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THE UNFULFILLED PROMISE
Posted by Time for change in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Sun Sep 21st 2008, 08:17 PM
The question of how wealth is distributed in our society is a crucially important one because it determines how we will proceed from here. The wealthy, who control most of our telecommunications, would like us to believe that most redistribution of w
Perhaps more than any other developed country in the world today, the United States of America has long harbored an antipathy towards so called “wealth redistribution” from the wealthy to the poor.

That attitude was largely responsible for our nearly half a century Cold War against Communism. The United States spent trillions of dollars on that war, very little of which actually went to defend our country. Rather, the money was spent mostly on building up our military far beyond our needs, and the overthrow of leftist governments throughout the world (Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Argentina, Cambodia, Laos, South Vietnam, Indonesia, the Congo, and so many others), most or all of which we replaced with right wing governments that were far worse for the people they represented than the governments that they replaced. We did this with the excuse that we were trying to spread freedom and democracy and help those countries throw off the yolk of Communism.

Nevertheless, we went through a period beginning in 1933 with the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and ending in 1980, in which it was generally recognized by most Americans that ensuring the opportunity for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for all of its citizenry is a legitimate function of government. But with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the era of “small government” and trickle down economics arrived in this country, with the consequent continuous dismantling of FDR’s New Deal, and along with it, the end of the greatest sustained economic boom in American history.

So here we are today, following 38 years of right wing “progress”, with the largest degree of wealth inequality in our history. And following 38 years of what many would call the transfer of wealth from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy, the worst and most corrupt President in the history of our nation is proposing that every citizen of our country contribute to the bailout of the U.S. banking system – perhaps the largest redistribution of wealth from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy in our history.


What is redistribution of wealth?

In order to assess re-distribution of wealth, one first has to have an idea of where and how wealth originates. Ultimately, wealth is the resources that humans need and want. Food is grown by farmers. Minerals are mined by miners. Other things that we need or want are manufactured by laborers. Those who produce these things exchange them for $$$, which though it has no intrinsic worth, in our system is the primary indicator of wealth, since it can be used to buy virtually anything. But farmers, miners, and other laborers generally are considerably less wealthy than so many other people in our country. Thus, a superficial assessment of our economy would suggest that wealth is primarily transferred from them (i.e. the poor and the middle class) to the wealthy, who rarely directly produce anything. Why then do people generally think of wealth as being transferred from the rich to the poor?

Of course, our economy is much more complicated than that. There are many types of intellectual activity, which involve little or no physical labor, which do in fact improve peoples’ quality of life in one way or another, and therefore deserve to be highly compensated. I myself obtain money almost solely through intellectual activity, requiring virtually no physical labor, so I certainly don’t mean to disparage that kind of work. But when wealth disparity is as extreme as it is in our country today, with the top 1% of our population owning 38 times the wealth as the bottom 40% of our population combined; with 12.6% of Americans living in poverty; and given the fact that the vast majority of Americans who live in poverty are laborers or people who can’t find work, or the children of those people… I think that we should wonder about how fair our economic system really is.

So, how is wealth re-distributed in the United States? Is it more from the rich to the poor or from the poor to the rich? Obviously, that is an extremely complex question. Wealth is distributed in accordance with a vastly complex system of federal, state and local laws, which include tax laws, government programs and subsidies, contract laws, banking and credit laws, etc. It would require many volumes of books to even attempt to accurately answer that question, and still it would be unlikely that much consensus of opinion could be obtained on the subject. So I won’t even attempt to answer that question here.

But I do have a couple of observations on the subject that lead me to the opinion that most wealth distribution goes from poor to rich rather than the other way around. The first is that it is extremely difficult for me to fathom, for example, how the average CEO earns 431 the income of the average worker in his company. And secondly, we all know that the wealthy and the corporations that they represent exert a highly disproportionate influence on our political process. Does anyone believe that corporations spend their billions of dollars in lobbying costs to propose legislation that redistributes income from the rich to the poor?

