The American Bad Dream – (6) The Eve of Destruction

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As the rich get richer, their share of the national income grows, and they gain more and more control of government and of what all that borrowed money paid for, at some point it becomes essentially their government, their debt, and their economy.  At some point, the taxpayers in the bottom 99% of the population will have no remaining say as to their level of taxes, and no remaining power to oppose the agenda of the wealthy elite.  At that point, they will have been fully disenfranchised, and their personal security and economic freedom will be gone.

In his book “Rebooting the American Dream,” Thom Hartmann chronicles much of the decline in American prosperity and freedom over the last 30 years, and concludes: “We are clearly at a nexus, a threshold, a tipping point.”[1]  His summary:

“Our economy is in tatters, the result of more than 30 years of Reaganomics and Clintonomics.  Our democracy is hanging by a thread, the result of 40 years of radical Supreme Court decisions steadily advancing the powers of corporations and suppressing the rights of individuals and their government.  And our environment is trembling under the combined assault of the Industrial Revolution and nearly 7 billion bundles of human flesh.” [2]  

Concluding that “things will get worse before they get better,”[3] he adds:  “So the question today is: Will our republic survive as a democracy?  Or will it continue to deteriorate into a corporate oligarchy, where all the forms and trappings are still in place but they’re merely a decorative shell over a rotten, bloated tiny group of billionaires who pull all the strings, own all the media (and every other industry of substance) and work all politics exclusively to their own benefit?”[4]

Thom Hartmann professes optimism: “Yet if there are lessons in history, the first among them is that this too shall pass.”[5] Yes, change is inevitable, but as he asks, where are we headed?  What will “this” pass into?  After the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision [6] granting corporations the right to unlimited spending in election campaigns, virtually the only significant source of campaign funds for non-corporate positions and candidates is labor unions.  Today, only public sector labor unions have much remaining membership and money, and there is a pessimistic feeling among pundits that if public sector unions can be destroyed in Wisconsin, they could fall around the country like a house of cards.

Anyone not a member of the wealthy few, one would hope, desires a prosperous America that offers freedom, education and opportunity to all of our children and grandchildren.  But if there is hope for that, we owe it only to the democratic institutions we still have.  Everyone who wants to preserve American freedom and prosperity must now learn the truth, and get seriously involved.  These are not words that, as a hopeful young attorney entering the job market 40 years ago, I could have imagined ever having reason to write:  The corporate assault on American freedom and the American people must be stopped now.  There is barely enough freedom left, I fear, to survive the next election cycle, so immediate action by everyone is required:

“Now is the most important time for us all to be paying attention, to show up, and to wake up our friends, family and neighbors.”[7]

JMH – 2/21/11


[1] Thom Hartmann, Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country, Barret-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco 2010, p.202.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Id. at 201 (original emphasis).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, 558 U.S. ___, (2010).

[7] Rebooting the American Dream, supra. at 202. 

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