As I See It |

As I See It

Here are a couple of definitions to keep in mind. Oligarchy: a form of government in which the power is concentrated in a few persons or in a dominant class. Totalitarianism: absolute control by the state or the governing branch of a highly centralized institution. Is our government leading us in small steps toward a form somewhere between oligarchy and totalitarianism? Trends over the past few years are ominous.The steadily increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of large corporations and the tiny percent of individuals who possess nearly a quarter of the personal wealth of the entire country represents a potential threat to the two-party system, which has safeguarded our freedoms for generations. These two groups, which are obviously intertwined, are becoming more and more closely tied financially with the Republican Party in a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” relationship. That relationship totally excludes the vast majority of Americans.It used to be that corporations divided their political campaign contributions more or less equally between the two major parties, but that is no longer the case. Approximately 80 percent of corporate political contributions now go to the Republican Party. And of course, those corporations expect – and get – big favors in return. The oil and gas industries are rewarded for their support with huge government subsidies. Companies like Halliburton, whose former chief executive is vice president Dick Cheney, are awarded lucrative contracts for reconstruction work in Iraq without any competitive bidding process. Furthermore, Halliburton recently received an additional government gift of a huge increase in that contract. Corporate officers of companies which defrauded their stockholders and employees of billions of dollars, but were generous in their contributions to the party in power, have yet to be punished for their misdeeds. And companies that have moved overseas to avoid paying taxes in the United States, taking American workers’ jobs with them, continue to be eligible for federal contracts.The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, who contribute heavily to the Republic Party, are the recipients of the lion’s share of George W. Bush’s $350 billion tax reduction. In the face of the cost of a questionable war in Iraq, the tax cut is being paid for by cuts in programs that help needy Americans, and by an exploding federal deficit that will increase the national debt by another trillion dollars in the next two years, with no end in sight. The last time we had large tax cuts to try to stimulate the economy (in the 1980s) the national debt went up $3 billion.And how are the deficits fueled by tax breaks for the wealthy and subsidies for large corporations to be paid for?By cutting social programs needed by millions of poorer and disadvantaged Americans, and passing the bill on for all of us to pay in higher taxes and inflation (the hidden tax) for decades to come. Is this what “compassionate conservatism” means?The windfall of campaign contributions flowing into Republican coffers for Bush’s re-election campaign is estimated to exceed $200 million, which is more than four times the eligibility limit for receiving federal presidential campaign funds. These funds come with certain restrictions, which apply only if you use them. With their overwhelming money advantage, the Bush campaign can dominate the media with its message, aided by the Federal Communications Commission, which has just given the green light for corporate media giants to create virtual media monopolies.This nascent threat to the two-party system yields three results:-More legislation, which sacrifices the public interest in favor of the special interests that are big campaign contributors.-Cabinet offices dominated by appointees from industry, who will continue to issue edicts favoring industry, setting aside existing regulations and thwarting public access to information and participation in the process.-Replacement of middle-ground justices in the federal courts with ultra-right appointees.Next: How voters are being manipulated by cunning propaganda.Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column appears every other Thursday.

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