BY VERN TURNER
There are two quotes, one anonymous and the other from the great economist John Maynard Keynes, that play the music for this dance between competing ideologies as our nation ratchets up its lusty search for hydrocarbons.
Capitalism is the childish idea that there is no such thing as too much. – Anonymous
Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all. – Keynes
The syndicated columnist David Sirota wrote a chilling piece last Jan. 17 titled: Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist? He uses the theme from the new Matt Damon movie, Promised Land, to illustrate the conflict between the “extraction” industry and the governing bodies of towns, cities and states.
A real gas industry executive, John C. Holko, goes on record as saying, “Why should I put money in the ground if any one of the towns can say ‘NO’ at the next town meeting? The issue of home rule is the demise of the industry.”
What follows those statements in the article are examples of the governors of New York, Colorado and Pennsylvania being suborned by the gas extraction industries to allow statewide drilling and hydraulic fracturing while bypassing the local communities’ wishes altogether.
Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado has already accepted campaign money from the gas people and favors the straight shot allowance of drilling anywhere, anytime.
The National Geographic publication from March 2013 had a feature article, America Strikes Oil, about the drilling/fracking in North Dakota’s and Montana’s part of the Bakken Shale Formation. The environmental impact on this relatively fragile land is predicted by experts to be devastating.
Yet, the people of the area and surrounding states lust for the jobs and the money they bring. Small towns in the region were slowly dying before the gas and oil extraction industry started punching holes in the ground, seemingly at random. There will be literally thousands of wells drilled into this formation.
OK. People need the jobs to raise their families and pay their bills. But they also have rights to select who and what will do business in their communities.
What isn’t often mentioned is that the new energy bills that came out of the Bush Administration and ramrodded by Dick Cheney behind closed doors eliminates all responsibility and liability by the energy companies from repairing the destroyed land and environment after they’ve finished taking all they can.
The EPA has been removed from the conversation regarding the executive branch’s ipso facto deregulation of drilling and extracting regulations.
No public or community involvement was permitted in making these decisions. The tilt of the field toward business and away from the voting public was exacerbated and steepened by the infamous Citizens United v. FEC decision allowing big money to dictate who runs for office at every level.
It is now clear that compliant to business candidates are all the people have left to vote for at the state and national levels. With business-only oriented state government, local control by towns and cities has been abrogated, they’ll get what they’re told they’re going to get no matter what the local residents want.
We are seeing the crisis of capitalism confronting the voice of the people. The capitalists are few, but they have been permitted to purchase the governments they want for the purposes they want and denying recourse to the citizenry at large.
The drilling industry is suing the city of Longmont, CO, for example, to allow drilling within city limits even though the citizens voted against it. That doesn’t sound like democracy in action, it sounds like an attempt at a hostile takeover of constitutionally guaranteed rights: Business and profit trumps the peoples’ wishes.
We pundits continue to rail against the petty politicians who seem completely lost regarding their responsibilities to their constituents, but it doesn’t get any more citizens registered to vote. We still have 30% of our eligible citizens not registered to vote and let their voices be heard. In the last mid-term election a mere 48% of registered voters did their civic duty. An election “winner” with 55% of the vote actually received only 17% approval from all those eligible.
The extreme minority, then, are heard and they have given us corruption in government and conflict between capitalism and democracy the likes of which we haven’t seen since the beginning of the 20th Century.
Will the will of the people return the United States to its ordained state of a democratic republic, or will the apathy of its citizens allow democracy to be strangled by the abject avarice and greed of the ruling classes of capitalism?
The answer to that question will determine the outcome of our near-term quality of life in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I’d like to add: The nation of voters, the stewards of democracy.
– Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Marble Falls, TX, where he writes a regular column for the River Cities Daily Tribune. He is the author of three books – A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools, The Voters Guide to National Salvation and Killing the Dream: America’s Flirtation With Third World Status – all available through Amazon.com.