Soon after the Allied victory in Europe and the surrender of Japan ending WWII, my father expressed the fervent hope that the United States would never be foolish enough to imagine it could win a land war in the vastness of Asia. He thought that General MacArthur was a pompous ass.
While we succeeded in saving the southern half of the small peninsula that is the democratic state of South Korea, the last 60 years have made my father’s case. The sacrifice of so many American troops in Vietnam was a humiliating and ghastly disaster.
But the lesson of Vietnam was lost on the American war machine, which trained its propaganda guns on the fiction that our military supremacy triggered the collapse of the Soviet Union, when in fact the USSR disintegrated from its own dead weight. This supreme test of communism couldn’t even grow a good crop of potatoes two years in a row.
However, by claiming victory in the Cold War, the Reagan bunch could push and test their “trickle down” approach in American free enterprise. In play now for three decades, the trickle down has never come close to delivering the broad economic growth the Reagan White House promised. Ironically, it has instead simultaneously delivered new mountains of wealth for the wealthy and equally mountainness public and private debt, while leaving a weakened middle class to carry most of the debt.
Trickle down is likewise on the verge of dying of its own weight. The lesson it has given us is that capitalism doesn’t work by trickle down, any better than communism works from the top down. It has given us an increasingly divided and contentious political order, with each side damning the other for “class warfare.”
Capitalism can only grow by spreading wealth more than it concentrates it. By working the other way around for three decades, it leaves us with a a majority that sees itself as the Ninety-Nine Percent, facing a One Percent whose corporate power rules the political landscape. The way Washington and the Congress are working today hardly proves otherwise.
Sadly, the war machine works by its own trickle down. The Pentagon walls of secrecy are buttressed by similar walls at the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as the walls of the White House itself. By making national defense its first priority, reinforced in the presidential oath of office, the Constitution allows the executive branch excessive leeway in the exercise of secrecy.
The people are no longer privy to deeper formulations of national security reached between the President and the Pentagon. We’ve lived mainly in the dark since the marshall law was invoked for good reason in World War II, only to have it deepened in the machinations of the Cold War, and deepened again in the 21st century by the combination of military muscle and homeland security.
That combination is being worked now to allow multinational corporations to flex muscle that is growing beyond the reach of nations and the rule of law, with the effect that government of, by, and for the people is more fiction than fact.
That muscle has been expanded by the Supreme Court in its notorious Citizens United decision. It allows the corporate powers to push money into politics, putting huge sums into both the candidates and their costly pitches widely spread in various media.
The overall effect is to neutralize if not control public opinion, to further empower their lobbyists with Congress and the legislatures, and to further fictionalize popular government.
Since the Court has negated the power of the people on freedom of speech, we can expect the same result, if the Court chooses to rule on Freedom of Religion, in the case of uniform health insurance that makes no exception for churches as employers. The Court almost certainly will blur the line again between persons’ access to Freedom of Religion and corporate access to it.
The paradox shows most painfully in the Catholic Church’s insistence that its health insurance for employees should not have to cover contraception for any or all, even though polls have shown repeatedly that the vast majority of Catholic women want that coverage.
It’s criminal in my mind that the highest Court can allow the collective power of faceless, anonymously ruled entities to overwhelm the freedoms that people exercise individually. Will such a collective voice soon destroy the separation of church and state?
The crowning irony of these assaults on freedom and popular government is that they would never have arisen if the true majority of voters – women – also filled at least half the seats of the legislatures and Congress. It can’t happen soon enough, if corporate power is to be contained and the Bill of Rights is to be saved.
– Frank Mensel May 2012