Occupy movements illustrate the choice: Meaningful government or merely the facade of government

October 16, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

Regarding most issues, I get suspicious when I hear people say that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. This adage doesn’t apply where the proposed solution doesn’t really address the alleged problem. In the case of the Occupy Wall Street Occupations, though, I believe that this adage does apply.

The main focus of the protests is that large amounts of money have corrupted our political process. Consider whether there anything of value to democratic government where the deliberative process excludes citizen input and, instead, is driven by the highest bidder.  As long as private money flows freely in our political system, there can’t be meaningful discussion and decision-making. Where money drives the process of making political decisions–where the real decision-making occurs outside of public view along with promises of money–the citizens are left with only the cheap baubles of democracy: flag waving, saying pledges and lighting fireworks.  It is for these reasons that those who fail to support this main concern of the Occupy protests are not for government for and by the People.  If one is not for meaningful citizen input regarding the political process, one is against meaningful democracy. I haven’t yet heard even the most right wing right winger assert that he/she is against democracy.

The problem with money in politics is mentioned so often that it sounds like a cliche, but money destroys government’s ability to respond to the needs of its non-monied constituents.  They are excluded from political deliberations.

But you keep hearing from politicians that money won’t corrupt them. It’s time for all of us to join with the Occupy protesters and respond to that claim by collectively shouting “Bullshit!” If I’m hungry and I’m considering eating either vegetables or a double cheeseburger and fries, the decision is hard enough without any money entering the process. I know, however, that if someone offered me $100 every time I ate the burger/fries, I’d start eating more burgers and fries. It would warp my judgment such that my decision would not be in tune with what I know to be the best decision. And when accused of letting money sway me, I would claim that the $100 had nothing to do with my decision-making.

That’s what’s going on in our Congress: money is driving decision-making and we are seeing our politicians making extraordinary numbers of terrible decisions, the crowning jewels of which are two extraordinarily unnecessary wars. Or is it the bailout of banks with no reform of the banking system? There are actually many other candidates. The power of money is so destructive to the deliberative process that even a highly idealistic candidate like Barack Obama has betrayed numerous promises he made during the campaign for no good reason.  The list of Obama’s failures is staggering: Ramping up Afghanistan, abandoning net neutrality, Wall Street non-reform, a health care plan that amounted to a bailout for the private insurers, continuation of the domestic spying programs of the Bush Administration, ramping up the “War on Drugs,” and reckless compromise with Republicans regarding the Bush era tax cuts, domestic spending cuts. Thoughtful people don’t simply give up well-considered positions on such important issues; rather, they sell out.  That is how I interpret Obama’s failures; he has become intoxicated by money.

It is my hope that the Occupy Protests keep their focus on getting money out of the political process. This should be a bi-partisan issue, as indicated by Dylan Ratigan:

The Occupy Wall Street movement as well as the Tea Party Movement should agree: our Federal government is bought and sold and rarely represents the people. In our quest to get money out of politics, we are not beginning at square one. There has been an anti-corruption movement against the modern financing system since the 1970s, and we have many allies in this struggle. It is Citizens United and the bailouts, twin representatives that make corruption so explicit, that have shown us we must act. And it is the foreclosure crisis that suggests that if we do not act, we will be acted upon. Such is how Constitutional moments happen. Now it is up to us, the people, to make this our moment, as our forebears have in their moments of crisis.

But, again, we need to keep the focus on the free flow of money in the political process. It is the reason that honest deliberation of major issues are now impossible in Congress. John Nichols of The Nation explains in an article titled “The 99 Percent Rise Up“:

The target is right. This has been a year of agitation, from Wisconsin to Ohio to Washington. It has seen some of the largest demonstrations in recent American history in defense of labor rights, public education, public services. But all those uprisings attacked symptoms of the disease. Occupy Wall Street named it. By aiming activism not at the government but at the warren of bankers, CEOs and hedge-fund managers to whom the government is beholden, Occupy Wall Street went to the heart of the matter. And that captured the imagination of Americans who knew Michael Moore was right when he finished his 2009 documentary Capitalism: A Love Story with an attempted citizen’s arrest of the bankers who not only avoided accountability after crashing the economy but profited from a taxpayer-funded bailout. Like the populists, the socialists and the best of the progressive reformers of a century ago, Occupy Wall Street has not gotten distracted by electoral politics; it has gone after the manipulator of both major parties—what the radicals of old referred to as “the money power.”


Tags: , ,

Category: Campaign Finance Reform, Corporatocracy, Corruption

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Glenn Greenwald writes about the people who don’t get what the Occupy protests are about:

    Anyone who expressed difficulty seeing or understanding what motivates these protests revealed many things about themselves. None is flattering. The only thing that’s surprising is that these protests didn’t happen sooner and that they’re not more widespread and intense. I think it’s become increasingly clear that that is likely to change, and soon. Like the Arab Spring, the rapid growth of these protests should be a permanent antidote against defeatism. It’s unclear what these protests will accomplish — that still depends on how many people join them and what they cause it to be — but, already, they prove that the possibility always exists for subverting even the most seemingly invulnerable power factions. That hasn’t happened yet, but the possibility that these protests are only in their incipient stages is one of the more exciting and positive political developments in some time. It’s been clear for quite awhile that unrest and disruptions — and the fear which they alone can put in the hearts and minds of those responsible for widespread ills — are absolute prerequisites for meaningful reform (our fundamentally corrupted electoral process certainly can’t and won’t accomplish that). These protests at least reflect the possibility, the template, for that to happen. And anyone expressing confusion about why these protests are erupting is almost certainly someone invested in keeping things exactly the way they are.


  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Chris Hedges expresses scorn for the entrenched “liberal” class:

    Tinkering with the corporate state will not work. We will either be plunged into neo-feudalism and environmental catastrophe or we will wrest power from corporate hands. This radical message, one that demands a reversal of the corporate coup, is one the power elite, including the liberal class, is desperately trying to thwart. But the liberal class has no credibility left. It collaborated with corporate lobbyists to neglect the rights of tens of millions of Americans, as well as the innocents in our imperial wars. The best that liberals can do is sheepishly pretend this is what they wanted all along.

    And here is his searing indictment aimed at the current rulers of United States of America:

    What kind of nation is it that spends far more to kill enemy combatants and Afghan and Iraqi civilians than it does to help its own citizens who live below the poverty line? What kind of nation is it that permits corporations to hold sick children hostage while their parents frantically bankrupt themselves to save their sons and daughters? What kind of nation is it that tosses its mentally ill onto urban heating grates? What kind of nation is it that abandons its unemployed while it loots its treasury on behalf of speculators? What kind of nation is it that ignores due process to torture and assassinate its own citizens? What kind of nation is it that refuses to halt the destruction of the ecosystem by the fossil fuel industry, dooming our children and our children’s children? “America,” Langston Hughes wrote, “never was America to me.


Leave a Reply