Voices
January 7, 2010 Issue

LETTERS


America: The Path Ahead (Part 1)

Dear Editor:

“Where is America headed?” and “Who is in control our destiny?” As before in our history, these questions are being asked by some today. Everybody’s got an opinion. Here’s mine in abbreviated form. Societies change over time, so what’s the big deal about America and any changes it may be experiencing today? Following the culturally-accepted mantra of political polarization, for liberals much of the changes are good, for conservatives much is bad. Many on the right cry, “Socialism/communism is at our door.” Many on the left say, “What’s wrong with government taking responsibility and control?”

America has been changing since the Revolution. Then as now, partisan political turf wars, and sometimes actual wars, have been fueled and guided by the “interests” Lincoln called the “money power” and Franklin Roosevelt called “the financial element in the larger centers (that) has owned this government since the days of Andrew Jackson.” But since many Americans know relatively little about their own history few people are aware of such comments by these and other Presidents. If you have any doubt that the designs of money, control or power have shaped the history of every civilization on this planet then perhaps your appreciation of world history should be re-evaluated.

In the U.S. today it’s pretty clear that the cultural philosophy of the Neo-Progressive agenda, lying only partly dormant for over a century, has the upper hand and is attempting to continue to implement its worldview of government control in U.S. society (though not without the blessing of corporate nation-states that direct agendas and outlive administrations). Some welcome this transition, others are horrified. As for me, I wondered nearly a decade ago why those who voted for the Congress/Bush Ruling Elite didn’t seem to recognize the march toward greater authoritarian control over our lives. Today, the Congress/Obama Ruling Elite has simply upped the ante on the take-over of America, albeit more dramatically.

Today some think we’re turning socialist, with advocates on both sides. Some say we’re turning communist or fascist. Some say corporatist with its strong state interventionist tendencies. Others, like Ian Bremmer (Foreign Affairs, May/June 2009), say we’re in the fourth wave of “state capitalism,” with its sovereign wealth funds in tow. For Bremmer, the difference now is that for the first time this form of control is coming not from emerging-market nations, but from the U.S. and elsewhere, and with Washington now making decisions for America that have long-term market impact on a scale not seem since the 1930s. That’s real progress.

And what about where we’ve been for the past half century or so? We’re told free markets operated and capitalism was in full swing. World War II ended the depression and America prospered. Yet along with that prosperity came a decades-long multitude of Congressionally-instigated “reforms” and other measures that, for example, paved the way for companies that make products that harm us to be more insulated from accountability and litigation; that led to a runaway housing market and a healthcare/insurance system that should have been brought in line without having to make things even worse by government directly controlling it; and, to cite another example, that failed on the issue of fossil fuels that could have been dealt with but weren’t.

Do you not remember the U.S. car companies fighting the government on nearly every occasion for the past 30 years when told to build more fuel-efficient vehicles? And do you remember Ford’s exploding gas tanks in the 1970s that, as was eventually proved, could have been corrected, and would have saved lives, for less than $20 per car? For Ford’s part the issue was simple. It was a corporate business decision not to correct the problem. Some at the time said the executives at Ford conspired to cover up the problem for the sake of profit. I say that not all business is conspiracy, but all conspiracy is business because someone always profits. Whether criminal, civil or regulatory, someone always profits.

Some citizens in every community I’ve covered are quick to point out examples of local business people working with others in the system behind the scenes (aka conspiratorial behavior) to benefit themselves. And sometimes the citizens are correct. Yet they often fail to believe that the execution of such business strategies can also occur on a state, national or international level where infinitely more money, power and control is at stake.

America is a great place, but righting corporate and government wrongs and keeping government in check is simply not something we seem to cherish. We are born and bred to keep our mouths shut and believe what our national leaders tell us. The goodness of the American spirit so embodied in its people has been a beacon of hope for much of the world. Yet it is the continued expansion of the megalithic systems imbedded in the corporatist/government worldview, one that sees power and control as indispensable and people as expendable, that minimizes and marginalizes the American people. It is of this reality that Dwight Eisenhower so sternly warned in his Farewell Address on Jan. 17, 1960. And in the post World War II expansion “We the people” were too busy to listen. And as for the corporate/government interlock, they had no desire or impetus to change their ways. The situation today in America is pressing and volatile. Republican or Democrat, many view government as the cause of the problem. But in our complacency that gave corporate/government a free ride, “We the people” have sown the wind. As I’ve said before on these pages, if the mindset of the American people today had been present in 1776 there would likely have been no American Revolution. But is it possible that the time has come for a New Revolution, one of brains not bullets, one that is needed to shed the chains of social and economic servitude that are the hallmarks of control?

(Part 2 of this column will follow.)

Ben Nelms
Peachtree City

 

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