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Sunday, January 24, 2010

If It’s Broken, Break It

“We, the people” are being slowly cut out of the system.  Our forefathers were revolutionaries.  They demanded change and they were willing to take to the streets to get it.  They could have never anticipated the current state of their invention.  To be sure, money has always been a part of politics in this country.  Washington, Jefferson and the Adam’s boys all had personal wealth to varying degrees.  But, back then, candidates told “the people” what they thought and if “the people” liked what they heard, they elected him.  That newly elected official owed “the people” his victory.  There was no confusion about who he served.

Today, there’s lots of confusion.  Big business has replaced “we, the people” as the primary constituents.  Spin doctors craft sound bites for major news outlets that are designed to “sell” a candidate to the electorate.  What thin veneer of integrity that was expected of candidates has been slowly stripped away by an election process that is so refined, an election team’s ability to execute is more important than the candidate’s beliefs.

Look where that has gotten us.  In 1928, approximately 25% of the gross national income was earned by the top 1% of the population.  Need I remind you what happened a year later?  The economy collapsed.  That transfer of wealth to the top was caused by the industrial revolution and the exploitation of workers, not yet protected by laws or unions.

In 2008, approximately 25% of the gross national income was earned by the top 1% of the population.  Sound familiar?  The outcome is quite different.   Back then, the government recognized that rich people’s greed was to blame for the whole thing, so they punished them by allowing them to be turned into poor people by the very market they created.  This time, our government printed money and replaced the losses, so rich people haven’t suffered.  Oh, the poor and middle class have suffered.  They have lost their jobs and their savings, respectively.  The government has no plan for them.

This current trend all started with Reagan’s “trickle-down economics.” The idea is: if the government makes it easy for rich people to get richer, they’ll carry poorer people along with them.  The problem is: it doesn’t work.  It’s what put us where we are now.  Greed is a trait we all possess.  Rich people are just better at it.  Now, they control the government.  Hell, they ARE the government.  Furthermore, with our new election process, they don’t even have to give a crap what the rest of us think.  They can just “craft a message” to lead us to believe what they’re doing is right, when they know full well that “we, the people” are getting screwed.

Which brings us back to the beginning…  The founders of this country were revolutionaries.  I fear the saviors of this country will need to be revolutionaries, too.  The current system is not conducive to repairing itself.  It will either need to fail so completely that it must be replaced (a distinct possibility, but not so good for “we, the people).  Or, it will need to be replaced by force.

How much abuse can U.S. citizens take?  If history is any judge of what citizens can take, the answer is hard to predict.  Revolutions have been started over much less abuse of power.  However, we are still the richest country in the world – for the time being.  We no longer have the best infrastructure, the best educational system, the most productive workforce, the most innovative people.  China’s military and economic powers are growing fast.  At the current rate, they will pass us soon.  Asymmetric warfare strategies have all but rendered our military strength useless. We’ve been propped up only by the U.S. dollar remaining the international currency of choice.  Once this situation changes, the dollar’s value can tumble as far as it wants, without other, more prosperous countries having a care about what happens to it.  That day may not be too far away.

What will “we, the people” think then?  How much can we take?  When will one voice, heard above the din, be enough to bring down a broken system?  I suspect that most of us will find out in our lifetimes.  It ain’t gonna be pretty – revolutions never are.

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