"History doesn’t repeat itself, but it can rhyme." -Mark Twain
This nation was born out of a violent revolution. Living under the oppressive rule of the British government, our Founders suffered for a time its “long train of abuses,” worked diplomatically to petition against it, were quickly forced to organize and protest until finally--when peaceful revolution was made impossible--they stood up boldly and resolutely rejected it.
This is our shared cultural heritage. It is still today part of who we as a people. This courage and foresight and determination, together with our natural inclination for freedom and self-rule, is in the very DNA of the American people. As America’s heroes and heroines have proven repeatedly since its inception, we are not a people that will lie down for long. Whatever injustice may come upon us, eventually, we will rise up and fight back.
And, yet, once again, the time to rise up and fight back is already upon us. Oblivious to the lessons of history, the professional politicians in Washington today dare already to echo the history of oppression our Founders suffered under the tyranny of the British King. Alas, as if living under the tyranny of an oppressive, intrusive, corporate-controlled government was not troubling enough, we are also repeating the history of America's Gilded Age, a time of extreme social and economic inequalities, a time that Theodore Roosevelt lived through and worked hard to correct. It was a time that eventually led to the Progressive Era, and, for his part, led TR to found the Progressive "Bull Moose" Party.
The truth is the degree to which we echo our own history of political and economic tyranny today is alarming. We’re at the point where the ultra-rich ruling elites--including the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties--are no longer really concerned about the interests of the people. Their only true concern now is amassing wealth and staying in power. But where is the Progressive Bull Moose Party today?
The Problem: The People No Longer Rule
The problem is clear: The people no longer rule. The voice of the vast majority of Americans has been utterly silenced. The United States Congress now exists only to serve itself and the ruling oligarchs--which includes the big money billionaires and Wall Street elites, multinational corporations, and the most powerful special interest groups. Our government is not serving the middle class--and it’s certainly not serving the working poor.
We know all this because the signs are everywhere.
First and foremost is Economic Tyranny.
- Economic inequality in the U.S. today is at catastrophic levels.1 To be sure, a fair amount of inequality is healthy and good. But at these extreme levels, it’s a dry forest looking for a matchstick.
- Furthermore, upward mobility in the U.S. is now ranked lower than any other advanced nation in the world, except one: the UK.2 Remember the British King?
- What’s worse, the middle class is being eviscerated. In fact, the middle class has now been steadily shrinking for nearly a half a century.3
- Meanwhile, the gap between the salaries of the CEO and the average employee is at an all-time high--and it too continues to increase.4
And what are the super rich doing with all that excess cash? Why they’re buying power, of course--which allows them to get even richer and even more powerful--without adding any value to society at all.
This accumulation of power leads to yet another form of tyranny: Political Tyranny.
Our political system is now completely controlled by big money. The middle class and working poor are no longer represented at all.5 How is this possible?
- First, if not buying the office itself, or hand-picking the candidates,6 the super rich are buying access, loyalty and even the votes of politicians through political action committees and enormous campaign contributions at a level that the average citizen can’t even begin to contemplate--especially now thanks to the recent rulings of the Supreme Court.7
- With billions and billions of dollars being spent by the rich and powerful, the voice of the American people can no longer be heard. Leading political science research now proves what we have long known: The middle class no longer has a voice. We now have zero influence on our own government.8 For the middle and working classes, we’re back to where this nation started: Taxation without representation.
To be fair, the solution is not to demonize the rich--many of whom are equally concerned about America’s slide toward plutocracy, which will create civil unrest, political instability, and dire economic consequences for us all. Besides, it’s not just the tycoons and plutocrats with their big, bailout-prone banks and massive multi-national corporate conglomerates that created this situation. The bloated, increasingly corrupt, intrusive and abusive federal government is itself the other half of the problem. Government wouldn’t be owned by big money if it didn’t put itself up for sale.
And this leads to the third form of tyranny, the Tyranny of our Corporate-Controlled Government:
And what’s the evidence here?
- First and foremost there’s Wall Street and the Financial Industrial Complex, which several Presidents warned us about and the recent financial crisis has made even more glaringly obvious.9 And this includes the sheer existence of banks that are too-big-to-fail, a financial services industry that writes its own rules, feeds off the American people like a parasite, and pays fines, but never does time for massive, blatant corruption and fraud.10 In addition to the powerful banking lobby, this rigged, bloodsucking system includes Members of the House and Senate Banking Committees, and the U.S. Treasury, but also the Federal Reserve itself, which continues to lack transparency and accountability.11 The idea that a handful of big private banks should control the U.S. economy without democratic oversight, without a legitimately independent public audit, without full transparency and democratic accountability is a slap in the face to any self-respecting free, open and democratic society. The truth is that Wall Street has both the executive and the legislature in its back pocket--to the point that the risk of another financial crisis may actually be greater now than it was in 2008.12
- Then there’s the Military Industrial Complex, which George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, both warned us about.13 To be sure, I think most Americans are in favor of a strong military. We’re proud of our military and intelligence communities. That is not the problem. The problem is when they’re controlled by corporate interests and driven by the insatiable hunger for profits and power.
