"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." - Samuel Johnson, per Boswell, April, 1775
"My country, right or wrong. If right, to be kept right, and if wrong to be set right."
- Sen. Carl Schurz, R. Wisc., Feb. 1872
We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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
- Preamble to the Constitution of the United States,
It's really special that Barnstable Sheriff James Cummings and his new Deputy Dawg, Special Sheriff and bosom buddy "Jeff" Perry, could find the time to take out of their busy, busy schedule doing all that highly important law enforcement work to put on a fund raiser for a few children in need this past week. I certainly don't question the fact that those poor children need the assistance and deserve it, but Cummings' sponsorship of the event certainly raises some serious questions about both Perry and himself.
Now this comment, I'm sure, will raise some hackles among those who share Cummings' and Perry's ideolgically driven right-wing politics, and invective will therefore be hurled including words like "cynical" and "indecent," perhaps worse, for my supposed politicization of what purports to be a purely charitable effort by the Sheriff and his "special" pal "Jeff" who's never done anything wrong in his whole life so-help-him-God. But I'll tell you what's really indecent and cynical -the palpably obvious idological overtones of the event in light of what's really wrong with America today.
Let's start with the fact that almost 25 percent of all American children are living at or below the poverty level today. That includes many of the children of military personnel and veterans who will benefit from Cummings' politically selective fundraising, and several million more. What's indecent is that there are veterans who have served, in peacetime and in war, whose families need such charity along with millions of other families across America, because of the ideologically based politics of people like Cummings and Perry.
I'm referring of course to the GOP political agenda of "small government" that all but bankrupted America after eight years of Bush administration deregulation and tax cutting, That agenda, through deregulation of the financial markets combined with tax cuts that contributed only to driving up the paper "value" of mortgage based investments, inflated the costs of housing for what was once, before the ascendancy of "Reaganomics," a thriving middle class and a viable working class. That agenda certainly did not create the jobs here in America that Bush promised with his tax cuts.
You remember the basic theory of Reaganomics don't you -the "trickle down" of prosperity that us common folks were gonna get if we only let the super rich corporate elite do their thing without the burdens of taxation and those "job killing" regulations? I'm sure you do, but if you've been awake over the past thirty years you also know that what actually happened was you got trickled on by the super rich, and it wasn't prosperity that was being trickled. You certainly didn't get a good job that let your income rise at the same rate as the folks who already own the vast majorityof the wealth here in America and who benefit the most from the men and women who serve in the military.
So now the bankers and the CEOs have all the wealth that's still left in America and we little, common folk are left holding the empty bag, unless we're lucky enough to find work holding the limousine door open for really important people like David Koch. The wealth and income gap between the economic elite and the middle class has doubled, with about 80 percent of the increase in annual income being concentrated in the hands of the top one percent.
Even Alan Greenspan, the former free market disciple of Ayn Rand and darling of the post-Reagan small government ideologues, has declared this to be a problem for America and unacceptable. I call it indecent, that the very rich are getting even richer due to harmful deregulation that allows them to pollute both our environment and our socio-economic welfare, without contributing proportionally in either taxes or the creation of good jobs here in America.
That indecency is the direct and intended result of the cynical, phony political posturing of right-wing GOP hacks like Perry and Cummings. The families of military personnel and veterans in need, as well as all other Americans in need, should be getting real taxpayer funded support through programs enacted by Congress exercising its authority under Art. I, Sect. 8, to levy taxes for the express purpose of promoting "the general welfare."
That purpose is stated twice in the Constitution, once in the Preamble and again in the tax clause on co-equal footing with providing for "the common defense." The founders thus believed that both defense and the general welfare of the people were equally important as basic purposes of our Constitutional government, but GOP hacks like Perry and Cummings couldn't care less about the welfare of the American people, which is a matter of pragmatic governance, not free market ideology. When 25 percent of American school children are living below the poverty level, millions without homes, it's obvious that the general welfare has tanked, but all those GOP bozos and their teabagger sycophants can think of is how to angle for the military vote by wrapping themselves in the flag while spouting platitudes about "patriotism," and the real Constitutional ideals be damned.
