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Saturday, June 19, 2010

On the Constitutionality, Morality, and Consequences of the Senate Denying Help to the Unemployed

On June 16, 2010, in a 52-45 vote, the U.S. Senate voted down a bill that included extending unemployment benefits. Of the 52, 40 were Republicans and 12 were Democrats. Senator Ben Nelson (D - NB), who has a long history of concern for government spending, explained, "... this is not paid for, and that translates into deficit spending and adding to the debt. The American people are right. We've got to stop doing that."

Senator Mitch McConnell (D – KY) has used the identical phrase, “not paid for,” back in April, when he voted “no” against an unemployment benefits extension. Nelson has found McConnell, from my state, to be his ethics counselor.

For U.S. Senators to deny help for unemployed Americans is both an ethical and leadership issue. The reasons above are framed as a single issue: insufficient funds. If the Senators were accountants who consistently refused to approve any expense over available funds, the decision on June 16 would be reasonable. But they are not accountants. Neither are they consistent. In fact, they are complete hypocrites. Before and after this vote, the Senate has and will approve unfunded spending. When they do, they always explain, “This was necessary,” for whatever reason.

It is the purpose of this essay to state clearly how these 52 Senators have (1) openly breached their Oath of Office; (2) shown contempt for the U.S. Constitution; and, (3) knowingly created conditions for unemployed Americans potentially leading to domestic unrest and violence. While this essay will not be read by them, nor will it change anything, I feel it my ethical duty as a concerned and patriotic American still to write the truth as I see it.

Those Voting NO Are Against the Intentions of the U.S. Constitution

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution reads,
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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.

We the People are the three most important words in the U.S. Constitution. The People of the United States are the subject. The People of the United States wrote, ordained, and established the Constitution. Its purpose and power derive from them. The People elect the members of Congress to obey the Constitution. The People require them to swear or affirm their Oath of Office and allegiance to the Constitution. The People's Constitution includes impeachment for any member of Congress who breaches the Constitution.

The People will their government “form a more perfect Union.” But the Senators voting “NO” divided the Union. They willfully harmed millions of People who are unemployed through no fault of their own, who otherwise would be ineligible for unemployment benefits. The terms of unemployment law approved them eligible for help. Yet the Senators who refused help for the People and their children, knowingly driving them into poverty and more ruin. These Senators have divided those harmed by them against their own government’s Constitutional purpose to “form a more perfect Union.”

The People will their government to “establish Justice.” But the Senators voting “NO” created injustice. The Senate voted to give billions of dollars of the People’s money to help corporations in trouble. Unlike the unemployed eligible for benefits, the corporations were responsible for their crisis. Prior to the vote, the People expressed their opposition fully and clearly to reward malfeasance. Yet the Senate met in private and acted against the People’s will. These same corporations are responsible for the unemployment of the People. Yet when the Senators had opportunity to help the People harmed by corporations helped by the Senate, they denied help.

The Senators voting “NO” have created injustice. They helped corporations responsible for their crises. They refused help to American people unemployed as a result of corporations. They listened to corporations, but refused to listen to the People. They used the money of the People to help corporations against the will of the People. They denied to use the money of the People to help the People. Added to these injustices is insult. The Senators helped corporations in deficit spending, but harmed the People on the pretense deficit spending required the harm. These Senators are not only unjust. They hold the People in contempt to issue such a reason.

The People will their government “insure domestic Tranquility.” But the Senators voting “NO” ensure domestic unrest, and violence. The People cannot be tranquil or peaceful when their children’s stomachs are empty, or when they have no home to protect them against the elements. By denying the minimal help to the millions of People unemployed and eligible for benefits, the Senators drive them into poverty and despair.

Marie Antoinette did not say, as has been reported, “Let them eat cake” in regard to the poor French peasants calling for help. Yet that infamous phrase and its contempt for common people conveys the message some Americans may hear Senators voted to end the small unemployment checks. The Senators place no value on them or their children to do such a thing. They will not be disposed to tranquility, nor to have a tranquil response, when ordinarily patriotic and good Americans turn to any means possible to feed their starving children.

