GOP Government Setting New Standards For Corruption.

While most of the nation’s attention is focused on the immigration ban, the level of this administration’s corruption has been largely overlooked. It began even before Donald Trump took office when he became the first presidential candidate since Gerald Ford who refused to release his tax returns. As you no doubt recall, the reason given was that his returns were being audited by the IRS. But, after his election, Trump now claims that only the media are interested.

Why is he the first president in 40 years to break with tradition? Likely because his returns will show that he is not as successful as he claims and that, as many have reported, he owes a fortune to Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin.

But that is only one example of Trump’s new standard for lack of transparency.

It is now know that Trump used his campaign to funnel $14 million into his company coffers. Following his election, he refused to place his business interests into a blind trust to prevent conflicts of interest. This is important because Trump has business dealings around the globe – any one of which could violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause (Article 2, Section 1) which is cause for impeachment. Despite such concerns, immediately following the election, Trump used a phone call with the Japanese prime minister to request special handling of a hotel permit.

More worrying is the fact that Trump’s transition team tried to eliminate all Inspectors General which are responsible for investigating misconduct, waste, fraud and abuse of government procedures. The moment Trump was sworn into office (actually, it was the majority of Americans who were doing the swearing), Trump was in violation of the terms of his DC hotel lease. Eric Trump’s recent trip to Uruguay for Trump’s business interests cost taxpayers $97,830 in hotel bills (at a Trump Hotel, of course) for his accompanying security. And not to be left out, Melania’s attorneys argued as part of her libel suit against the Daily Mail that a story cost her a once in a lifetime chance to make millions in her business pursuits based on her new status as First Lady.

And the Trumps are not alone with their disregard for ethical standards.

The very first act of the new GOP-controlled Congress was to try to eliminate the independent Congressional ethics office with an early morning vote. They were stopped only when Democrats called attention to the vote and when Trump tweeted his displeasure (likely not with the action itself, but with the appearance of his complicity).

Despite reports from US intelligence agencies that Vladimir Putin interfered with our elections by ordering the hacks of the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee, the DCCC, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, and by paying young adults to serve as pro-Trump social media trolls, Congress has refused to authorize a special prosecutor to investigate. In fact, they have given the reports far less attention than the multiple investigations of Benghazi. And though, Republicans were horrified by Clinton’s use of a private email server, they seem totally unconcerned that Trump’s White House advisers are using private email accounts.

Moreover, many of Trump’s cabinet nominees and White House advisers have long-time ties to Putin. Trump himself has spoken in glowing terms about Putin and has drawn parallels between Putin’s strong arm tactics and the US. There are credible reports that Trump is being blackmailed by Putin as a result of a dossier on Trump’s actions while visiting Russia. In addition, there are allegations that Igor Sechin, CEO of Russia’s state oil company, offered Trump ally Carter Page a 19 percent stake in the company in exchange for Trump’s lifting of US sanctions on Russia. Though the economic sanctions have not yet been lifted, disregarding Trump’s executive order removing sanctions on the sale of cyber-technology to the Russian intelligence agency, there are reports that 19.5 percent of the Russian oil company was sold to anonymous buyers through a labyrinth of shell companies – a fact that should give us pause since it equals the exact amount promised to Trump plus the requisite brokerage fees!

In addition, White House insiders have reported that the Oval Office recorder was turned off during Trump’s phone conversation with Putin (shades of Tricky Dick Nixon). Yet Congress still refuses to have a serious investigation into Trump-Putin ties.

Domestically, Congress and Trump plan to gut Dodd-Frank, the law designed to prevent another financial meltdown such as the banking collapse of 2008. Trump overturned the fiduciary rule put in place by former President Obama to require financial planners to work in the best interests of their clients. The Senate confirmed Trump’s unqualified nominee for Secretary of Education likely due to the millions donated by DeVos and her family to help elect Republican candidates. And the Senate has voted to repeal the Dodd-Frank anti-corruption rule – a decision that benefits only too-big-to-fail banks and other large, multinational corporations.

