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  1. #1
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    U.S. Democracy fading?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Herbert
    When Democracy Weakens

    By BOB HERBERT
    Published: February 11, 2011


    As the throngs celebrated in Cairo, I couldn’t help wondering about what is happening to democracy here in the United States. I think it’s on the ropes. We’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only.

    While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.

    So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding and increasingly obscene tax breaks and other windfall benefits for the wealthiest, while the bought-and-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public services and the social safety net, saying we can’t afford them. One state after another is reporting that it cannot pay its bills. Public employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of thousands. Camden, N.J., a stricken city with a serious crime problem, laid off nearly half of its police force. Medicaid, the program that provides health benefits to the poor, is under savage assault from nearly all quarters.

    The poor, who are suffering from an all-out depression, are never heard from. In terms of their clout, they might as well not exist. The Obama forces reportedly want to raise a billion dollars or more for the president’s re-election bid. Politicians in search of that kind of cash won’t be talking much about the wants and needs of the poor. They’ll be genuflecting before the very rich.

    In an Op-Ed article in The Times at the end of January, Senator John Kerry said that the Egyptian people “have made clear they will settle for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities.” Americans are being asked to swallow exactly the opposite. In the mad rush to privatization over the past few decades, democracy itself was put up for sale, and the rich were the only ones who could afford it.

    The corporate and financial elites threw astounding sums of money into campaign contributions and high-priced lobbyists and think tanks and media buys and anything else they could think of. They wined and dined powerful leaders of both parties. They flew them on private jets and wooed them with golf outings and lavish vacations and gave them high-paying jobs as lobbyists the moment they left the government. All that money was well spent. The investments paid off big time.

    As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wrote in their book, “Winner-Take-All Politics”: “Step by step and debate by debate, America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the many.”

    As if the corporate stranglehold on American democracy were not tight enough, the Supreme Court strengthened it immeasurably with its Citizens United decision, which greatly enhanced the already overwhelming power of corporate money in politics. Ordinary Americans have no real access to the corridors of power, but you can bet your last Lotto ticket that your elected officials are listening when the corporate money speaks.

    When the game is rigged in your favor, you win. So despite the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the big corporations are sitting on mountains of cash, the stock markets are up and all is well among the plutocrats. The endlessly egregious Koch brothers, David and Charles, are worth an estimated $35 billion. Yet they seem to feel as though society has treated them unfairly.

    As Jane Mayer pointed out in her celebrated New Yorker article, “The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry — especially environmental regulation.” (A good hard look at their air-pollution record would make you sick.)

    It’s a perversion of democracy, indeed, when individuals like the Kochs have so much clout while the many millions of ordinary Americans have so little. What the Kochs want is coming to pass. Extend the tax cuts for the rich? No problem. Cut services to the poor, the sick, the young and the disabled? Check. Can we get you anything else, gentlemen?

    The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that’s a long, hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process of letting a real democracy slip away.

    I had lunch with the historian Howard Zinn just a few weeks before he died in January 2010. He was chagrined about the state of affairs in the U.S. but not at all daunted. “If there is going to be change,” he said, “real change, it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves.”

    I thought of that as I watched the coverage of the ecstatic celebrations in the streets of Cairo.
    It is not a coincidence that the gap between the rich and the rest of us in the US is greater than it is even in Egypt. It's by design. Middle class and working class Americans who support this corporatocracy are simply being duped with idealistic talk that cloaks a largely successful class war against them.

    Our government is designed to protect average citizens from powerful forces in society. When it instead becomes the servant of those very forces it betrays its purpose and betrays us as citizens.

    *edit -- source.
    Last edited by Labgrownmangoat; 02-12-2011 at 11:31 AM.
    “We learn from history that we do not learn from history”
    ― Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Labgrownmangoat View Post
    It is not a coincidence that the gap between the rich and the rest of us in the US is greater than it is even in Egypt. It's by design. Middle class and working class Americans who support this corporatocracy are simply being duped with idealistic talk that cloaks a largely successful class war against them.

    Our government is designed to protect average citizens from powerful forces in society. When it instead becomes the servant of those very forces it betrays its purpose and betrays us as citizens.
    So your saying an economic recession means no democracy?


    Also your honestly complaining about how the gap between rich and poor is bigger in the US than Egypt when the GDP per Capita is about 7 times higher in the US than Egypt. The difference between the poor and the middle class in Egypt cant be too big considering the average Egyption makes less than 6400

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    Quote Originally Posted by jrice9 View Post
    So your saying an economic recession means no democracy?


    Also your honestly complaining about how the gap between rich and poor is bigger in the US than Egypt when the GDP per Capita is about 7 times higher in the US than Egypt. The difference between the poor and the middle class in Egypt cant be too big considering the average Egyption makes less than 6400
    This isn't a recession. Bank and corporate profits are up, as is the stock market. Things are all shiny and bright for those who don't have to work for a living, they only suck for those that do.

