The DEVIL Finds a Home

The Dallas Morning News gave a recent column about dysfunctional Washington the headline “Dancing with the devil.” The nation’s capital lends itself to this distinction in the 21st century for various reasons. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, is its rank now as the costliest city to do business. Not New York. Not San Francisco or Los Angeles. Yes, greater Washington now claims first place in the costs of living. And in access to the less fortunate – in either direction!

The article under the headline is a column by Jonathan Rauch, a contributing editor of the Atlantic Journal, arguing that the capital “would benefit from a return to honest graft.” It can’t happen, simply because the city has reached a state that tramples Tip’s rule that “All politics is local.” For those who believe in Satan, the capital has to look like the devil’s workshop.

Rauch and the rest of the media stars need to realize that “local” no longer has meaning in Washington, in the sense of its connection to the American people. The high cost of doing business there has virtually eliminated their voice, and turned the capital into a playpen where only Special Interests play. To play, you pay. And, no less than the Supreme Court is jacking up the price.

Twice in less than four years the Supreme Court has made the same mistake, telling us that corporations are people, because they are formed by people. But alike in form they are not. Corporations are formed by state laws. People are formed by creation.vStates give corporations no responsibility to the public interest, a glaring snub of the Constitution.

It comes from the clause that passes to the States powers not explicitly set forth in the Constitution, the very wrench that the devil counted on to jam up the works. Believers saw him using it to tear both the country and the Constitution into the Civil War that nearly destroyed both. The States should have been counted on to keep to the spirit of the Constitution in their use of this power. Consistency would and should demand it.

But the legal profession could hardly be counted on to choose the right, however obvious. There are no fat fees in that! So the rule of law perishes under a thousand nicks, giving us rule by the profession of law. No sense applying the law as it reads, when the devil dishes up details that make the practice of law a game played on technicalities, from the simple court of the justice of the peace into the machinations of the Supreme Court.

It’s a game that works this way because the lawyers own it. They tout their Bar Association as the protector of the law itself, but self-regulation is exactly that: Self first. It’s akin to expecting the NCAA to put the public interest first (e.g., child safety) in policing inter-mural football and basketball. Slavery has redefined itself in football, and by its growth into the largest entertainment industry, it writes its own rules in the exploitation of the flesh, offering enticements and rewards that make it difficult for parents and students to resist. The bigger the industry, the greater the power and influence of the lawyers it can afford to sidestep any regulation that might threaten its growth. Multinational corporations are flexing this muscle freely and, with the help of the Supreme Court, shrinking the personal worth of the Bill of Rights.

Cast your mind for a moment to a Washington visit in which you are a tourist touring the capital by car with your family. You’re looking for a parking place to pay respects to your senators, or catch the Supreme Court in session. Forget it — or park in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs and take the subway to Union Station, a short walk to the Senate offices.

It’s a playpen where money does all the talking. How easily we forget the old truth: money is the root of all evil. Personified, of course, by the devil. The capital’s isolation is the political mockery of the Safety Net, of which Washington players speak so blissfully. Remnants of the safety net are rather like a church whose members are largely the poor, but they pride themselves on keeping their minister living well, as the manifestation of the well-being to which they aspire, and for which they pray. The House and Senate appease and tease them by opening every session with prayer.

But prayers aren’t changing the reality outside the sanctuary, where unprecedented poverty is having its way — be it the devil’s work, or not. In the 21st century, poverty racks the nation in far larger numbers than its peak in the Great Depression. When sports in general, and football in particular, have become national obsessions (by far the largest entertainment industry) statisticians are thereby too preoccupied to take time to count the poor. The devil has them tallying pass completion rates and runs batted in.

Even inside the moat that money floats around the capital poverty is rampant. It’s just tougher to see, beneath the granite of the majestic seats of government or the shimmer of luxury that paves Pennsylvania Avenue, and embassy row, and the other corridors of influence. Go a few blocks  north, east, or south from the Capitol — any direction but Pennsylvania Avenue west — you’ll have no troubling shaking hands with the poor.

