Our country is in severe peril, not from the outside but from within. All great empires have fallen because of corruption within their leadership. When Benjamin Franklin was leaving Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a woman asked him: "What kind of government did you give us, Mr. Franklin?" He replied: "A republic, if you can keep it."
His message was plain. The constitutional republic crafted by our fore-fathers was the best that they could do in terms of the balance of powers of the three branches of government, and representative democracy as Lincoln later said "of, by, and for the people." But as another sage said, democracy will last only until the people find that they can vote largess from the public treasury.
Well, we've reached that point. But in an interesting turn of history, it is not the poor who have raided the treasury, it has been the rich and powerful. When the bonds which held the forces of predatory capitalism at bay, anti-trust laws, Glass-Steagall restraints, and progressive taxation, were systematically undone during the last half of the 20th century, our current fate was being written on the walls of Washington, D.C.
The initial rebellion of the colonies was over restraint of trade. The raid on the Tea Party ship was an attempt by our patriots to prevent the East India Tea Company from establishing a monopoly position in the colonies. As an agrarian society, there was a kind of egalitarianism that sprung from our colonists' determination to be free of the European feudal systems that they had left. They wanted to be their own boss, grow their own food and cattle on their own land, and be left alone.
But the industrial revolution started to change things. People were moving off the farm and sweat shops were built by ambitious entrepreneurs. Men like Henry Ford who realized that he had to pay his workers enough to buy his products were in the minority. The progressive era began assembling social safety nets that tried to limit child labor, long work days, minimal safety standards, and to provide livable wages by encouraging unionism.
Today, because of globalization, automation, and information technology, we find ourselves in a world of service workers paid unlivable wages while hedge fund traders make more in one year than 80,000 NYC teachers make in three. We find the lowest level of taxation of corporations and billionaires in our county's history while most of what tax revenues are left go to the military industrial complex to protect corporate interests abroad. The rest of our taxes go to subsidize Americans who have become wage slaves of a handful of monopolistic corporations. These same mega-corporations have spent millions of their profits by hard lobbying on who gets elected and what legislation they pass. The reason we have grid-lock in Washington is because things couldn't get much better for those who have fixed the system, so why fix what is not broken. It's gotten so bad that the second richest American in a moment of candor said: "This is class warfare. Our class is winning. It shouldn't be, and I shouldn't be paying a lower tax rate than my secretary."
Even our Supreme Court can't save us. By making money equivalent to speech and corporations equivalent to people, they have locked in the opinion of billionaires against the average American citizen. Only one thing can save us short of armed rebellion, which is the hidden story behind the gun law controversy, it is the ballot box. Billionaires still have only one vote each. And there are not so many of them. The average American has to rise up like the Man with the Hoe and demand change. But the trick is: who to vote for? Has everyone who seeks office been corrupted? Have the dark forces of mammon intimidated average Americans into thinking that unless they have a million dollars or are willing to sell their souls for a million dollars, they need not apply as candidates?
Well, the court is still out on that. But the odds makers know where the "smart money" goes.
If we don't prove them wrong, we are finished.
Will Bronson is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Congress Florida 17th District.