Is the US Democracy on the Critical List?–3/3

SchooloftheAmericas

Jefferson’s “Den of  Vipers and Thieves”

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the US, saw the central bank as an unnecessary consolidation of power. He argued that it benefited investors, banks and businesses above the wider population. President Andrew Jackson, who opposed renewing the charter of the second US central bank, famously referred to it as “a den of vipers and thieves.”

Flash forward almost a century from the Fed’s founding. According to Allan Meltzer, author of The History of the Federal Reserve, “… the Fed’s decision to bail out the banks in 2008 has shaped many Americans’ current distrust of the central banking system more than the prolonged period of low interest rates. ” The public doesn’t think the government should be in the business of bailing out banks,” he says. Mike Collins, writing in Forbes.com in 2015, says:

The Special Inspector General for TARP summary of the bailout says that the total commitment of government is $16.8 trillion dollars with the $4.6 trillion already paid out. Yes, it was trillions not billions and the banks are now larger and still too big to fail.

The BBC quotes Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat who has built a reputation for challenging Wall Street, as saying, “If big financial institutions know they can get cheap cash from the Fed in a crisis, they have less incentive to manage their risks carefully.”

So, who owns the Federal Reserve banks? According to the stlouisfed.org website, the Federal Reserve Banks are not a part of the federal government, but they exist because of an act of Congress. Their purpose is to serve the public. So is the Fed private or public? The answer, according to the St. Louis Fed, is both:

While the Board of Governors is an independent government agency, the Federal Reserve Banks are set up like private corporations. Member banks hold stock in the Federal Reserve Banks and earn dividends.

Distinguished British-American economist and academic, Simon Johnson writes in 2012 on The Baseline  Scenario website:

Some qualified critics of the Fed feel that prominent financial sector executives and their close allies are much too involved in how the New York Fed operates. This is partly a holdover from the original Federal Reserve Act of 1913 – and reflects the political milieu of that time, in which bankers had to be persuaded to accept a central bank. But it is also an all-too-accurate reflection of where we stand today with regard to global mega-banks and the large, nontransparent and highly dangerous subsidies they extract from the rest of society by being too big to fail. The people who run global mega-banks get the upside when things go well – they are paid based on their return on equity unadjusted for risk, so they prefer a lot of debt piled on top of very little equity. When things go badly, the downside is someone else’s problem – in the first instance, typically, the Federal Reserve’s.

And the American public’s, I might add.

(The website of Provident Metals, a Dallas-based “precious metals” broker, features a brief-but-fascinating insiders’ history of The Fed.)

The Deficiencies Are Not Just Political or Economic

Beyond pure politics and economics, the United States continues to cultivate some shockingly anti-democratic derivatives which make the world wonder when seen from abroad. Racism and white supremacy movements have never been dealt with effectively in the United States, and are on the rise today, a fact which constitutes a grave flaw in the eyes of the world. (That said, the Americans in charge aren’t concerned about the “eyes of the world.”) People in advanced countries are also concerned about social and economic inequality in the United States, the unconcern for the poor and the lack of basic first-world rights and services. A country without universal health care is unthinkable for the people of the civilized world. Nor do they understand why the wealthiest, most-advanced country in the world has such an outlandish prison population. No other advanced country has that problem. What are the Americans doing wrong, they ask themselves.

Though they are admittedly dazzled by American technology, they are gravely concerned by the United States’ disrespectful, illegal and immoral policies regarding other countries, above all their aggressive wars on sovereign nations for specious or non-existent reasons. (E.g. Vietnam, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya…) “Regime change” is not a legitimate casus belli; nor is a socialist government in power. Perhaps the greatest American irony of all in the eyes of the world is the US’s ongoing efforts to export their model of democracy. The question arises immediately: who would want to import it?

What they do export successfully are arms, military assistance, subversive techniques and regime change at the point of a gun. Their School of the Americas (aka  La Escuela de las Americas) at Ft. Benning, Georgia set the benchmark worldwide for teaching torture techniques, principally but not exclusively, to Latin America’s present and future military officers and dictators (some 34,000 of them) for more than half a century. The School was officially closed in the year 2000.  ABC News had this to say on the day of its closing:

A U.S. army facility that critics have labeled a school for dictators, torturers and assassins is being closed today. The ‘School of the Americas,’ in Fort Benning, Ga., which has for 54 years operated as a training facility for Latin American military personnel, will shut its doors after facing criticism from human rights groups for years.

