Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Carlin and the American Dream

George Carlin's 2005 classic on the American Dream ("you have to be asleep to believe it") has been making the rounds again recently. In it he rails against the fact that the country and the politicians are bought and sold by the big corporations. It's a (very depressing) comedy routine so his case is overstated, or at the very least I'd like to conclude something other than his complete despair, but it's also easy to find ample evidence of the way the moneyed are able to exert influence that significantly undermines real democracy and reform. Here are two recent examples:

1) The Montgomery County Council recently considered a resolution asking Council to spend less on wars and more on social programs. This is hardly a controversial position. Polls show, for example, that a majority of Americans believe the US should not be involved in Afghanistan. The Council was prepared to support the motion 5-4. But for some mysterious reason, after LockMart, as we affectionately refer to them in these parts, began talking with county officials, the resolution was withdrawn for "lack of support".

2) Another example involves my home and native land. It seems Trans-Canada has been using lobbyists to get close to State Department officials who have been cheerleading their efforts to get approval for a pipeline from the tar sands deep into the US, possibly circumventing environmental regulation scrutiny,  and helping them find loopholes to avoid public scrutiny over attempts to make the line exceed usual pressure constraints.  In the end, their money and lobbyists have given them far more access to the public officials who make the decisions than the pipelines opponents have had.

A more glaring example, of course, was the health care legislation that this administration pushed through. The efforts to appease the medical insurance and pharmaceutical lobby first ensured a result that was far less effective than it might have been had we simply found a workable compromise between intelligent liberals and conservatives unimpeded by corporate interests. 

(note also his prescience wrt Social Security)

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