Monday, July 27, 2009

Democracy; Only Good When it Serves the Elite?

“The American republic; it's not your founding forefathers' representative democracy anymore”
Szandor Blestman

I'm not a huge fan of democracy. I think it's over rated and that the propaganda espousing its greatness has indoctrinated many people into believing that mob rule is the best political system ever created. My favorite description of a democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner. Early on in the history of the American federal government certain changes were made to the Constitution to help establish more of a democracy type government that certain influential founders had warned against. The corruptible influences of such disregard for the original intentions and spirit that our forefathers wanted to impart upon our nation is now obvious for all to see. Democratic rule is well intentioned, however, even if it is true the a majority of people can at times be wrong about a given issue. It is the system we as Americans must deal with in our everyday lives, so we may as well make the best of it as often as possible.

Lately, however, it has become more than evident that those in power care nothing for the tenets of democracy they so publicly embrace. While they dutifully sit behind television cameras and explain the need to send soldiers to every corner of the world in order to bring the benefits of democracy to oppressed peoples, they ignore the concerns coming from the majority of their own constituents. This is in no way a new phenomenon, but it is one that has become more blatant in recent years.

I suppose the easiest place to start is to look at the bailouts of the past year. Certainly, I can point out many other past instances where the principles of democracy were ignored by our elected officials. When the big bank bailout was approved it wasn't the first time Congress decided to act against the will of the American people, but it was perhaps one of the most egregious. One only needs to rewind to some of the comments made by certain congress critters to understand this. When congressmen are getting 300 emails against a bill to every email for the same bill and they still vote for it, what could be more undemocratic? When the sitting Speaker of the House makes the claim that she knows better than her constituents what's good for them and how to best spend their money, could she make a statement that shows more disdain and disregard for the people she is supposed to serve?

In the case of the bailouts, the benefit to the ruling elite is obvious to some. The banks, with their trillions, can afford to donate quite a bit of money to campaigns of politicians. They can afford to pay for lobbyists and (dare I say it?) bribe elected officials. When they got into trouble because they had decided to loan money to people who eventually couldn't pay it back, they did not take responsibility for their mistakes, they chose to use the force of government to rectify their misguided decisions and to ensure that their wealth would not be lost. The people instantly understood that this meant they and their progeny would be paying for the mistakes of a few through taxation, and the vast majority of the populace used the system of representative democracy to voice their opposition to such an action. The people could not have been any clearer that they did not want these bailouts to take place. Still, that kind of democracy was not recognized by the political elite and they went ahead with their plans, using the claim of trying to prevent economic collapse to excuse their inexcusable ignorance.

It seems to me that perhaps this disregard for the will of the people was at least partially responsible for the election wins of many of the Democrats in the 2008 federal elections. Let us not forget that Mr. Bush's administration was responsible for starting what would become a very unpopular war and for bullying the congress into passing some extremely unconstitutional legislation. The Democrats took power at least in part as a protest to unpopular policies such as the Iraq war, torture and secret prisons, and support for laws like the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions act. People have shown that they would prefer to keep their freedoms rather than give in to allow government to run roughshod over their rights for the illusion of security. But it doesn't matter whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in power. The government doesn't listen to the people. It would not serve the interests of the political elite to do so. Instead, they do what they want and as they feel they must in order to control the masses and keep their secrets hidden.

The Obama administration is not going to reverse any of the harm done by the Bush administration. That would mean relinquishing some of their power. Instead of bowing to the will of the majority and focusing on dismantling the mechanisms that have made the executive branch of the federal government far too powerful, and that power far too easy to abuse, the Obama administration has decided to focus on centralizing power even more, putting real power into the hands of fewer and fewer people. This will certainly make it easier for the powerful who pay for the federal government to control it.

Bailing out the banks wasn't enough. With the blessings of this new administration and despite popular opposition, the few who make the laws decided to bail out the auto industry. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say they purchased as much of the industry as they could so that its loses would be shouldered by this nation's common folks rather than the wealthy elite who would have otherwise bore that burden. Unlike the majority who seem to understand that a private business succeeds or fails as dictated by the market and the will of the people to purchase the goods or services offered, the wealthy elite believes itself to be too big to fail and uses the force of government and stolen tax money that should not be available to them to ensure that competitive entrepreneurs will not be able to bring their innovations to market. This is how the economy stagnates.