    And yes, I am complaining that the income gap between the very wealthy in the US and the rest of us tripled in the last three decades. I am further asserting that that did not happen by accident, but was carried out by design. I am complaining that the top 1 percent reaped 2/3 of the economic gains during our last economic expansion. I am complaining that 10% of the US population owns 80% of the wealth, the highest percentage in modern history. And I am offering a theory as to why this has happened to us. It's because the wealthy and their corporate surrogates control a disproportionate share of the power in this country. It's because they wield that power, some of it via our government, to make economic war on the rest of us. And they do it so well, and so sneakily, that the majority of us don't even realize it.

    Am I wrong? Did you know of the statistics I posted above? If so, do you think that massive transfer of wealth to the already-wealthy was by accident?
    “We learn from history that we do not learn from history”
    ― Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

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    Democracy isn't a system of economics. I think this is completely absurd. I don't see how our economic situation pushes us away from that.
    Когда́ де́ньги говоря́т, тогда́ пра́вда молчи́т

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    Quote Originally Posted by SmthBluCitrus View Post
    Democracy isn't a system of economics. I think this is completely absurd. I don't see how our economic situation pushes us away from that.
    Our economic situation is a symptom of a political problem, or more accurately a governance problem. Our government has a great deal of influence over our economic system. If it is controlled by those with a particular economic goal, it can help them achieve it.
    “We learn from history that we do not learn from history”
    ― Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

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    I agree, we need to close that gap between the rich and the rest in this country, and it starts from the bottom up

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    Quote Originally Posted by Labgrownmangoat View Post
    This isn't a recession. Bank and corporate profits are up, as is the stock market. Things are all shiny and bright for those who don't have to work for a living, they only suck for those that do.

    And yes, I am complaining that the income gap between the very wealthy in the US and the rest of us tripled in the last three decades. I am further asserting that that did not happen by accident, but was carried out by design. I am complaining that the top 1 percent reaped 2/3 of the economic gains during our last economic expansion. I am complaining that 10% of the US population owns 80% of the wealth, the highest percentage in modern history. And I am offering a theory as to why this has happened to us. It's because the wealthy and their corporate surrogates control a disproportionate share of the power in this country. It's because they wield that power, some of it via our government, to make economic war on the rest of us. And they do it so well, and so sneakily, that the majority of us don't even realize it.

    Am I wrong? Did you know of the statistics I posted above? If so, do you think that massive transfer of wealth to the already-wealthy was by accident?
    Just because the rich got richer doesnt mean their isnt democracy. As she put it well above, economics doesnt necessarily reflect a failure of politics. Your always the one to argue correlation does not equal causation. The number of Scientologists in the US has risen in that span as well, does that mean our democracy or our school system is failing.

    What are the wealthy doing to destroy our political system?

    Increase of weatlh b the very wealthy has happened there is no denying it but I dont understand how you think we are less democratic than Egpyt just because their are more rich people in this country than others.

    Income redistribution doesnt mean more democracy.

    Also average income for middle class American families has risen significantly and beat inflation during the last 30 years. More Americans are going to University than ever before.

    Your whole idea of gloom and doom is based on the fact that the rich are just getting richer faster than everyone else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jrice9 View Post
    Just because the rich got richer doesnt mean their isnt democracy. As she put it well above, economics doesnt necessarily reflect a failure of politics. Your always the one to argue correlation does not equal causation. The number of Scientologists in the US has risen in that span as well, does that mean our democracy or our school system is failing.

    What are the wealthy doing to destroy our political system?

    Increase of weatlh b the very wealthy has happened there is no denying it but I dont understand how you think we are less democratic than Egpyt just because their are more rich people in this country than others.

    Income redistribution doesnt mean more democracy.

    Also average income for middle class American families has risen significantly and beat inflation during the last 30 years. More Americans are going to University than ever before.

    Your whole idea of gloom and doom is based on the fact that the rich are just getting richer faster than everyone else.
    I would argue strongly that is a sympton of failing schools.
    Member of the Owlluminati!

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    welcome to the Corporatocracy....

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    Quote Originally Posted by GGGGG-Men View Post
    welcome to the Corporatocracy....
    We've been here for a while.

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    The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries. -Winston Churchill

    I do love when liberals insist that I believe what I believe due to being "duped". Very respectful.

    Quote Originally Posted by LabGrownManGoat
    It's because the wealthy and their corporate surrogates control a disproportionate share of the power in this country. It's because they wield that power, some of it via our government, to make economic war on the rest of us. And they do it so well, and so sneakily, that the majority of us don't even realize it.
    If only we could return to the economic utopia of the late 70's!!!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by flea View Post
    We've been here for a while.
    Yeah. The title shouldn't be "U.S. Democracy fading." The title should be "U.S. Democracy still not what it's cracked up to be."