The People will their government “provide for the common defense.” But the Senators voting “NO” provide no defense, but show aggression, to the People they harm. Based on votes to help corporations, the Senators have shown whose interests they defend, even against the will of the People. The Senators understand, but rebuke, the definition of “common” by their selective assistance. The Senators use deficit spending for the alleged defense of people in Afghanistan and Iraq, but argue deficit spending is impossible for the common defense of their own People. The Senators love foreigners--who pay no taxes here, who did not write nor support the U.S. Constitution, some even opposed to its democratic principles--more than their own People of the United States of America.

The People will their government “promote the general Welfare.” But the Senators voting “NO” promote the final and complete destruction of millions of unemployed People, absenting an Act of God that miraculously feeds them. The Senators have proven willingness to feed billions of bailout dollars into the coffers of corporations, and billions more into the coffers of their favorite corporate contractors, all using the People’s money and deficit spending. The Senators are demonstrated to be inimical to the general welfare of the People, not advocates of it.

The People will their government to “secure the Blessings of Liberty.” But the Senators voting “NO” deny blessing and invoke cursing on unemployed People. Concerning liberty, by taking away the last remnant of financial support, the Senators effectively say to the unemployed, “You are free to fend for yourselves and your children.” Whatever freedom this is, is contemptible and despicable. The Senators themselves are not free, for they are the willing bondservants of the corporations whose every wish they fulfill. What the Senators have secured for themselves are the curses of the People harmed by them. Yes, the People will use the freedom they have to find some way to bless their children with a crust of bread. And, yes, the People, some of them at least, will use their freedom to remove from office the Senators and Representatives who are slaves to money and power.

Those Voting “NO” Have Breached Their Oath of Office

In their Oath of Office, Senators and Representatives swear or affirm before fellow countrymen, and pray to God, the following:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
Oaths spoken into the air, or signed by the hand, are only as meaningful and true as the character of those who take them. To swear or affirm anything is easy for a liar or immoral person, but difficult and solemn for one intending to keep its terms. Based on the conduct and voting records of many Senators and Representatives, they prove they are the former, not the latter.

I hope I have shown already that the Senators voting “NO” have not supported—but denied and contradicted--the principle purposes of the Constitution of the United States. However, the Oath of Office specifies too that the Constitution be “defended…against all enemies, foreign or domestic.” It is this sworn duty that is of great import for our times. I now devote two small sections on this critical part of the Oath.

Those Voting “NO”: Enemies of the Unemployed?

What does the word and its concept of “enemy” mean? I ask the reader to permit a generalization. In its most literal sense, an enemy is one who has ill will or who intends harm.

Now immediately we can say that the Senators who voted against unemployed People receiving help did not, we will pray to God, consciously will or intend harm to come to the People. In their own minds, what they intended, to aver back to Nelson’s statement, was to stop deficit spending with the Americans who “were right” in wanting deficit spending to end. This was the Senators’ avowed purpose.

There is a problem the Senators cannot avoid now. The term “enemy” is always used by the person who concludes some person, or even a corporation, for example, bears him or her ill will or intends harm. So regardless of their success in agreeing with some Americans, who mattered more to them, the Senators voted to create harm for millions of other Americans, who mattered less. This means the Senators who voted “NO” to helping millions of unemployed Americans practically and effectively made themselves “domestic enemies” to all they harmed.

The Senators have made themselves, in practical terms and regardless of all the words they will use to explain themselves, enemies of the People. There is no other way for People harmed by this vote to conclude anything else. Every Senator whose name appears on the list of the “NO” votes cast made himself or herself the very real and practical enemy of any constituents whose families are harmed. When people are harmed, it is they who track down the source of the harm. And when that source is a specific person whose specific act harmed them, they rightly ascribe the phrase, “This person is the enemy of my family and myself.”

Those Voting “YES” to Help Certain Corporations: Enemies of The People?

