Letter to the editor: David Estey

Who’s to blame?

Sun, 10/18/2020 - 9:30pm

Many people are justifiably angry and frustrated about their circumstances today and seem to need somebody to blame. It is often other people who act, look and think differently from them.

But people different from us are not the primary reasons for our misery. In many cases things, not people, are to blame: things like automation, rampant capitalism, global markets, foreign competition, climate change and pandemics, all things we have to confront and deal with. Yet there are people (not the ones we may think) who are very much to blame for nearly all of our dissatisfaction, and we don’t fully understand the depth and breadth of their power and influence. They are the super-rich and the corporate giants. That’s where we need to place the blame and come to grips with their stranglehold on our lives. They cause many of the differences we see in one another and are behind most of the problems we haven’t been able to fix. Why? Because those fixes would inevitably reduce their profits or shrink their power.

We all want fair taxes, a living wage, affordable housing, affordable health care, a way to provide for ourselves and our families, a chance to succeed, good schools for our kids, maybe a way to send them to college or trade school, safe streets, a more civil society, a healthy environment, a sound infrastructure, a sustainable planet, a free country and a government that provides for the common defense and promotes the general welfare but otherwise stays out of our lives. To have these things, we’ve got to come together, help lift people out of poverty, rebuild the middle class and greatly reduce income inequality. This does not mean embracing socialism or discouraging accumulation of great wealth, but it does mean facing and reining in obscene, unimaginable wealth and power at the top on the backs of everyone else.

We probably all agree that lobbying money from the rich and powerful has way too much influence on the legislative and executive branches of government, but do we really understand just how pervasive it is or that it extends also to the judicial branch and now virtually controls all three branches of government? Consider this: From 2005 through 2017, the Supreme Court issued 78 opinions by a 5-4 or 5-3 majority appointed by Republican presidents, and 73 out of 78 cases concerned interests of the big funders, corporate influences and political base of, yes, the Republican Party. In all 73 cases, those partisan interests won. Is that fair, objective justice? Five of today’s justices are current or former members of the conservative Federalist Society and all recent nominees have come from a list approved by that private, unelected organization accountable to no one except big donors unleashed by that very Court’s Citizens United decision to allow secret, unlimited, political donations by corporations. During the Trump administration, The Court has granted 22 Trump administration stay requests to block opposing lower-court opinions versus only four such requests under Bush and Obama combined.

If Trump’s replacement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg gets confirmed, no matter how qualified Judge Barrett may be, the resulting 6-3 conservative Supreme Court would be a disaster for our democracy, giving corporate billionaires an unstoppable hand in erasing Obamacare, a woman’s right to choose, consumer protection, dreamer protection, gun control measures, labor gains, voter rights and other civil-rights progress over the last 50 years — and maybe even the outcome of a contested presidential election.

So in all three branches of the federal government we see overwhelming influence of the rich and powerful, with a callous disregard for the welfare and the wishes of the vast majority. That’s why people are so angry, casting about to place blame, and gravitating to a strong outsider who can break these chains. The heroes we are looking for are us, however — we the people. We still have the power and the opportunity to save our country, to start anew. We must begin by removing those entrenched enablers up and down ballot, from the president on down. That means we’ve got to get through a less-than-perfect election process, accept or work through a fair result, and have a peaceful transition of power. Then we’ve got to settle down, spend more time listening to, instead of talking at, one another; re-establish civility and trust; and be ready to face large, existential problems with bold and difficult solutions, including a fair tax system and getting big money out of politics. That’s how we make America great again.

David Estey lives in Belfast