- Make no mistake, the need for the American people to reassert control over our own government extends to the FBI,14 the CIA,15 and the NSA,16 which--thanks to Congress and the Patriot Act--has become a rogue agency that needs to be reigned in immediately. Using tax dollars to spy on American citizens without a warrant is itself a grave threat to free, open and democratic society. Seriously--how long before spying gets political?17 This has to stop now. Transparency and accountability are not nice principles to have, they are the foundation of our freedom. As John F. Kennedy once said, “The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society...”18
- But this is just the beginning. The fact is that corruption and regulatory capture now runs rampant in the federal government.19 Basically, government agencies like the FDA,20 the EPA,21 the FCC,22 the FAA,23 and the SEC24--to name a few of the most egregious offenders--are now almost completely controlled by the industries they were created to regulate. In fact, there is a virtual revolving door between regulatory agencies, big business, and the U.S. Congress, where these people all act in each other’s best interests, but at great cost and detriment to the American people.25 This is not how capitalism works. In fact, this is not capitalism at all. This is corporatism. This is rule by the corporations.
To be sure, every single one of these problems is a threat to democracy. Taken together they represent a vicious, lethal cancer on the body politic. Global history is clear: capitalism has emerged as the most effective economic system.26 But it’s a wild animal that must be tamed. Therefore, to save democracy we must save capitalism from its own excesses. As Adam Smith, the “Father of Capitalism,” made clear, the greatest threat to strong, competitive, free markets are the corporations themselves.27 We have to address the root problem.
The Solution: “Let the People Rule”
So, what’s the solution? Frankly, the best, most exciting solution is pretty simple, but it won’t be easy. We need your help. In essence, we need to reduce the power of both big corporate-controlled government and big money, and return that power to the American people. Just imagine how much better America could be if the people truly ruled!
If this all sounds like a dream, then you’ve bought into the propaganda that the plutocrats and professional politicians have been spewing to keep our nation divided, and themselves in power. And you’re forgetting what our founders achieved when they birthed this great nation.
How can we do this? Simple. We need to create a viable third party that is strictly focused on one big thing: Giving power back to the people. Electing the right president is critical--but it’s not enough. And it may never be enough.The bulk of the U.S. Congress must be replaced. By raising money and running candidates under our own banner--the Progressive Bull Moose Party--pledged to our own platform and principles--we can end the era of big money, big corporate-controlled government--rule by the super rich--and return power to the people.
We can take this country back from the professional politicians. We can take the reigns of power away from the ruling elites. We can rewrite the rules of the game, resurrect the middle class, and fulfill the people’s vision of the American dream. It’s not too late. And it is possible. If you would just join with us now, I promise you we can and we will change this country in a way that our so-called “leaders” in Washington could never have imagined.
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- Searcey, Dionne and Gebeloff, Robert (2015, January 25). “Middle Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up.” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/business/economy/middle-class-shrinks-further-as-more-fall-out-instead-of-climbing-up.html?_r=0
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- (a.) Gilens, Martin and Page, Benjamin I. (2014, September). “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” American Political Science Association, Volume 12, Number 3. Pgs. 564-581. http://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf (b.) Robert, Reich (2015, March 10). “Robert Reich: Most Americans have no influence at all: The former secretary of labor explains why the preferences of the average citizen have zero effect on public policy.” Salon. http://www.salon.com/2015/03/10/robert_reich_most_americans_have_no_influence_at_all_partner/ (c.) Stewart, Jon (2014, April 30). “Gilens, Martin and Page, Benjamin.” The Daily Show. http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/kj9zai/martin-gilens---benjamin-page
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- (a.) Gilens, Martin (2012, July 1). “Under the Influence.” Boston Review. http://bostonreview.net/forum/lead-essay-under-influence-martin-gilens (b.) Younge, Gary (2014, April 6). “Thought money could buy an American election? You ain't seen nothin' yet.” The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/06/money-bought-elections-us-donation-rules (c.) Feingold, Russ (2012, July 1). “A Gilded Age on Steroids.” Boston Review. http://bostonreview.net/forum/under-influence/gilded-age-steroids-russ-feingold
- Gilens, Martin (2012). Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.
