Remember the student protests of the 1960s and ’70s, standing up for civil rights, equal rights and an end to the war in Vietnam? Some of us were there, but few of us realized then that would be the closest we’d ever get to democracy.
We protesters frightened the wits out of the establishment. So much so that when Lewis Powell wrote his 1971 memorandum, “Attack on American Free Enterprise System,” conservatives seized it as their own battle plan, culminating with today’s disaster of a federal government.
Corporations now have a say on how our nation is run, to their benefit — think tax cuts. America has also become a bonafide corporate state.
This profit-above-everything corruption has taken over our White House, the majority of our Congress, and much of our judicial branch. But the corporate state hasn’t been able to yet take over the Fourth Branch entirely. Simply speaking, we Americans are the Fourth Branch of the government.
The Fourth Branch is the only thing standing between the first three branches of government and more devastation to our lives. Their ideology is to take all that’s possible from those with less financial agility and hand it over to their rich donors, after taking their due. Some accurately call this a “kleptocracy.”
We Americans are no longer our government’s concern. Payroll deductions made for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that we’ve made all of our working years? Yeah, they say we’re not going to see all of that. They’re going to keep some to help pay for the ginormous tax cuts for the rich and big corporations.
Baloney! What happened to the 1935 Social Security Act FDR signed into law? Or the 1965 Social Security Amendment, adding Medicare and Medicaid, LBJ signed into law? We most certainly do have a voice when our government breaks these laws involving trusts we’ve paid into.
Everything provided for the benefit of the Americans, our land and air, and our flora and fauna are being stripped away, including: protective rules and regulations; good jobs and wages; public education and universities; social services for the poor and elderly; the free press; internet freedom; and free speech.
“The corporate state, or deep state, has no commitment to democracy,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges said in a speech last year. “The difference between corporate power and the Trump regime is that corporate power sought to maintain the fiction of democracy, including the polite, public deference paid to bankrupt democratic institutions. Trump has obliterated this deference.”
Everything now is a commodity and is being sold to the highest bidder. Imprisoned Americans are even a commodity, worth more in private prisons than out. Slave labor? Why do billionaires need more money? Climate change is denied yet our land and waterways continue to be exploited horrifically for profit. I can imagine why, can you?
So much is happening to those of us without millions, and it’s causing a culture of fear.
To some, fear turns into anger and violence — shouting racial slurs, fighting macho fights against “enemies,” and joining others who feel the way they and their government feel about those so-called enemies.
“Fear and the ethos of mass consumerism —coupled with widespread insecurity and ignorance —now drive people into a malignant notion of security, self-inflicted cynicism and into the arms of demagogues like Trump,” Truthdig’s Henry Giroux wrote. “For too many Americans, critical thinking and hope have given way to … ultra-nationalism and bigotry.”
Words and actions of our government leaders give approval of racism, misogyny, bigotry and homophobia. That leaves Muslims, immigrants, African-Americans, Mexicans, LGBTQs, feminists, the press and dissidents vulnerable.
Washington has 21 white supremacy groups, per the Southern Poverty Law Center. Bremerton is home to a fierce neo-Nazi group called the American Vanguard, plus five others. More on these groups next time.
What can we do to stop this senseless cruelty to Americans by our own government?
“We may feel powerless, but we are not,” Hedges wrote. “We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up …, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements to follow.”
My advice for anyone asking? Information is power. Talk with others. Check in with community groups that are always aware of what’s happening. Let me know if I can help get you started. It’s time to do something.
— Marylin Olds is a local opinion columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.