Beyond that, perhaps consideration of some historical and current day examples of what appears to me to be distribution of wealth from poor to rich would be revealing:


SOME EXAMPLES OF WEALTH TRANSFER FROM THE POOR TO THE WEALTHY

Slavery in the United States

Perhaps the most obvious example is slavery. The slaves supplied the labor, and the plantation owners reaped all the benefits. In retrospect it seems so clear. Yet one would be hard pressed to find a slave owner who believed that slavery was a system for the distribution of wealth from the poor to the wealthy – or one who would admit to it. Noam Chomsky explains the psychology of this phenomenon in his book, “What we Say Goes”:

When you conquer somebody and suppress them, you have to have a reason. You can’t just say, “I’m a son of a bitch and I want to rob them.” You have to say it’s for their good, they deserve it, or they actually benefit from it. We’re helping them. That was the attitude of slave owners. Most of them didn’t say, “Look, I’m enslaving these people because I want easily exploitable, cheap labor for my own benefit.” They said, “We’re doing them a favor. They need it.”


The bailout of Wall Street by the U.S. government

This issue is much more complex and difficult to assess than slavery. We currently have our economic titans, such as U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, saying that a bailout of Wall Street is absolutely necessary at this time. I watched Paulson explain his reasoning on Meet the Press this morning. Beyond a bunch of economic jargon, Paulson said that it was “unthinkable” that the U.S. government not bailout Wall Street. Well, if it’s “unthinkable”, I guess that means that there’s no point in thinking about it – which is clearly what Paulson meant to convey.

Since I am not an economist, I certainly am not in a position to dispute the opinion of our Treasury Secretary with technical intelligent argument. But that shouldn’t stop me from being highly suspicious of his ideas.

Asked about the cost of the bailout, Paulson denied that the true cost would be what many are estimating as $700 billion. He explained that the U.S. government is not simply putting out taxpayer money, but rather we are getting something substantial in return. Oh really? Then why isn’t anyone from the private sector willing to buy these failing banks?

And what happened to the right wing ideology that despises socialism and believes that the “free market” should handle everything without government interference? Why not let the “free market” take care of this? Why is socialism suddenly acceptable to our radical right wing government when it involves socializing the risks of the wealthy, to be paid for by the poor and the middle class?

And isn’t it funny that the people who are being saved, including the investors in and managers of these banks, are generally much more prosperous than the average American taxpayer. Whenever someone proposes something like a national health care program to ensure that all Americans get the health care that they need, they’re intensively questioned by our corporate news media as to where we will find the money for it. But now we’re told by the U.S. Treasury Secretary simply that it’s “unthinkable” not to bail out these banks. In other words, it’s “unthinkable” that banks and their investors will lose a heap of money, but it’s not unthinkable that 43 million Americans lack any health insurance whatsoever. Why is that?

This sounds to me like a massive transfer of wealth from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy.


The privatization of water in Bolivia

Antonia Juhasz, in her book, “The Bush Agenda – Invading the World One Economy at a Time”, describes many instances of how force and violence are used by third world governments, with the support of the United States or international institutions largely controlled by the United States, to protect corporate interests. One of her examples involved the privatization of water in Bolivia:

Cochabamba is the 3rd largest city in Bolivia… In late 1999, the World Bank required that Bolivia privatize Cochabamba’s water in return for reduction of its debts. Bechtel – one of the top ten water privatization companies in the world – won the contract.

Immediately after Bechtel took over the Cochabamba water system, and before any of the promised investments in infrastructure were made to improve or expand services, the company raised the price of water… by 100%... Many were simply forced to do without running water… The same law that privatized the water system also privatized any collected water, including rainwater collected in barrels…

The majority of the people voted for the cancellation of the contract with Bechtel. When this demand was met with silence from government officials, the citizens went on a citywide strike… the Bolivian government defended Bechtel’s right to privatize by sending armed military troops into the streets to disperse the crowds. At least one 17-year-old boy was shot and killed and hundreds more were injured…

Does that constitute wealth transfer from the rich to the poor?


