A national consensus is being reached on many issues, but the government is not responding to the public consensus. Research shows the US is really an oligarchy operating in the worst democracy in the western world.
The government’s lack of responsiveness to the people and elected officials who fail to represent the people’s views are resulting in a crisis of democracy. This week the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs reported on that crisis. They found the legitimacy of US government has disappeared: “Nine in 10 Americans lack confidence in the country’s political system, and among a normally polarized electorate, there are few partisan differences in the public’s lack of faith in the political parties, the nominating process, and the branches of government.”
That is a near unanimous consensus about the lack of confidence in the US political system. The poll taken last month as the primary season comes to a close found “only 13 percent say the two-party system for presidential elections works.” The elections have left most Americans feeling discouraged with 70% saying they experience frustration and 55% reporting they feel helpless. Only 13% feel proud of the presidential election.
And it is not just elections, but all three branches of government are being held in low esteem: “A quarter (24 percent) say they have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court and only 15 percent of Americans say the same of the executive branch. Merely 4 percent of Americans have much faith in Congress.”
The two major political parties are held in low esteem by their own registered voters: “Only 29 percent of Democrats and just 16 percent of Republicans have a great deal of confidence in their party. Similarly, 31 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of Republicans have a lot of faith in the fairness of their party’s nominating process.” And, most members of both parties do not think their party is receptive to the views of rank and file voters, only 14% of Democrats believe their party is responsive and 8% of Republicans.
These are the views of those who remain inside the two parties, record numbers have left the two parties. According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 50% of people in the US consider themselves independents, and only 21% identified as Republicans and 29% as Democrats. A 2015 Gallup poll similarly found that a record high number of Americans—43%—consider themselves to be independents.
John Stauber, a media expert, describes the electoral system as “a farce” and explains why we are trapped in a corrupt two-party system: “The super-rich whose interests lie with Wall Street, the global corporations, and what Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, own and control both the Democrat and the Republican parties and their candidates. This shared monopoly prevents any anti-oligarchy party from emerging . . . The corporate media is the recipient of the lions share of this money which they get for selling the TV ads . . . It’s a hell of a system, a total fraud on democracy, painted up to look like democracy.”
This frustration and lack of confidence is also shown by the high percentage of non-voters. Stauber says: “This is why even in an election year as controversial as this one, most Americans will not vote. The majority of Americans have lost faith in what has become a charade that betrays their interests.” The sad reality is that with half of qualified US voters not registering, and half of registered voters not voting, only 25% of the US public votes in elections. Winning 55% of voters is a landslide in a presidential race, but in reality, it is under 15% of qualified US voters.
There are good reasons to lose faith in the government. Every week we hear how the government is out-of-step with the people’s priorities. The US has become a carefully designed plutocracy that creates laws to favor the few. As Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissenting opinion in McCutcheon, American law is now "incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy."
Or, as former president, Jimmy Carter said on July 16, 2013: “America does not at the moment have a functioning democracy.”
And, then there is the devastating truth of Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), describing the impact of the big banks as the government was trying to deal with a financial crisis created by the banks on the Senate, said: “They own the place.”
The lost democratic legitimacy of the United States is proven in academic research in one study in Perspectives on Politics, which revealed that a review of 1,779 policy issues found: “In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.”
Another study published in the Political Research Quarterly (abstract here) found that only the rich get represented in the US Senate. The researchers studied the voting records of Senators in five Congresses and found the Senators were consistently aligned with their wealthiest constituents and lower-class constituents never appeared to influence the Senators’ voting behavior. This oligarchic tendency was even worse when the Senate was controlled by Democrats.
This week the trade agreements demonstrated how oligarchy works in the United States, and why people continue to lose faith in government. The Obama trade agenda (the TPP trade deal) was negotiated, not only in secret, but also by government officials who are part of a revolving door between big business and the Office of the US Trade Representative. Michael Froman, a former Citigroup executive, has gone back and forth between big finance, US Treasury, big finance, and the USTR — and in the meantime, was a bundler of large donations from Wall Street for President Obama. He was given a $4 million bonus when he left Citi to become the US Trade ambassador.
Emails released under FOIA show that Froman continues to have a chummy relationship with Wall Street, and they have had a major role in shaping the TPP to serve big business interests. One striking thing about these emails is how Froman has been consistently in touch with executives from Goldman Sachs who served in the Bush administration, who went to Goldman during the Obama administration (the opposite of Froman, who went to Citigroup during the Bush era after being in the Clinton government and before the Obama government).
On top of all this, the official negotiations were conducted in secret with members of Congress, while keeping the media and public ignorant. Just as the weak US elections are used to give the illusion of democracy and veil oligarchy, the USTR appointed a “transparency officer” at the demand of Congress. But the purpose of transparency seems more to do with blocking information. As Rep. Lloyd Dogget (D-TX) says “The true function of whoever wears this hat is to continue engaging in as much bureaucratic obstruction as possible.” The person chosen to wear that hat was the general counsel at USTR, the one who has defended secrecy and litigated to block FOIA requests.
And, if all of this isn't bad enough, even after the US negotiates trade rules that benefit its trans-national corporate interests, they will work to rig the system even more if they do not get everything they asked for. That was obvious in the recent act of the United States to block the reappointment of a World Trade Organization judge from South Korea because he ruled against the United States too often.
