If you had to name 2017, what would you call it?
I could call this the year the giants died. Mignon Waterman, Bob Ream, Dorothy Eck, Sue Bartlett, Laurie Skillman. Some of the finest human beings and role models in this small part of the world all went together. Who will hold up the sky now?
I could call this the year of the Big Lie, but which big lie would I pick? That the tax bill is a triumph for the middle class instead of billionaires feeding at the public trough? That an “America First” foreign policy will make us safer and not drive away our allies and threaten our very survival? That the Russians didn’t swing the election and aren’t trying to destroy our democracy? That Trump cares about people who aren’t billionaires? That Nazis and white supremacists are good people, no different from those who oppose them? That destroying Obamacare will make insurance cheaper and more available to all? That building a wall will keep Mexicans from taking our jobs? That all Muslims are evil and all Christians who are Republican are good? That women who complain against any Republican are liars and have loose morals as opposed to those virtuous victims who complain against Democrats? That scientists can’t be trusted unless they say what Republicans want? Maybe I’ll call it the year of the Big Liar.
I could call this the year when we officially became a Kleptocracy. Kleptocracy: Government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed. (Merriam-Webster)
Yes, our nation has always been oriented toward the well-to-do, and has had frequent periods where the government operates to help those who don’t need help and to penalize the neediest among us.
The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2009 ruled that corporations have the right of free speech, which means that the rich can spend unlimited amounts to buy elections, and can do it without revealing who is behind the attack. The Supreme Court legalized what was already happening here.
In every nation, whether its government is some form of democracy or dictatorial rule or even communism, the wealthy arrange for special treatment for themselves at the expense of the many. So when does a nation merit the term “kleptocracy,” a term I have seen in multiple sources applied to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the Communist elite in China, and numerous third-world dictatorships?
Common themes of kleptocracy are these:
**Key government officials are appointed because they are family members or friends despite lacking the experience or skills to do the jobs. (Think Ivanka, Donald Jr., Jared Kushner and a great many other unqualified appointed by Trump.)
**There is absolute secrecy about the financial activities of the government elite. (Of course Trump won’t release his taxes. Kleptocrats never do.)
**The wealthiest citizens receive special perks for themselves and their businesses in return for supporting whatever the government does. (The Center for American Progress reports that the 66 lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, who were in charge of writing the tax bill changing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, have received a total of $1.5 billion in corporate contributions in their collective careers.)
**The rulers personally gain enormous wealth while in positions of power. (By not having his fortune in a blind trust, and by having relatives in charge of his holdings and in government positions, Trump makes sure that foreign entities know how to gain his favor by doing business with his companies. Then add in the millions he will gain from the “Tax Reform” bill while claiming he wouldn’t make a penny. In other countries such actions are called “bribery” and “corruption.”)
Enough for the kleptocracy of 2017 and good riddance to it.
I predict that 2018 will be a year of renewal in America.
I predict that 2018 will be the year when the feminist movement, the human rights movement, the environmental movement, the union movement, the pro-democracy movement and the desire for basic human decency make the beginnings of a strong comeback in the United States of America, which will be wonderful for the entire world.
I predict it won’t be easy. Many of our giants here in Montana are gone. We ordinary people will have to join together to help win back a viable future for ourselves, our children and grandchildren, and the planet.
May God help us use truth, love, tolerance, and intelligence to help make America good again.