“Trade liberalization” in Iraq

Juhasz also discusses in her book the economic plans imposed by the Bush administration upon Iraq following our invasion of their country in 2003. One of the first actions of L. Paul Bremer, the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, was to impose his “Trade Liberalization Policy” upon Iraq, which immediately suspended tariffs, subsidies, and other measures designed to protect the Iraqi economy and people, thus devastating local industries and businesses. Juhasz describes Bremer’s thinking on the issue:

In a November 2001 paper entitled “New Risks in International Business,” Bremer outlined the risks to multinational corporations associated with the implementation of corporate globalization policies. Every policy Bremer describes in this paper was among those he himself implemented in Iraq a year and a half later. Bremer walks through the devastating impacts of each policy on the local population – the same impacts that his policies would inflict on Iraq. Bremer warns companies that “the painful consequences of globalization are felt long before its benefits are clear” (translation: long before the corporate profits have time to trickle down to the local population). Bremer cites several specific globalization policies, such as privatization of state enterprises, deregulation of controlled industries, and reductions of tariffs and nontariff barriers to open up trade in goods and services. In the paper, Bremer explains that “privatization of basic services, for example, almost always leads to price increases for those services, which in turn often lead to protests or even physical violence against the operator.” As for economic equality, Bremer says, “the process of globalization has a disparate impact on incomes,”
which in turn causes “political and social tensions.” The harmful impact… on local producers causes “enormous pressure on… trade monopolies” when “opening markets to foreign trade…

Bremer was therefore well aware that his policies would, at a minimum, reduce access to basic services and support for local businesses in favor of foreign businesses. He also knew the policies would increase inequality and political and social tension. However, he believed that he knew how to protect U.S. multinationals from the impact of these policies and therefore the policies went forward, ever clear on who the intended beneficiaries were…

Another example of wealth re-distribution?


Oil pipeline in Ecuador

John Perkins, in “The Secret History of the American Empire - Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth”, talks about the destruction of vast areas of Ecuador’s rain forests, the transformation of rivers into cesspools, and the disappearance of several animal species in Ecuador as the result of a $1.3 billion oil pipeline constructed there. He notes that for every $100 of oil taken from the Amazon forests, $75 goes to the oil companies, $18 goes to pay off the debt, and only $3 goes to the people who need the money the most. Since 1968, the nation’s debt grew from a quarter billion dollars to $16 billion, poverty level grew from 50% to 70%, and under- or unemployment grew from 15% to 70%.

In 2003, Perkins came back to Ecuador to try to prevent a war that he held himself partially responsible for provoking. This would be a war fought against indigenous Ecuadorians by the Ecuadorian Army assisted by U.S. Special Forces advisors, on behalf of oil companies who accused an indigenous community of taking its workers hostage, as an excuse for war. Lawyers who represented the indigenous community in an effort to get the oil companies off their land had recently died in a plane crash.


Deregulation in the United States

Since the onset of the Progressive Era in the United States, numerous federal and state statutes have been enacted and institutions developed to protect the citizens of our country against corporate abuse. These have included: laws for the protection of labor; the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the safety of our foods and drugs; the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ensure the safety of other consumer products; anti-trust laws to ensure fair competition; the Communications Act of 1934 to ensure fair access for our citizens to radio communications; the Security and Exchange Commission to ensure the fairness of a wide variety of economic transactions; and many many more.

Most Americans have traditionally seen these statutes and institutions as a necessary means for government to protect the vulnerable (that is, just about all of us) against the powerful. I like what Chris Weigant recently had to say about the need for government regulation, so I’ll repeat an excerpt from his post here:

Does everyone know how to play basketball? Good! You see, basketball is a game that has certain rules. Players have to follow the rules, or else there's a penalty. Now imagine playing a die-hard game of basketball without any rules or penalties. You know what happens if you play basketball -- or any sport, really -- without any rules? Somebody usually winds up getting hurt. That's why we have the rules in the first place -- to allow for hard play but not dangerous play. And to keep the game fair for everyone.

What is happening now on Wall Street is the result of basic Republican dogma, which is to "deregulate" everything in sight. Now, the word "deregulate" is just a fancy way of saying "playing without rules." Regulations are the rules which governments lay down for businesses to follow. These rules are there for a reason -- to avoid injury, and to keep the game fair for everyone. But the Republican way of thinking has always been to just throw out the rulebook. That's right -- just chuck it out!

