dining key leaders and their families, and arm twisting the rest.  But, even in a democracy, a bribe that has been legally dressed up to look like a “contribution” is still a bribe...and there are many of them being passed around in Washington these days, even if not in brown paper bags. 

To pretend there is a lack of a quid pro quo in regard to the planned pillaging of the nation's social programs, including aid to the poor, is participate in a form of denial that borders on psychosis.  Barbarians, economic and otherwise, well-understand arm twisting…and bribes...and precisely when to use which to accomplish that which they desire to achieve.  For some Senators all it takes is a polite phone call informing them, on one hand, that there is a record of what sites they browsed on the internet...and, on the other hand, mentioning -- "Isn't it a shame that tax payers can't invest their Social Security money in the stock market" and didn't the Senator think it would be a "good idea" if they could?  Up until this phone call, the same Senator has been adamantly opposed to Social Security stock investing; but afterwards he "sees a broader picture of potential benefit to his constituency" and votes "for" the idea 

Some times a legislator lets it be known it would only take a yacht, a multimillion dollar house, and, say, maybe a few persian rugs and other expensive trinkets to help him see the light...and the "right" way to vote.  Such was the case recently  with Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham from California. 

The quid pro quo game has been played and continues to be be played by both parties to the detriment of every decent American.  For every individual caught and torn apart in the media, several hundred "skate"...many, legally, because many payoffs are "legitimized" by coming in the form of neatly washed PAC money or political campaign "contributions" from corporations, fundamentalist groups, or other special interests with causes they want to advance, not with reason, but with cash.

Interestingly, when such behaviors occur in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, or China our President and Congressmen are quick to call them what they are: corruption, extortion, blackmail, influence peddling, or bribery.  When they occur here, more often than not, they call them simply “democracy in action”.  The only thing that boggles the mind more than the blatant duplicitousness of PAC money is the willingness of the American people to swallow its legitimacy and thus accept the buying of votes by the special interests that manipulate the PACs!

Another sign of economic barbarism in the USA is the shifting of U.S. jobs off shore to enable economic barbarians to avoid taxes, to avoid child labor laws, to avoid having to provide safe working conditions, or paying decent wages.  For Americans, this means millions of lost jobs and declining wages.  For starving off shore workers, it usually means slave labor wages, brutal child labor, and unsafe, often deadly, working conditions.

For corporate leaders who are members of the “economic barbarian” class (and not all are), it means more profits, ever-higher salaries, and millions in new bonuses, perks, and benefits --- from profits squeezed out of their victims who are newly unemployed Americans and what is essentially slave-labor abroad.

As for wars, economic barbarians across the ages (it’s not a new club) have been fond of them.  They make money from wars.  Who wins or loses, hardly matters…and the weapons their factories produce, more often than not, wind up in the hands of the very people who later have our sons and daughters in their cross hairs.  But to the economic barbarian class, weapons profiteering is a good thing.  Any sale, to them, is a “good” sale.  It means profit.  And to Profiteers, profit is all that matters.  To them, profit is always the “highest good” and they’ve proven, time and again, that they’ll sell their wares, be they bullets, bombs, or bombers, to anyone who’ll buy.

Which brings us back to “slogans”.  Whether pauper or president, belief in slogans and revisionist history about our democracy, in which our current and past errors and shortcomings are ignored,  forgotten, or denied is dangerous.  Exceedingly so.  Study pre-war Germany.

So, instead of criticizing foreign nations and trying to force them to change their governments, perhaps future Congressmen and United States Presidents and their administrations would do well to review our own history first, criticize our own short-comings, and immediately begin implementing meaningful corrective changes that are long over due…right here…in the USA before charging off into places like Iraq with no plan in place for "after" the "shock and awe" bombing phase.

(CONT'D. in column two >>>)

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(cont'd....)

We cannot force other nations to democracy, but we can lead them to desire it so fiercely that no despot could stand against those wanting it.  We can do that best by implement reforms HERE that respect and promote higher values than those of economic barbarism. 