Of course, there is much more.

Congress has promised to repeal the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act. There are bills to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and The Department of Education. And, given Trump’s cabinet nominees, it would seem that many other government agencies and departments, including the Labor Department, Energy Department and Health and Human Services are earmarked for destruction.

It cannot be said loud enough or repeated often enough: THIS IS NOT NORMAL!

The Panama Papers? Why Not The Delaware Papers?

While the Panama Papers exposed thousands of politicians and billionaires who have used off-shore tax havens to hide trillions of dollars from taxes, the leaked papers will likely have little effect on Americans. It’s not that American corporations, billionaires and politicians are any more trustworthy than their foreign counterparts. It’s just that they don’t need to hide their money in the Cayman Islands when they can hide it in a much safer and less transparent refuge…the United States.

That’s right, the US is quickly becoming the world’s capital for money-laundering and tax shelters. Outside of Kenya, the US is now the easiest country in the world to open an anonymous shell corporation. No need to move your money off shore; no need to hire a Panamanian law firm; no need to place your trust in the economy of a third world country. Instead, you can open a shell company in Delaware, Nevada or South Dakota that will allow you to invest your money anonymously.

A recent article in the Washington Post noted that, if it weren’t for such schemes, the US Treasury would annually collect an additional $36 billion from wealthy individuals and an additional $88 billion from multinational corporations. That’s $124 billion a year that could be used to pay for public schools, to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and to improve public transportation!

And US citizens are not the only ones who are taking advantage of our lax tax laws.

According to TaxHavenUSA.com, the US has become the world’s largest tax haven for wealthy non-residents. You see, Congress, in an attempt to encourage more investment in US securities, made it easier for non-residents to invest through “pass through” or “disregarded” tax entities. These are the same vehicles the Koch brothers and their wealthy rightwing friends are using to influence elections without disclosing the source of their funding.

Through these LLCs, non-residents can easily open US financial accounts and make investments in securities without paying US taxes on the income they earn. They can avoid US capital gains taxes. Further, the investors in these entities can operate businesses outside the US while taking advantage of US corporate tax write-offs and incentives. Thanks to a variety of treaties, non-resident investors can reduce their tax liabilities in other countries, as well. They can transfer income to other, lower tax nations. All the while their investments are protected by the full faith and credit of the US. Their US bank accounts are even protected by the FDIC! Best of all, the investors in these entities can all remain anonymous.

So if you’re expecting the Panama Papers to reveal names like Charles Koch, David Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Mitt Romney, or Donald Trump alongside such people as David Cameron, Vladimir Putin and the House of Saud, don’t hold your breath. Like me, you’re probably going to be sorely disappointed.

What Does Your Party Stand For?

These days, it’s popular to say that there is no real difference between the political parties; that they are both in the pockets of large corporations. While it is true that, following recent Supreme Court decisions, both parties rely on the wealthy for campaign donations, there are sizeable differences in what the two parties stand for.

Based on its actions of the past 50 years, here’s what the Republican Party stands for: Large corporations, increased corporate welfare, increased mining, increased oil production, increased deforestation, increased corporate farming, increased corporate fishing, off-shoring of jobs and corporate profits, unfettered financial markets, tax cuts for corporations, tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization of Social Security, elimination of Medicaid and Medicare, elimination of Obamacare, more defense spending, more wars, more militarization of police, more guns (except at GOP events), the end of legal abortions, reduced access to contraception, elimination of the minimum wage, elimination of food stamps for the needy, elimination of estate taxes, elimination of labor unions, elimination of defined benefit pensions (except for corporate executives), elimination of family leave (except for corporate executives), elimination of the EPA, elimination of the FDA, elimination of the Dept. of Labor, elimination of the Dept. of Education, elimination of free public education, deportation of all undocumented immigrants, discrimination against women, discrimination against college students, discrimination against people of color, discrimination against gays, discrimination against non-Christians, a new Constitution based on the Ten Commandments, and limited voting rights based on color, age and income.

Here’s what the Democratic Party stands for: Virtually everything the Republican Party is against.

