Our Inefficient Democracy

   On Monday, 13 January 2014, protestors plan to shut down Bangkok and, they hope, other regional government offices around the country in a protest against the corrupt, current regime of self-exiled Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, the current Prime Minister. Background: Thaksin was twice elected Prime Minister as head of the party commonly referred to as *red shirts*. That party has gone through several iterations as one construct after another gets dissolved by the Thai courts as being corrupt or the source of too much illegality in elections. Following a military coup, staged on behalf of the other major party known as the *yellow shirts* while he was overseas, Thaksin was tried in absentia for various crimes and sentenced to two years in prison. Many other charges await him should he ever return without amnesty, and a proposed amnesty plan was ostensibly the trigger point for the latest round of protests beginning late in 2013. Protestors have died during these last few months, although information is spotty, untrustworthy, and heavily manipulated; thus it is unclear who fired the shots, although the government has so far successfully disavowed responsibility. The yellow shirt movement has been widely praised in the global media as being a chance for *the people* to overthrow a corrupt regime. Of course, other players on the global scene would like to see the red shirts stay in power, as Thaksin was sympathetic to the global hegemony of capital and has privatized much of the commonly-held assets of Thailand, even as he raised the standard of living of the Thai poor, especially rural farmers, through free health care, higher minimum wages, and farm subsidies.

   The recent protests did manage to force Yingluck to dissolve Parliament and call for early elections, now scheduled for 2 February 2014. Here’s the problem: the yellow shirts stand no chance of winning any meaningful power in elections held at this time. Despite being the second most powerful party in the country, their numbers fall far short of being near a majority; the red shirts will win as long as most of their supporters vote. But here is something that is not getting much play in the Western media: the term *yellow shirts* arises from the shirts party members wear at rallies. Yellow is the color of King Bhumibol; it is the color of this party precisely because they would like nothing more than to see the end of democracy, and a return to rule by the monarchy. Hence the calls now by yellow shirts, not for new elections which they know they will lose, but for replacement of the democratically elected government by some manner of *reform panel* made up of people hand-picked by someone (it is unclear who) and serving to reconstruct a government made up *of good people*.

   In other words, the yellow shirts want to take power away from the last election’s victors just because they don’t agree with the government’s policies and procedures; they want to end democracy because they don’t like how it always turns out. So what does this all have to do with America? I’m glad you asked…

   How is it different when a minority party refuses to confirm appointees named to vital positions in government by the majority party? What makes it OK for a minority of the minority party to hold up passage of a budget, to actually shut down government for lack of funding, just because these minority interests don’t like how democracy has turned out? Is a government legitimate when elections are stolen through outright fraud or by *buying* votes using millions of dollars funding media ads and campaign rallies? In other words, it may feel good to point fingers at the disruption ongoing in Thailand and laugh, but we are no better here.

   In fact, we may actually be worse if only for the reason that the US dollar lies at the foundation of the current global economy, and the transnational banking interests that are so hell-bent on *harmonizing* wages and production around the planet appear to want to end that domination for their own benefit. Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA: so typically named by government to only appear to be what it is most certainly NOT), may well be the straw that breaks the back of the world’s economy. It is becoming clearer each and every day: ACA is a disaster that is managing to double costs overnight while delivering less in the way of real medical care. Lawmakers would seem to be sensible if they were to point to the increase in costs to government as a result of the dysfunction of this one recent change to our system and demand austerity in other areas of the safety net. Cut Social Security, Medicare, housing assistance, food stamps? We have to, they say, because health care costs are skyrocketing. And the Federal Reserve, for its own hidden agenda reasons, is using the cover of the end of the Bernanke Era to change its own policies of various forms of money printing. When the influx of dollars to the government and to the banks ends and the cracks in our financial system get wider and wider, our new Fed Chairperson can point to her recently-departed predecessor in blame and bring the tested and proven austerity into America from Europe; with its oh-so-successful spending cuts in social services, pension confiscations, and bank bail-ins that have managed to bring Europe to its knees to kick the can down the road a little farther while deepening the poverty in which nearly everyone lives. Take the European test bed results and extrapolate: they weren’t enough, and likely the only remedy that will work is debt default. What does it look like if America defaults on its debt? With the current level of inefficient democracy being practiced in Washington DC, we are likely to find out, and soon. The next debt-ceiling crisis, due to kick off in just a few weeks, combined with the ACA fiasco may be just what the doctor ordered: an excuse for default and a reboot of the American monetary system. Of course, that comes with global ramifications as the dollar would no longer be the reserve currency. China has already been quietly preparing for that; it may not be such a bad idea as far as the rest of the world is concerned. It will only be here in America that the real pain will be felt.

   The destruction of our economy, and in particular the US dollar, may also be another step towards ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This so-called *free trade* deal is like every other free trade agreement during the last few decades: it is not at all about *free trade*.  Understand that we can only speculate about what the TPP intends, as it is being negotiated in secret. You may have heard of proposals to *fast track* its approval process; code for *voting on it without discussion*. In other words, President Obama is pushing the corporations’ wet dreams: trying to get it passed without anyone knowing what it says. And what little we know about is truly horrific: companies would be able to sue nations whose laws prevent the companies from making profits, such as by requiring expensive equipment to protect the environment, or raising minimum wage standards, or mandating worker safety programs. In other words, a nation’s laws would be superseded by the *needs* of the company to make a profit. Of course, this is just the next step in the long arc of business: transnational corporations no longer have any allegiance to the nation of their birth, or to any nation really; and certainly no need to be concerned about the welfare of the local environment in which they actually transact their business. Laws to protect Man or Nature are just in the way; same as America, an idea whose time has passed. The dollar is quaint; destroy it, and wages can be slashed across the board, generating even more profit for the transnationals and their shareholders. It is hard to discuss the end of America. It is hard to broach the subject of the extinction of Mankind. It is impossible to talk about the end of capitalism. But capitalism is about to destroy our democracy; that highlights how very inefficient it has become.

   2014 looks to be a very interesting year….

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