This is what Democracy looks like in the U.S.

we-the-peopleBy Sandy Marks |May 17, 2018

Consider these realities:

41 million: the number of people in the U.S. living below the official poverty line today – 60% more than there were 50 years ago.

19.9 million: The number of people in the U.S. living in “extreme poverty,” meaning that their family’s cash income is less than half the poverty level, or about $10,000 per year for a family of four.

6.4 million: The number of those in the U.S. ages 16-24 who are neither employed nor in school and are “adrift at society’s margins,” per a study released in late 2013 by the Social Science Research Council.

36: The U.S. ranking in the world vis-à-vis access to clean water and sanitation for its people.

1: The U.S. ranking among all western countries for the highest degree of income inequality and the highest infant mortality rates.

8: The number of people who owned as much wealth as half the world’s population in 2017, 6 of whom are from the U.S.

$1 trillion+: The amount of student loan debt the youth of the U.S. are currently saddled with.

64,000: The number of U.S. deaths due to drug overdoses in 2016.

22: The average number of military veterans who commit suicide every day.

10 times: The amount of increased spending on U.S. federal prisons in real terms since 1976.

8%: The percentage of the population in the U.S. who ranked the trustworthiness and ethics of Congress at ‘high or very high” per a 2015 Gallup poll.

168: The number of U.S. families who contribute the majority of funding for U.S. political campaigns.

23: The number of U.S. states which have adopted voter suppression laws since 2010, according to the Brennan Center. More than 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, people of color still face a broad range of barriers to democracy.

All of these numbers add up to a tsunami of discontent. Economic stability and security is beyond the grasp of most people in the U.S., and they are angry, frustrated and demoralized. Large numbers have voted with their feet and have walked away from what they regard as a bankrupt political process that has materially and objectively abandoned their interests. On college campuses youth are protesting against discriminatory treatment of African-American students and are joining others in communities where massive protests against police killings have taken place. The U.S. government is at the beck and call of the military industrial complex, with over 54% of the federal budget dedicated to military spending versus meeting the needs of the population for housing, health care, food, affordable utilities, education and other necessities.

More people in the U.S. than ever have a negative economic net worth, according to the Equality for Opportunity Project, despite working at hard and often dangerous physical labor at low-wage service, workfare, temporary or part-time jobs, without the security of health care benefits or pensions. The U.S. has the smallest organized workforce in the industrialized world as a result of its labor laws, comparable to those of Tojo’s Japan and Hitler’s Germany, that have rendered illegal all the tactics that allowed Labor in the U.S. heretofore to win anything.

While the Declaration of Independence, put forward in 1776 as the philosophy upon which the U.S. government is based, “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” U.S. government policies and practices are destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions of people both at home and abroad, while facilitating massive wealth accumulation by a tiny number of the population.

Another founding document upon which our form of government is based, the U.S. Constitution, put forward the separation of powers between the executive, judicial and legislative branches as a check on tyranny. Yet, for well over 50 years, the overwhelming majority of actual U.S. government policies and practices come from administrative agencies emanating from the executive branch, divorced from any accountability to the people.

The Declaration of Independence of the United States further states, “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

Given the reality most of us in the U.S. find ourselves in, the legitimacy of our own government has long been rendered null and void for its abandonment of its own principles and premises. It does not rule with the consent of the people. It does not work in our interests.

And so, it is with the greatest of interest that I recommend for your consideration the words of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro (see below.) In the following Op-Ed, he noted the building of their Constituent Assembly as a lawful development, accountable and responsive to the needs of the Venezuelan people, as stipulated in their Constitution. In this op-ed of the Spanish newspaper, El Pais, on May 3, 2018, President Maduro stated, “…to us, it is an essential part of democracy that the economy should be at the service of the people and not the people at the service of the economy…. Either the economy is at the service of the people, or it is abuse. To us Bolivarians, economy means justice and democracy means protection.”

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Nicolas MaduroNicolas Maduro: Our Democracy Is About Protecting Our People | By Nicolas Maduro – El Pais — May 3rd 2018

Incumbent presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro published an op-ed in Spanish newspaper El Pais in which he discusses the elections, the economy, and the direction of the Bolivarian process.

Nicolas Maduro is the incumbent candidate to the upcoming presidential elections in Venezuela, scheduled for May 20. He is running with the backing of his Unified Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Homeland for All Party, Tupamaro Party, and a number of other independent left-wing groupings. He will face both left and right wing competition in the elections, with one ultra-left candidate (Reinaldo Quijada) and three right-wing candidates (Alejandro Ratti, Javier Bertucci, and Henri Falcon).

The following is an op-ed he wrote for Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Our democracy is unlike any other. Because all other democracies – in practically every country in the world – were created by and for the elites. In these democracies, what’s fair is what is convenient for a few. They are class-biased democracies, where the many are viewed as greater in number but lower in quality.