Thus, we are treated to the spectacle of these two homegrown right-wing demagogues hosting a purportedly charitable fundraiser only for military families who should be getting adequate support from the government, but no more than millions of other families in need who don't even receive the meagre benefits available to military families and veterans. And we're supposed to accept at face value their claim that this is just some sort of politically neutral charitable effort as opposed to the blatantly opportunistic political dumb-show it certainly is.
Perry's Christmas message to "Dear American Service Member," issued shortly after he lost the 10th Congressional District race due to his disgraceful record of repeatedly breaching the public trust as a Wareham police sergeant, is a classic example of Samuel Johnson's observation that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Perry, of course, was not pandering for votes in some future campaign when he wrote:
Your dedication and commitment to the United States Armed Forces is a testament to the ideals of freedom that Americans hold in the highest regard.
Oh, no, perish the thought. For hacks like Perry, it's all about "freedom," with no concern for equality, fairness or providing for the general welfare of all Americans.
That "freedom," of course, is whatever best serves the interests of the economic elite that pours billions of dollars into GOP coffers, a lot of which was delivered to Perry last fall by GOP bagman Ron Kaufman. Perry really means the corporate elite's freedom to pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink, freedom to ship jobs overseas leaving millions of Americans unemployed, freedom to manipulate deregulated financial markets with securitized mortgage deals that leave millions of Americans homeless, the freedom to create such poverty that millions of young Americans have no better prospect than to enlist and fight wars for corporate oppontunity in far off lands and, above all, freedom from paying a fair share of the taxes necessary for Congress to implement its express Constitutional responsibility to "promote the general welfare" of all Americans.
And so it is with Cummings, too, quoting Shakespeare after his disgraceful patronage appointment of his pal "Jeff" to another law enforcement job, as if he hadn't betrayed the public trust enough the first time around in Wareham. Samuel Johnson, again, is far more applicable here than the Bard. Look, I don't question the patriotism of the men and women who serve in the military, and I certainly don't question the real needs of their families in these tough economic times, nor do I begrudge them the moneys raised by the recent event in Bourne. But I'm not a potted plant, so I'm not gonna just sit by and watch the cynical antics of hacks like Cummings and Perry without comment.
Perry's political ambitions suffered a serious setback last fall and deservedly so as his sleasy record in law enforcement in Wareham was fully exposed, based on public records from two federal court civil cases. It's an understatement to say he needed to burnish his image a bit after that, so his pal Cummings accommodated him by appointing him as Special Sheriff and commissioning the phony private "investigation" that somehow cleared Perry of any wrongdoing but, gosh, they just can't show it to anyone else. Cummings has been taking a lot of flack for that one himself and needs to burnish his own image so -voila! They both appear at this feel-good fundraiser for military families and who could criticize them for that? Yeah, right.
The pseudo "patriotism" displayed by Perry and Cummings at the fundraiser, pandering to the military vote while ignoring the real needs of We the People, is exactly what Sen. Carl Shurz was talking about back in 1872, when he threw the words "my country right or wrong" back in the faces of Congressional war mongers, adding "if right, to be kept right, and if wrong to be set right." Today, after the GOP's ideologically driven crash of 2008, America needs to be set right big time, and all those two clowns can think of is posturing for the undercompensated servicemen and veterans, throwing them a few crumbs of private charity when what the country needs is to put real cash in the hands of the middle class and working class across the board to stimulate local economies in places like Bourne all across America.
That can only be done by taxing the rich to provide benefits for the less fortunate, because they're the ones who have all our money and they're hoarding it as stock prices soar and the rest of us are sinking deeper into debt and poverty. The economic elite will deserve tax breaks only when they actually do create decent jobs for Americans right here in the U.S. of A. and that's the only thing that has a chance of setting America right after the economic "free market" debacle of 2008 engineered by GOP ideology.
Sen. Shurz, was a Republican and Civil War veteran by the way, and he would surely be disgusted and ashamed to claim any affiliation with today's GOP, filled as it is with ideologues and hacks like Cummings and Perry who serve only the cynical and indecent interests of the corporate elite while posturing and pandering for votes under the guise of "patriotism" in support of servicemen and veterans.