"After they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back. No! You can't drive. We don't want to have to go back into the ditch. We just got the car out." -- President Obama slamming Republicans on the campaign trail, May 2010.
President Obama was referring to the Republicans of the Bush administration whose recklessness in fiscal policies and legislation helped bring on the Great Recession. Behind those Republicans are the plutocrats, using their lobbyists, SuperPacs, and something called the Kochtopus to buy and/or influence our elected representatives. The plutocrats like the Koch brothers, addicted to power and wealth, and driven by greed, continue to get richer and richer because of their enablers, the good American people who keep giving the keys back to the very people who drove that car into the ditch in 2008…by voting Republican or by not voting.
Are you an enabler? From an article in PsychCentral, enablers, suffering the effects of the addict’s behavior, take well-intentioned actions in a desire to help, but later on those actions become more desperate. The pressure to enable can be intense, particularly coming from manipulative addicts to get their needs met. The website addresses a clinical discussion of addictions, but seem to fit the lust for money and power as well…America’s addiction problem that drives inequality. To be clear, when President Obama talks about inequality, he is not talking about redistribution of wealth, but rather equality of opportunity and social mobility that starts in preschool education for all.
Chances are you know some enablers, or you are an enabler yourself. Many of them are your friends, neighbors and work colleagues. They are the people that for whatever reasons continue to vote for the very Republicans that drove the country into the ditch, but their numbers are exceeded by the number of Americans who don’t vote at all. In the 2012 Presidential election some 61 million Americans voted for Mitt Romney and Republicans in 2012. They were certainly “well intentioned”, but I would surmise that they were also “manipulated” into voting for the man, perhaps acting out of desperation, if they were unemployed, or perhaps more likely, they succumbed to their ignorance and the overt and covert messaging of the Republican campaign, that President Obama was “not one of us”, that the effects of the Great Recession should have been over and prosperity should have returned by now. If you voted for Romney, you voted your emotions, and you did not think…maybe you were deceived, but no matter the reason, you are an enabler!
The 61 million Romney voters, however, were exceeded by the 93 million Americans who were eligible to vote and did not vote in that election. Total voter turnout in 2012 was only 58 percent. While I can appreciate that voter suppression laws have disenfranchised voters in some states, maybe a few million overall, the number pales in comparison to the number of voter eligible people that just do not vote. If you were among the very many who were too lazy to exercise your Constitutional right to register and vote, you too are an enabler of the plutocrats, and an enabler of inequality.
However, as bad as the non-voting population was in 2012, in the midterms of 2010 and 2014 it was even worse, with a 40.9 percent turnout in 2010 and 39.5 percent in 2014. In the 2014 election an embarrassingly low 145 million Americans chose to not vote. The enablers in the two midterms, by voting their emotions or by CHOOSING to not vote in even bigger numbers, collectively elected a whole bunch of Republicans to Congress, state legislatures and governorships to ensure that there would be few compromises, no rewriting of the tax laws to be more equitable, no enacting of new regulations and other measures that now keep the plutocrats powerful at the expense of the middle class and poor. No jobs bills to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, no money for education initiatives, no unemployment extensions, no Obamacare Medicaid expansion for most Republican governed states, no federally mandated minimum wage increases, no reduction in interest rates for student loans, no equal pay for equal work for women, no free community college, and no preschool early education. At the same time, through your fellow elected enablers, you voted for cutbacks in food stamps to the poor, the discontinuation of unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed, protecting the regressive taxes that favor the rich and corporations, no regulation of Wall Street, and taking away healthcare benefits for those that cannot afford healthcare.
All of these things collectively contribute to inequality. It is the Republican Brand, heavily influenced by the Tea Party caucus of no compromises on anything. Their platform is defined by their dismal record on passing any meaningful legislation while in power and opposing and blocking almost everything that President Obama proposed. John Boehner’s words, “Hell no you can’t” define the Republican Brand in not only Congress but also Republican controlled state legislatures and governorships...what they did and more importantly what they didn’t do. As Boehner said, they want to be measured by how many laws they repeal.
The Tea Party are enablers of inequality. The Tea Party’s original focus, according to the Libertarian CATO Institute, was “on fiscal, not social, issues — cutting spending, ending bailouts, reducing debt, and reforming taxes and entitlements — rather than discussing abortion or gay marriage.” That sounds like a populist appeal that resonates with many Americans. However, Eric Zuesse, investigative historian writing for the Huffington Post cites “proof” that the Tea Party’s roots were not a grass roots populist organization at all, but rather started out in 2002 as the Koch funded Citizens for a Sound Economy, and then became Americans for Prosperity. Others like Claire Conner in her book, Wrapped in the Flag, document how the Tea Party Patriots are really John Birch Society clones that go back to the 1950s, and that Fred Koch, father of Charles and David Koch, was an active member of the JBS. The Tea Party is not a grass root populist movement, but rather a highly controlled organization largely funded and controlled by the plutocrats, David and Charles Koch. Those who identify with and vote for Tea Party members are enablers of the plutocrats and inequality…the kind that David and Charles Koch so successfully sell to Americans who do not think.
Crazy for God: Religious leaders are enablers of inequality. As much as we can point the finger (the middle one) at the Koch controlled Tea Party, their numbers would not be sufficient to elect Republicans without the help of the very passionate Christian evangelicals and other Christian “do gooders” that are opposed to all abortions.
