August 4, 2002


Broken Promises and Political Deception (AL GORE, August 4, 2002, NY Times)
In every race this November, the question voters must answer is, How do we make sure that political power is used for the benefit of the many, rather than the few? [...]

This struggle between the people and the powerful was at the heart of every major domestic issue of the 2000 campaign and is still the central dynamic of politics in 2002. The choice, not just in rhetoric but in reality, was and still is between a genuine prescription drug benefit for all seniors under Medicare - or a token plan designed to trick the voters and satisfy pharmaceutical companies. The White House and its allies in Congress have just defeated legislation that would have fulfilled the promises both parties made in 2000.

The choice was and still is between a real patients' bill of rights - or doing the bidding of the insurance companies and health maintenance organizations. Here again: promise made, promise broken. The choice was and still is an environmental policy based on conservation, new technologies, alternative fuels and the protection of natural wonders like the Alaskan wilderness - or walking away from the grave challenge of global warming, doing away with Superfund cleanups and giving in on issue after issue to those who profit from pollution. And the choice, even more urgently today, is between protecting Social Security or raiding it and then privatizing it so that the trust fund can be used to finance massive tax cuts that primarily benefit the very rich.

Mr. Gore of course has things exactly backwards. The great threat to democracy does not come from the wealthy few, who are by definition relatively lacking in permanent power--sure an industry can buy a few congressmen, regulators or even an administration, but they probably can't buy enough voters to keep those lackeys in office. No, the real danger lies with the many, the people, particularly the vast middle class--which is easily bought off by government and becomes a permanent constituency for ever greater benefits for itself and ever greater regulation and taxation of the wealthy, whether individuals or corporations. Note that the main example Mr. Gore chooses is the prescription drug plan, yet another program that will benefit the enormous and already well-to-do cohort of senior citizens. Likewise, he grovels before the altar of Social Security, and even seems to acknowledge that if it were privatized we'd be able to cut taxes for people who are producing wealth. Thus, in a democracy, do the many extort the largesse of government at the expense of the few. Posted by Orrin Judd at August 4, 2002 9:25 AM
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