Eroding the American Dream

Perseverance is the American Dream of the current political economy, its toll is impacting the lives of ordinary citizens. Will the big and small governments work to resurrecting this dream?

Deals made by people with a stake, struck under the table, are being exposed. Amidst election fervor and the sweltering heat of Georgia, expecting lethargy beyond casting votes, there is perhaps hope. The election news moves between a moral political economy tethering on votes and jobs, switching the discourse from 1 percent to 99 percent of subsets of citizens.

When citizens are depending on food stamps, unemployment benefits, and Meals on Wheels, there is no sight near of Super Political Action Committee (PAC) dollar fatigue. It is electoral decadence and a profound governing system error that $10 million dollars from an individual donor is going to supporting one candidate – presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, when there are 46 million people living on food stamps and additionally 44 million living in poverty in America.

Not to forget, there is a Federal budget deficit of $1 trillion and a debt burden of over $15.7 trillion. Palpably resonating like the third world, the statistics give the impression that we are talking about Bihar, in India. Is the American Dream eroding?

If in America, a family must survive on $10 per day with unemployment benefit of $300 per month, then it is not surprising that in Bihar in India vendors sell garlic by pods. Bihar, touted as the bad example of poor governance, at least has seen a lot of progress lately. Déjà vu, vote is bought in Patna, the main city of Bihar. Money can buy power, position and votes. Ethics is also for sale. Sons of elected officials peddle with drugs, drive fancy cars, and buy off jail sentences and visit massage parlors. It is also a third world reality.

America, with its transformational foreign policy with 3 Ds – defense, diplomacy and development has managed to ship jobs overseas, taking the country to the cleaners. Meanwhile, Bihar is at least making some tangible progress. Even though Bihar lags behind in human and economic development, it is commendable that Bihar became renowned as the least corrupt State in India in 2011.

Misuse of money – ‘corruption’ pervasively legalized and legitimized is certainly one of the culprits of poor governance. Newspaper headlines in metro Atlanta reverberating sounds of scandals, corruption, massage parlors, schools cheating, land deals, water projects, and the jobless – the American Dream feels like it is eroding. When the economy is failing citizens, poverty gaps become prominent, and eyes are on governments and governance – both big and small.

The recent corruption charges of one of the Gwinnett County Commissioner, Shirley Lasseter is revealing on several fronts. In this particular case, the local authorities sought help from federal investigators. Lasseter pleaded guilty to accepting $36,500 in favor of her vote towards a zoning project. Subsequently, the involvement of her son and the nexus of illegal money, drugs and land deals all came into unfolding within the same scandal.

The murmurs beneath the surface are telling of a county rife with corruption which prompted concerned local authorities in seeking assistance from federal investigators. Upon suspicion, at the local level, corruption in smaller figures is much easier to contain and deal with. However, to act on suspicious activity requires political will from people with stake. As shown by Lasseter’s scandal, seeking collaborative programs during times of uncertainty, actually demonstrates results.

Whether Super PAC dollars or a smaller amount of bribe that tempts an elected official – the question remains, can money be used as powerful incentives in governing, creating policies and acting on behalf of the people? This is a sad and dichotomous reality of the U.S. political economy. On the one hand, this guiding of the moral economy is visible and permeates various levels of governing structure and system.

On the other hand, the rising level of poverty in America is frightening. Disparities are stark. ‘Perseverance’ is the new American Dream for citizens. The basic value construct of what America stands for – equality, rights, justice, fairness and opportunity, appear to be on transitory hold. Nevertheless, like Bihar, Georgia is also working on improving its corruption index and has a long way to go. Acting on reducing systematized rent-seeking purchasing power in governance will require political will, similarly to resurrecting the American Dream with policies that actually benefit people.

Will the big and small governments work together in rebuilding internal democracy? Will Obama offer an economic agenda that can get the country moving beyond the basic need economic survival mode to reshaping its moral political economy? We will cast the vote for hope.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sherilu June 20, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Jimmy, I don't think you understood what you read. You simply played a childish game. Your response only solidifies what Ms. Regmi wrote. The blog is absolutely correct in it's assertion of back room deals and money buying not only access but the government itself. When a county commissioner can be bought off with a measly $35,000 + we are in deep trouble. Instead of "taking sides" it would be refreshing to actually see some problem solving by mature people. I do think that there are many of these people in our government, but they are tainted by the rest. So, what do we do? We take the time to study beyond the "talking points" and honestly assess what we want our county and country to be. Honest, civil disagreements can be parlayed into "consensus" if we act maturely and as a community.
Jason Green June 20, 2012 at 04:07 PM
This analysis is complex and touches upon several trajectories of "misuse of money" in governing and governance. The impact of political economy further influences lives of citizens. Reference to 3Ds, foreign policy of development, defense and diplomacy, brain child of GW Bush and Condy Rice, of course has also contributed in negatively impacting the economy. Reference to India is interesting. The image of the U.S. overseas, land of equal opportunity and a fair society, as U.S. teaches good governance abroad, in reality is misleading. U.S. faces very similar problems than those facing the developing countries. Unfortunately, the land of equal opportunity has not yet developed adequate resilience to counter the repercussions of globalization as resources revolve so much around its moral political economy. In summary, what it translates to is perseverance by citizens to achieveing their American Dream, when those that govern are oblivious to the ground reality. It is time for consensus not only in Congress but also between Congress and Local legislatures.
Daniel Plainview June 22, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Will Obama offer an economic agenda that can get the country moving beyond the basic need economic survival mode to reshaping its moral political economy? Moral political economy- Did we ever have one? I won't get into that, but I know Romney will be a G.W. Bush clone: pro trickle down economics, and haphazard foreign and domestic policy.
Karsten Torch June 22, 2012 at 10:01 PM
To be fair, I didn't see anything that reflects specifically on GOP or Dems, just on the political process in general, which I agree with. Corporatism needs to be reigned in. Why Congress members are allowed to participate in insider trading without repercussions is beyond me. That being said, I also see a reference to the disparity between income groups. I find this increases the more dependant we get on government. The more handouts we give, the less incentivized people become to provide for themselves. Just my 2 cent's worth.....
Neil Stapley June 25, 2012 at 01:57 PM
There is so much money flying around with the constant electionering, back room deals, media politics etc. Each special interests use loopholes in the constitution or the right vs left view of the constitution for their own purpose and because the politicians then don't have to be accountable for what is being said let the whole mess continue. If there were strict controls on when campaigning could be done prior to elections and a ban on these so called super pacs. Campaign only 4 weeks prior to an election.


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