I truly wish all of this was an exaggeration. But, in fact, all of these policies have been supported by one or more of the GOP presidential candidates either by words or action.

What If The US Were Like The EU?

The corporate media propagandists have portrayed Greece as a debtor nation unable to get its fiscal house in order due to the laziness and greed of its people. They fail to report that Greece is only in its current situation largely as the result of the US-created mortgage crisis and the greed of huge international banks.

It’s more convenient to blame the Greek crisis on pensions and a bloated government.

But the fact is, prior to the mortgage crisis, the nation’s debt was roughly 8.3 percent of GDP. Then Goldman-Sachs…yes that Goldman-Sachs…”helped” Greece hide its debt through a risky, off-the-books derivative. When the world markets crashed in 2008, Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio exploded to 100 percent of GDP. And that number continues to climb.

Why?

As many of the world’s most respected economists will tell you, increased debt is the inevitable result of extreme austerity. As Greece increases lay-offs of government employees, the unemployed workers have less to spend. As a result, small businesses suffer, which results in more lay-offs and lower tax revenues. The result is a downward spiral from which it is difficult to escape.

For example, Greece’s unemployment now stands at approximately 28 percent or roughly the same percentage as the US during the Great Depression! Worse, youth unemployment is nearly 50 percent. And 40 percent of Greece’s children now live in poverty. But pay no attention to those numbers…the international banks are profiting and, as long as Greece remains in the EU, most of the world’s stock markets are soaring.

The problem is that the EU has no form of wealth redistribution like that of the US. Imagine if we treated our poorest states in the same manner the EU is treating Greece. North Dakota now has a debt ratio of -89 percent. In other words, in 2014, North Dakota received $7.51 from the federal government for every $1.00 it contributed in federal income taxes. Many other states also routinely run in the red. Ironically, most of those are also politically red. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin all receive more from the federal government than they contribute. Should we then force austerity on them and force them to payback the difference with interest?

That’s what the EU is doing to Greece.

And what of California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, et al, who contribute far more in taxes than they receive? California contributes $236.5 billion more than it receives. That’s enough to single-handedly cover the deficits of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia combined. What if we had the EU system and California acted like Germany? Many of those states would now be facing excruciating austerity, skyrocketing unemployment and debilitating poverty.

Teapublicans are fond of saying that, unless we cut spending and cut taxes, the US will become another Greece. That’s simply not true. Economically, our nation has little in common with Greece. The only way our economy could begin to resemble Greece’s is if we resort to self-imposed austerity as the Teapublicans recommend.

You Can Take That To The Bank.

That used to be a statement of certainty. Americans once considered the bank a place of safety for their money; an island of certainty in an uncertain world. No longer. With the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, banks have become little more than high-end casinos – only casinos have some semblance of integrity.

When banks lost their high-stakes bets in 2008, they collapsed our economy. And, in an act of unparalleled hubris, they turned to taxpayers to help them avoid bankruptcy. Instead of paying a significant price for their wantonness, the “too-big-to-fail” banks continued with business as usual, even continuing to pay their executives six and seven-figure bonuses. Meanwhile, other Americans slogged through the greatest recession in history, losing as much as $7 trillion through a combination of home foreclosures, lost salaries, lost interest and lost pensions.

And who made off with most of that money? Why Wall Street, of course.

Given their recent history, one would expect that at least some of the bankers who caused the problems would have been convicted of crimes. They weren’t. Instead, they have continued to profit. Worse, they have continued to game the system. They continue to oppose the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. They continue to oppose the Consumer Protection Agency. And they continue to gamble with your money.

In fact, since the banking collapse of 2008, bankers seem to have upped their game; engaging in numerous financial scams and committing outright crimes. To wit: UBS paid $2.3 billion in fines when it was discovered that one of its traders hid €5 billion in losses. Wells Fargo paid $175 million to settle accusations that it discriminated against African-Americans and Hispanic borrowers. JPMorgan Chase gambled $2 billion and lost nearly $6 billion. Barclays paid $450 million to settle charges that it manipulated LIBOR, the global interest rate, and UBS paid $1.5 billion to settle similar charges. USBC paid $1.9 billion to settle a money laundering probe. And Barclays was recently fined £284,432,000 for its role in rigging the foreign exchange market.

