Agitate, America!: ‘The people alone’

May 29, 2013

Nancy Churchill

By Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary

You learn things in advertisement-free progressive publications that you never learn on Fox or right-wing talk radio: you sense that a hostile takeover of democracy is under way, and has been for several decades.

So now, the economy has been trashed, just in time for young people to lose their job prospects, have their tuition and interest on their student debt hiked out of sight, and enjoy lower wages and fewer benefits on what jobs there are (“Talking ’Bout My Generation,” by Robert Kuttner, The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2013).

And suddenly, it’s their grandparents’ fault for having had a better life: good jobs, benefits and Social Security in our old age.

Since we had it so good, now we’re expected to give it all up, bit by bit, to “strengthen” the economy and bail out future generations. Of course, it’s not about the economy, young people or seniors at all, it’s really only about how well the wealthy are doing.

And they’re doing fabulously, compared to the ’50s, when we were young. For them, the economy isn’t broken — they are benefiting extraordinarily from everyone else’s pain, and they want to keep it that way. Their wealth allows them to shape policy to their liking, and even craft legislation outright.

Lawrence Lessig calls this pathological, democracy-destroying corruption in a TED talk, “We the People and the Republic We Must Reclaim,” with a companion book, Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It.

The framers intended our representative government to be “dependent upon the people alone,” but instead it has been corrupted to the point it is “dependent upon the wealthy alone.” We bear the brunt, he points out, because “the worse that it is for us, the better it is for the fundraising.” And for the wealthy, blocking reform.

You won’t see this problem articulated in mainstream media. Instead, to quote a Facebook friend, the problem is presented as “Black people, hispanics, Asians, immigrants, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Atheists, gays, trade unionists, students, teachers, intellectuals, and members of a plethora of other minorities,” including women and First Nations people, who are targeted as the “others” who bear responibility for America’s ills.

Along with white male Christians, these happen to make up the “people” upon which our representative government is “dependent alone,” according to our founders. But as long as we’re persuaded to point fingers at “others” who we’re convinced are the problem, we’re distracted from the real perpetrators, and dissuaded from cleaning up their mess.

So, we ignore it as a problem, Lessig says, because it seems impossible to fix. We need to repair this problem first, in a way that works for the left and the right, before we can tackle the rest of the issues.

See my column “We can get money out of politics,” from the May 1-7, 2013, issue, for one way to stop lobbyist bribery, end secret money and empower voters, through the American Anti-Corruption Act. “We the people” are the only ones who can do this.

Nancy Churchill was raised in the D.R.C. (Congo), raced stock cars on short dirt tracks for 25 years, and is a proud, lifelong member of “We, the People.” She lives in Oregon, Ill.

From the May 29-June 4, 2013, issue

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