The list of graduates from the School of the Americas is a who’s who of Latin American despots. Students have included Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia.

Other graduates cut a swath through El Salvador during its civil war, being involved in the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the El Mozote massacre in which 900 peasants were killed, and the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests.

We needn’t weep for the School of the Americas, though. In January of 2001 it reopened in the same location, run by the Defense Department rather than the Army, and with a new name. It is now known as the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.” Its motto is, “Libertad, Paz y Fraternidad” (Freedom, Peace, and Fraternity).

So, what’s the balance of the last 200 years for the world’s greatest democracy? Are recent United States governments living up to their high-minded Constitution? Sadly, not entirely. Since the United States was seen as the savior of the world immediately after World War II the power and prestige earned during the war went to the politicians’ heads and, always under the pretext of protecting the world from communism, the United States became more of a bully than a benefactor. As they increasingly assumed the role of policemen to the world and its ultimate ideological masters, the Americans’ star lost a lot of its shine. Where they had a reputation for decency and fair play they became renowned for cynicism and sharp dealings. It didn’t help that for decades they had been sponsoring ever-more-brutal and reliably “anti-communist” dictators from Latin America to the Middle East, and interfering in the political processes in other countries around the world.

Next on their immediate agenda of bellicosity, it seems, are Iran and North Korea. The Israelis have long had their eye on the former as potential Palestine-style lebensraum for their cramped little country and the help they get from the Americans to destabilize Iran will reveal to what extent the Israeli tail is wagging the American dog. United States leadership still feels the sting of Iran holding 52 American diplomats and other citizens hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian students took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It stands as the longest hostage crisis in recorded history. What the Americans have forgotten is the 1954 regime-change operation engineered by the CIA and British MI6 which deposed the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh “and restored the Shah to absolute power, initiating 25 years of repression and torture.” (Quote from William Blum’s Rogue State.) Mossadegh’s “crime” was to nationalize British petroleum interests in Iran.

As for North Korea, President Trump is about to find out that the game of geopolitics is not played in midnight Twitter sessions. Kim Jung-un has outsmarted the President by declaring a unilateral dismounting of North Korea’s nuclear offensive potential. When they sit down together at the negotiating table he will, I suspect, require at the same time that the United States remove their nuclear installations (along with their troops) from South Korea. Check mate.

On the American home front, perhaps the most egregious government initiative has been the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the Trump Tax Cuts), a tremendous boon for big business which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office sees as adding an estimated $1.455 trillion to the national debt over ten years. This tax cut for the rich entails, of course, a corresponding tax increase for Americans who are not rich. It’s a giant step in the progress of American lycanthropic democracy, a country run by werewolves.

Here is how the Americans for Tax Fairness see the results of the Trump tax cuts.

There’s a name for boasting about one thing and doing the opposite. It’s called hypocrisy. Most countries—excepting, perhaps, Iceland—feel obliged to be hypocritical from time to time, but we have never seen any other country so constantly and utterly devious as the United States of America. They would like to consider their seemingly magnanimous, disinterested policy declarations as “white lies,” “lies for your own good” or “creative use of euphemisms,” but it’s none of that. It’s pure unalloyed hypocrisy. How long can a nation go on living off myths and lies while portraying itself as the shining democracy on the hill? We shall see.

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Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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Washington’s Hollow Men Write Their Own Ticket–and Yours 1/2

Trump_Cabinet_Categorized

The “experts” in President Donald Trump’s first cabinet.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

T.S. Eliot
(Full text here.)

Beware the Lycanthropic Superpower

There’s a prima facie case for believing that President Donald Trump’s dubious curriculum and limited intellectual and moral capacities are sufficient justification for asserting that he exercises very little power in the White House. What, after all, can a man who doesn’t read contribute to decision making at the world’s highest level?  That leaves us to believe he’s just a straw man, a placeholder for the oligarchs that really run the United States in every significant respect. The obligatory next question is: Do the oligarchs themselves embody the necessary intellectual and moral capacities?

