We have entrusted our democracy to a government of dissemblers who have subverted our proud heritage with a tide of creeping hypocrisy. From the moment the Geneva Conventions were described as “quaint and obsolete” to a myriad of presidential signing statements that gut legislative prerogatives, we the people have seen our rights, the Constitution and the meaning of language twisted into incomprehensibility.
The Bush administration and its supporters constantly taunt us with the threat of terrorism, but nothing supports its contention that we are either safer now or that democracy is flourishing in the Middle East. The president and his frighteningly incompetent staff continue to tell us that democratic institutions are taking hold in Iraq and Afghanistan, our other failed adventure. But Baghdad is in a state of violent disorder and governmental control in Afghanistan is confined to Kabal, whose president, Hamid Karzai, is often referred to as the Mayor of that city, rather than national leader.
What purpose does doubling the troop size in Baghdad serve? What is the mission of our military in a country torn by sectarian violence? Is a larger troop presence really a plan; were our troops trained to be policemen and nation builders? They won the original battle – – a cake walk compared to what came after. Our government continues to deceive the military and the country into believing they are making sound policy decisions and that we were moving toward the oft-repeated goal of “standing down when Iraqi forces stand up”. But if, as has been reported, violence escalates in areas where Iraqi troops are in charge and if the police are so corrupt and ineffectual that kidnappings and killings occur with impunity what have we accomplished and how are we benefiting the Iraqi people?
And how are we or those we would influence to make sense of Israel’s seizure of Hamas officials duly elected to the Palestinian parliament? Stating their right to do so because Hamas is a terrorist organization Israel seems to be using the current crisis to dismantle a legitimate political entity – – and not a murmur from our government. How do such actions conform to notions of and our support for democracies?
Here at home Congress continues to provide enormous sums for war efforts while trying to find ways to cut or restrain social spending. This requires maintaining the pretense that all that money and all those ruined lives are somehow justified. Into the bargain that is hardly a bargain the Republican majority keeps cutting taxes and calling Democrats obstructionist when they fail to fall in line with outrageous proposals or accept outrageously unqualified or doctrinaire presidential appointments.
Aside from the beyond-silly and politically-motivated resolutions to ban flag burning and gay marriage are the broadsides that swamped efforts by Democrats to raise the minimum wage to a level that would make some modest adjustment to its current deplorable state. Republicans, however, attached poison-pill amendments that ended up scuttling the whole package. The charge of obstructionism could be heard in the chambers as Democrats and some moderate Republicans refused to accept the notion that a paltry increase in the minimum wage should be accompanied by back-loaded provisions providing estate-tax relief largely benefiting the ultra rich. “Boy we sure out-foxed you” chortled one House Republican – – not a moral victory to be sure but rather a scurrilous partisan ambush that, hopefully, will not fool most voters.
The fact is though that many Americans mistakenly believe the estate tax has something to do with them so Republicans in Congress keep using this ploy to entice a large segment of the population to react to something that, for the most part, has nothing whatsoever to do with them. And besides just the fact that very wealthy inheritors will reap the benefit of lowered taxes, the country will be saddled with increased debt due to the diminished revenue resulting from the complete repeal or further lowering of the estate tax. Nothing would change, of course, in the bloated military budget or the off-budget cost of our foreign involvements, but for Republicans the promise of tax cuts for their wealthy constituents trumps all other concerns.
Perhaps it would serve to educate the public about what is really going on if they were bombarded with photos of Lee Raymond, recently retired from Exxon/Mobil with a $400 million retirement package whose prior year’s salary was over $50 million, breaking down to around $141,000 a day or $6,000 an hour. And Republicans want to tie a $2 raise in the minimum wage to an estate tax-reduction that would protect this man’s estate? There’s nothing like bumping up against reality to make a case.
We seem not to stand on principle any longer. What we call democracy is a sometime concept as evidenced by the way this administration deals with our elected officials and the press and in its offhand approach to diplomacy in a tumultuous world we have helped to create. If we don’t change course soon and earn back the respect we’ve lost both at home and abroad our democracy may come apart at the seams.

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