Thursday, December 1, 2011


An Orgy of Hypocrisy

The day after Thanksgiving President Obama urged the military rulers of Egypt to restore democracy to the country as quickly as possible.
When Egyptians first rose up against Pres. Mubarak, the US government hesitated for an indecently long time before it publicly came out in support of the demonstrations. It is real progress for them to support further demonstrations now in favor of democracy.
At the same time, supporting democracy against the rule of the Egyptian military is utterly hypocritical. To be sure, the Egyptian military have not been elected to run that country. But have the people who run our country been elected?
Let's consider who is running this country. It is surely not the ordinary voter because we do not even know what is going on in Washington. Nor are our elected representatives in charge. Many of them vote on legislation that they have not had the time to read. Some of the bills they vote on were written by lobbyists. Considerable decision-making power rests with the lobbyists on K Street in Washington DC.
Who controls the lobbyists? Of course, the people who hire them, who range from global corporations to trade associations, to labor unions, to whoever else has money to spend on influencing legislation. In other words, the country is run by people with money. The country is being run byspecial interests.
Have they been elected? No more than the Egyptian military. Our electoral democracy is no different from theirs. It is blatantly hypocritical for us to tell other people that they should run their country democratically.
Our government worries about the revolutions in the Arab world because they fear that, once elections are held, Islamic parties will come to power. We are afraid that such Islamic parties will impose religiously motivated regimes on their countries. We feel superior to countries where fundamentalist religion plays an important political role. Now, for sure, Islamic parties are not an important part of our political landscape. But our evangelicals are every bit as fanatical, close minded, and backward looking, if not more so, as your ordinary Islamic party. We are not in this respect entitled to feel superior or more enlightened than people in the Arab world.
But that's not all. European countries like Greece or Italy are in serious financial trouble. They may not be able to pay their debts. Journalists and pundits in the US keep pointing to the failure of Greek and Italian governments to collect taxes. In Italy, today's paper reports, even the man who sells you fruits and vegetables in his open air stand refuses to give people a receipt. He wants to be paid under the table so that he will not have to pay taxes.
To be sure, I have no reason to think that my local supermarket will not declare the income from my purchases. But I do have reason to think that 30 or more of the largest US international corporations paid no taxes at all in 2010. Quite obviously the fiscal crisis faced by our government could be reduced significantly if we got large corporations to pay their fair share of the cost of government. But our government is not willing even to consider that. They will balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the poor and all children. What the Italians do in a small way we do in a grandiose and impressive manner. We can look down on the Greeks and the Italians because their failure to collect taxes is not nearly as impressive as ours.
There are many reasons why Americans are unpopular around the world. One source of our low popularity is surely our insistence that we are superior to others, more enlightened, more public spirited or more democratic than anybody else, when in fact we are no different.
The next Presidential candidates would do well to use “MODESTY” as their campaign slogan.