29 July 2011


My thanks to Irene and Melody for the link to one of the finest essays I've ever read on the nature of democracy, and how our founding principles are being undermined and betrayed by the rise of neocon, Tea Party ideology within the Republican party. The essay is titled Why Democracy Is Public: the American Dream Beats the Nightmare. The authors take us back to basics, and remind us of how much we stand to lose if we allow the current drift away from moderation and toward radical conservatism to continue. This should be committed to memory by every Senator and Representative, at both federal and state levels. It should be committed to memory by every citizen. Here's why ~

"Democracy, in the American tradition, has been defined by a simple morality: We Americans care about our fellow citizens, we act on that care and build trust, and we do our best not just for ourselves, our families and neighbors, but for our country, for each other, for people we have never seen and never will see.

"American Democracy has, over our history, called upon citizens to share an equal responsibility to work together to secure a safe and prosperous future for their families and nation. This is the central work of our democracy and it is a public enterprise. This, the American Dream, is the dream of a functioning democracy.

"Public refers to people, acting together to provide what we all depend on: roads and bridges, public buildings and parks, a system of education, a strong economic system, a system of law and order with a fair and effective judiciary, dams, sewers, and a power grid, agencies to monitor disease, weather, food safety, clean air and water, and on and on. That is what we, as a people who care about each other, have given to each other.

"Only a free people can take up the necessary tasks, and only a people who trust and care for one another can get the job done. The American Dream is built upon mutual care and trust.

"Our tradition has not just been to share the tasks, but to share the tools as well. We come together to provide a quality education for our children. We come together to protect each other's health and safety. We come together to build a strong, open and honest financial system. We come together to protect the institutions of democracy to guarantee that all who share in these responsibilities have an equal voice in deciding how they will be met.

"What this means is that there is no such thing as a 'self-made' man or woman or business. No one makes it on their own. No matter how much wealth you amass, you depend on all the things the public has provided ~ roads, water, law enforcement, fire and disease protection, food safety, government research, and all the rest. The only question is whether you have paid your fair share for all we have given you.

"We are now faced with a nontraditional, radical view of 'democracy' coming from the Republican party. It says that 'democracy' means that no one should care about anyone else, that 'democracy' means only personal responsibility, not responsibility for anyone else, and it means no trust. If American accepts this radical view of 'democracy', then all that we have given each other in the past under traditional democracy will be lost: all that we have called public. Public roads and bridges: gone. Public schools: gone. Publicly funded police and firemen: gone. Safe food, air, and water: gone. Public health: gone. Everything that made America America, the crucial things that you and your family and your friends have taken for granted: gone.

"The democracy of care, shared responsibility, and trust is the democracy of the American Dream. The 'democracy' of no care, no shared responsibility, and no trust has produced the American Nightmare that so many of our citizens are living through.

" .... If we are to successfully overcome the Republican demonizing of government and shared responsibility, we must restore faith in the mutual enterprise itself. Rather than simply defend government and government programs, we must positively advance the moral values of American democracy and the Dream, not the Nightmare."

The essay goes to to specify the language Republicans have used to distort our understanding of democracy, and also specifies the issues which most demand our focus and clear thinking. It is an elocutionary treasure, and a reality check. Being reminded of concepts like the commons, public services, and government of, by and for the people, is like awakening from a bad dream ~ a nightmare indeed. Alas, the nightmare exists in our waking life. It is up to each of us to clarify the real issues, stand up for the true American dream, and challenge the new wave of Republican swindlers and fast talkers at every turn. Unless we do, we will no longer be a democracy. We will be an oligarchy, and we will deserve the servitude we have chosen.

Here's one fact which supports the author's contention that Republican greed lies at the heart of our current social and budgetary crisis ~ if corporations and households taking in $1 million or more in income each year were now paying taxes at the same annual rates they did back in 1961, the federal treasury would be collecting an additional $716 billion a year .... the federal debt to investors would almost totally vanish over the next decade. Think about that the next time you see some Republican talking head on TV calling for cuts to human services, cuts to Social Security, cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, while defending tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations. Note: Social Security is not an "entitlement" ~ it is a trust fund into which most of us have made deposits over the course of our working life. It is our money, not subject to revision or cancellation.

In further support of this assertion, here is an interview between Chris Matthews and the treasury secretary under President George H.W. Bush (and a policy advisor to Ronald Reagan) ~ a rare instance of a Republican with the integrity to come out of the shadows and state the obvious, that the George W. Bush tax cuts lie at the root of the U.S. fiscal meltdown. Listening is five minutes well spent in self-education.

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