Thursday, August 4, 2011


When I speak of morals, I am not talking about those of any particular religion. Nor am I talking about some mythical objective morality expounded by Sam Harris. Both of those approaches either have, or will, take us down a path that only leads to divisiveness at best, and outright hatred at worst. Perhaps I am talking about spiritual morality or just plain common sense. This is not to say that there are not basic positive moral codes in the various religions. In fact, their fundamental principles are essentially the same. However, the mere invocation of a Christian, Muslim moral precept raises the hackles of the non-Christian or Muslim.

Most have followed our dysfunctional Congress as they debated raising the debt ceiling. Most were also appalled at the way political ideology almost, and still may, brought the nation to economic ruin. Much of the debate, particularly from the far right, the Tea Party, centered on the notion that government has gotten too big and that liberties were being destroyed by Big Brother. What mattered little was any concern for the elderly, the poor, the unemployed and the needs of the people and the environment. Concern seemed greatest for Wall Street, the banks and the rich. Unfortunately for us all, the concerns over Big Brother have been misplaced. It is not the government that should be watched. Rather, it is the power of the rich.

America has always had a common sense tradition of helping each other. This is the very notion of ‘commonwealth.’ It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that the ‘people’ felt the need to increase the role of government in order to protect that commonwealth. Abuses by growing corporations against men, women and children led to demands by the people that they be protected against the onslaught of corporate greed. When it was discovered that these same ‘robber barons’ were also destroying the environment, once again, the people demanded redress. The abuses of Wall Street resulted in the creation of a host of social safety programs that would help guarantee that people could live their lives with decency. As a society, we agreed that no one should be hungry, homeless, or without some form of medical help and income in their later years. The people took a moral stance as to how we wanted to live and die and agreed to let our government do what was necessary to accommodate these desires. Was or are the programs designed to meet these objectives perfect. Of course not.

The growth of government corresponded with the abuses of corporations. Blatant and wanton environmental destruction required environmental laws. The use of dangerous and disease producing chemicals in products required safety laws. Dangerous toys and false product claims demanded further regulation. Shoddy construction required building standards. A society on the go resulted in even more safety laws. The point is, where we are today is the result of corporate abuse. It makes common sense to want safe products, clean water and air, a life where you don’t lose all to pay for medical needs, and some form of protection from companies that have no issue with moving jobs to foreign lands so they can make larger profits. Government did not grow because of some dictator that assumed power and then imposed its will upon the people. It grew because of the will of the people.

I would venture to say that on average, people don’t generally feel that government controls their daily lives. Unless you are trying to do something that may affect your neighbors, most people can say, do, and think what they will. Yes, we have certainly allowed protections to go overboard, but the fundamental needs and wishes of the people for a safe, secure, free and open society have not changed. Further, there is still the option of throwing rascals out of office.

However, let’s look at Wall Street. Given the opportunity, and there are plenty of them, they are openly impinging upon your rights and freedoms. Whenever possible, they have and will take away your right to a safe environment. They pollute the air, the water and the soil. From oil spills to carcinogenic materials, they do all that they can to make profit over preserving the environment. They also lie about what they are doing and are rarely held accountable for their actions. Whenever possible, they take as many short cuts as they can with regard to food safety. They fight against the right of workers to bargain for good wages and benefits and if it gets too dicey, they simply move jobs overseas, thus curtailing you right to live and work where you choose. In the name of a free economy, they try to take away your right to social security and want you to mortgage your life away for private insurance. They create new diseases and then the pill to fix it, until it’s deemed dangerous and taken off the market. They destroy small businesses but out competing and pricing. They suck you into a mortgage you can’t afford and then take your home away to sell to the next sucker. They charge usurious rates for credit and will toss you out on the street at the first hint of any payment problem. They purposely withhold inventions and technologies so that they can continue to exhaust a resource and pull every penny out each investment, if even if that investment is destructive. In a 8/4/11 article in the Huffington Post regarding patents, it was noted that:

Today, the patent bill looks like a scorecard tallying points for powerful corporations: a win for pharmaceutical companies whose monopolies are driving up Medicare costs; a win for Wall Street's battle against check-processing patents; a loss for tech giants who had hoped to curb costly lawsuits.

Left out of the tally is the public, even as the economic landscape for American families grows darker. Historian Richard Hofstadter famously observed that Congress during the Gilded Age busied itself with dividing the nation's spoils among the rich and powerful. But as the current patent struggle suggests, the spoilsmen are back and Washington is once again an arbiter of who lands the lucre.”

What is ironic is that the very right wing groups who decry the growth of big government are trying to through the public back into the hands of big corporations whose sole motive is to make money. These very same hands are the reason for the growth in government in the first place as it was necessary to fight the growing stranglehold Wall Street did and does have on every American citizen. The moral deficit in this country far surpasses the extent of the budget deficit. We are in the American Winter, one can only hope that we see spring once again.