America’s Bargained Democracy
Alison Stanger wrote “knock on the door of the Federal Government in 2009, chances are that you will find nobody at home” in her recently published book One Nation Under Contract. The staggering scope of privatization of our government’s services and duties started by Eisenhower and accelerated with George W. Bush, has created a shadow government that in size has neverbefore been seen in the history of industrialized world.
Federal contracting of every imaginable government service, from prisons to census to tallying up our taxes-and many more-engorged the outsourcing-industrial complex in a way that now Americans have virtually next to no control over their governments’ processes.
Stanger’s research confirms that the top five U.S. contractors–Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop, General Dynamics, and Raytheon-reaped profits totaling $12.94 billion in 2005. To understand the amount of this staggering sum; she gives the example that Goldman Sachs at the height of its powers reported profits of $5.6 billion that same year.
Privatization of our national security is especially of concern with mercenary armies taking over the duties of our troops while getting paid often twice to three times more, and in return creating a culture of resentment, distrust and an insurmountable amount of waste at the levels of billions and trillions of dollars.
Moreover, there are many revolving doors where corporations and the uber-wealthy directly or indirectly fund political candidates during their campaigning to win their political races. In turn these politicians become indebted to these organizations and/or individuals. Politicians pay their dues by pushing for fewer regulations, less taxation for the related industries or stopping laws that can keep these industries accountable for damaging our planet or practicing fraud.
Also, it has become a routine practice for high-level government officials to be hired at high-paying positions by these corporations once they are done with their government jobs. It is clear that revolving doors between government and the private sector are channels to corruption.
Of course it would not come as a surprise to most of us that these same companies are mostly the ones at the top of the donation lists of many politicians’ winning campaigns. Consequently, all of these ‘purchased’ government officials are under constant pressure from corporate lobbyists and wealthy campaign donors to do their bidding at every level of congressional decision and action.
In layman’s terms our government, and therefore our democracy is taken over by corporations, and we are now officially a corporatocracy: a corporate-government partnership that controls society. As Bruce Levine explains in his book, Get Up, Stand Up, in direct democracies people directly rule, in a coporatocracy, the candidates supported by these corporations win most of the elections, especially when the mass media is a major part of the corporatocracy. We do not have an uncontrollable big government; we have a government that is suffocating at the hands of self-serving corporations.
So what do we do to get our democracy working again and get our government back?
Several accountability and transparency initiatives are currently in workings; from 2006 FFATA –Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act- to bring transparency to government spending (initiated by then Senator Obama) to 2010 DISCLOSE Act -also known as H.R. 5175 (S.3628-Senate) – to prohibit government contractors from making expenditures relating to such elections, and to establish additional disclosure requirements with respect to spending in such elections, and for other purposes.
Of course as the people of this country, it is our job to keep our government accountable and pressure it to stay transparent in its dealings domestically and internationally. It would be a grave mistake with devastating consequences to assume government will correct itself without our impetus or support.
We are the ones needed to press for freedom of information laws, campaign reform laws, regulation and oversight. We are the ones needed to elect candidates who pledge to work for these transparency initiatives and for the American people, not for large corporations. We are the ones who must practice the due diligence of checking backgrounds of the political candidates before voting them into office and giving them the power to make decisions on our behalf.
In short, we are the ones that will take our democracy and government back from the tentacles of these extremely powerful corporations and their frenzied lobbies. Like Shaw once said “The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.”