Corporations are, regardless of what the Roberts Supreme Court majority ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, not People who wrote and for whom the Constitution was established. Corporations are legal constructs, fictions created under law so their owners and shareholders can transact business. For-profit corporations have that one purpose, profit. All they do is aimed to increase profit and reduce expenses, or risk.

For-profit corporations are pecuniary, centrally concerned with money. They are amoral in nature. If they have in their mission statements moral or ethical operating principles, they exist because they are believed to add value for prospective customers. And stated moral or ethical principles need not be applied in practice, if profits are threatened. Let us completely divest ourselves of any illusions, or corporate propaganda, about the nature of for-profit corporations.

A brief note now on American history, which means I am interested in facts and not emotional arguments. Our history is perforated and punctuated throughout with for-profit corporations harmful to the People. In fact, for-profit corporations actually have killed, maimed, defrauded, and criminally abused millions of Americans.

Throughout the history of the production of food, pharmaceuticals, goods, machines, transportation, labor practices, in every area where American or foreign for-profit corporations have sought profits, millions of Americans have been harmed. Sickness, injury, and death, the suppression of workers' rights protected under the First Amendment, American corporations have shown they value the People only as means for profits.

For these factual reasons, every federal law and regulation on the books was enacted--always against the cries "Foul!" by for-profit corporations--to stop monopolies, sweat shops, child labor, price-fixing, health standards, workplace safety, and much more. The only reason these laws passed was that harms, suffering, and death, had grown so prevalent Congress feared a general social uprising greater and more pervasive than those when laws were passed. The People have required protection from for-profit corporations, organized individuals, willing to harm millions of their own countrymen, for money.

The very crises we have today ALL were preventable, ALL were, had the Congress and federal agencies under past White House administrations not reduced vigilance, staffs, and the will to prosecute evidence clearly in their possession. I say with vehemence that it is not corporations--but the Congress, the White House, and now, with one repetition after another--who bear the MAIN blame for not protecting The People from the suffering today. They had the history. They had the legal power. They had not the will to love the People as they loved themselves.

Our history shows some for-profit corporations are enemies of the People.

In our day, some for-profit corporations have harmed millions of American people. In every case, the harms were for profits. Millions of unemployed People were fired or permanently laid off as corporations went overseas for cheap labor. This is an illustration that profits, not moral aversion to human harm, drive for-profit corporations. The millions of Americans were harmed legally. We are a capitalist society. People still employed in for-profit corporations in this country are paid and retained for their profit value. We understand this. As many of my friends as I have left in the for-profit sector tell me, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.”

For-profit corporations who harmed millions of American people are like the Senators who voted “NO.” They have said of their harms, “I meant no harm. I did what was right. Harm was a consequence of my goal. I apologize.” We understand. And so long as their harms were legal—even if immoral and unethical, driving into poverty millions—Americans have no legal ground to complain. Oh, how for-profit corporations love their attorneys in all the fields for which they are paid well.

Let us return now to the Oath of Office and its concern that Senators (and Representatives who take the same Oath) “defend from enemies domestic and foreign.”

The People who wrote the Oath of Office did not mean only military enemies at home or abroad. They knew well the definition of “enemy” as someone who intends or does harm. Harm is not merely bullets and bombs. Harm also is economic. Throughout our history (and I apologize a little for preferring facts to fiction), our Founders knew money interests, profit interests, always worked to use the People for amoral purposes, to their harm. Thomas Jefferson fought a National Bank for that reason. He knew wealth and power could undermine democracy in America, just as wealth and power in all the nations of Europe had driven immigrants to these shores.

The Senators who voted “NO” against unemployed People voted “YES” to help for-profit corporations in financial crises. How did those amoral (and in some cases, immoral) corporations get in trouble? They engaged in business practices that harmed People. But their methods went out of control, and collapsed back on their heads. Nevertheless, all who voted “YES” to help those for-profit corporations still helped those proven and demonstrated enemies of the People.