That is this week’s lesson in oligarchic government. The Obama trade agenda, as with previous presidents, is to advance the cause of multi-national corporations. The US will rig the system by negotiation with them for language that gives corporations what they want and they will continue to rig the system to keep protecting US big business interests. These laws impact everything in our lives – food, water, environment, finance, jobs, income, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, the Internet, energy and more – and yet they are negotiated without any input from the people — and just one more example of the US democracy crisis. No doubt next week, the people will experience more acts of the oligarchs against the people. It is a regular recurrence which explains the poll numbers showing 9 out of 10 do not trust the US political process.
What if there was a real Political Revolution? Senator Bernie Sanders has made the term “political revolution” acceptable in US political discourse. David Swanson asks: What if people in the United States came to understand “revolution” as something more than a campaign slogan in a presidential election campaign?
We have been witnessing the growing popular movement since before the Occupy Wall Street encampments in 2011. The movement has grown significantly, almost tripling in size since the encampments were closed by a massive nationally-coordinated police force. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has won victories over police prosecution, the release of investigatory records and removal of prosecutors. The #FightFor15 movement has won battles for higher wages across the country. And, climate justice activists have succeeded in stopping pipelines and other carbon infrastructure. Student debt activists have also won victories. These are a few examples of the many, demonstrating that a movement is growing — and slowly succeeding.
It may not be a full blown "revolution", but it is a series of uprisings that are setting a new agenda . . . The media problem should not be underestimated. As John Stauber points out “We are completely enveloped by the corporate propaganda system — from the moment of our birth on — and it allows the oligarchy to control our minds and lives from cradle to grave in a seamless and invisible fashion — via marketing, advertising and public relations — reinforced by the news media. Few are able to admit and see this . . .” People in the United States are subjected to the most sophisticated propaganda system in world history. It keeps people ignorant of the facts, misleads people with false information and prevents many from seeing we are living in a mirage democracy, really an oligarchy, wearing a false democracy veil. Yet, even with this now 9 out of 10 people in the United States no longer trust the US political system.
Many activists participated in the Sanders campaign and see the relationship between activism and electoral politics. The Sanders campaign has elevated the public discourse about important issues, activated more people and exposed the corruption of the Democratic Party. Others have worked in the Green Party, socialist parties and progressive parties and use independent politics as a movement tool to create alternative platforms and political structures. The history of transformational change in the US has required both an independent mass movement and independent political parties.
There are multiple offshoots from the Sanders campaign and people who are trying to figure out how to build on its success, just as people built on the success of Occupy and the movements that followed. One opportunity that we should all support is the People’s Convention in Philadelphia, which will take place two days before the start of the Democratic National Convention. They seek to lay more ground work for the next phase of a people powered grass roots movement, saying: “The 2016 election cycle has revealed a deficit of democracy in our country and a failure of our major institutions to respond to the needs of the American public. As a solution to this dilemma, a grassroots coalition of organizers is sponsoring an inclusive gathering named The People’s Convention, to be held in Philadelphia on July 23, 2016. This event will bring together regular people ready to build a more sustainable, cooperative and democratic country together.”
This, and similar actions, are antidotes to the democracy crisis in the United States, a crisis that impacts all aspects of our lives. We must organize and continue to build a mass movement as well as an electoral movement that challenge the two big business parties.
Go to the "March on Philly" to let our politicians know where we stand .. .to make them listen >>> https://www.facebook.com/events/248664418802949/
(* From the Popular Resistance newsletter)
#BernieSanders #bernieorbust #stillsanders #feelthebern #neverhillary #crookedhillary #dumphillary #whichhillary #DropOutHillary #ReleaseTheTranscripts #CAPrimary
Addendum: Bernie Sanders wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Unlike large corporations or very wealthy investors or large institutional investors (such as private equaity firms, banks, hedge funds, foreign governments, etc.), individual workers don't stash money away in offshore tax havens or hoard large sums of cash and valuables in secret vaults. They don't buy large bars of gold, rare 400-year-old oil paintings, or 25 carat diamonds. They don't buy oil futures or take large deliveries of crude of oil to hold offshore on tankers to artificiality create a shortage to drive up the price of oil. Individual workers spend money on things: homes, cars, appliances, clothes, vacations (etc.) — or if they earn enough, they might save for retirement so that they don't have to work until the very day they drop dead. They don't hoard their earnings, they circulate the money supply and generate economic activity. The more they earn, the more they spend. The "job creators" already offshore jobs to foreign countries for cheaper labor, but they say that raising domestic wages will raise prices — or that they will be forced to cut hours and/or lay off workers. That's because they don't want to be forced into buying one less beachfront mansion, or a smaller yacht, or a smaller private jet. They want it all, and they don't want you to have anything. When workers demand a living wage ($15 an hour in 2016), the "job creators" threaten to replace you with robots, and make the argument that robots don't need a living wage, healthcare, paid sick time or daycare for their children. Yes, but robots don't homes, cars, appliances and clothes either. The "job creators" don't want to pay living wages, but they also don't want to pay taxes to fund government programs that supply food stamps and healthcare to unemployed workers either. They want it all, and they don't want you to have anything. Only "government" (what the majority of people decide) can force the hoarding job creators to share in the wealth that the workers create. We should double the minimum wage or double their taxes. Simple. Average CEO compensation for the largest firms was $16.3 million in 2014. If most people were fortunate enough to be earning that much money every year (no matter how hard they worked and how much they thought they deserved it), it wouldn't kill them to pay a 50% federal tax rate. But it kills people who try and live on $7.50 an hour in the U.S., because greed kills. #BernieOrBust