Though the banks have admitted to felonies and paid billions in fines, they have yet to pay any real penalty. As far as I can tell, only two bankers have gone to jail. And the rest are unrepentant. Indeed, a recent poll of Wall Street traders found that a significant percentage would be willing to commit a crime if it resulted in a payback of $10 million. (Keep in mind that, on Wall Street, $10 million is chump change.)

But instead of cracking down on the banksters, a GOP-controlled Congress seems determined to deregulate Wall Street. (They know who butters their bread or, more precisely, makes the majority of their campaign contributions.) So you don’t have to be a financial expert to know that there will be many more scandals to come.

You can take that to the bank…er…mattress…or whatever.

Remembering The Greatest Economic Crash In History.

Looking back at the market crash of 2008, it’s difficult to believe that it represented a greater loss of stock and home equity than any previous crash in American history. Though we may be impatient for a full recovery of jobs and middle class incomes, we should take a few moments to recognize that the quick action by Congress and the Federal Reserve did, in fact, work. The same can be said for President Obama’s automotive bailouts and economic stimulus which were opposed and derided by Teapublicans.

So you have not yet been able to find the job you want? Or you feel that you are being undervalued and underpaid? Your frustration is understandable. But, when compared to the aftermath of lesser crashes, it could have been a whole lot worse. We were not relegated to soup lines and work camps as our parents and grandparents were following the stock market crash of 1929. But had President Obama not ignored the Teapublicans’ call for austerity measures, we well might have been.

To fully appreciate what I mean, you need to look at the extent of the losses in 2008.

The Dow Jones Industrials lost 778 points in one day – the greatest single day loss in history. It’s estimated that the market crash resulted in a $1.2 trillion loss of market equity. Looking at it another way, the Dow lost 33.8 percent for the full year – surpassed only by the bear markets of 1907 and 1931. Further, GDP contracted for more than a year. Unemployment rose from 5 percent to 10 percent before it began to drop. According to Zillow.com, $3.3 trillion in home equity was stripped from homeowners in 2008 as home values fell by 30 percent. Income levels fell, causing the net worth of households and non-profit organizations to fall by roughly $15 trillion. And the impact of the crash on retirement funds is virtually immeasurable. Indeed, those who were nearing retirement may never fully recover the money lost in their IRAs, 401ks and their defined benefit pension funds.

Despite all of that, our economy recovered remarkably quickly. If you don’t believe me, just look at the economies of many other advanced nations that are struggling with stagnation who mistakenly followed the advice of conservatives. By contrast, the GDP of the US is growing, our deficits have fallen at a dramatic rate and our national debt is now less than 3 percent of our GDP – and it would be much lower if Teapublicans hadn’t fought to give more tax breaks to corporations and the one percent. Certainly, income inequality is skyrocketing, but it was expanding long before the crash as a result of the Bush tax cuts. Yet rather than do something to address the issue, the GOP-led Congress has, instead, voted to eliminate estate taxes for the wealthiest 5,000 families in America!

Remember that the next time you hear someone claim that the GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility. It was GOP policies that led to the Great Recession. And, once again, it was Democratic leadership that led us out of it.

United Corporations Of America.

Now that Congress has been bought by large corporate interests and billionaires, you can clearly see the GOP agenda intended to pay back campaign donors.

Some of the very first bills brought forward by the GOP include a bill demanding that President Obama and the State Department approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The stated goal is to “create jobs.” But given the fact that the pipeline would only create 35-50 permanent jobs (aside from the temporary jobs needed to build it and those who would be needed to try to clean up the toxic leaks), it’s really a blatant payback to the Koch brothers for supporting GOP candidates.

Of course, we’ve seen yet another Repeal Obamacare bill intended to throw red meat to the right wing base.

