Elections and Bill Moyers
Last night, on Bill Moyers' Journal TV show, there was a debate about the recent Supreme Court decision that gives corporations the same rights as people to spend money in support of politicians during election campaigns. There was also an interview with Margaret Flowers, M.D., who was arrested in the course of trying to present the case for "Medicare for all"--what the majority of Americans want--to the Senate. [see http://pnhp.org/blog/2009/05/08/why-we-risked-arrest-for-single-payer-health-care/ ] Dr Flowers was also arrested trying to deliver this message to President Barak Obama. [see http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x7603887 ] Obama, if you recall, declared in his state of the union speech: "If anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Let me know. Let me know." Yeah, right.
The debate about the Supreme Court decision was wrong-headed on both sides. Opposing the decision was Harvard law professor Larry Lessig, and supporting it was libertarian Reason editor Nick Gillespie. Lessig said he had nothing against corporations or their right of free speech. His only concern was that the Supreme Court's decision would further erode the public's trust that Congress represented the people instead of Big Money, and he noted that already most people think Congress acts for the latter not the former. Lessig advocated an amendment to the Constitution that would permit laws regulating corporate electioneering in the 60 days preceding the election. Gillespie argued that the Supreme Court's decision advanced free speech, and how could that be a bad thing? The evil, he said, is restricting free speech.
As is typical of elite-owned, mass-media-sponsored debates, both sides of this debate implicitly accepted an extremely controversial but elite-friendly premise--that there is nothing wrong per se with the extreme inequality in our nation that is manifested primarily as corporate wealth concentrated in the hands of a small plutocracy. Sophisticated propaganda does not announce itself and thereby alert its intended audience to be on guard against it; rather it delivers its message through the "back door" of our consciousness, by asking us to focus on deciding which side of a debate we support without noticing that with either choice we are accepting the elite-friendly view that is the truly controversial one. Thus the only thing these two debating gentlemen on Bill Moyers' show disagreed on was how, or whether, the plutocratic owners of our huge for-profit corporations should be regulated in regards to their overt efforts to determine the outcome of elections.
Neither gentleman dared so much as to hint that the reason Big Money controls our government is because billionaires will be the dominant power in a society like ours, where most people are much poorer, no matter what laws or regulations purport to make it otherwise. Just as surely as the water in a river will reach the ocean one way or another no matter how many dams are built, big money will influence people one way or another, by hook or by crook, no matter how many laws are written to prevent it.
If we want power to be in the hands of We the People and not Them the Billionaires then we need to get rid of billionaires. It is that simple. If we, as a society, honor the outrageous claims of individuals to personally "own" billions of dollars of what is actually social wealth, produced and made possible by the collective labor and knowledge and skills of thousands if not millions of people, then we will never have anything except what we in fact have today--a plutocracy, not a "representative democracy."
The plutocracy knows that very few Americans still believe that we have a genuine democracy. Most people know that Big Money calls the shots. Most people know that the reason Dr. Flowers isn't listened to by politicians when she advocates Medicare for All is because what most Americans want does not count in the corridors of power in the nation's Capitol. What the big corporations want, the big corporations get. And they obviously want Americans to be forced to pay big premiums to insurance companies for health insurance that may not even cover their health care expenses when they are seriously ill.
The plutocracy hopes that people like Bill Moyers will succeed in directing the anger of Americans into channels that will not threaten the existence of the extreme inequality that is what for-profit corporations are all about. They hope to persuade us that inequality is not the problem, that the problem is merely insufficient regulation of corporations.
But inequality, itself, is the problem. We need to focus on abolishing class inequality, as I discuss in some detail here [ http://spritzlerj.blogspot.com/2008/12/class-inequality-abolish-it-or-win.html ].
Elections in the United States have never been an instrument enabling We the People to shape government policy; they started out in 1776 as a means for male owners of substantial property (including slaves) to shape government policy, and suffrage was only extended to others gradually and to the extent that the wealthy upper class was certain they would be able--because of their wealth--to control the outcome of elections well enough to retain control of the government.
We live in a dictatorship of the very wealthy. It is a dictatorship that seeks legitimacy on the grounds that it permits us to vote. By voting, all we do is confer legitimacy on a dictatorship. That is why it is IMMORAL to vote for politicians today. All voting does is give legitimacy to the politicians who are beholden to the plutocracy and who commit immoral crimes against us (like denying some of us health care) and against people in other nations by waging Orwellian wars based on lies.
The first step towards winning a genuine democracy is to acknowledge that we do not have one today. Only then will it be possible to have the kind of public discussion about what we can do to win a real democracy. Deciding not to vote for politicians, and telling our friends and neighbors why not, is the first step in this direction. Let's take it.