Guest Column: The enemy of democracy is excess wealth

January 22, 2014

By Jim Spelman

Whatever happened to “A government of the people, for the people, by the people”? It is fading into the memories of us who are fortunate enough to have lived through the best years of American history.

The leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought the country successfully through two worldwide catastrophes, the Great Depression, and World War II. Sadly, he died before seeing the overall results, but his successors, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, carried the nation through its recovery into a period of true social and economic prosperity. Those events might have brought a lesser nation to its knees, but the spirit of ordinary people, engendered in large part by the courage of their leaders, provided victory over all.

During the three-plus terms FDR occupied the White House and through the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, that spirit and the progressive leadership of presidents Truman, Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson fueled a social and economic recovery that lasted into the 1980s.

Both facets, economic and social, were remarkable, but the social was more so. During that time, the constitutional system of checks and balances was honored by the government’s three branches, so that it worked as it was meant to, for the benefit of everyone. Laws were proposed and passed to improve living and working conditions of both those who were able and those who were disabled or disenfranchised. The Supreme Court issued decisions that clearly proved it was performing its constitutional duty as the last bastion of relief and protection for anyone who had been or might be harmed by wrongful government actions.

Unfortunately, that is not so today. The enemy our democracy now faces is the accumulation of excessive wealth, ergo power, by a few greedy people and institutions who, since the election of their toadies — R. Reagan, G.H. W. Bush, and G.W. Bush — have been given license to amass even more.

Moneyed interests have eroded our constitutional system of checks and balances by funding the election of presidents and legislators, and the appointment of judges, and other officials, all of whom are dedicated to the myth that “business” is what makes democracy work. Those officials have seen to it that any law or regulation that might or does impede or otherwise interfere with the making of profits is either changed or ignored.

If the “great experiment” of 1776 is to be sustained, that myth must be discredited and exposed. It is a rationalization of the greedy to justify their use and exploitation of ordinary people. The behavior that supports the delusion must end! It is the greedy and their nefarious actions that have transformed our once democratic political system into government of the people, by the few, for the few.

Jim Spelman is a Rockford resident and a former attorney.

From the Jan. 22-28, 2014, issue

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