The GOP-led Congress has also passed bills intended to, once again, deregulate Wall Street and to eliminate the Consumer Protection Agency. Of course, this is a nod to the GOP’s big Wall Street donors and right wing billionaires. If signed into law, the result would be to unshackle too-big-to-fail banks and investment funds to fleece ordinary investors of their IRAs, 401ks and pension funds.

We’ve seen attempts to withhold funds from the Environmental Protection Agency. This, of course, is another bill to pay back the Koch brothers and large corporations, freeing them to extract resources without regard to the environment. And once the resources have been harvested, the public will be left to clean up the corporate mess.

And let’s not forget the other kind of GOP payback to which we have become so accustomed. The GOP is blocking confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in an attempt to force Democrats to sign a well-intentioned human trafficking bill that has been amended to further restrict a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. This is the same kind of nonsense we’ve seen since President Obama took office in 2009…a period that has thus far seen the GOP block dozens of cabinet and judicial nominees along with 375 bills, including 7 jobs bills and 2 bills for veterans’ benefits. (Indeed, half of the filibusters in US history have come during the Obama administration.)

Yet, instead of replacing the bums with people who might actually represent their constituents, a low voter turnout resulted in the GOPstoppers picking up control of the Senate!

And lest you think that this generation of GOP politicians is particularly disgusting, remember that others in the GOP have done worse. For example, Richard Nixon resorted to treason by undermining President Johnson’s peace talks with the Vietnamese in order to win a close election with Hubert Humphrey. Ronald Reagan intentionally aligned himself with racist Southern Christians (the KKK has long been associated with Christian believers) to defeat Jimmy Carter. And George W. Bush relied on his brother to suppress thousands of votes in Florida in order to steal the presidency from Al Gore.

Although GOP cheating was less obvious in 2004, there is considerable evidence of widespread voter fraud in Ohio, the state that allowed Bush to defeat John Kerry.

More recently, Teapublicans have gerrymandered congressional districts to make it impossible for Democrats to win. They have passed restrictive voter ID laws to prevent minorities, the poor and the elderly from voting. They have cut early voting hours and the number of polls in Democratic-leaning areas to make voting more difficult. They have skirted, or outright ignored, campaign finance laws that forbid cooperation between campaigns and PACs or so-called “education” groups. And their hand-picked conservative Supreme Court Justices have acted to strike down decades of precedent in order to open the floodgates of corporate and special interest money in support of GOP candidates. In doing so, two of those “justices” (Thomas and Scalia) refused to recuse themselves from the cases despite the fact that they personally stood to benefit from their own decision – a breach of ethics that would not be tolerated at any other level of the justice system.

As a result, things are only going to get worse.

Democracy Lost.

In recent years, much has been written about growing inequality. It is, indeed, one of the most important issues of our time. And the effects of big money on our democracy have been devastating.

Sure, you may still be able to vote to elect those who are supposed to represent you. But that, alone, does not constitute democracy. Not only are the choices of candidates limited to two individuals – the only two who were able to climb their way up the political ladder in order to receive their parties’ blessings and, more important, their campaign funds. All too often, those who are elected are promised large campaign donations by corporations and industries in exchange for political favors. It is not necessarily quid pro quo, but the expectation for a return on the investment is there. So, too is the pressure.

In reality, such high stakes lobbying has long been a part of politics. But, over the past 35 years, things have gotten even worse.

In the late seventies, large US corporations began to see their hold on the world economy slip. New, lower-priced, high-quality imports – many of them made with robotics – from Japan and Germany began to push aside American-made products. US corporations responded by relocating manufacturing – first to the South, then off-shore – in search of lower-priced labor.

Perhaps, the most destructive response was the move to tie CEO compensation to the value of the companies’ share prices. This ushered in an era of ever-increasing CEO salaries and even more lucrative stock options for CEOs – a legalized form of insider trading. The result was for US corporations to seek ever lower-priced labor in countries where there is no regulation and no employee benefits. At the same time corporate profits have soared, employee salaries and corporate investments in the future have diminished – almost guaranteeing that the future will belong to foreign-based corporations. But why would our CEOs care? They and their money will be long gone before it matters.

