by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
August 4, 2011
WE NEED MORE CARPENTERS, AND FEW JACKASSES
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- After watching the dispiriting spectacle over the past few weeks in Washington of grown men and women acting like petulant children, instead of acting like our elected officials, it just makes me want to ask a few questions.
What the hell happened to our democracy?
What happened to the idea of people coming together to ensure a safe and prosperous future for all of us?
When did the idea of providing for the public good - education, health care, clean air and water, sound roads and bridges, a functioning legal system - become something evil?
When did the idea of shared responsibility and mutual trust get replaced by the ethos of every man for himself?
What we saw over the past few weeks was a perfect illustration of one of former House Speaker Sam Rayburn's favorite sayings: Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.
We have watched the radical right kick down the barn of American democracy, and then attack the carpenters who want to rebuild it.
First, during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, huge deficits were run up.
But when a Democrat entered the White House, the cry went up for deficit reduction and balanced budgets. This was done not out of a desire for fiscal responsibility but as a way to drastically cut public spending while redistributing wealth upward.
We watched the Republican Party throw open the doors to the lobbyists and corporate interest groups, even allowing them to write legislation, and saw the Democrats abandon their base to chase corporate dollars.
The American people are looking for carpenters, but the big money interests want jackasses who will keep kicking down barns. The obscene amounts of money sloshing around our electoral process ensures that the interests of the wealthy and corporations will be preserved.
This is the backdrop behind the manufactured crisis over raising the federal government's debt ceiling, and the hyperventilation over a rising federal budget deficit by the people who helped create it.
As Danny "The News Dissector" Schechter wrote recently: "The only deficit here is one of political morality and honesty."
There is a deficit of morality because our leaders have turned their backs on the idea of democracy, shared responsibility and the public good. And there is a deficit of honesty because our leaders fail to see that our nation is still stuck in the worst economic downturn since the 1930s and the only thing that has recovered is corporate profits.
We are now living in a nation where, as economist Joseph Stiglitz recently pointed out, 1 percent of the population enjoys 25 percent of economic benefits, thanks to the government that the superrich bought and paid for.
How do we address this deficit of political honesty and morality?
We can start by adopting an honest budget blueprint. I have been writing a lot about "The People's Budget," the spending plan proposed by the House Progressive Caucus. This plan reduces the deficit mainly by eliminating the two biggest deficit drivers of the past decade, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Bush tax cuts, while preserving Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
We can start by making the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. For all the screeching of the far right, taxation is at its lowest level since the early 1950s. Cutting taxes for "job creators," the new Republican euphemism for the wealthy, has not worked to boost the economy. All it has achieved, besides making the rich richer, has been disinvestment in the public sphere.
We can start by getting a few more carpenters in Washington. We can do that by changing the election laws to get big money out of politics and make it easier for people to vote. We need a free and fair electoral process to improve the odds of getting people elected to public office who will actually serve the public.
Most of all, we the people must get involved once again in the political process. The carpenters can't build anything unless we can provide them with the tools, materials and plans to do their work.
The enemies of democracy are counting on people to be disillusioned and disgusted with politics. They want you to tune out and drop out. They don't want you to tell the oligarchs to get lost, and don't want to see Americans suddenly reclaim the idea of a government by, for and of the people.
You saw the political process at its worst over the past month. Now, it is time for all of us to come together and rebuild the barn of democracy that the extremist jackasses kicked down.
Chief Correspondent Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). Write him at email@example.com.