So here we are, welcoming 2015, on the heels of another biennial national, state, and county election season. And whether one considers government spending at the national, state, or local level, we have an ever-increasing lack of fiscal sobriety. This is due mostly to a dangerously inactive populace, and it will not leave this country unscathed. Sadly, these are tired words of mine.
With few exceptions, Americans re-elected bad actors and maintained the status quo in Congress and in state and county governments. This is mostly thanks to a brilliant two-party political system that so expertly marginalizes third-party alternatives. State ballot-access laws, corrupt courts, little to no scrutiny of election equipment and technology, and big special-interest money prevent third-party or independent candidates from gaining significant ground.
And independent or third-party candidates' ability to gain valuable mainstream-media exposure has only declined over the decades of media-ownership concentration. In 2009, Mother Jones published a graph showing 25 years of media mergers "from GE to NBC and Google to YouTube" resulting in only eight major holding companies that control the vast majority of what is today called news, plus the entertainment and print and digital publishing platforms that generate the content that dominates American media ownership (RCReader.com/y/motherjones). Columbia Journalism Review publishes a useful online directory of "what major media companies own" (CJR.org/resources), and that list has 72 companies. This is roughly one controlling company for every 4 million Americans. When one is trying to control the messaging about the benefits of the two-party system, the lion's share of campaign funds raised during elections goes to these relatively few media outlets. It is the bread and butter of corporate media, gladly disseminating the gamut of propaganda necessary to maintain the control grid.
The only wild card inside this controlled system is the potential of an awake and aware American populace. Thanks to the Bill of Rights, which was designed to protect our inherent authority to create the change we need, we still have ultimate control. The problem is we have to want such change bad enough to actually do something differently. QED: We don't.
I am sick to death of eyes glazing over when civic topics come up and eyes rolling when one dares question the purported facts behind the headlines so clearly designed to manipulate us.
The apathy and lack of engagement is staggering. And for those who rely on mainstream media for news and information, I'm talking about you. Parroting scripted propaganda ad nauseam, regardless of the channels you frequent, then considering yourself informed and being unwilling to evaluate alternative information, is as lazy as it gets. Whether liberal or conservative, those who rely solely on mainstream media want to conform far more than they want to contribute. The result is that America is visibly worse for it. So stop blaming politicians; admit that we elect who we are, not necessarily who they are.
On January 5 I was listening to John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, summarizing his most recent report on the disastrous financial state of taxpayers' investment(s) there. SIGAR is tasked with accounting for the $104 billion spent so far in just reconstruction costs in Afghanistan. Due to vast corruption and mismanagement, Sopko cannot ascertain where most of the money has gone, or even how many programs (via the State Department, DOD, USAID, etc.) have been operating using tax dollars since we've been there. The corporate media will ultimately ignore this report, again, leaving Americans blissfully ignorant of monies that could have otherwise truly helped that country, or better yet, significantly helped this one. Imagine if $104 billion (or even some fraction of this amount) were re-allocated to infrastructure improvements and/or education here at home.
Centuries of failed warfare/welfare economies, such as this Afghanistan boondoggle illustrates, have irrefutably proven that central planning coupled with top-down governance is unsustainable. The poor get poorer, and the elite get more elite. So what does that say about the direction of America's economy and governance? The ever-increasing one-size-fits-all policies never fit all sizes. And wealth transfer is never from the elite haves, invariably coming from the middle-class haves to the poorest have-nots, eventually resulting in far more have-nots. It's a flawed system as history has amply demonstrated.
So why are these policies becoming so prevalent in America? What possible good does it do in the long run to decrease the populace's assets and purchasing power? Who benefits from such an agenda? The people's inability to answer these questions suggests either a willful naïveté or a regrettable lack of imagination. Either way, we bend to the mechanizations of a very narrow future we have no part in making, more to our children's detriment than to our own, which more fully disgraces our legacy than perhaps any generation's before us.
It is Democrats and Republicans who have corrupted American governance for the past 50 years, even more so in the past two decades. Both parties are entirely responsible. Both sides of the aisle have voted us into war, financed untold billions in corrupt programs, deliberately abdicated any meaningful oversight, and permitted government to grow exponentially each year, regardless of which party controlled the administration. This year, it was both parties who voted in a record $1.1-trillion spending bill (through September 30, 2015) to keep the government from shutting down, of which we will have to borrow nearly $500 billion to fulfill. Once again, this 1,600-page page bill had no chance of actually being read by the majority of legislators who approved it due to the fast-tracking and last-minute shenanigans that have come to define DC business. Know that legislators do this on purpose to give themselves the excuse of not having enough time to read the behemoth legislation. And voters consistently allow them to hide behind that all-too-familiar cover. This is absurd beyond all conscience, and it was barely a blip in the news or at American dinner tables.
In addition to the sheer enormity of the spending, the bill removed the obstacle(s) to banks trading in derivatives and high-risk trades using federally insured deposits. According to Forbes magazine, the financial sector invested more than $1.2 billion in the last election cycle to influence the 535 legislators, spending $1.8 million per day on average (RCReader.com/y/forbes). Both Democrats and Republicans approved the rollback of this specific Dodd-Frank regulation, making it a throughly bipartisan betrayal.
Until the American voters break the mold of treating elections like sporting events, picking sides based on party affiliation instead of choosing candidates based on actual versus perceived representation, America's destructive status quo will continue unabated.