March 3, 2008


by David E. Washburn

The very character of our nation is more seriously in question now than at any time since the Civil War. Our founders, with a keen understanding of human nature and the experience of despotic rule, fashioned a Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. These elegant documents were designed to free us from autocracy and protect us, through a balance of powers, against tyranny, whether that tyranny be of the few or the many. Alexis deTocqueville, in his mighty “Democracy in America” rightly warned us of a possible tyranny of the majority. Over the years, however, we have devolved into a thoroughly corporatist society. We are tyrannized by a corporate elite who control markets and shape national policy in their, rather than the peoples’ interests with the assistance of their minions, both Republican and Democrat, in the political sphere.

We go to war in Iraq over oil and to protect the interests of big oil, big energy, and the automotive industry rather than fully commit our nation to energy independence. We stay there, against the wishes of the majority of our population, to maintain a controlling presence in the Middle East as we continue to rely on oil and to fill the coffers of oligopolistic multinational corporations. Hunt Oil, whose chief executive and president, Ray Hunt, is a close political ally of President Bush and serves on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, signed the first American oil contract in Iraq, a production-sharing agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government. Halliburton, Parsons, Flour, Washington Group International, and Bechtel are among the corporations making billions off the war. Pentagon no-bid defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman grow fat while the children of the poor, the working class, and the lower half of what is left of the shrinking middle class return to us in coffins, or limbless, or brain damaged, and emotionally scarred. Private armies, beyond the control of the American people, like Blackwater and DynCorp International, protect the interests of the corporate and political elite.

While the bulk of our nation wishes to stem the tide of illegal immigration rushing across our borders, corporations profit from the cheap labor they provide and the wealthy maintain a supply of inexpensive domestic servants. If the people controlled our government, employers of undocumented workers would be heavily fined and/or jailed. Since the primary motivation for illegal immigration is economic, as jobs dried up illegal immigration would greatly diminish. It is not complicated. Neither is the reason it is not happening.

The president has gone to great lengths to protect the communications corporations complicit in the illegal wiretapping of American citizens. Protection of the constitutional rights of the American people is seemingly, much lower on his priority list.

As that “great sucking sound” of manufacturing jobs leaving our shores that Ross Perot warned us about grows to a crescendo, communities crumble. The value of a corporations’ stock trumps the national interest. Maximizing profits by moving a company’s manufacturing interests overseas is more important than maintaining a middle class in the United States.

Although, the United States, the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, has signed the unratified Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change, no national legislation has occurred to force the large corporate polluters, big energy, big oil, and the automotive industry to curb their deleterious practices because it “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States.” Evidently the corporate elite would rather die rich than save the world.

The constitutional government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” so brilliantly crafted by our founding fathers has slowly eroded over the two hundred and twenty years since its inception. In a March 15, 1789 letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be for many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its turn, but at a more distant period.” That period has come in the Bush/Cheney administration, and it is fully allied with the corporate elite.

The only way to save America is to blunt the power of the overlapping circles of influence: corporate, political, and military. We citizens need to find politicians more concerned with solving problems than positioning themselves for the next election. This is a daunting task in a political system awash in corporate money. There are candidates abroad in the land who tell us that they will take on the special interests and end the war in Iraq through diplomacy, focus on international cooperation in the war on terror, solve the immigration crisis, restore the peoples’ constitutional freedoms, establish a healthcare system, available to all, which is geared toward serving the needs of the public rather than the profits of the corporations, work towards energy independence, fight global warming, restore the decaying national infrastructure while creating jobs, revitalize public education, and avert the upcoming financial crisis. Would that it would be so. The American citizenry must do its homework to select leaders who are willing to guide us through the sacrifices necessary to solve these problems. And then, as a human community of judges, we must apply the old logical rule of accountability, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

David E. Washburn is a Honolulu-based author and lecturer. Reach him at

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