We CAN accomplish reform...if we have the will to undertake it.

The “will” means acknowledging the atrocities of our past -- and correcting them; it means caring for our sick, poor and elderly – not just professing “compassionate conservativism” while cutting funds from the very programs on which their very lives depend.

It means abandoning slogans like "No Child Left Behind" until those who chant it are willing to FUND it!

It means implementing campaign reform and reversing the long-held practice of legislation by thinly veiled bribery through PACs, campaign "contributions", and perks to politicians.

It means not only signing international treaties – but honoring them.  (Remember the Kyoto Accord?)

It means ending our support of tyrants, either here at home or abroad, simply because they control oil and other resources important to U.S. “interests”.

It means “fast tracking” a national energy program that not only will make us energy independent, but also will enable the world to more easily convert to abundant, alternative, non-polluting forms of energy – and it means doing this even if doing so hurts U.S. oil “interests” and that in retaliation they threaten to reduce their campaign "contributions".

Taking actions such as these (and other) is the only way we can become a  model nation for the world; one of decency, honesty, and Truth – not one of duplicitousness, blind patriotism or government-by-special interest and leadership by sloganeering, extremism, isolationism, and unthinking fundamentalism.

We have been stuck in the death-grip of economic barbarism for too long.  We must break free of it...or expire as a nation.  It is far past time we face what is wrong with our gravely-flawed democracy, fix it, and grow our nation into a Colossus of Truth and Integrity rather than just a sham of it; for nations, like all organisms that fail to grow -- die.

In the future, when the President and his staff hold up our democracy as a "model" for all undeveloped nations of the world to follow, perhaps it would be good for them (and us) to remember that it was our “democracy” that forcibly deported and split up Alaska's Aleutian families to destroy their culture so the U.S. could seize their land without threat of their being able to mount an organized return.  It was our “democracy” that did the same to South Pacific islanders so we could blow their island homes and Bikini to kingdom come with nuclear weapons.  It was our “democracy” where “freedom rings” that imprisoned thousands of innocent Japanese Americans during WWII without trail or charge.  And now it is our “democracy” that  imprisons thousands of Islamic citizens, many of them innocent, without trial or charge.  Some it tortures, some it kills.  It is our "democracy" that is now also debating whether torture is permitable! 

Can we afford not to care about these things as a nation?  Or is it, as Goebels said, only slogans that are important...not facts? 

In light of all this, I cannot help but wonder, "Is it really our “democracy” that we want other nations to replicate:  One of slavery, denial of rights to women, genocide, biological warfare, deportation and disruption of completely innocent families(Aleutians), imprisonment without charge or trial (Japanese and now people from the Middle East), torture, and a vast system of thinly veiled “legalized” government payoffs, bribes, and special interest deals? 

Is the history of our path really what we want to offer the world as "the" model path to liberty: A system of vast corporate corruption and economic barbarism 0where the rich get richer and the poor and middle classes, poorer?

How "We the People" address the cancerous issue of economic barbarism and political corruption in the United States defines who we are as a nation to the world, and no amount of revisionist history, blind patriotism, high-tech warfare, cheerleading, or sloganeering will change that, despite current efforts to the contrary.

It is time for Americans …all Americans…to revolt against the status quo and rescue the country from the politicians and special interests that control it. 

To change the world, the United States must first change itself.  It can do this by becoming a genuine bastion of Honesty, Integrity, Truth, and Justice ... and that involved a lot more that simply waving  flags and chant  slogans that claim we we already are.   To become what we claim to be, we must wrestle the country away from those who use America's democracy simply as a tool through which to feed their insatiable greed and unquenchable lust for power.

JJR  


(Mr. Roberts, a member of the League of American Poets, is published in numerous print and electronic publications and is a frequent radio and television guest.  His poetry also will appear in the soon to be released, "Treasury of American Poetry - III", ISBN: 0-9743429-8-X.)

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