Democracy in America Today
February 5, 2005
By Leah Allen
It's time to take a serious look at what we consider to be our
democratic way of life and what it holds for us as we look into
We have serious economic issues and disturbing socio-economic
plans being presented as conclusions rather than proposals. Citizens
of the United States are paying the price for having an international
trade policy of war and empire-building with the fiasco in Iraq.
On the domestic front, huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people
only complicate the debt picture the war has created.
And then to add insult to injury, the government is feeding the
public a daily dose of misinformation about Social Security and
Medicare and plans to dissolve those quality-of-life commitments
to the citizens. The reality, which leading economists have identified,
is that if 1/5 of the tax break just given to the wealthiest
Americans was repealed, Social Security would be solvent beyond
the foreseeable future (beyond 2052). Another solution might be
to allow the Social Security tax to be applied to incomes above
$90,000. Ironically, these wealthy Americans would not be hurt by
either of these measures.
The alternative plan now being offered by the Bush administration
would add trillions of dollars of debt to our already burgeoning
deficit, though it has been clearly identified that the people will
not benefit for nearly half a century, even if they do have any
success with the stock market. This plan is ignorant and immoral.
The people need to figure out ways to fix the wobbling economy and
stock market other than raiding Social Security, defaulting on commitments
to citizens and enslaving ensuing generations with debt.
In cities across the country, we are readily trading scarce resources
desperately needed to fix schools, roads, sewers and to create good
jobs, for sports arenas and convention centers. In Indianapolis
alone we are faced with an $800 million repair of our schools, which
we will have to meet with property taxes. At the same time, plans
are being finalized for an additional $800 million for a sports
stadium and convention facility expansion to be financed with "gambling
The last time Hoosiers were given such a bait and switch was when
they allowed the state lottery to be implemented, proceeds of which
were promised to go to roads, bridges and schools. No one seems
to know where the lottery profits are going. Taxes keep going up.
The state is still broke and these basic infrastructure needs are
continuing to grow.
Unemployment and under-employment are at record levels with no
significant improvement in sight. Most good manufacturing jobs are
limited, even high-tech jobs are being outsourced overseas. Crane
Naval Center, a major employer in southern Indiana, even during
this wartime buildup is at risk of closure.
Meanwhile the United States is losing its most precious resource,
the young; lost in a malaise of menial jobs at best, drifting nowhere.
Many even have post-econdary training or education but cannot find
the jobs that match their skills. There are few from the upper class
who will somehow wander like nomads from job to job as our economy
continues to falter.
If one reads the paper on any given day, what is the most quoted
indicator of economic health? Consumer confidence. So who will be
the consumers in the future? Not the millions of unemployed, under-employed
or seniors who are so on the edge with the current cost of healthcare
that they have to cut their pills in half or stand in line for days
for public assistance for food and heat.
Realize, America – most of the baby boomers, soon to be seniors,
did not save or plan for going it alone without real social benefits.
They’ve been busy growing the economy, being consumers.
The most distressing aspect of all of the above is that the citizens
seem to have no legitimate public discourse on these very real,
important issues. Endless discourse on gays, guns and God continue
to take center stage in deference to seemingly everything else.
The real discussions and decisions seem more often to be made in
some cloistered back room and then summarily announced to the people.
The media does very little to explore these issues, preferring to
take up all of their airtime with reinforcing fear of terrorists,
artfully crafted religious exhortations, and salacious stories of
local and national murders.
What can be done? First, citizens must recognize that they have
these problems. In order not to be victimized by them, people need
to get involved. Who is your congressman? Who is your local precinct
leader? How many different taxing agencies are affecting you and
how are you represented? How are you, the citizen, monitoring what
the government is really doing and spending? What do your schools,
streets, and parks look like? Who is helping the homeless and how?
Secondly, it is time for real, unscripted town hall meetings on
all government issues. It is time to get government back to work
and accountable to the public, not just the wealthy few that want
the public to pay for their enterprises. Public works projects could
easily employ a lot of people in good jobs fixing our dilapidated
schools, roads, sewers, and bridges. These are jobs that desperately
need to be done to improve the economy, tax base and quality of
life for all citizens.
Finally, the United States would save thousands of lives and billions
of dollars if its governmental representatives would participate
fairly and honestly in the international community instead of creating
excuses to take advantage of others in order to steal their resources.
The Greeks and Romans were also infamous empire builders and enjoyed
great stadiums. Their economies at that time also operated on a
two-tier structure of haves and have-nots (wealthy and poor). Our
pre-Civil war society was also a two-class system as much of our
economy was dependent on slaves. What can we learn from those legacies?
We must re-harness the power of democracy in America before we
are thrown back into a two-class society, where most of us may become
the nameless, faceless, voiceless and poor.