Thursday, October 20, 2011

What I Hope #OWS Will Accomplish

First (and again), I can't stress enough that I am not an active participant in any of the Occupy movements around the country. The nearest to me would be Indianapolis, I'd have no way of getting there even if I wanted to, and my health's so crappy I can only barely make it out of my apartment two or three times a month for very short periods of time. So that's out.

Second, the ideas I'm going to present below do not represent what I think is actually achievable. What might be or wouldn't be achievable would take a completely separate blog post, if not a full-scale book to set down.

Below, then, are the issues which I, as a private citizen, feel need to be addressed. They appear in no particular order, and in some cases are more fully-fleshed than others. The ideas presented are really only a much-abbreviated version of my personal wish list.

Get Corporate Money Out of Politics
I think I've heard this mentioned by occupiers more often than anything else, and I couldn't agree more. The trouble is how, exactly, is this to be accomplished? The idea I've most often seen regarding getting corporate money out of politics is to get the states, since Congress will never go along with it, to agree to call a constitutional convention, which would then draft an amendment to the U.S. Constitution essentially reversing the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the notorious Citizens United case.

The trouble with that idea is that corporate money is involved in the state legislatures too, although to a lesser extent than it is in Congress. Another problem is that many would-be professional politicians get their start in one of the state legislatures, hoping to go on to "bigger and better things" later on (i.e. election to the U.S. House or Senate). They're unlikely to be sympathetic to the idea of reducing the flow of cash to the members of a body whose ranks they hope to join one day.

Dismantle the "National Security State"
This heads such issues as the repeal of the infamous "Patriot Act" and the other similar and/or supporting acts of Congress which were initiated by President George W. Bush, and which have been added to and strengthened substantially by President Barack Obama. Collectively, these acts represent the most heinous, fundamental assault on the civil liberties of Americans since the notorious "Alien and Sedition" acts were enacted under President John Adams. There is also the point to consider that the establishment of the so-called "Department of Homeland Security" and the various minion agencies which were created to augment and support it represented a doubling of the size of the Federal government (and of the government's non-military expenditures) from what existed at the time George W. Bush first took the oath of office on January 20, 2001.

Clearly, doing anything in the way of the repeal and subsequent dismantling of DHS and any of its subordinate agencies would represent taking a colossal political risk on the part of any elected official who might support such a move. That would be the case even for elected officials who might not be personally corrupt in the sense of having benefited financially from the industries which make the national security state possible.

Why? Because there are individuals and entities existing in the world who do wish the United States and the people thereof harm, even if the majority of them may only be semi-brainless fanatics. Even if the political climate in this country weren't as poisonous as it is, any politician with even half a brain must realize that were they to vote for the disestablishment of the national security state, and if a successful attack were then made within this country resulting in mass casualties, their career in politics would be finished. The dead and/or wounded would have been their fault. At least that is what the perception of the media, and of a very large segment of the general public would be.

Bring the Troops Home, Drastically Downsize the Defense Budget
This amounts to the dismantling of the "American Empire" and of ending U.S. military adventurism and interventionism. These ideas seem to be prevalent among a large proportion of the Occupy crowd, although nowhere near everyone involved would think these ideas even worth mentioning.

First, while there have always been Americans who have believed (as George Washington did) that the less the United States has to do with other countries the better, there have also always been (and still are) many millions of Americans who believe that exactly the opposite is true. Anytime a people anywhere are oppressed, there are Americans (including many on the "progressive" Left) who believe the U.S. ought to intervene, even militarily, on "humanitarian" grounds even when the regimes involved pose no threat whatsoever to the security of the United States. In support of this assertion I offer the unilateral military interventions decreed by Democratic President Barack Obama in the affairs of Libya and Uganda. There are also Americans (perhaps more on the political Right) who believe (rightly, in my view) that a war economy produces more jobs (and profits!) than does a peacetime economy. Then there are those on the political far-Right who genuinely believe in what has been labeled "American exceptionalism," that the United States somehow has a "duty," possibly divinely-ordained, to act as the world's policeman.

Second, the drastic downsizing of the defense budget would inevitably lead to the loss of tens of thousands, if not millions, of American jobs, as pointed out above. Huge defense contractors such as Boeing, Lockheed, and a plethora of others would find themselves with no further rationale (in a business sense) for employing those American workers who make the Pentagon's "toys." If the U.S. economy were healthy, if unemployment in the United States was low, such cuts in themselves would undoubtedly raise the unemployment level substantially, and might indeed cause the whole economy to slow to a crawl.  And today, of course, the U.S. economy is already circling the proverbial bowl, and unemployment is already at unacceptably high levels. Again, no politician in his or her right mind is going to support this, since their political enemies would inevitably (and gleefully) point the finger at those responsible and accuse them of throwing millions of Americans out of work, to say the very least.

Third, like it or not, the United States has now become a global empire, at least on a de facto basis, and any historian worth his or her salt knows very well that, in historical terms, once an empire comes into being, it has no alternative but to continue to expand, that the instant an empire ceases to expand, it begins to die, and that what may take its place when it finally does die is unpredictable and often wholly unforeseeable.

None of the above is to say that I am not personally in favor of dismantling the American Empire and of drastically downsizing our defense establishment, but it is, I think, necessary to at least look at some of the real issues involved, and to understand that the whole issue isn't nearly as simple as it may appear on the surface.

There are my two (or three) cents for today. There are a great many other issues I would like to see addressed in a best-case scenario, but I'll leave those for another post.

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