Thursday, October 6, 2011

Neither capitalism nor democracy

America has neither capitalism nor democracy currently. 

Capitalism would require that government let bankrupt firms fail.  Capitalism would require that the owners of capital—not corporate managements—would have a majority say in how companies are run.  Capitalism would never permit the rich to impose their personal investment losses on the rest of tax-paying Americans.  In-your-face bonuses paid to Wall Street executives whose firms and jobs were saved on the taxpayers’ back would not have happened under a capitalist system.

Democracy would require that “persons” be people, human beings, not cash-bloated corporations.  Democracy would require that the desires of the people would be effected, to a reasonable and rational degree, by their elected representatives, not cynically ignored as they grovel for their campaign dollars before their moneyed donors, a rich class that controls not only the politicians but corporate governance (which they’ve lock up tight), and to an increasing degree, national governments around the world. 

In reflecting upon what it would take to amend the Constitution, the phrase “no exit” occurred to me.  Here’s the process:

Article V of the Constitution spells out the processes by which amendments can be proposed and ratified.

To Propose Amendments

  • Two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to propose an amendment, or
  • Two-thirds of the state legislatures ask Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments. (This method has never been used.)

To Ratify Amendments

  • Three-fourths of the state legislatures approve it, or
  • Ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the states approve it. This method has been used only once -- to ratify the 21st Amendment -- repealing Prohibition.

The Supreme Court has stated that ratification must be within "some reasonable time after the proposal." Beginning with the 18th amendment, it has been customary for Congress to set a definite period for ratification. In the case of the 18th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd amendments, the period set was 7 years, but there has been no determination as to just how long a "reasonable time" might extend.

Of the thousands of proposals that have been made to amend the Constitution, only 33 obtained the necessary two-thirds vote in Congress. Of those 33, only 27 amendments (including the Bill of Rights) have been ratified.  (source)

It will require a Congress, or two thirds of the state legislatures—both of whom are dependent on rich donors—willing to vote above their own narrow self-interest to get an amendment even proposed.  I would guess that it will remain impossible for inside-the-Beltway politicians ever to achieve that state of mind.  A proposal to amend will have to come from the state legislatures.

What we have now is a semi-feudal system, a class system supported in principle and in effect by the Republican party, who, as shown a few posts ago, are the party of increasing inequality.  So the red states will be hard to get on board with a proposal to amend unless the commoners suddenly wake up to their exploited state.

The Reid tax proposal, to impose a 5 percent surcharge on incomes over a million dollars a year is estimated to generate about half a trillion in incremental revenue, or about a third of the projected deficits near-term.  That’s how unequal things are.  If only the average Republican could see that they’re being snookered with a load of Reaganite bunkum…. 

It will take a sea-change of popular opinion about government, taxes, sharing, work, reward, democracy for America to exit the one-way street to neo-feudalism we’re on now.


  1. Well stated, friend. Reluctantly, I'm beginning to accept your neo-feudalism argument.

  2. Isn't a "5 percent surcharge on incomes" just as much a snooker job? The "real" rich don't technically have incomes nor pay an income tax. Doesn't Reid'd proposal help to protect the super rich by placing the "fee" tax on the "working" rich?

  3. Good point--the hedge fund guys and girls do have "incomes," they're just taxed at ridiculously low rates. so there's still the issue of closing the capital gains loophole(s)