Our corporations have used the threat of off-shoring jobs to extort our state and city governments. In exchange for their extortion, those governments have assumed many of the risks of corporate relocation or expansion by paying for needed infrastructure, cutting regulations, and delaying or eliminating corporate taxes.

Now these corporations are attempting to extort the federal government.

Unwilling to pay US income taxes on profits made off-shore, these corporations are stashing cash in foreign banks until the federal government agrees to “repatriate” the money at a greatly reduced tax rate. Of course, they’re justifying the extortion by saying that “repatriation” will lead to greater investments and more jobs in the US – the great “trickle down” fraud.

In reality, the money is more likely to be doled out to CEOs and other executives in the form of bonuses (as a reward for robbing ordinary taxpayers) and stock options.

In the meantime, corporations and billionaires have been working to rig the system. Realizing that buying Congress and our state legislatures is cheaper than paying lobbyists, people like the Koch brothers have stuffed the pockets of candidates willing to do their bidding. To pave the way, they pushed conservatives to stack the Supreme Court with ideologues such as Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas. That inevitably led to favorable court rulings giving corporations the rights of people and all but eliminating limitations on political donations. They got the IRS to change its rules allowing “non-profits” to fund political campaigns. When they won control of legislatures, they gerrymandered congressional districts making it all but impossible for anyone but “their people” to win office. And they introduced Voter ID laws to suppress the votes of minorities and the poor.

In 2014, their efforts finally came to fruition. Having already bought the House in 2010, they now own the Senate. It’s no coincidence that the first bills to reach the House and Senate floors were to repeal “Obamacare” and to build the Koch…er…Keystone XL Pipeline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also made it clear that issues such as raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, unemployment insurance and student loan costs will be pushed aside in favor of gutting regulations on health care and financial services and eviscerating the EPA.

If you’re still worried about the effects of so-called “dark money” on our democracy, don’t. Last year, our democracy officially became an oligarchy.

Why US Must Prosecute Its Architects Of Torture.

When President Obama took office, he and Attorney General Eric Holder declined to prosecute crimes committed by the Bush administration…the fraudulent case for the Iraq War, the illegal detention and treatment of the prisoners at Gitmo, and the failure of government agencies to regulate the gambling addiction of Wall Street. The feeling was that the nation needed to heal…that, in the midst of two wars and an economic calamity, the prosecution of crimes would only make the festering wounds worse. As a result, Bush administration officials were given a pass for war crimes and Wall Street bankers were given a “stay-out-of-jail” card for massive financial fraud.

It’s time for Obama and the Department of Justice to revisit that decision.

The Senate report on the Bush-led torture program chronicles the depravity of our extraordinary renditions and enhanced interrogations. It shows that, under the Bush administration, our nation sank to new lows, placing us among the world’s worst actors. Instead of claiming the high ground in our war on terror, in many ways we joined the so-called “Axis of Evil” as decried by former President Bush himself.

We cannot ever again claim to be the “beacon of hope” or that “shining city upon the hill” as described by Ronald Reagan if we refuse to seek justice against those who committed war crimes in our name. That means an open, and very public, trial of Bush, Cheney, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, former NSA Director Condoleezza Rice and anyone else within the Bush administration who authorized and ordered torture. We should demand that Richard “The Dick” Cheney repay his share of the reported $39.5 billion in profits made by Halliburton from the Iraq War. We should also reclaim the $81 million paid to the two psychologists who recommended the various forms of torture and, if they refuse to repay their “consulting” fees, we should arraign them on criminal charges.

“But what about the political divisiveness such actions would create?” you may ask.

That ship sailed long ago. It left port on the day of Obama’s inauguration when Mitch McConnell and his Teapublican cronies plotted to make Obama a one-term president by obstructing his nominations and every aspect of his agenda. It gained speed when Senate Teapublicans used the filibuster a record number of times and the GOP House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act more than 50 times. And it sped out of sight when the GOP House voted to sue the sitting president of the United States.

