Saturday, July 23, 2011


The Constitution of the United States of America, in it's Preamble, lists six goals of those who wrote it. One of these goals is to "promote the general Welfare."  Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution vests all legislative powers in a Congress, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The most important phrase in the Preamble, however, consists of the first three words: "we the People." With these three words, the framers of the Constitution clearly meant that the nation was to be ruled by the people, not a king, not a dictator, and not the Congress or the courts. Unfortunately, we the people have gone missing.

It can be argued the the general welfare is not being promoted in the year 2011. Instead, the members of the House and Senate spend most of their time promoting their political parties and political agendas. We the People are nowhere to be found. Oh yes, we "elect" the members of the House and Senate, but the reality is that big money decides these elections. We the People have been replaced by powerful corporations, unions, political action committees and individuals of the wealthy class. The general welfare of the powerful is being promoted at the expense of We the People.

The present battle over the debt ceiling being waged by the two political parties is really the continuation of a war of political philosophies that has raged for decades. The Democrats generally agree that "promoting the general welfare" includes providing for those who can't provide for themselves, using entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. This side also sees that education and health care are the responsibilities of government. The Republicans generally agree that government should be lean and mean, with controlled spending funded by low taxes. The various social services should be either eliminated or scaled way back, and to hell with They the People who can't make it on their own. And, by the way, leave corporations and wealthy people alone so they can do business as usual (their good work will trickle down and help everyone). 

The reality of 2011 is that the Congress of the United States of America is a dysfunctional entity that is not fulfilling it's sole purpose for being: carrying out the duties assigned to it by the Constitution of the United States of America. The other reality of 2011 is that We the People are not of a unified mind or opinion regarding what the general welfare should be. And so we drift out of control with  inept and bickering politicians at the helm of the ship of state. We are basically out of control.

I don't know what we the people can or should do. Perhaps we need our own Tahrir Square, but I don't think there is a single, unifying cause that will bring us there. I hate the feeling of being adrift, and I hate the feeling of helplessness. I'm comfortable enough in my middle class-ness that I could simply ignore the conditions around me and enjoy my remaining years; but I can't accept that so many other people in this country (I'll save the rest of the world for another post) are truly suffering unnecessarily. I want a "more perfect Union" that truly "promotes the general Welfare." I just don't know how we the People can make it happen. 


  1. Paul:

    I could not agree with you more. I am beginning to think that our gov't just doesn't work.


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  3. Nice photo.

    Your and Eric's posts read like complementary descriptions of the nation's problems. But, as you say, What do we do about it?

    We're faced with the mother of chicken 'n egg problems -- a proudly ignorant(TM) population that rejects any education that could put a dent in that ignorance. The mistake would be to believe that anything has changed in that sense. A century ago, the prosecuting attorney in the Scopes trial was the Democrats' choice three times for President. Today, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman (rather than being decided by debate, the GOP primary will be decided by a swimsuit contest) take on the ignorance-is-an-advantage role. The constituency is the same, they just switched parties during the Vietnam War. All that's changed is that the proudly ignorant could once get by nicely as farmers and, later, industrial workers. Today, not so much.

    There's no reason to believe that we won't continue to get our ass kicked by nations with cultures that believe in education. Our nation is much like Jim Hightower's line (but Coach Barry Switzer coined it) about George Bush Sr.: "He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple." We were born with tremendous advantages in natural resources and think we are (and always will be) the "greatest nation in the world."

    Besides our natural resources, our advantage has been the lack of restriction by social class in entertainment, science, and technology, and I think that advantage will continue for the forseeable future. However, the financial and intellectual wealth from those endeavors, by the very smart and talented (and well-connected), don't trickle down.

    That we've been fucked by big banking, big oil, big insurance, big pharma, big media, and big telecom isn't the cause, it's the effect of our cutural ways -- our proud ignorance. We're the ones who vote for celebrities, the good-looking, and the filthy rich. (That a couple of very charismatic Democrats were elected, under optimal circumstances, means nothing. Both are politically slightly to the left of Reagan and to the right of Nixon.)

    I think there are two possiblities for change -- one horrific and one that would take awhile. The horrific one has already begun and, in a matter of days, could accelerate. Economic collapse on the order of the '29 Depresson could get enough people motivated to go for big change. Though I'm skeptical. The non-horrific change could come via a significant change in the voting population: a combination of older conservative people dying, and a steady influx of immigrants. I hope, many of the latter are from cultures that value education.