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Done Biting My Tongue: An Open Letter to President Obama

Miles Blue: I bit my tongue when the national economy was placed in the hands of the very people who were largely responsible for the recent economic debacle, with absolutely no explanation as to why such appointments were warranted.

Dear President Obama:

obama peacenik

Though I own a personal computer and, indeed, have previously sent email to your office on several occasions via the White House website, this time around it seems best to resort to a more traditional letter. In either event, I fully understand that the probability of this reaching the eyes of anyone beyond an aide to an aide to an aide to an aide is nearly nil.

I voted for you. In today’s corrupt political world it is very unclear to me that anyone’s vote makes very much difference. America’s citizens have become very obvious pawns in a game run, not by the electoral process, but by corporations, the wealthy, and lobbyists. Still, I was pleased to vote for you. You are a far more intelligent and thoughtful individual than your predecessor.

In voting for you I thought I was voting for an individual of conviction, character, and of integrity, someone who cared more about the country and its people than about playing politics and other ideological games. Still, I would like to think that I understood that politics are a necessary part of the equation. When it troubled me that you continued to speak of bi-partisanship even though there was no evidence of its existence on the part of your opponents, I simply bit my tongue and thought that, yes, ideally there should be a bipartisan political process; after all that is what democracy is all about.

I bit my tongue when the national economy was placed in the hands of the very people who were largely responsible for the recent economic debacle, with absolutely no explanation as to why such appointments were warranted. Certain of those people should be in jail. Indeed, Wall Street and the financial industries have returned to their old tricks.

I bit my tongue when your administration, ignoring campaign promises of openness and transparency, continued to behave like the unlamented previous administration on issues ranging from Guantanamo, to rendition, to national security.

I bit my tongue as federal agencies established to regulate various and sundry industries continued to sleep with the enemy just as they did under Reagan, Bush the elder, Bush the younger, Clinton, and now under your administration. The SEC had ample evidence of fraud and malfeasance in the financial industry from more than one source and did nothing. The United States Department of Agriculture continues to collude with the food industry in killing small farms, in packaging food that taste good while lacking nutritional value, in distorting the standards for organic food-stuffs, and allowing the sale of meats and produce laden with pesticides, hormones, and chemicals never intended for human consumption. The Federal Drug Administration continues to allow the pharmaceutical industry to market products that offer no substantive difference from those currently on the market, as well as to market improperly tested drugs. The FCC continues to favor corporate rights over the rights of citizens, essentially – despite claims to the contrary – giving corporations “first rights” on the internet. The IRS and the Congress provide corporations with huge tax breaks yet now claim that the national debt can only be paid on the backs of a declining middle class.

I bit my tongue when, rather than addressing what is wrong with today’s America and taking a stand with American citizens to address and to begin to correct those concerns, your administration waffles, prevaricates, and waters-down and compromises even its own major achievements, such as health care reform, or sinks back into bed with those elements of society who are most greed-driven, most cynical, and who stand to gain most from how the country currently does business.

pogo enemy is us

The events in Wisconsin tell me that I can no longer bite my tongue. This is not a time for business as usual, nor is it a time for politics as usual. The country has to decide what it is going to be, a country “of the people,” as was intended by the founding fathers, or whether it is going to be a country of corporations and of the wealthy. Your office needs to be at the center of that discussion.

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Currently, our political and economic processes are absolutely corrupt: both houses of Congress and both sides of the aisle. The House and the Senate have become an American aristocracy that was never meant to be. Its members belong to one of the most exclusive country clubs in the world and have totally lost touch with what life is like for the vast majority of people in the United States. They set their own salaries and benefits and do not have to adhere to many of the laws and regulations that the rest of us are bound to follow. In their ethical and political processes they allow immense conflicts of interest: accepting bribes from corporations and lobbyists and then voting for legislation favoring those corporations is inherently unethical and the continuation of such behavior is destroying this Democracy.

Time and time again decisions are made that favor corporations over the American people and over the needs of the country. The country and its people are being sold down the river because the courts have wrongly given corporations rights akin to those of private citizens, because the Congress and the IRS have allowed corporations and the wealthy to escape paying the taxes they should be paying, as well as because several administrations have involved the country in undeclared, unfunded, and basically unnecessary wars.

Corporations have outsourced hundreds of thousands of jobs over the past two decades, they have reduced employee benefits, they have raided employee pension plans, they have reduced the country’s absolute capacity to produce goods. They have done so, not to make profits, but to maximize profits. There is a significant difference between the two. Corporations do not care about an American democracy. What they care about is having a governmental platform that is sufficient stable and sufficiently compliant to enable them to make as much profit as possible. Yes, corporations do produce sometimes necessary goods and services, but they are not our friends and should be held at arm’s length.

Failure to prosecute members of former administrations for criminal violations; increased use of private contractors to provide services of essentially governmental responsibilities at outrageous costs and with no accountability; failure to prosecute government contractors for their failure to fulfill inked contracts; failure to recoup funds “stolen” by government contractors; failure to prosecute criminal acts perpetrated by government contractors. All of this points to incredible greed as well as to an incredible lack of federal oversight.

The United States is in serious decline. The decline is only hastened by the attacks being waged upon organized labor and the middle class. The policies that have been in place essentially since the Reagan years have benefited only corporations and the wealthy. If corporations and the wealthy paid their fair share of taxes, if the United States ended its military ventures overseas, and reduced its military spending, there would be no federal deficit. While we should not terminate our broad interest in the world our concentration should be on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and becoming a nation in which the word “we” has significantly more meaning than the word, “me.”

Years ago a highly regarded, long-deceased, cartoonist by the name of Walt Kelly had Pogo, one of his characters, voice the following words: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Those words, like the words in much of former President Dwight David Eisenhower’s 1961 speech warning of the perils of the military-industrial complex, ring truer than ever.


Miles Blue