By Arthur H. Gunther III
We the people must declare war. Our nation has been attacked, this time not by overseas terrorists but by special interests who buy our officials and who cunningly direct growing populist rage against big government and its spending, playing on the fear foaming out of the stirred pot of a prolonged economic crisis.
Taxes are up, people’s confidence waning. The rich are richer, and no cash is trickling down. Manufacturing, once the bedrock of our economy, is silent, its machines now spinning in China. The American middle class, created by the Industrial Age, Progressivism, immigration, two world wars, suburbia and manifest destiny, is disappearing. A third world-like underclass is forming, one that permanently will be out of work.
At stake is much more than loss of buying power, a stalled economy and the threat of entrenched recession. No democracy long sustains without a healthy middle class and the hopes therein. (Recall the fall of Rome?) Those parts of cities not gentrified by the uber-wealthy and the ever-costlier suburbs will decay, and crime and social problems will increase. Education will not progress in such limited optimism and weak investment. Children’s dreams will be lost as we regress, choking our nation’s future.
Today, greed is the name of the game, aided and abetted by ever-more powerful special-interest groups, through 501C (4) political action committees and, now, two Supreme Court decisions that essentially allow big money to shout over opponents, especially the hoarse whisper of the ordinary citizen. Big money rules elections, rules what was once a serving Congress. All this is an attack on America.
Special interests – some of polarized political bent but most commerce-driven (banks, other financial houses, military suppliers, etc.) – also influence our state legislatures, our executive branches, too.
Special interests, hiding behind a warped sense of “free speech,” use money to polarize politics, their paid-for words delivered in quick sound bites and e-bits meant to inflame, not inform, playing off slogans, playing off fear, based not a whit on facts. The downsizing and less-profitable media devotes too little in investigative reporting and explanatory writing to properly structure the debate and thus forge the choices that a democracy must make. Instead, we have sloganeering, innuendo, deliberate distorting of facts, pushed rumors – all to forge a simplistic agenda, such as “take government back” or “change,” behind which the real operation – greed – can operate. It’s now the bottom line, and profit is king.
We the people must declare war against the special interests that are greed’s lobbyists. No more fat wallets for any candidate or office holder. Instead, every campaign must be fully funded by the people. No other money allowed, period, set by law throughout the land. Special interests would still have voices, but they would be heard via public hearings, a true free speech tradition. No one running for office or serving the people or retired from government would be allowed to take one penny from any special interest.
If we do this, even if it requires a constitutional amendment, the national focus could turn to a new “Marshall Plan” for economic recovery, this time not for Europe but for America. An industrial/scientific age would begin that creates innovative work (jobs), and so another frontier that can guarantee a vibrant middle class, and with it, the wealth of the upper, yes, and also the sustenance and dreams of the lower. But most of all it would ensure the future hopes of this nation by rebuilding the vital middle class.
Declare war, people. Tell your president, tell your Congress.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org This essay may be reproduced.