    Yes, the rich are gaining an especially expert hand at class warfare. I just don't see a time in this nation's history where the rich were on their heels. The only difference now is that they're somehow gaining advocacy from outside the ranks. It's less of a flex of wealth and more a sleight of hand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jrice9 View Post
    Just because the rich got richer doesnt mean their isnt democracy. As she put it well above, economics doesnt necessarily reflect a failure of politics. Your always the one to argue correlation does not equal causation. The number of Scientologists in the US has risen in that span as well, does that mean our democracy or our school system is failing.

    What are the wealthy doing to destroy our political system?
    Demanding the creation of laws that require corporate welfare, from giant agribusiness subsidies to mining deregulation. Using our financial system as a means of gambling, and then successfully demanding taxpayer dollars to bail them out when they roll snake-eyes. Demanding tax cuts for the top 2% in the income brackets while the gain an ever greater share of the nation's wealth, and getting them. Demanding that inheritance taxes for the ultra-wealthy be slashed in a time of huge deficits and gigantic war spending, and getting those cuts. Demanding tax loopholes that allow their corporations to declare their income overseas and thus get out of paying taxes on it. Demanding that government functions be privatized so that they can make profit off of previously profit-free services. Demanding deregulation of the banking industry to allow extreme, irresponsible risk-taking, and getting it. Should I go on?

    Increase of weatlh b the very wealthy has happened there is no denying it but I dont understand how you think we are less democratic than Egpyt just because their are more rich people in this country than others.

    Income redistribution doesnt mean more democracy.

    Also average income for middle class American families has risen significantly and beat inflation during the last 30 years. More Americans are going to University than ever before.

    Your whole idea of gloom and doom is based on the fact that the rich are just getting richer faster than everyone else.
    Extreme income and wealth disparities are signs of a sick political system. They are the symptoms that tell us the system is rigged in favor of the already-powerful and the already-wealthy. They are the very same things we see in what we call banana republics, where a very few control both a nation's wealth and its political power while the rest control very little.

    The purpose of a banana republic is commercial profit by collusion between the State and favoured monopolies, whereby the profits derived from private exploitation of public lands is private property, and the debts incurred are public responsibility. . .
    Sound much like the banking industry over the past few years to anyone? "Private profits at the expense of public debts" could be the title of GW Bush's excellent overseas adventures as well, for that matter.

    Now that I have answered your questions, I refer you back to mine. Do you think it is a coincidence that our income and wealth disparities have become so extreme? If not, any theories on how it might have happened, if not through purposeful manipulation of our government?

    Finally, let me pose one more question. The underpinning of our political system is that all men are created equal, and deserve an equal share in determining our nation's fate by means of voting, right? So tell me this. Do you or I have the same share in determining the political direction of our country as massive political contributors Charles and David Koch? Or are some private citizens more equal in the eyes of our democracy than others?
    Last edited by Labgrownmangoat; 02-12-2011 at 02:44 PM.
    “We learn from history that we do not learn from history”
    ― Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

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    See. That "outside the ranks" stuff. I have a similar ideology to the Koch brothers. I am not rich. And I am accused of supporting THEIR interests. But I don't view them as their interests. I view them as my interests because those are the policies I think are best for the country, and do the most good for the most people.

    The idea that if you are not rich, you can't support free market policies is ****ing stupid.

    And pinning the marriage between government and big business on supporters of the free market is also ****ing stupid. My side isn't the pro big business side. We're pro competition in the marketplace. Which is something that big business hates.

    Quote Originally Posted by Labgrownmangoat
    Do you think it is a coincidence that our income and wealth disparities have become so extreme?
    If the economy is going strong, those at the top are going to be doing very well. The last 30 years have seen some pretty good economic times. (until recently of course) Not too surprising that those at the very top would take advantage of that. I just don't see how that harms me in any way.

    Sure, I get a smaller piece. But I am not going to complain about getting a smaller piece of a much bigger pie.
    Last edited by gcoll; 02-12-2011 at 02:57 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gcoll View Post
    See. That "outside the ranks" stuff. I have a similar ideology to the Koch brothers. I am not rich. And I am accused of supporting THEIR interests. But I don't view them as their interests. I view them as my interests because those are the policies I think are best for the country, and do the most good for the most people.

    The idea that if you are not rich, you can't support free market policies is ****ing stupid.

    And pinning the marriage between government and big business on supporters of the free market is also ****ing stupid. My side isn't the pro big business side. We're pro competition in the marketplace. Which is something that big business hates.
    Well then I'm not talking about you ... ?

    You're kind of tilting at windmills here. I didn't accuse you of anything. I didn't even mention you at all. Whatever "sides" you're referring to have me at a loss. And I didn't say anything about free markets. Seriously ... what? Fault me for being vague if you want, but don't give specific meaning to my vague words and then take offense.

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