But not in Venezuela. In Venezuela, democracy is there for the many, and what’s fair is what’s good for all the people. And because people’s needs are undergoing constant change and renewal, ours is a revolutionary project in a permanent state of change.

For instance, 20 years ago it was quite normal in Venezuela to be born in violent obstetric conditions. None of us ever considered that at the moment of birth, it is not just the newborn’s health that is at risk, but also the health and the rights of the mother and her family. But the revolution changed and it became feminist. And everyone decided to remove sexist violence from our health system and to empower women through a national humanized childbirth program, respecting their personal project and decisions about how to give birth and rear their children.

Twenty years ago, before our Bolivarian revolution, it was normal to blame young people for their own unemployment, and it was a widespread belief that poor people were poor because they were lazy, and thus deserved to have poor health, miserable wages and no roof over their heads. But things changed when we reached government. We firmly asserted that it is not fair for people to stay poor if they are working all day long. That is why, under the Chavista administrations, we pursued full-employment policies, and why my own government has launched – through the “Carnet de la patria” (homeland card) system that digitally integrated all Venezuelan women and men – the Chamba Juvenil youth employment plan to guarantee that our young people will have access to jobs and a future.

Twenty years ago, we also said that it was unfair for home ownership to be a pipe dream for the people and a reality just for the elites, and so we created the Gran Misión Vivienda housing plan, which has enabled us to build and deliver over two million quality homes to families free of charge, and with which we plan to reach five million completed homes in just a few more years.

Starting this year, additionally, I will implement a new Social Security plan so that Venezuela can once again have the kind of education and healthcare it used to have before the onslaught of economic warfare, and which had once made us a role model for all of Latin America. This Social Security will be built on an economy that is productive, stable, sovereign and prosperous, not one subjected to the ups and downs of oil prices.

The economic revolution in this new Bolivarian period needs to be innovative and creative. We have decided to respond to the inhuman commercial blockade that the governments of the United States and Europe are subjecting us to, and which has hurt our people so much, with the creation of the world’s first ever cryptocurrency backed by reserves, the petro, whose benefits are already and immediately being invested in the people, as we have always done.

Because to us, it is an essential part of democracy that the economy should be at the service of the people and not the people at the service of the economy. An economy that is pure speculation, an economy that does not prioritize the prosperity and sovereignty of the people, means famine today and feast tomorrow (but feast only for the empire). The economy is at the heart of our revolutionary project. But in my heart, people come first of all. Either the economy is at the service of the people, or it is abuse. To us Bolivarians, economy means justice and democracy means protection.

In Venezuela we use a beautiful expression to describe our friends: “Mi pana” (my buddy). There are several explanations for it, but to me it is because in this country, a friend is like a part of yourself. And that is precisely what democratic coexistence is all about to us Bolivarians. Ours is a democracy of panas, because to us, the Homeland is our pana, and other people are part of ourselves. Because to us, there can only be freedom and democracy when there are others who think differently, and a space where they can express their identity and differences. That is why we have passionately worked towards transparency, respect, and respect from others for electoral laws with a view to the upcoming May 20 elections. We are competing with four other candidates, each one of them different, but all respectful of the democratic guarantees agreement subscribed by 14 of the 18 existing political parties in Venezuela. The process will be clean and exemplary, as much or more so than the dozens of elections in which Venezuelans have participated in the last two decades.

What’s really going on is that we got tired of living in this polarized manner, and decided to turn the political violence of the guarimbas [anti-government barricaders] into a constituent power, and find one another within a Constitution made by the people and for the people. That is why I can understand the despair of the elites, who spent decades turning the people into a repository of populism, insults, detestation and barbarity. Ours, on the other hand, is a democracy that is proud to be popular, no doubt about it. It is a democracy of the people.

It is a democracy that is also Latin American, African and indigenous. Because here in Venezuela we have a rite and a founding myth. We have Simón Bolívar and Hugo Chávez, who are not in the past but who are already history. And being history, they are also our present, because they provide the meaning that guides our destiny. We are a unique democracy because we are a democracy of panas: fair, Latin American, popular and Bolivarian. In this democracy, the Other is the Homeland and the Homeland is every one of us, here and now, moving forward together. Like Pablo Neruda wrote:
“Creo que no nos juntaremos en la altura
creo que bajo la tierra nada nos espera
pero sobre la tierra vamos juntos
Nuestra unidad está sobre la tierra”.
(“I believe we shall not be reunited up in those heights
I believe nothing awaits us underground
but here on earth we walk together
Our unity is here on earth”)
Translation by Susana Urra, El Pais. Introduction by Venezuelanalysis.com

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