Right wing Republicans have always been very hostile to corporate regulation because they see that as an infringement upon the freedom of the wealthy to make unlimited profits. Especially with the onset of the “Reagan Revolution” in 1981, the right wing view that these programs constitute “big government” and impinge upon the “free market” began to gain traction, and consequently we have seen a gradual but almost continuous wave of deregulation since then. One major consequence of that deregulation was the Savings and Loan scandal and bailout of the late 1980s, which cost U.S. taxpayers several hundred billion dollars. But the deregulation just kept on coming, though with a substantial slow down during Bill Clintons Presidency.

John McCain has always been an avid deregulator, except when it has been politically inconvenient to be so – like right now. Obviously, he is not about to admit that his consistent advocacy of deregulation over his whole Senate career has anything to do with our current financial crisis.


CONCLUSION

The question of how wealth is distributed in our society is a crucially important one because it determines how we will proceed from here. The wealthy, who control most of our telecommunications, would like us to believe that most redistribution of wealth in our country is from rich to poor. To the extent that Americans believe that, they are likely to passively accept the status quo or even to demand cuts in social programs that benefit the poor and the working and middle class at the expense of the wealthy. On the other hand, I suspect that if most Americans knew how much our system works to benefit the wealthy they would demand countermeasures be taken to distribute wealth more fairly in our country.

Since FDR, perhaps more than any other U.S. President (with the possible exception of Lincoln) recognized, gave voice to, and developed policies to counteract the redistribution of wealth from the poor and working and middle class to the wealthy, I’ll end this post with some excerpts from his great speech at the Democratic National Convention of 1936, which is just as relevant today as it was then:

Out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital-all undreamed of by the fathers-the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service…

There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small business men and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer…

It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over Government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor-these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small business man, the investments set aside for old age-other people's money-these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities. Throughout the Nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.

An old English judge once said: "Necessitous men are not free men." Liberty requires opportunity to make a living-a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.

For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor-other people's lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.

Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of Government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the Government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the Government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.

Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the Flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the Flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike…

We are poor indeed if this Nation cannot afford to lift from every recess of American life the dread fear of the unemployed that they are not needed in the world. We cannot afford to accumulate a deficit in the books of human fortitude….Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference….

Here in America we are waging a great and successful war (FDR is not talking here of WW II, which had not yet started, but rather the war against our own “Economic Royalists”, as he called them – the forerunners of today’s Republican Party). It is not alone a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.

I accept the commission you have tendered me. I join with you. I am enlisted for the duration of the war.

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The Unfulfilled Promise
The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream: The Widening Gap between the Reality of the United States and its Highest Ideals




Time for change


Notwithstanding the lofty sentiments and purpose of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the reality of the United States of America did not then – and never has – lived up to its ideal. Our nation remains today a long way from fulfilling the promise implied by those ideals. Yet, our Declaration was a great start, and it has long shone as a beacon of hope for people all over the world.

Throughout our history, while many have striven to close the gap between our highest ideals and the reality of our nation, others have focused on the accumulation of private wealth and power, at the expense of everyone else. In recent decades the latter have gained much ground, leading to increasing imperialism abroad and deteriorating democracy at home, characterized by routine (and legal) bribery of our public officials, the fusion of government and private corporate interests (corporatocracy), a corrupt election system largely in the hands of private corporations, a corporate controlled communications media, and the widespread acceptance of Executive Branch secrecy, routinely justified with little if any questioning, by the magic words “national security”. All of this is rapidly turning our country from the democracy proclaimed at our founding into a plutocracy (government by the wealthy and for the wealthy). The result is the most obscene wealth gap our country has ever known, the highest imprisonment rate in the world, rampant militarism, routine flaunting of international law, the least efficient health care system in the developed world, a pending environmental catastrophe that threatens to destroy the life sustaining forces of our planet, and myriad other problems that threaten to destroy our nation and tyrannize our people.

My new book, The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream – The Widening Gap between the Reality of the United States and its Highest Ideals, explores the roots and consequences of the demise of our democracy, and why most Americans have been unable to understand this process or even become aware of it. A good understanding of why and how we have deviated so greatly from the ideals of our nation is the first and necessary step towards getting back on the right track and revitalizing our society.

