Why America’s government is broken
by Mike Meyer
Many people who live in democratic socialist, parliamentarian or just functioning governments have trouble understanding the American political structure and the bizarre disasters that have befallen it. The amazing situation of a partial shutdown (whatever that means) somehow caused by a wall on a friendly border makes it worse. Why can’t the government pay it’s employees to maintain the health and well being of the citizens as it should be doing?
The fact that America is quickly collapsing, visible to the world but apparently not to people in America, makes this confusion more and more troublesome. Who knows what will happen? Unfortunately the US is still the richest state (barely) and the most powerful militarily but with a mentally disturbed wannabe dictator in charge supported by an obviously criminal group that claims to have been a political party. None of this makes any sense.
This short essay was originally written to help explain the background for a reader from New Zealand who couldn’t make sense of the situation she was reading about based on the budgetary and political mechanisms of her native country. Thank you Michelle Jones. Hopefully this will help others stumped by what is happening who need some background notes.
Why the US has suddenly stopped working is a good question that is difficult to answer but goes directly to the heart of the structural failure of the US system. The original form of the US federal system was incredibly innovative for the late 18th century. The current form under the constitution was implemented before the French Revolution so the only model was the English revolution of 1688. There were, obviously, lots of reasons to ignore that. The primary influences were the philosophes of the, predominantly, French Enlightenment. But this was before the French Revolution and the sequence of problems, terror, and imperial restoration that taught the world a lot about trying to do a pseudo democratic system had not happened yet.
The current structure is a federalist republican system with very limited representation for a very limited part of the population. This was understood to be the only legitimate part of the population defined as white, male, landowners. These were the only people who could vote and they could only vote in their state legislative and governor elections and for the lower house of Congress. Originally the state legislatures elected both the Senate (two from each state no matter the size) and the Electoral College that then elected the president. The popular election for president could be ignored by the Electoral College.
The Senate became subject to popular election and the electorate was slowly widened to include people of other races and even women as long as they followed the lead of the white citizens who functioned as an aristocracy of wealth. You can see how the whole thing became a shambles through the 20th century. Congress was owned by the parties (only two were functionally allowed by precedent) while the Senate was effectively a house of lords able to ignore the people while guaranteeing the well being of the wealthy.
While the Constitution gave the House of Representatives (the only popularly elected component) the sole power to propose the budget the Senate must confirm it by proposing its own and then negotiating something they would all accept. Even this was too risky so the president could veto it and, effectively, force everyone to start over. Of course if anyone doesn’t agree nothing gets paid and the whole thing grinds to halt as everyone takes the budget hostage to get the parts they want. This can last until things become so bad that death and the threat of popular unrest forces the representatives, senators, and president to accept some compromise.
Unfortunately for the last decade or so this has degenerated to the point that an actual financial package can be avoided by agreeing to a stop gap measure for a month or two. This is called ‘kicking the can down the road’ in case you wondered. But the president must follow the rules so it ultimately gets sorted out but now that has broken down. The person who is president doesn’t know the rules and doesn’t care.
The only thing that has kept this working for the last forty years or so is the fact that no one will change the rules to allow the president to do line item veto. This would allow the president to rewrite a budget to do what he wanted by blocking each budget item that he didn’t like. The whole thing would have collapsed into a full dictatorship under Nixon in the early ’70s if that had been allowed. Of course this is rather a moot point now.
There are many reasons that this was allowed to disintegrate over the decades but primarily it is the structural requirement of racism and the basic denial of democracy as a system. Much of the planetary confusion about this is due to a century of propaganda claiming America as the lead democracy with exceptional power that cannot be questioned. Mostly this was actually because America was isolated and was the last nation standing at the end of WWII so could make up any story that we wanted. In reality America is not and was never a democracy and is only a very limited representative system. It is also in no way exceptional except in ignorance and isolated provincialism.
America started out well and really impressed de Tocqueville in the early 1800s as an emerging republic using free market capitalism to grow. It started to show the structural problems in the 1820s with expanded genocide of the indigenous populations. The combination of uncontrolled capitalism proved very powerful for industrial development and territorial exploitation (conquest) during the Industrial Revolution but was crippled by slavery and racism that was built into the system. That led to the most brutal war in the 19th century that eliminated slavery in name only. In exceptional American fashion this was considered to be good enough because racism was normal so nothing more was done until the 1960s when black people finally got fed up with having to act like slaves and fight all the wars.
This led to the first serious effort to do something about racism in the cities as most of the racists tended to live in the country. Also because all states have two senators the small states with many racists had the same power as the big successful states with many diverse people. This allowed the racist states to focus on supporting important issues such as protecting racism.
After the 1960s urban people could then enjoy black culture again and everyone spent the next ten years congratulating themselves on being exceptional. Ronald Reagan ended this by declaring the problem was all of the non-white people who were uppity because the government had been used to give them things they shouldn’t have had such as education and reasonable pay. This couldn’t be said because of the laws of the ’60s so the term ‘dog whistle’ was invented to save time. Dogs had nothing to do with this.
Economic growth was used to cover the growing social problems at the end of the 19th century and the general horror of the World Wars in the first half of the 20th allowed America as the resource center of the planet isolated from the conflict to play to its advantage. The Great Depression showed the inherent failings of rampant capitalism which gave America its one shot at being truly great, at least for its people, in the late 1940s to the 1970s. This was almost a democratic socialist state (the use of the term was forbidden) until capitalist greed and racial exhaustion caused by dog whistling allowed the old forces to finally take control (courtesy of Ronald Reagan as noted above) and begin the destruction they had always wanted.
These were the very rich oligarchs who wanted people retained as low level chattels with no rights beyond those that would keep them working. They are now totally committed to greed in the form of all planetary assets being theirs by right of race and ethnicity. Freedom applies only to them. They have created a new form of freedom called ‘freedumb’ that allows those willing to be happy with no government services as long as they can hate people that don’t look like them and consider themselves exceptional. This is a total class structure with the very wealthy elite as an improved version of 18th century European aristocracy.
This was the actual goal of the American Revolution that was distorted by the damned French influence and that has taken 250 years to correct. The goal is very close now except for the mentally deranged person in the White House but that is just a side show and our Russian allies will tell him when to stop. They said they would do that when it was time.
It’s almost time. We have come full circle.