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Harry Fuller Headshot

Privately Rich, Publicly Poor

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You and I are economic and political Lilliputians. Even as NGO members, consumers and voters--nothing gives us enough power to nudge American government or business toward the commonwealth. That's an old-fashioned word, long out of fashion. But there's a commonwealth and it matters. It's what politicians sense if they promise Americans access to medical care, or big city mayors who promise better bus service. Or when local government or an NGO protects land.

Are we Americans constitutionally able to combat the melded power of government and business? How fuzzy that line has become. Hazard to guess how many decisions by the Cheney/Rove Administration were made to further the ends of Big Oil, Republican Party donors or Big Pharma? Any that benefit the commonwealth?

Most of the biggest corporations are based in America. Exxon. GE. Microsoft. They pay the fattest bonuses. Not that they have most of their employees or factories or sales in America. Our national enterprise is a unitary executive beholden to the biggest of big business. The rest of us are mere taxpayers and observers. We're Lilliputians, puny in politics, in the economy, on K Street, in the ebb and flow of global power and money.

"Constitutionally" means both in the sense of intestinal fortitude and in the written Constitution. Where's our outrage? Our right to sue? Our protest? The fury to bring the machine to a halt? How sad Mario Savio would be were he still alive. Nobody to throw his or her body on the gears to stop the killing machine. Not even a Democratic majority in Congress will risk power and money to give the majority of American voters what they so clearly want. Lilliputians, all of us.

We've a military to destroy buildings and humans anywhere on earth. We can kill or torture almost anybody except Bin Laden. We could nuc any target and probably no nation would dare retaliate militarily for fear of even worse. What stops us? Not good for the markets.

The American commonwealth benefited in many ways from the evolution of attitudes and growth of American wealth and power that began decades ago. We've far more public parks and protected nature preserves than most nations. We can provide college education to a far larger proportion of our population than most nations. Though recent trends are pricing it beyond the reach of many Americans. We're still an international leader in research, technical creativity, science. Is there a single major Internet innovation that did not begin in America?

There's a counter-reformation afoot as pernicious as anything the Papacy levelled against the European Enlightenment. It's led by the legions of Milton Friedman and Grover Nordquist, Karl Rove and Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve and World Bank. They hate taxes as they once hated communism. In fact, aren't those the same thing?

It's a naive and cynical cant of anti-government, corporate superiority and disdain for the commonwealth. Private property as god. The real religion of the current regime is wealth, private riches. Forget the commonwealth, the government is to be beggared for private gain. By there actions ye shall know them.

"Free market" disciples constantly argue the only well-maintained property is private. Environmental regulations are self-defeating. Only landowners really care for the land, etc. They're starving the public sector (except the Pentagon. Why do anti-commonwealth types so love guns and wars fought by other people?). They site its poor performance as a reason for further starvation. They detest public parks, public transit, public hospitals, public education. Friedman argued for vouchers so parents would be forced into a competitive, corrupt education marketplace. Let's put the Library of Congress for sale on eBay. Sell the Lincoln Monument to Disney. Privatize your social security so Merrill Lynch and Citicorp can get their mitts on your pension. Don't you trust the competence of Arthur Andersen and Bear Stearns? Countrywide and ABC News? You expect honesty?

How phony is the Friedmanesque, Reaganomic argument for private property uber alles? I'm a birder. It's widely suspected numerous genuine sightings of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker have occurred in recent decades by private people on private land. A bit of Louisiana folk wisdom says, "There are no endangered species on private land." There you have it--possible profit trumps the commonwealth if it can. No cotton grower or logging company admits there's an endangered animal on its land. Who'd willingly surrender use of 1500 acres of timber for some gall-derned peckerwood?

Where's the outrage? Seen enough corporate freedom? Enron. Blackwater. American Airlines. Sub-prime mortgages. Bear Stearns bailout. New Century & KPMG. Zillionaire CEOs who rip-off their own stockholders, take the bonus and run. Forget shareholder value. Nice bumpersticker. In the boardroom it's all about the bonus. "Shareholder value" bamboozles the dullards in Congress. Merck and its shady research findings? Does every living Reaganomic prophet still take Vioxx and own a passle of BearStearns stock they bought at $60?

We need to change our constitution, if we can't change our Constitution. No representation without taxation. Any company too clever to pay U.S. taxes can't lobby, nor own any state or federal agency. Ban lobbyists from within 500 miles of Washington D.C. Forever. Violators to be tortured to find out whom they bribed. Bad medical care kills more Americans than terrorists.

Force Congress and its staff and all former & current White House employees to be the FIRST to adopt any privatization of medical care, pension, education for their kids. In keeping with one of the finest American political inventions, the dilution of power: separation of corporation and state. Otherwise our commonwealth will be ever more impoverished.