So who’s brokering all this decadence? All the peevishness paralysis of the Congress? Where’s the root of this dysfunctional Washington? Money makes it so. Yes, the root of all evil.

The dance of democracy finds us dancing with the devil. Graft isn’t the answer. There’s no such thing as honest graft. How can it be when money is the root? It’s Satan’s coin. Will we go on allowing the Koch Brothers and other billionaire oligarchs to call the tune? Tom Toles got it right in his recent NYTimes cartoon, lampooning the Supreme Court for allowing big money to buy legislators by the handful, not one at a time.

Worse, will we go on letting football dictate the worth of high school and college educations, leaving only the boys that make the team feel like first-class citizens, and rest feeling diminished manhood — while at the same time shortchanging America’s economic competitiveness. Little wonder that boys overall are losing interest in school. They must suffer the irony of knowing that sports do zero for national competitiveness.

It’s time for mothers to take charge, and insist that their sons compete with the daughters for good grades. If necessary, leave the old boy to his couch, his beer, the TGV guide — and the devil. The 21st century is their opportunity to show the world that mothers are the real makers now of the American Dream. The truth is that they always have been.  As the one true majority of voters, they can take us back to our true roots, which are “All politics is local” – the devil’s worst nightmare.

Frank Mensel — April 2014

ACA: Onward!

Democrats in Congress have teamed with President Obama to score the greatest legislative victory so far in this century, which is universal health insurance. It will have a primary role in whether the nation and the workforce keep abreast of the leading competitors in the new world of industrial technology and global trade.

The biggest mistake Democrats can make in the 2014 mid-term Congressional elections is to go weak on the Affordable Care Act. They must not be cowed by either their opponents or the media rabble-rousers whose health insurance comes with their contracts and who could care less about the 40 million Americans who don’t have it.

As dogged as the ACA has been by server errors in the enrollment systems, the program has met its paramount target of the first year — seven million subscribers by March 31. With all those online by the deadline, completion of their enrollment in early April could make the startup push bigger than seven million.

America now has universal health insurance, with far more than a fourth of the uninsured now not only covered but also freed from cost caps and exceptions for grave illnesses. Millions who never dreamed they could afford health insurance are now enrolled, including legions whose severe ailments denied them coverage even as many were bled into bankruptcy. These are the facts. Exceptions are gone. And there’s little doubt that enrollment will continue to surge, however long the Republican governors continue to drag their feet. History is not on their side. The USA has at last joined the league of progressive nations, whose people know that the strength of the nation, its productivity, rests heavily on the health of the people.

Any Democrat who is uncomfortable with these facts is in the wrong party. Profiting lushly as they do from controversy, the big media have been drawn too easily into the Republican game of doubt, so now it’s time for Democrats to fight back with the old Republican trick of running against both their opponents and the media. It’s time to put to rest once and for all the shaggy myth that the American press and broadcasters are always leaning liberal. Nine-tenths of the media serve Republican owners, who profit enormously by keeping the public thinking that their products have a liberal flavor. Theirs hardly a bigger lie in the history of American politics. Ralph Nader puts it so aptly, “All Americans grow up corporate.” The media effect!

The biggest challenge that Democrats face in November is not opponents who are trashing the dream of health care as a human right, which it is everywhere else in the free world. It’s the ground game of getting their faithful to the polls. Whatever war chests they can raise the rest of the year, they should be spent on making Democrats understand that the stakes have never been higher in getting to the polls. They must understand that their health depends on it — as does the health of democracy in its struggle to balance freedom and the Bill of Rights against the global greed of corporate power. As we learned from the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court is not on the people’s side.

And, it’s high time the Democrats prove again that they are the party on the people’s side. They  need not look smug in thanking Republicans for helping enact the ACA, they must by turnout ensure that it’s the 21st century right that the Bill of Rights would be incomplete without.

Frank Mensel — April 2014

DEMOCRATS: You’re at His Back, and Making History

When it comes to off-year elections, Democrats will never face a bigger one than 2014, if you’re going to get American democracy and liberty back on track for this century — and hopefully, beyond. If you let the downbeat spinmeisters of big media keep you home, the GOP and Tea Party win.

