Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

June 25, 2013

Greed at the heart of our unraveling democracy

“There must be a positive Passion for the public good, the public Interest…or there can be no Republican Government, nor any real Liberty: and this public Passion must be Superiour to all private Passions. Men must be…happy to sacrifice their private Pleasures, Passions and Interests, nay, their private Friendships and dearest Connections, when they stand in Competition with the Rights of Society.” — John Adams, founding father.

These words contain within them the essence of this country’s unraveling. They also contain the seeds of rejuvenation that, if planted, could grow to thwart the aims of the plutocracy that has eviscerated our democracy to the point that many citizens have given up on government.

According to Adams, the heart of maintaining a democracy requires citizens willing to “sacrifice their private Pleasures, Passions and Interests” for the greater good of society.

If a democracy — in Adams’ words a “Republican Government” — is to survive, the good of all society must guide decisions.

Yet one does not have to look far to find that our society is dominated by an opposite philosophy — one that lauds acquisition as the highest good.

In effect, our society, one that often talks about Christian values, has raised the completely antithetical value of greed as the ideal.

Get as much as you can, and never consider the costs to others, to society as a whole, or, God forbid, the environment that supports all life.

Examples of this greed are rampant. How about the nonprofit hospital, MD Anderson, that made a 26 percent profit in its most recent financial statement.

How about 5-cent pills billed at $24? The greed in the medical industry is truly breathtaking. See Steven Brill, “Bitter Pill.”

Henry Ford said business deserves a fair and reasonable profit, but this is neither fair nor reasonable. Over half the bankruptcies in our country are caused by catastrophic illness and the unreasonable costs incurred because of a greedy few.

And the greed of corporations who would destroy the environment that keeps us alive is stunning.

Bayer and Snygenta have spent millions lobbying to keep powerful pesticides called “neonics” in use, even though these have been connected by scientists to the collapse of 31 percent of U.S. beehives this past winter.

Without bees, much of our food disappears. Profit at all cost.

How about major corporations paying no taxes — taxes that benefit us all — while the CEO’s of these corporations take home massive paychecks. Between 2008-10, 30 corporations with total profits of $160 billion paid no tax. Corporations like GE, Dupont, and Boeing. Between 1998 and 2005, only one in three corporations paid income tax.

Of course there’s other greed — the greed for power, perks, and prestige, often seen in our professional politicians, whose insatiable craving for reelection makes them deaf to all but big-money donors.

The founders never imagined professional politicians. If they had, term limits might be part of the Constitution. I see little sacrifice for the good of society in Washington. Mostly I see a plutocracy who already controls 40 percent of the wealth — and wants more.

Interestingly, as I talk with my conservative friends, we agree on so much regarding the greed that is destroying our country.

Virtually all agree that we need term limits in Congress and federal funding of elections (plus repeal of Citizens-United) to eliminate the obscene amounts of money that now pervert our elections.

Of course, the plutocracy will fight back — plutocracy isn’t compatible with democracy — but until we eliminate money in elections and the philosophy of greed, we have little chance of resuscitating the democracy envisioned by the founding fathers.

Craig Etchison

Fort Ashby, W.Va.

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