Despite the president’s best efforts, there has been no healing of the wounds opened by the Bush administration. And there can be no healing of the US reputation unless those who chose to torture prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the UN treaty against torture are held accountable. Moreover, without a proper accounting, our own citizens and troops will be more vulnerable to torture in conflicts around the world. Does that mean a former president, vice-president, CIA director and assistant attorney general should go to prison? If we were to follow the precedent established by the Nuremburg trials of former Nazi leaders, the answer could very well be yes.

We cannot be a true democracy unless every crime is prosecuted fairly and equally under the law, and unless everyone is held accountable for criminal actions.

An Informed Voting Public?

Our Founding Fathers created a democracy based on informed voters carefully selecting a representative government. The reality is that, after nearly 240 years, we have neither an informed public nor a representative government. The most recent election is a case in point.

After six years of Teapublican obstruction, the approval rating of Congress was lower than the approval of cockroaches. So what did our “informed” voters do? They re-elected the vast majority of the incumbents and gave extra seats to members of the party that was responsible for the obstruction. Our national political pundits explained this phenomenon as the result of a low voter turnout and massive spending of “dark money” to elect candidates who would repay their benefactors with fewer regulations and more tax cuts. I explained that it was the result of the failure of the Democratic Party to promote its record of pulling our economy out of perhaps the biggest hole in history, making affordable health care available to most Americans, improving our nation’s standing throughout the world, expanding consumer protections and attempting to expand civil rights to all segments of our population.

There’s a better explanation.

This past Sunday, Fareed Zakaria, on his CNN show Global Public Square, featured an Ipsos MORI international study that measured the political ignorance in 14 western nations. The study asked respondents from those nations about various issues ranging from unemployment to immigration. While Italy ranked number one as the least informed citizenry, voters in the US ranked a close second. For example, when asked about unemployment in the US, our respondents guessed that the figure was 32 percent when the real number is less than 6 percent nationwide. When asked about the number of recent immigrants in our country, Americans guessed that they make up 32 percent of our population, when the real number is about 13 percent. Asked about the number of Muslims in our country, Americans guessed that Muslims comprise 15 percent of our population, when the real figure is 1 percent.

The large number of poorly informed voters explains why voters continue to vote against their own self-interests; why poor people vote for officials who give large tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations; why they vote for officials who refuse to raise the minimum wage; why women vote for officials who refuse to demand equal pay for equal work; why the retired and near-retired vote for representatives who want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare.

Of course, we also have to ask ourselves why so many Americans are so poorly informed. The answer can be summed up in two words: schools and media.

Many of our schools no longer teach civics. As a result, many of our young people have never read the Constitution. They don’t even know how our government works. In addition, many of our nation’s textbooks are edited and approved by Texas conservatives so that they more resemble Christian and military propaganda than American history or science. For instance, we are still teaching children that Christopher Columbus discovered America when historians agree that he didn’t. And many of our schools are forced to teach “creationism” as an alternative to evolution, even though evolution is a fact as established as the theory of gravity.

Further, our so-called news media have placed an emphasis on entertainment and sensationalism to drive ratings at the expense of real news and information. As a result, we all know about the latest murder trial or the marital status of celebrities. But we don’t know the beliefs and agendas of the candidates on our ballots. Neither do we know world events that will ultimately affect us. We don’t even know that the US has been fighting wars for all but 13 years of our nation’s history. And we don’t know that our own actions led to most of them. Worse yet, we don’t know that our nation is no longer a democracy. Numerous political scientists and economists have proven that, by definition, it has become an oligarchy. (Of course, our poorly educated public likely doesn’t even know what an oligarchy is.)

The point of all this is to say that, if you don’t like our government, it’s not entirely the fault of those who were elected. It’s not necessarily the fault of one political party or our political system. The fault is our own, because we voted the scoundrels into office without ever bothering to ask what they will do. We’re only interested in which tribe they belong to – red or blue.