You’ve worked with President Obama to score a huge populist triumph in the Affordable Care Act, setting the nation on the road to universal health coverage. This election will be a bloody test of whether you now can give it unbreakable legs.

You can’t quibble. Kingmakers in the cable media are counting on you to do just that. So are the Republicans, who have all their eggs stacked in the basket of lies and falsehoods they count on to force its repeal. Never have they had bigger money on their side.

This makes it a supreme test of liberty itself. In this day of medical miracles, reasonable access to quality care is as meaningful to both workers and families as the Bill of Rights and the pursuit of happiness. Without it, happiness can be no more certain than a game of cards.

Democrats, you hold the winning hand in this election: history is on your side, and so is the Constitution.  You must ride both hard. We are dedicated as a nation by the Constitution to Securing the Blessings of Liberty, paramount among them Justice and our general Welfare.

Democrats will never have a better, more resounding slogan than the Preamble of the Constitution. Without universal access to advanced health care, WeThePeople will have neither Justice nor the general Welfare.

Run hard on this focus, and you can win. Don’t be caught in running against Republicans or the Tea Party.  You are running against the enemies of liberty, and they’ve never been plainer to see: greed, corporate power, terrorism, racism, and the broken rule of law.

Yes, racism is the card Republican leadership have been playing since President Obama’s first day in office. It’s twin is the war on women. Every Republican candidate must be confronted on these issues. None should stand free of their Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and his claim from the first day the Obama presidency that his first duty was to defeat anything and everything the first black president pursued, and to defeat his reelection. The Republican Caucus in the House made a similar pledge, before his Inauguration, and why the media have made so little of this House chicanery is a riddle that quite plainly refutes the GOP relentless rant of chronic liberal bias in the media. It may be the oldest joke in American politics since conservatives own the vast majority of media outlets.

The issues likely to decide the 2014 election are turning the Democrats’ way. They’ve put President Obama in the White House twice; their duty now is to stay at his back. Numbers on the Affordable Care Act have exceeded the first big target, more than 8 million already enrolled. We are now in the family of progressive nations that know health care is the cornerstone of economic competitiveness. Any Democrat who is still shy about the ACA is a fool.  The numbers guarantee that it’s here to stay, burying the old exceptions for too much cost or preexisting conditions, while making the insurance industry competitive at more than outrageous executive bonuses. It’s a true sweetener of the Bill of Rights.

True Democrats relish this opportunity to back the Commander in Chief to the completion of his historic presidency, and to make it yet more historic. It’s an opportunity to shovel more dirt on the ugliest trait of our national character: racism.

Enduring expansion of health care has already made it historic. Presidents as far back as Truman and Eisenhower openly wished for guaranteed health care for all. All the more remarkable that the first black president should finally open the door.

If Democrats can turn out record off-year numbers, they can brighten his chances of bringing about the equally relished dream of immigration reform — which in a just world would earn him a place on Mount Rushmore.

Women hold the key. So they’ve enjoyed the right to vote for 90 years, they are still sold short on equal protection. Very short. Choice is not the only place. Why is the establishment still getting away with unequal pay for women for the same work men are doing? It’s kin to racism, keeping women and minorities living by the same music and the same organ-grinder, whose identity is all too plain – the One Percent!

They must not be tricked into skipping their duty in November. They are in ascendency on the big issues — minimum wage, equal pay, health insurance, unemployment protection, choice. Clearly the Republicans want none of this. Just take the word of Bill O’Reilly, the old Fox who keeps spreading confusion in the hen-house.

If women get out in November and vote their interests they can brighten the chances that corporate power will not erase liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the middle class for good. If they turn this corner in November, the 21st century may yet become the Century of the Woman. And, in the process, they can settle the debt of keeping the president’s back, for having elected him twice, at the same time ensuring that health insurance is a competitive choice for all, and that the minimum wage is a living wage. If it isn’t, oligarchy will be our future for sure, and the light we see in the Statue of Liberty’s hand will dim, dim, dim.

Indeed, Democrats, 2014 is no ordinary off-year election.

Frank Mensel — May 2014