The book is currently being sold in electronic PDF format and can be purchased at http://www.unfulfilledpromise.com/Buy-the-... for $3.99. It will also soon be available in Amazon Kindle format. DU members who cannot afford to buy the book but would like to read it can pm me with your e-mail address, and I will send you a free PDF copy.

I’ve previously posted on DU a slightly earlier version of the introduction to the book, which is also posted at my site. Here is the Table of Contents, followed by a brief description of the three parts of the book:


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
Acknowledgements
Prologue – What is Wrong with the United States of America?

Part I – Root Causes of the Impending Demise of American Democracy
Chapter 1 – Legalized Bribery
Chapter 2 – Human Psychological Factors
Chapter 3 – Corporatocracy
Chapter 4 – Corporate Control of Media
Chapter 5 – Corrupt Election System
Chapter 6 – Government Secrecy
Chapter 7 – American Exceptionalism

Part II – A Sampling of Imperialist Actions
Chapter 8 – Slavery and its Legacy
Chapter 9 – Early U.S. Imperialism
Chapter 10 – U.S. Imperialism in Cold War
Chapter 11 – Iraq War and Occupation
Chapter 12 – Afghanistan War

Part III – Consequences
Chapter 13 – Election of George W. Bush
Chapter 14 – War and Imperialism
Chapter 15 – Class Warfare
Chapter 16 – Predator Financial Class
Chapter 17 – Shock Therapy
Chapter 18 – Contempt for Int. Law
Chapter 19 – The “War on Drugs”
Chapter 20 – Climate Change
Chapter 21 – “War on Terror”
Chapter 22 – Health Care
Chapter 23 – Unaccountable government
Chapter 24 – Response to 9/11 Attacks
Epilogue


PART I – Root Causes of the Impending Demise of American Democracy

It is somewhat difficult to separate the causes of our problems from their consequences, since they combine to form a long chain of cause leading to consequence, leading to more consequences, etcetera. Nevertheless, it seems worth while to identify the root causes of our problems, those that occur early in the chain and lead to so many of the tragic consequences we see today. The only chance we have of reversing the demise of our democracy is through addressing and attacking its root causes.

At the top of the list is the systematic bribery of public officials by the powerful corporations (Chapter 1) whom our government is charged with regulating in the public interest. Instead of calling it bribery, we call it “campaign contributions”, but what we call it isn’t as important as what it is. It is hard to fathom how democracy can survive when such a practice is legal and condoned.

Working in tandem with our system of legalized bribery is the nature of the people who inhabit our country. That is not to say that Americans are inherently substantially different than any other people. Human beings are imperfect, and that is probably a major reason why in a world where civilization began more than five millennia ago, the oldest written national framework of government in the world today – the Constitution of the United States of America – is only a little more than two and a quarter centuries old. Chapter 2 explores the roles of basic human needs, authoritarianism, psychological defense mechanisms used to prevent us from perceiving reality as it is rather than as we’d like it to be, and corrupted ideologies in causing us to passively accept the accumulation of power in the hands of ambitious and ruthless individuals who care about little else than expanding their own wealth and power.

When bribery of public officials is tolerated as an inevitable aspect of public life, government inevitably grows close to the wealthy interests that shower it with money in return for legislative and other favors. A malevolent symbiosis grows between the state and corporate power, resulting in rule by an oligarchy that is highly detrimental to the lives of ordinary people (Chapter 3). Using their accumulated wealth and power to manipulate our legislative process, the oligarchy grabs for more and more control of the communications media (Chapter 4) that are used to control the information available to and shape the attitudes of our nation’s people, in pursuit of their own narrow interests.

Since the 1980s an orchestrated campaign has been underway to demonize “big government”, thereby paving the way for private corporate control over more and more functions that were previously deemed intrinsic functions of government. Among those functions is the running of public elections (Chapter 5) – the function that symbolizes democracy perhaps more than any other single function. Consequently, the purging of selected registered voters from our computerized voter rolls has become a routine recurring event throughout much of our country, and without a doubt determined the results of the 2000 – and probably 2004 as well – presidential election. Just as bad, more and more of the counting of votes in our public elections have been turned over to private corporations, which count our votes using electronic machines using secret software to produce vote counts that cannot be verified by anyone.