The most recent folly of the undemocratic government we have been saddled with is the “Cap and Trade” regulation recently passed in the House of Representatives, albeit by a razor thin margin. Again, an unpopular piece of legislation has been passed because a working democratic process would not be good for the interests of the ruling elite. The people of this nation, for the most part, understand that this legislation is nothing more than a tax increase disguised as an ecological “feel good” measure. The trust in the federal government is quickly disappearing as more and more of these tomes of laws are imposed upon the American people. One can only hope that somehow the Senate shows some sign of sanity as the people continue to bombard their “representatives” with their opposition and concerns. There is still some hope as some senators are becoming nervous and beginning to realize that they cannot keep denying the people's will forever.

In the near future there will be a vote on health care reform. The people of this nation, in my opinion, have made it clear that they do not wish the government to be involved in health care. While the media and the political elite that use it for their propaganda rant and rail about how unaffordable health care is and how many people are without insurance, they do not discuss the positives of our health care system (such as choice and quality) nor do I hear much discussion about the true causes of the failings of this nation's health care system which have nothing to do with the free market and everything to do with the already heavily socialized institutions that have grown like cancers in this field of human endeavor. As I write this there is much debate in the halls of federal politics about another mega page piece of legislation involving health care and it looks as if it will have problems passing. Perhaps there is hope yet for the democratic process if the congress critters can finally decide to do the people's will in this matter and get out of health care altogether rather than doing what would be good for the political elite and passing legislation that would completely socialize medicine.

It is not enough to point out just the unpopular legislation that has been passed by congress. There is popular legislation out there that congress will not even consider. One of my personal favorite pieces of legislation is's “Read the Bills Act.” This is a piece of legislation that would require congress to read all their bills aloud to a quorum and allow seven days where the law would be posted online to be reviewed by anyone interested and to allow time for those parties to contact their representatives to support or oppose the bill. In addition, the bill makes provisions that if a law is altered than the altered bill must again be read and posted with another seven day waiting period. What person could possibly find fault with such a bill? What are we paying these lawmakers for anyway, if they don't read and understand the bills they pass? I believe if a poll was conducted we would find that such a bill would be supported by a super majority of the common folk. Had such a law been the law of the land back in 2001 the tomes known as “The Patriot Act” and “The Military Commissions Act” would have never gotten to the floor. We would no longer have to worry about laws being so long and complicated and perhaps even contradicting themselves. Unfortunately, this law has yet to find a congressional representative brave enough to introduce it and it likely wouldn't pass because it is a law that constricts the power of the ruling elite instead of increasing it.

The last example I would like to discuss truly illustrates the total breakdown of our democratic system when it comes to the will of the people versus the will of the elite and just how powerful the ruling class really is. I am talking about Ron Paul's bill HR 1207, the “Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009.” This is a simple bill that would not take long to read aloud in congress and would simply allow the GAO to completely audit the Fed. The last I heard there were 275 cosponsors to this bill. This means that not only would a majority of us common folk be in favor of such a bill, but so would a majority of our representatives. There is, however, one person that can prevent this bill from coming to the floor of the House for a vote. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has the power to do this. Since this bill will adversely effect some very powerful people, she has been hesitant to allow it to be voted on. This does not seem very democratic to me. One can only hope that the common folk can continue to exert enough political pressure on the powerful to get them to reconsider their positions.

I'm fairly certain that if this bill was thousands of pages long, a benefit to the powerful and detrimental to the common folk or their rights than the lawmakers would have voted it into law moments after it had been written. That seems to be the way modern democracy works. Its good to those who can afford to pay for it and their opinion is well represented, but if you are among the lower, middle or even some of the upper middle classes than your opinion matters little. This is not freedom, but a way of making sure that everyone knows their proper place in society. Bring Ron Paul's HR 1207 to vote and then audit the Fed. Perhaps then we will realize the depth of the corruption and do something to correct it. Perhaps then we will create a system where even the most common of the common can use the money he has as a vote by deciding for himself what services to pay for rather than being forced to pay for services provided by the federal government monopoly. Now that would be a democratic system I could get behind.

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