backpage editorial

Where Has My America Gone?

Local artist and activist troubled by "government 'by corporations, for profit'"

Posted

I am a senior citizen and have seen many of America's stellar achievements. I consider myself patriotic and well-read. I am, however, concerned about our country and the politically corrosive corridors we are traveling.

Officially, we hear about our free market system and the economic balance that competition provides. The fact is that our economy is global, not local, and our globalized industry largely controls our government's objectives. We have gone from free market capitalism to globalization with monopoly and conglomerate capitalism as steps in between. At each economic step, citizens and consumers have lost their economic influence and democratic voice. Industry wins.

I am concerned about the economy for two principle reasons: The current deficit reduction program doesn't work, and the Citizens United ruling increases plutocratic rule. Deficit reduction, while desirable, should be undertaken with care. Demand is what creates economic momentum. A stalled or languishing economy is an economy with minimal demand. Industries shutter doors, jobs dry up and communities have little disposable income to kick-start an economy which is 70 percent consumer-driven. As a result, an expansive and expensive social safety net kicks in. Currently, Republicans have pushed supply-side, trickle-down austerity to cut our deficit. What is needed is a government investment stimulus to get the economy moving. Private industry's so-called job creators can't be expected to create jobs for an economy on life support.

The Citizens United ruling gives corporations the right of free speech and the right to influence elections like American citizens, human beings, which is troubling. Corporations are legally invented business designations, created to allow legal jurisdiction and regulation. They were never intended for the purpose of funding candidates that favor their corporate concerns. Already, industry and special-interest lobbying overshadows citizen concerns by supplying the campaign financing that is the lifeblood of legislation. Additional rights for corporations tip the balance against an informed citizenry. It is my hope that Citizens United will be rendered moot by legislation changing to public election funding exclusively and providing equal time for candidate debates. Furthermore, we need media sources that provide the truth about what PACs and 501[c]4 dark money spins. Right now, Super PACs can spend enormous sums of dark money and distort their opponents' records or amplify their candidates' credentials. It would be refreshing if candidates were fact-checked and allowed to speak for themselves. This would provide us with their qualifications and proposals instead of a steady stream of negative advertising.

President Barack Obama, early in his presidency, was curbed politically when he recommended government investments in sustainable energy and infrastructure. These investments have multiple rewards and would put the previous eight years of Republican rule in stark contrast. First, these programs are desperately needed and shovel-ready, putting millions of people to work in vital 21st Century jobs. Second, these jobs won't move overseas and, with the spending multiplier effect, will power thousands of additional retail positions. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has stated that we will be able to afford additional investments and lavish tax cuts, the bulk of those tax cuts will go to industry and the 1 percent. This will only worsen our economic recovery by expanding the deficit and the American wealth gap to maximize citizen discomfort and dissent.

I have worked for our government's census and have listened to talking points saying that citizens need to push back against government dictates in favor of the free market. Listening to this continuing anti-government dialogue is distressing for several reasons: It de-legitimizes our government's authority, it emphasizes industry's agency for American solvency and permanence, and it pits the government against our rights. Government "By Corporations, for Profit" is what troubles me. Government "By the People, for the People" enshrines our rights of liberty, security and agency without racial, gender or religious tests. Government is responsible for handling many citizen concerns: environmental, economic, legal, military, investments, infrastructure and R&D, to mention a few. Industry functions within its limits, and the effort to inflate its importance, as if its concerns are something beyond the bottom line, is imprudent and dangerous. We're in the grips of a propaganda campaign launched in the '50s by the John Birch Society, running under our national dialogue. To me, an unregulated industry is an invitation to abuse and corruption.

My America would place education, innovation and creativity on a higher plane than the rent-seeking behavior capitalism implies. We as a society have put ownership above individual initiative while praising meritocracy, which implies that money is the measure of the man. At this point in society's growth, there's less emphasis on manual labor and more on knowledge-based and service industries. Our education should reflect this; teachers should be financially incentivized to guide our best, not discouraged by low pay and poor working conditions.

We need to redevelop communities to counter our drift away from neighborhoods, in favor of work cubicles, or smartphone and internet selves. The internet, for all its speed and accessibility, has downsides. Besides misinformation, propaganda and anonymity, a lack of personal contact is unacceptable; we are a communal species, and as such, share this planet-global collaboration and cooperation are paramount.

My America is a complicated but satisfying America, based in opportunity, merit, care and compassion, with an emphasis on education, environmental stewardship and global outreach.

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Mayers is a retired, politically activist artist in Jacksonville.

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