In public, [the leaders of the religious right] maintained an image that was usually quite smooth. In private, they ranged from unreconstructed bigot reactionaries like Jerry Falwell, to Dr. Dobson, the most power-hungry and ambitious person I have ever met, to Billy Graham, a very weird man indeed who lived an oddly sheltered life in a celebrity/ministry cocoon, to Pat Robertson, who would have had a hard time finding work in any job where hearing voices is not a requirement… By the time they tell you over and over about all the bad things happening, such as statistics on crime, teen pregnancy and so on, I begin to get the feeling that they don’t want things to get better. This is their shtick. This is the way they raise their money. This is how they maintain their central power base. -- Frank Schaeffer, Crazy for God
The above extract is from an interview with Frank Schaeffer, whose father, Francis Schaeffer, was a successful televangelist. Many religious leaders are indeed consumed by power and wealth, both in America and abroad. The Richest website lists the Ten Richest Religions in the World. The Catholic Church heads up the list, but it also includes Islam, Judaism, Mormons, the Church of England, Televangelists, Scientologists, and Freemasons, all powerful religiously and politically because of their tax exempt status. In America, church leaders like Pat Robertson, James Dobson, John Hagee, even Pastor Mike Huckabee and Bishop Mitt Romney use the church’s power over their people to drive “the Republican agenda”. Cultural issues of our day, LGBT rights, including gay marriage and abortion, are largely populist bigotry within the Christian evangelical community as well as others. Whether you want to call their religious movement as populist within the Christian community is debatable, but what cannot be denied is that by their support for the Republican agenda, they are enablers of inequality.
The Media are enablers of inequality. If you claim to be a Christian and subscribe to the gospel of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News [Who Said It? Fox News or Jesus] that demonizes the poor, then you are not only an enabler, you are a hypocrite. Media personalities like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and other hosts on the Fox News network are also enablers, telling the people what they want to hear. The enablers of Alex Jones and his Infowars conspiracy theories live in “La La Land”. The mainstream media, CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC, are also enablers as they are the primary beneficiaries of the billions spent on campaign ads in the never ending election cycles. But the ads are just the fruits of their labors. To make money they need to have close races, so they have line-ups of political operatives to give their “expert opinions” on the candidates, but is the whole process objective? Who chooses who will appear on the Sunday talk shows? Sensationalism sells. Real news sells less. It’s all about ratings and profit, and real truth is buried somewhere.
Special Interest groups are enablers of inequality. Other groups with a specific demographic appeal like the NRA and their 2nd Amendments rights that trump your 1st Amendment rights, the militias and sovereign citizens that see Cliven Bundy as a hero against the “tyranny” of the United States government, and their fellow white supremacists are all enablers. However, the war profiteers, the military contractors are always at the front of the trough seeking money to sell their weapons to a compliant Congress to make the world safe for democracy.
“Many powerful people don’t want peace because they live off war.” – Pope Francis
If you support spending billions of our tax dollars on the ”military-industrial complex” at the expense of programs to help the poor and less fortunate, you are an enabler of inequality.
The Supreme Court is an enabler of inequality. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the five conservatives on the Supreme Court, Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito and Kennedy, who we might label as the “enablers-in-chief” by their actions to gut existing campaign finance reform laws, and open up the elections to essentially unlimited money. They have turned our democracy into a money game of whoever raises the most money wins. Since their Citizens United ruling and other related decisions, the really big money interests have moved to the top of the Republican Party pyramid. What is almost comical to watch is the “clown car” of Republican hopefuls making pilgrimages to Koch Land and Adelson Land to kiss the ring fingers (and maybe the boots) of their benefactors. It’s funny how they all came away from those meeting with disgustingly very brown noses. It’s all about the money.
The Catch 22 of “Pay to Stay”. On that note, while I have singled out Republicans by their actions of being the “party of the rich”, this is not to suggest that some Democrats in Washington D.C. and state legislatures have not been corrupted by the money and power of the politics…especially the necessary “vote buying” that campaign financing demands. Whatever the best intentions of our elected officials, both Republican and Democrats, once they become a part of that political establishment, it becomes “pay to stay”. For elected Congress persons especially, they are continually fund raising for their next campaign.
Is there hope? There is always hope, but hope cannot be something that is turned on one day every four years. President Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 demonstrate that Democrats can do well when they get out and vote. As hard as we work to elect Democrats in presidential election years, we throw it all away in the midterm elections by not voting. Various analysts estimate that some 70 percent of the non-voters would likely vote Democrats if they got off their butts on Election Day. For 2014, the 70 percent of the 145 million that didn’t vote would have ensured that President Obama had a Congress that he could work with and not one that obstructs. I will write more about that in another article.
It doesn’t matter if we elect Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in 2016, if the voters continue to elect “no compromise” Republicans to the legislature, their difficulties in getting anything passed through Congress will be no better than Obama’s. If we elect a member of the Clown Car, then there is no hope to make progress on fixing any of the things that contribute to the inequality of opportunity .
The comic strip Pogo published a cartoon on Earth Day in 1971 of Pogo looking over the landscape of trash polluting our environment, and said these often repeated words: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Today as we look at the political landscape, the enormous amount of money being spent, the negative ads and dumbed down thinking, the anger and fear mongering, the polluted cesspool of buying votes that has become to stereotype the political atmosphere, Pogo’s words of wisdom could also be used to describe the money and thinking behind our elections.
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”