The great irony, of course, and already stated before, is that millions of Americans are unemployed, and millions more will be unemployed, because of many for-profit corporations who are demonstrated enemies of the People. That the U.S. Senate had a majority of Senators who already helped the corporate enemies of the People (with the People’s money, and against their will), then doubly harms the People already stricken by their corporate enemies, is a mockery of the Oath of Office.

The Consequences of “YES” and “NO” Votes

The American People are basically good people. They are law-abiding people. They are proud of their Constitution and democratic institutions. Millions now have come to believe their elected officials in Washington have betrayed them and are their enemies. This is not really all that new. Nevertheless, people generally have not acted against the traitors they believe some Congress members are. But when bellies are empty, when homes are lost, when there are no jobs or means of government assistance, these conditions predict violence from some Americans. I will cite the work of a man no one longer reads, but which applies to my prediction.

In his book, Power and Innocence: a Search for the Sources of Violence (Norton 1972), the Harvard psychologist, Rollo May, tried to understand how and why some individuals in society become violent.
For violence has its breeding ground in impotence and apathy. True, aggression has been so often and so regularly escalated into violence that anyone's discouragement and fear of it can be understood. But what is not seen is that the state of powerlessness ... is the source of violence. As we make people powerless, we promote their violence rather than its control. Deeds of violence in our society are performed largely by those trying to establish their self-esteem, to defend their self-image, and to demonstrate they they, too, are significant.... Violence arises not out of superfluity of power but out of powerlessness. As Hannah Arendt has so well said, violence is the expression of impotence. (23)
An unemployed person in America is, because of how we have structured our society, for all practical purposes, impotent. The word, impotence, means lacking power. We are a capitalist society. The man or woman with the greatest wealth and possessions has power, and is recognized for it. There is a bitter twisting of the Golden Rule—“Love your neighbor as yourself”—“Who has the gold makes the rules.” But the one who has no gold is subject to the one who has it. Impotence leads to submission.

“As we make people powerless, we promote their violence rather than its control.”

The jobless in America knows they are powerless. They are at the mercy of a society built on earning, buying, and selling. Yet when they receive an unemployment check—and we absolutely must note many millions are jobless from employers who never paid into the unemployment syste—those few dollars are a little bit of monetary power. No, the petty little sum is not enough to do much with. But the unemployment check gives, in its own little way, a little bit of economic empowerment not to lose hope. When the Senators voted “no” to allow an extension for unemployment benefits, they disempowered millions more Americans from the little they had.

Economic power has shifted in America over the past decades. Less than ten percent, perhaps as little as five, are richer and more powerful. President Bush joked to a wealthy crowd, “You are my base.” Ninety percent or more are poorer. Of that ninety percent, how many have descended into the lowest depths of poverty and powerlessness. For many years, all Americans heard, “We are the last superpower on the planet.” Power, not people or compassion, our people have been conditioned to believe is our greatest claim to fame.

If Rollo May was correct, there should be no Senator, Representative, or President surprised when various sectors of powerless Americans—who blame their powerlessness on elected officials and the wealthy corporate elites who united in enmity against them—engage one of two kinds of violence.

In the French Revolution, mobs directly arrested and executed both the guilty and innocent they believed responsible for their oppression and poverty. In the election where the Nazi Party was put in power, Germans driven by the devastations of their Great Depression empowered a single man to overturn the struggling democratic Weimar Republic.

My closing suggestion is this. If the members of Congress love the People, then let them stop helping corporations at all, and let them start helping ALL Americans with hungry bellies in fear and despair. The basic instinct for survival, the basic instinct to protect one’s kin and brood, will overrule any propaganda and any law. Let us join together now, to use deficit spending where it matters most, before it is too late.

The power of impeachment, as the U.S. Constitution now dictates, is reserved only to members of Congress.  I know why the Founders did that.  Nevertheless, history has shown they were wrong in their judgment.  There should be a Constitutional Amendment that allows the People to impeach by referendum processes impossible for the Congress, Supreme Court, or U.S. military to stop.  This would ensure terms limits when We the People concluded Congress had become our enemies, or aided those who were.

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