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A Profound and Jarring Disconnect

Democracy: de-moc-ra-cy, government by the people; the common people of a community, as distinguished from any privileged class

According to the latest poll conducted by CBS “60 Minutes” and the magazine Vanity Fair, 61 percent of Americans want to raise taxes on the wealthy as the primary way to cut the budget. The same poll finds that the second most popular first choice for cutting the nation’s budget deficit, at 20 percent, is cutting the military budget. That is, 81 percent of us–four out of five–would cut the deficit by taxing the rich and/or slashing military spending.

Only four percent of those polled favored cutting Medicare, the government-run program that provides health care for the elderly and disabled, and only three percent favored cutting Social Security.

President Obama meanwhile, appointed a so-called National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (quickly dubbed the “Catfood Commission” by critics) to come up with proposals to cut the budget deficit. He named as co-chairs former Republican Senator from Wyoming Alan Simpson, a troglodyte sworn enemy of Social Security who publicly declared it to be “a milk cow with 310 million tits,” and Erskine Bowles, a retired investment banker and former chief of staff to President Clinton who says he want to cut spending, not raise taxes, which, when it comes to Social Security, means lower benefits for retirees.

The writing on the wall appears to be that the White House, and Democrats and Republicans in Congress, are looking to raise the retirement age, currently 66, to 68 or 69, to reduce or at least limit the inflation adjustment in Social Security benefits, and perhaps also to increase the payroll tax on current workers. What they want to do is balance the budget by screwing with our retirement. What they do not want to do is raise taxes on the rich and on investment income, two steps which, if taken, could fully fund Social Security indefinitely into the future.

Already, the president and Congress have agreed to extend tax breaks for the rich, even though the vast majority of the American public wants the rich to pay higher taxes.

A second poll, this time by CNN, reports that 63 percent of Americans oppose the US War in Afghanistan and want it ended. Only 35 percent say they support the war (now in its ninth year).

Yet the president, who originally promised he would end US involvement in 2011, is now saying the US will “end combat operations” in that war-torn country in 2014–a turn of phrase that doesn’t even mean the war would be ended that year (US combat operations allegedly ended in Iraq last summer, but some 50,000 American troops and many more private mercenaries are still there today and will be next year too, unless they are thrown out by the Iraqi government).

Even on the matter of cutting military spending, and with the US currently at war, a Financial Times/Harris poll found in November of last year that a third of Americans thought cutting the Pentagon budget was a good idea, and another third said it would not be a bad thing, with only just over a third saying it was a bad idea. Only 30 percent said that they were concerned that cutting military spending might pose a security risk. Instead of cutting though, the Obama administration with Congressional backing has continued to raise military spending to record levels not seen since World War II, when the US was in a state of all-out war and full national mobilization.

Last April, while Congress was considering the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform bill, a Pew poll found that 64 percent of Americans favored regulations placing a maximum limit on the permissible size of a bank. Only 27 percent opposed such a limit. Yet Congress passed, and the president signed into law, a bill that allows banks to grow even larger, without any constraint on size.

A Pew Charitable Trust poll released last March found that 52 percent of Americans favor setting limits on carbon emissions by vehicles and power plants, even if such limits meant higher energy prices. Only 35 percent opposed such limits on emissions. And yet Congress and President Obama have refused to offer up with any plan to limit CO2 emissions.

Finally, for decades, a majority of Americans have favored some kind of national healthcare system, whether a fully socialized plan such as that in the UK, or a so-called single-payer type plan where the government is the insurer of all citizens, as in Canada. In May 2009, as the battle over health care reform was heating up, a CNN poll found Americans favored a government health plan by 69-29%.

What polls showed Americans didn’t want was a system of private insurers with a government mandate that everyone had to buy insurance or pay a penalty. Guess what kind of “health reform” Congress and the President gave them? Hint: It wasn’t socialized medicine.

What’s wrong with this picture?

On every key issue of public concern–protecting Social Security, reforming and universalizing health care, re-regulating the banking industry, ending America’s endless wars, cutting the military budget, and taking serious steps to combat global climate change, the government in this supposed democracy has gone against the wishes of the majority of the public.

Clearly, whatever it is, this is no democracy we are living in today.

No wonder the American government is so busy figuring out new ways to spy on and monitor us citizens, to militarize police departments, to construct ever bigger prisons, to restrict access to information, and to control and intimidate the media! Instead of being of, by and for the public, it has become the public’s enemy.

Revolution: rev-uh-loo-shun, an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). His work can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net. He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com

 

 

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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