- Weidner, David (2010, April 1). “Breaking Up the Financial Industrial Complex: How Wall Street came to dominate government and public life and how it can be fixed.” The Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304252704575156163180973500
- (a.) Kolhatkar, Sheelah (2014, March 27). “Billions in Fines, but No Jail Time for Bank of America.” Bloomberg Business. http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-03-27/billions-in-fines-but-no-jail-time-for-bank-of-america (b.) Kaufman, Ted (2013, July 29). “Why DOJ Deemed Bank Execs Too Big To Jail.” Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/tedkaufman/2013/07/29/why-doj-deemed-bank-execs-too-big-to-jail/
- (a.) Calabria, Mark A. (2015, July 13). “Fed Oversight: Lack of Transparency and Accountability.” CATO Institute. http://www.cato.org/publications/testimony/fed-oversight-lack-transparency-accountability (b.) Parramore, Lynn Stuart (2015, April 6). “How the Federal Reserve Is Destroying Your Economic Future: New research shows exactly how Fed policies exacerbate inequality.” Alternet. http://www.alternet.org/economy/how-federal-reserve-destroying-your-economic-future (c.) Ariosto, David (2011, October 20). “GAO audit finds Federal Reserve bank boards lack transparency.” CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/20/us/gao-report-fed/
- (a.) “Economic indebtedness may cause another crash, warns Wolf.” (2015, February 19). BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-31528297 (b.) Kirshner, Jonathan (2014, November 20). “The Risk of Financial Crisis Remains High.” Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathankirshner/2014/11/20/the-risk-of-financial-crisis-remains-high/ (c.) Dayen, David (2014, March 26). “The next financial crisis looms: Here’s where it may come from.” Salon. http://www.salon.com/2014/03/26/the_next_financial_crisis_looms_heres_where_it_may_come_from/ (d.) Weidner, David (2010, February 18). “As Greece Burns, Hazards Remain in the U.S.: Greek Debt Fiasco Signals How Little We've Done to Prevent the Next Crisis.” The Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703444804575072332713741308
- (a.) Washington, George (1796). “Washington's Farewell Address 1796.” The Avalon Project, Yale Law School. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp (b.) Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1961, January 17). “Farewell Address,” President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961.” Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, pgs. 1035-1040. http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/online_documents/farewell_address/1961_01_17_Press_Release.pdf
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- (a.) Chapman, Steve (2014, March 13). “CIA an out-of-control agency: Sen. Feinstein vs. an out-of-control agency.” Chicago Tribune. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-13/news/ct-federal-nsa-government-spying-chapman-oped-0313-20140313_1_intelligence-agencies-barack-obama-feinstein (b.) Weiner, Tim (2014, March 12). “Feinstein Is Right. The CIA’s Out of Control.” Politico Magazine. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/03/dianne-feinstein-cia-senate-104582.html (c.) Robinson, Eugene (2014, March 13). “The CIA is out of line.” The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eugene-robinson-the-cia-is-out-of-line/2014/03/13/f40b10f0-aae7-11e3-adbc-888c8010c799_story.html (d.) Dickson, Tim (2014, December 9). “10 Truly Terrible Things the CIA Did In Our Names, Because Freedom.” Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/10-truly-terrible-things-the-cia-did-in-our-names-because-freedom-20141209
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- JFK Secrecy: Kennedy, John F. (1961, April 27). “The President and the Press.” Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association. Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/JFK-Speeches/American-Newspaper-Publishers-Association_19610427.aspx
- (a.) “Regulatory Capture 101: Impressionable journalists finally meet George Stigler.” (2014, October 5). The Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com/articles/regulatory-capture-101-1412544509 (b.) Holland, Joshua (2014, November 25). “Watch Elizabeth Warren Tear Into the New York Fed Chief Over Agency’s ‘Regulatory Capture.’” Bill Moyers and Company. http://billmoyers.com/2014/11/25/elizabeth-warren-ny-fed/ (c.) Kushnick, Bruce (2013, March 25). “Regulatory Capture of the FCC -- Time to Clean House.” Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-kushnick/regulatory-capture-of-the_b_2936693.html (d.) Thierer, Adam (2010, December 19). “Regulatory Capture: What the Experts Have Found.” The Technology Liberation Front. http://techliberation.com/2010/12/19/regulatory-capture-what-the-experts-have-found/
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- (a.) Esguerra, Richard (2008, August 20). “The FCC and Regulator Capture.” Electronic Frontier Foundation. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2008/08/fcc-and-regulatory-capture (b.) Walker, Jesse (2008, June 12). “The Central Committee is in Session.” Reason. http://reason.com/archives/2008/06/12/the-central-committee-is-in-se
- (a.) Thierer, Adam (2015, January 16). “Regulatory Capture: FAA and Commercial Drones Edition.” The Technology Liberation Front. http://techliberation.com/2015/01/16/regulatory-capture-faa-and-commercial-drones-edition/ (b.) Neuman, Johanna (2008, April 4). “FAA's 'culture of coziness' targeted in airline safety hearing.” Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-trw-airlines4apr04-story.html
- (a.) Carter, Zach (2015, April 6). “Senate Democrats Are Getting Fed Up With The SEC's Delay On CEO Pay Rule.” Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/06/senate-democrats-are-gett_n_7012126.html (b.) Taibbi, Matt (2011, February 16). “Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?” Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-isnt-wall-street-in-jail-20110216.
- (a.) Taibbi, matt (2015, July 8). “Eric Holder, Wall Street Double Agent, Comes in From the Cold.” Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/eric-holder-wall-street-double-agent-comes-in-from-the-cold-20150708 (b.) “Revolving Door: Top Industries.” Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/revolving/top.php?display=I.
- Obviously, this point is open to interpretation and debate. However, looking to “global history,” and the numerous political-economic systems that have been tried, democratic-capitalist systems have distinct advantages over communism, Marxism, fascism, monarchy, dictatorship, theocracy, and empire, among others.
- Smith, Adam (1776). The Wealth of Nations. New York: Prometheus Books.