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If You Are Not Outraged, You Are Not Paying Attention: 5 Major Ways Corporate Elites Are Degrading America

While it can be disheartening to see the smallness of those in power, don't let it get you down, for they want us to become so disheartened that we give up.

"We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

What a paragraph! This sparse, 52-word opening of our Constitution did not merely launch a fledgling nation--but a bold experiment in democratic idealism. The rest of the document consists of details, but this carefully considered Preamble set forth our nation's purpose. It declares to all the world that the BIG goal of America--its very reason for existing--is to create a society that embraces and fosters such egalitarian values as justice, tranquility, common effort, the welfare of all, and liberty.

As Benjamin Franklin put it at the time, "America's destiny is not power, but light." The light is our historic commitment to the common good, shared prosperity, and a government of, by, and for the People.

Whatever happened to that audacious reach, that grand vision, that proud progressive purpose? We know, of course, that our nation has never attained the fullness of this ideal, but over the decades, generation after generation has at least strived to get closer to it--and made impressive progress. But today, some 224 years after the penning of the Preamble, America's corporate-financial-political establishment is fleeing the light, insisting that it's no longer possible or even desirable to pursue those democratic ideals that make our country important--and make it work.

What's happened is that, from Wall Street to Washington, we have too many five-watt bulbs sitting in 100-watt sockets. As a result of their dimness, America's uniting and constructive ethic of "We're all in this together" and "Together we can" is being supplanted by a shriveled, dispiriting ethic that exalts plutocratic selfishness and scorns the public interest as intrusive, wasteful, ideologically impure, and morally ruinous. They're pushing us toward a forbidding Kochian jungle in which there is no "we"--money rules, everyone's on their own, and such matters as justice, general welfare, tranquility, and posterity are none of society's damned business.

The nation of no-can-do

In recent years, acolytes of the far right have contrived yet another litmus test of ideological purity to divide "real Americans" (themselves) from those who obviously hate America (all who do not agree with them). "American exceptionalism," they call it.

America has most certainly been exceptional in many ways, thanks to the pluck and democratic determination of grassroots folks. But that's not glorious enough for these extreme nationalists, who insist that ours is a God-ordained exceptionalism. They preach that ours is both a Christian nation and one bathed in the blood of free enterprise, thus God has blessed us with a moral superiority that lifts the USofA ever-sparkling above all nations that ever existed.

Never mind that our national morality has a few conspicuous hickies on it (ask a Native American, for example), the believers believe... and that makes it true. They're also demanding that others believe --or be branded un-American. To get right with the rightists, such current seekers of the presidency as Mitt, Newt, Rick, the other Rick, and Michele have bowed to the exceptionalists and are blissfully spreading this new gospel through their campaign speeches and websites. (Really, friends, how credible is America's claim to exceptionalism with those six carrying the flag?)

The cruelest irony is that America's genuine exceptionalism (our historic striving for a more egalitarian society) is under relentless assault by the political army of the hokey exceptionalists. These are the holy crusaders of the plutocratic, autocratic, theocratic, and kleptocratic right--an army that includes the laissez-fairyland Koch brothers; the Boehner-Cantor-Ryan triumvirate in the US House; off-the-wall senators like Jim DeMint and Jim Inhofe; the gaggle of goofy governors wreaking havoc in Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, and elsewhere; Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, and other slash-and-burn political operatives; corporate front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Cato Institute; and such ceaseless propaganda pushers as Rupert Murdoch's line-up of Fox TV yakkers.

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