Since the only values recognized by the USA’s neo-con ruling class are economic in nature they are the only values the Trump administration proposes and promotes. They give no credit to human, nor historical, nor esthetic nor ethical considerations. The mythical “market” rules: just the bucks and the bling, and the faster the better. They know this scenario is essentially based on lies but they will continue to employ it as long as it works.

In matters of international politics the values of the American strategists of permanent war are equally bleak, just brutal smash-and-grab tactics, applied around the world, their aim to consolidate the United States as the world’s pre-eminent lycanthropic superpower.

What Ever Happened to the Free and Fair Election?

Just over two centuries ago the United States of America was cast in the Constitution as a democracy, albeit limited and imperfect. Women and slaves couldn’t vote, for example, and the election of the President was indirect, via an “electoral college” created by the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Founding Fathers didn’t trust the unwashed masses; neither has any US American administration since. Even so, it was a step forward over Europe’s absolute monarchies.

Then, as now, the authenticity of a democracy depended upon free and fair elections. Without elections free of fraud and outside influence a “democracy” is a democracy in name only. Flash forward 231 years. How is the United States doing today in matters of preserving democracy? Not terribly well, it seems. Today the great election influencer is money. According to the Wikipedia, in 2009 the Washington Post estimated that there were 13,700 registered lobbyists and described the nation’s Capitol as “teeming with lobbyists.” The ratio of lobbyists employed by the healthcare industry, compared with every elected politician, was six to one, according to one account. (Could this be why the United States doesn’t have proper universal health care, like nearly every other country in the industrialized world?) This is just healthcare lobbyists; the ratio of the total is more like 16 to one. Someone has to pay all these lobbyists. Who pays and what do they get in return?

According to Tom Murse, writing on the ThoughtCo.com website,

Lobbyists are hired and paid by special interest groups, companies, nonprofits and even school districts to exert influence over elected officials at all levels of government. Lobbyists work at the federal level by meeting with members of Congress to introduce legislation and encourage them to vote certain ways that benefit their clients. But they also work at the local and state levels as well.

What does a lobbyist do, then, that makes him so unpopular? It comes down to money. Most Americans don’t have the money to spend on trying to influence their members of Congress, so they view special interests and their lobbyists as having an unfair advantage in creating policy that benefits them rather than the good of the people. 

Lobbyists, however, say they simply want to make sure your elected officials “hear and understand both sides of an issue before making a decision,” as one lobbying firm puts it. Together they spend more than $3 billion trying to influence members of Congress every year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.

PACs and Super PACs Thicken the Plot

The “political action committee” (PAC) dates from a 1943 CIO union initiative, but it has come a long way since then. Its latest iteration, from, 2010, is the Super PAC, thanks to two judicial decisions that revolutionized campaign financing in the United States. A Super PAC may not make contributions directly to candidate campaigns or parties but may engage in unlimited political spending independently of the campaigns. Unlike traditional PACs, they can raise funds from individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups without any legal limit on donation size. (Emphasis mine.)

That is to say, they can exert massive influence the outcome of elections. The bottom line is that big money, whether individual billionaires, companies, trade associations or unions, can now virtually buy legislators. The process is admittedly indirect but mortally effective. The United States government has become a commodity in their much-vaunted free-market economy. It has passed from democracy to “democracy.” There is only one limit on the power of the Super PAC: how much money are they willing to spend?

Add to the lobbyists and the Super PACs, the legislators’ self-arrogated right to redesign their congressional districts to assure their own re-election (gerrymandering), a grotesque and anti-democratic practice that is also legal.

gerrymandering1

The Spanish philosopher and essayist, José Ortega y Gasset, wrote in his Meditaciones del Quijote, “Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia y si no la salvo a ella no me salvo yo.” (I am myself and my circumstances and if I don’t save them I don’t save myself.) President Donald Trump is himself and his advisors, and he doesn’t seem capable of saving either them nor himself. Without personal resources, without civilized criteria, nor advisors who are more than neophytes, party hacks and generals, the President is a hollow man.

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Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for commenting and sharing