Bribery, the fusion of government and private interest, fake and biased news, and corrupt elections are not things that government and its corporate allies want us to know about. Consequently, they construct walls of secrecy (Chapter 6) to keep us from obtaining information that sheds light on their activities. The perfect phrase for facilitating this is “national security”. When our government tells us that the “national security” requires that certain things be kept secret from us, the understanding is that to question such a pronouncement is unpatriotic, and to actually attempt to obtain the “secret” information may be treasonous.

But indefinitely maintaining secrets from the American people can be very difficult, because at least some people want to know what their government is up to. So in addition to the formal mechanisms of secrecy, informal mechanisms are constructed (Chapter 7) to keep vital information away from us. One of the primary methods for doing this is to make certain sensitive subjects taboo – that is, to create the widespread belief that discussion of these topics is so outside the bounds of acceptable human discourse that anyone who discusses them should be shunned by society, or worse. The most common issue that falls into this category is any discussion that sheds light on the disparity between American ideals and the reality of life in our country today.


PART II – A Sampling of Imperialist Actions in U.S. History

Notwithstanding the fact that our founding document says that “all men are created equal” and speaks of the inalienable rights of humankind, the United States has throughout its history partaken of massive exploitation of other peoples.

It is estimated that at the time of our birth, 18% of our population was black slaves. In our expansion westwards during the late 18th and 19th centuries, we decimated the original inhabitants of our continent, and often treated them with great cruelty. In 1846 we manufactured an excuse for war with our neighbor Mexico, in which we continued to expand our country westwards and southwards. In 1893 we began our overseas imperialism with the conquest of Hawaii. Our overseas expansion was greatly accelerated in 1898 with our participation in the Spanish-American War, which led to our conquest of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. With our arrival at world superpower status at the end of World War II, we began the Cold War, which led to and served as a rationalization for covert and/or direct military actions against myriad foreign nations over the next 46 years. With the September 11, 2001 attacks on our country, we declared a perpetual “War on Terror”, which served and continues to serve as an excuse to invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, nations that posed no threat to us. We do not know when or if this perpetual war will ever end. We don’t know how many additional imperial conquests it will lead to.

Most Americans don’t think much about all this. Many of these actions are done in secrecy, and the American people don’t find out about them until many years later – or we never find out about them at all. Those that we do know about are spun into the most favorable light, to make them seem benign or even noble.

But these actions come at great costs: in the lives of our soldiers; in the ruined lives of the peoples of the victim countries; in trillions of dollars cost to our people and their future generations; in our international reputation; in anti-American hatred leading to terrorism; and, to our democracy itself. For how can a nation claim to believe in the inalienable rights of humankind specified in its founding document, while making a mockery of that belief in the way it treats other peoples? For that reason alone it is worth while to take a brief look at our long history of imperialist actions.


PART III – Consequences

In the Prologue I give a brief account of what I see as some of the worst and tragic consequences of the root causes that I discuss in Part I – to enable the reader to see where this book is heading. When elections of our public officials are for sale to the highest bidder… when our public officials are so addicted to the “campaign contributions” of their wealthiest constituents that they develop a symbiotic relationship with them… when our communications media are owned and controlled by an oligarchy of wealthy elites… when our citizenry lack the ability to differentiate propaganda from reality… when we allow machines provided by private corporations to count our votes using secret electronic software… then we should expect that the consequences will not be pretty or comfortable for the vast majority of our citizens.

In Part III, I explore those consequences in much greater detail, in the hope that the reader will agree with me that these are very serious problems, and that they must be successfully addressed if our country is ever to fulfill the promise of its ideals, or even make progress in that direction. When enough Americans recognize our problems as problems, stripped of the gloss and spin put on them by our oligarchy, they will rise up and do something about them. Until then there will be no progress, and we are very likely to head in the direction of all the former empires of our planet, ending in chaos, widespread catastrophe, suffering, and ignominy.

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