Democracy for Sale

February 19, 2018

An Inwood Gazette Editorial

by Daniel Surber  CEO InvisibleWounds, LLC

Follow Daniel Surber on Twitter: @The_UnSilent_

Over the past 227 years, U.S. presidents assumed office with an average of 13 years experience in public office (3/4 at the federal level), and had served nearly six years in the military.  While some also touted their business acumen, notably Washington and Jefferson, that experience was tainted by scandal; subsequent elections featured the candidates’ government experience as a necessary credential.  Over the past two decades, citizen groups proclaiming the importance of business experience in the White House have become louder, but yet remained at the margins.  That is, until the election of Donald Trump.

Trump is the only U.S. president with zero political or military experience, and a record of business experience ending in multiple bankruptcies and lawsuits, a business role to which he was only appointed rather than earned because of his inherited family business and wealth.  With numerous lawsuits for discrimination, sexual assault, false advertising, violating labor law, tax evasion, and charitable donation laws, and now under investigation for treason and collusion, among many charges, it’s important to ask ourselves if this is what we envisioned was an improvement over the previous 44 administrations.

With demagoguery making a resurgence coupled with the ceaseless flow of instant information coupled and an ever-shrinking attention span, most Americans are losing sight of what’s truly important to their well-being.  Now, I say “well-being” to make a point. Ideals are important and they have their place in politics and the moral fabric of society, but when they start getting in the way of citizens’ income, health, and our children’s future, they become an issue of a completely different sort. When ideals rooted in self-benefit rather than the greater good muddy the waters, people stop looking at who benefits and focus more on how a certain policy’s content and expected outcomes makes them feel, or even worse, how they are told to feel by their party affiliation and/or heavily slanted news source of choice.  What’s slowly getting lost in all of this is the underlying, more important question: Who really benefits from profit-based ideals shrouded by idealistic rhetoric?

  • Have our leaders gotten us so distracted with phantom ideals that we have completely abandoned the things that truly affect our everyday lives?
  • Is the media partly to blame for choosing to run the salacious, emotionally-charged stories over substantive, informative ones?  Is this hunger for ratings and profit eliciting fear and galvanizing people’s ideals.
  • Are fact-less, anger-filled debates making their way through Twittersphere, hardening stances on false narratives, drifting our country further left and further right?
  • ​Do most government officials care more about pleasing the corporation that donated millions to their campaign and their party rather than the well-being of their constituents?

Now it needs to be asked again, who benefits?

Who benefits from the media running stories, many provocative and untethered by facts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, eliciting fear, stirring emotions, and galvanizing stances? Who benefits from the caterwaul of social media spreading false narratives, hardening beliefs, and promoting execrable acts? Who benefits from a populace divided on issues of race, inequality, education, and climate change? Who benefits from corporations spending billions of dollars on political donations and lobbyists? While we’re distracted from the central issues, this is what is really occurring, to name just a few examples:

  • Wealth concentration in the hands of only a few thousand people
  • The richest nation in the world having the most expensive yet substandard general healthcare
  • The wealthiest nation in the world spending the most on education yet with declining outcomes
  • A rank of 120 out of 164 countries in voter turnout worldwide
  • The highest death by gun rate per capita of any country in the world

As the national debt rises; hate crimes increase; a tax plan designed to take money from the lower and middle classes to give to the wealthy passes; the reputation of the U.S. on the global stage drops precipitously; the KKK is enjoying a resurgence; and with rollbacks on healthcare coverage and gender equality, who really benefits from having a failed businessman and alleged sexual harasser with no notion of public service occupying the highest office in America, and how did his supporters not see this coming?  Or did they?  Is electing what some may call a puppet president a strategy to allow capitalism to flourish?  To wit:

  • With the 24 hours news choosing to run ratings drivers like fear and scandal over policy and substance, companies like CNN (owned by Time Warner) and Fox (owned by Rupert Murdoch) can drive advertising prices up, in turn, increase profits.
  • With the insertion of fear and constant coverage of ratings boosters like nuclear war and terrorism, the government can easily justify a military budget 27x larger than the next closest country, which yields tremendous defense contracts for hundreds of corporations from Raytheon to Rolls Royce, who in turn donate billions of dollars to political campaigns.
  • Allowing billions of dollars to be donated by large corporations opens the door for legislation that favors the highest bidder.  A prime example is in the Pharmaceutical Industry, where huge political donations and lobbying has led to Medicare being blocked from negotiating drug prices on behalf of the citizenry, allowing these companies (that have “legally” merged 20x over) to charge whatever the market will bear, with little to no competition.

With enormous amounts of corporate money, power, and influence injected into our democratic system, it’s no surprise that under a businessman as president the populace no longer has a true say on the direction of the country and decisions that affect them now or into the future.  Absolute power and information is now firmly in the hands of an oligarchy comprised of big corporations and the elite, who are beholden to nothing other than their shareholders, personal agendas, and bottomless greed.  In sum, Trump’s administration is reconfiguring government into a tool to amass profits for the 1% at the expense of values on which our country was founded, all while we’re distracted and confused by false information and false promises.

Can the citizenry stop this rapid decline of our society and economy?  It starts with understanding that we have the power and the influence to change all of this, but only if we come together, determine whose values should guide our government’s actions, and become informed about what’s really occurring. We need to shift our collective focus from consumerism, question the bias behind the news and social media, and start realizing the emperor has no clothes.

The sooner the left, right, and indifferent take the blinders off, the sooner we can come together and focus our energy on making positive change that truly contributes to the greatness of America, rather than selling our integrity and our future to the highest bidder.



Public Integrity


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