As I See It |

As I See It

In his State of the Union address a couple of months ago, President George W. Bush imitated President Reagan’s branding of the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire” by calling Iraq, Iran, and North Korea an “Axis of Evil,” despite the fact that there is no evidence of any accord among these nations to join forces.

But it sounded good and gained popularity points, despite the fact that this kind of talk could spur a defensive and offensive alliance among countries who take this kind of labeling as a threat.

Just recently President Bush hinted at the possibility of using nuclear weapons against these three countries, and for good measure added Libya, Syria, China and Russia. China and Russia? This was an obviously poorly thought out, intemperate outburst that makes our president look to the rest of the world like a loose cannon.

In times like these where we have enemy splinter groups all over the world, the last thing we should be doing is coming out with veiled threats that will bring nations that are not declared enemies of the United States together, solely because we give them a basis to consider us a common threat. We will then have created a real and even bigger Axis of Evil.

But there is another Axis of Evil right in our midst. It may be as great a threat to our political, economic and social systems as the one President Bush has postulated. That Axis of Evil is the strong link between big corporations and big money on one hand and Congress and the White House on the other. Under the current system, the moneyed interests give money to the politicians, who need enormous sums to win elections and stay in power. The objective is to influence legislation friendly to corporate and moneyed interests. It’s sort of an investment to gain favorable legislation and regulations.

Congress recently passed and President Bush signed the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill, intended to rein in the “soft” money contributions to political parties from corporations and other big donors, which is likely to be a corrupting influence. It remains to be seen whether this effort will stand up to the legal challenges of those it is intended to regulate. And even if it does, how long will it be before they figure out a way of getting around it?

The whole scenario is driven by enormous greed – greed for money feeding greed for power. Unfortunately the greed for money is rampant almost everywhere in our society. Greed out of control on the part of a few executives in corporations like Enron, Global Crossing, and Brown’s Chicken destroyed these companies, taking employees’ retirement funds and stockholders’ investments with them. Meanwhile, executives, with the connivance of fraudulent accounting practices, amassed fortunes. Even those at the top of the U.S. Postal Service doctored the books to make a $1.7 billion deficit look like a $2.9 billion surplus so they would continue to get their bonuses.

The fields of sports and entertainment have also been taken over by excessive greed. What justification is there for Celine Dion to receive $167,000 per performance at Caesar’s Palace?

Families can no longer afford to take their children to major league sporting events because a bunch of clowns in body armor running around on a field bumping into each other, or others running back and forth bouncing a ball off the floor and trying to toss it through a hoop, are being paid anywhere from 50 thousand to several hundred thousand dollars per game – up to 10 times the income of an average family for an entire year.

Under current government policy, we are in danger of exchanging our birthright (priceless public lands) for a mess of pottage (a few years’ supply of oil and gas) in the name of national security.

Improved auto efficiency for trucks and SUVs could greatly reduce our dependency on oil, especially foreign oil. Yet Congress recently rejected legislation requiring improved auto efficiency. After all, that would reduce the amount of gasoline which the oil companies love to sell.

By turning down greater fuel efficiency requirements, Congress voted to reward their friends in the oil industry instead of voting for our national security. In spite of the fact that lowering oil consumption would be the most effective way to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, the President’s energy plan includes big subsidy payments to the oil and gas industry, and reduces funding for energy conservation and alternative energy programs. Who do you suppose benefits from that?

These excesses are indicative of a trend that seems to be steadily escalating. If it continues uncontrolled, it could undermine the faith in our political and economic systems and destroy our way of life, just as surely as terrorist attacks by avowed enemies. This is a very real “Axis of Evil” that poses a greater threat to our country than the fictitious one created by our President.

Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.

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