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Mattern: The Rise Of Plutocracy & Corporate Rule

The Decline Of Democracy And Rise Of Plutocracy And Corporate Rule


By Douglas Mattern

It’s difficult to comprehend how the political leadership in the United States of America has degenerated from the brilliant leadership of Franklin Roosevelt and the inspiration of John Kennedy to the dreadful leadership of recent years. The U.S. has sadly declined from the noble democratic ideals so eloquently expressed by President Roosevelt on the role of government: “The pace of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough to those who have too little.”

This ideal has degraded to a “greed is good” philosophy and the Ronald Reagan drivel that “government is the problem.” Add the many politicians that are bought by corporate America through campaign donations and the result is legislation that is transforming the U.S. from a democracy to a plutocracy where the rich rule.

We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great
wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both
- Supreme Court Justice Louis B. Brandeis

And today we do not have both. The richest 1 percent of Americans now have more income that the bottom 96 million. The richest 1 percent owns nearly half the country's wealth. The top 10 percent owns 80 percent of the wealth. The Census Bureau reports the gap between rich and poor is the largest in 75 years, just before the Great Depression.

Moreover, it’s getting worse under the woeful leadership of the Bush Administration. Last year, for example, another one million Americans were added to the poverty role that now totals 37 million of our citizens. As the number of people in poverty rises, so does the number of billionaires in this country, over 225 and increasing.

The 2005 Human Development Report (HDR) that is issued annually by the United Nations and covers all 191 Member States shows the U.S. ranks 10th among the world’s nations in the category that combines health quality, education, and standard of living. In the category of life expectancy the U.S. ranks 29th. In the poverty index involving the richest 18 countries, the U.S. ranks at the bottom in 17th place. This is a disgraceful condition in the world’s richest country and a betrayal of the hard-fought struggles for democracy and equality waged in past decades by American workers.

The globalization free-market policy led by the U.S. has also produced gross inequality in many parts of the world. The HDR states: “Large parts of the Developing World are being left behind.” and further, “human development gaps between rich and poor countries, already large, are widening.”

The HDR states: “For all of the highly visible achievements, the reach of globalization and scientific advance falls far short of ending the unnecessary suffering, debilitating diseases and death from preventable illness that blight the lives of the world’s poor people.”

On the global level, 20 percent of the population holds over 75 percent of the wealth. A few hundred billionaires have compiled as much wealth as half of humanity. This inequality is the source of great unrest and protest with the most recent example at the Fourth Summit of the Americas held in Argentina with most of the hostility directed at Bush the Second.

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime
- Aristotle

Academician Bernard Poirot-Delpech wrote in the French newspaper Le Monde a few years ago: “The temptation is to shut ourselves off,cover our eyes and applaud the use of force, but the tide of the poor keeps coming, wave after wave, each time stronger and stronger. The Third World War has begun, waged by the rich against all others.”

Globalization should mean working together to create a just world community for the 21st century and not waging a kind of economic warfare to hoard the world’s wealth and resources for a minority that also has no consideration for leaving precious resources for future generations.

What we have is not globalization for the many, but corporate globalization to serve the interests of a few rich governments, the multinationals, and in the process making the rich fabulously richer.

Corporate globalization is undemocratic and destructive. It is also an environmental nightmare due to its dependency on mass consumption and waste, along with turning our planet into a giant marketplace where everything is for sale to the highest bidder.

We must achieve globalization that is democratic and serves all the people with new economic models, and where it would be unthinkable for a few billionaires to possess as much wealth a billion poor people.

In addition to education and peaceful protests against unjust free- market policies and the mind-numbing “let the market rule” mentality, we need to find, support, and elect a new kind of political leadership with idealism and a democratic vision of the future. Senator William Fulbright described this kind of leadership in his book, The Price of Power: “The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership—a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition…The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and understanding between cultures.”

Such a change would bring people back to the voting booth and help rescue our democracy here and the world community. It’s a non-violent imperative revolution, and it’s time to begin.

*************

Douglas Mattern is president of the Association of World Citizens, a San Francisco based international peace organization with branches in 30 countries, and author of the forthcoming book "Looking for Square Two - Moving From War and Violence to Global Community" published by American Book Publishing Co.

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