Wednesday, October 26, 2011

First Amendment: At What Price? 99%

In 1789, the framers of the U.S. Constitution learned from the tyrannous rule of England, and learned from the mistakes and subsequent failure of the U.S. Articles of Confederation. One of the results was the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. They are more commonly referred to as the U.S. Bill of Rights.

The first of those 10 amendments reads like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Of course, the bold text is my emphasis. This is the part that the police and city officials in Oakland, CA and Atlanta, GA have simply skipped over in their efforts to squelch the Occupy Wall Street protesters in their respective cities.

Yes, in Oakland and Atlanta, peaceful demonstrations against the growing disparity of wealth in this country, coupled with a growing perception of a government that caters to only the wealthiest of the country, have ended with arrests of those protesters. In Oakland, the police used tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bags, and flash grenades to break up a peaceful protest.

The scenes shown on my TV during the evening news looked like the type of things we are shown from protests in foreign countries with corrupt dictators. These scenes, like the ones shown from Oakland and Atlanta, are the ones that are often shown by the media to highlight the corruption of those regimes. These scenes are the ones used by the mainstream media to polarize the American populace to support the overthrow of those corrupt foreign dictators. Yet these scenes are coming into my living room, straight from the streets of America.

Without a doubt, the disparity in wealth widens every day. The richest -- those top 1% that are often alluded to -- saw their incomes grow more than six times than the incomes of the middle class. The richest typically pay a smaller percentage of their "incomes" in taxes than the middle class workers they employ.

Last year, General Electric, a large multi-national corporate citizen of this country, paid exactly $0 in income taxes. Billionaire Warren Buffet paid a smaller percentage of his income on taxes than did his secretary. Repeatedly, the American public watches as CEOs are hired and fired, most often with them receiving outrageously large "severance" packages, even though their failed policies and practices cause enormous losses for the companies they are supposed to be leading down a path of profit and prosperity.

Banks, financial institutions and corporations who received part of the enormous government bailout funds are STILL paying their CEOs/COOs/CFOs outrageously enormous "incentives" and "bonuses," despite their continued failed policies and leadership. Yes, our tax dollars bailed them out of nearly certain financial ruin and collapse, and they continue as if it's business as usual.

So does the American public have a right to be angry? Do the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters have a beef with how things are going? In my view, they damn well have a right to be angry. They have more than enough reason to "redress their grievances" with how things are going. More Americans support the Occupy Wall Street protesters than oppose it.

Consider the roots of the perception that the government only serves the wealthy. On paper, our elected officials are supposed to represent ALL of the people they represent. During the campaigns, however, the vast majority of campaign donations come from the wealthiest of the electorate. Meanwhile, the middle class and lower class residents don't have the means (disposable income) to make large donations to political campaigns. As a result, those political "representatives" who gain office are often beholden to those who made the largest donations to get them elected. Since nearly all politicians are more concerned with being able to get re-elected (which translates into yet another and another and another campaign) than doing what is fair and equitable for the people they have been elected to represent, no politician is going to support or propose legislation -- at any level of government -- that might make them lose the support of the "cash cow" supporters who provided the majority of the funds for their election campaign. Thus, in this manner, the wealthy are able to get legislation that favors their particular situation and circumstances passed, despite the harm that legislation may do to the "greater good."

After years and years of buying our leaders, the rich get richer and the poor and middle class get poorer. As a result, the disparity of wealth in this country has become greater than it ever has been in our history. It has, as some have called it, become "class warfare."

A couple of months ago, the public approval rating for Congress was rated at only 14% by one poll. Today, their approval rating has dipped to only 9% -- just when you thought it couldn't go lower. But watch. In the 2012 elections, I bet an overwhelming large percentage of those congressional members who received such a low approval rating, end up getting re-elected. Such is the myopic view of the American electorate.

The OWS protesters, and those who support them, are tired of "business as usual." Things must change. We can't continue down the same path that brought us to this point. It's time for change.

1 comment:

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