Harvard Business School: The U.S. Political System Has Been ‘Hijacked’

https://www.themaven.net/theintellectualist/news/harvard-business-school-the-u-s-political-system-has-been-hijacked-mj-X8WUfskapGULM6GEKVg

by Yossarian Johnson, themaven.net/theintellectualist, 3/12/18

A new case study by Harvard Business School asserts that U.S. politicians have rigged the system to such a degree that the U.S. is on its way to becoming a failed democracy. (photo credit: Youtube)

A new case study by Harvard Business School asserts that U.S. politicians have rigged the system to such a degree that the U.S. is becoming a failed democracy. The authors of the case-study use the word ‘hijacked’ to describe what the political parties have done to governance in the United States.

Some tidbits:

America’s political system was long the envy of the world. It advanced the public interest and gave rise to a grand history of policy innovations that fostered both economic and social progress. Today, however, our political system has become the major barrier to solving nearly every important challenge our nation needs to address. This was the unexpected conclusion of the multiyear Project on U.S. Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, established in 2011 to understand the causes of America’s weak economic performance and rising inequality that predated the Great Recession.

The authors point to a number of American pathologies that do not plague other advanced nations.

A similar failure to progress has also afflicted the nation’s social agenda. In areas such as public education, health and wellness, personal safety, water and sanitation, environmental quality, and tolerance and inclusion, among others, U.S. progress has stalled or gone in reverse. In these areas, where America was often a pioneer and leader, the U.S. has fallen well down the list compared to other advanced countries. Tolerance, inclusion, and personal freedom are registering troubling declines, a sign of growing divisions in our society.

A poorly educated

In public education, of particular significance for citizen opportunity, in math the U.S. was ranked 31st out of 35 OECD countries (the other advanced economies using the respected PISA process) in 2015, down from 25 in 2009, 20th in reading (down from 14) and 19th in science (down from 17).5 Instead of progress, then, our government is mired in gridlock and inaction. Increasingly over the decades, Congress has been unable to get things done, especially on important issues.

The authors of the piece note how the Founders of the United States would find the rules that govern the country unrecognizable today.

The result: America’s political system today would be unrecognizable to our founders. In fact, certain of our founders warned against political parties. John Adams, our second President, said, “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.”2 Our founders— and most Americans today—would be shocked by the extent to which our democracy has been hijacked by the private and largely unaccountable organizations that constitute today’s political industrial complex.

Has the real meaning of America been lost?

Opinion By Robert Reich, San Francisco Examiner, February 24, 2018 https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/reich/article/Has-the-real-meaning-of-America-been-lost-12628521.php

When Donald Trump and his followers refer to “America,” what do they mean?

Some see a country of white, English-speaking Christians.

Others want a land inhabited by self-seeking individuals free to accumulate as much money and power as possible, who pay taxes only to protect their assets from criminals and foreign aggressors. Others think mainly about flags, national anthems, pledges of allegiance, military parades and secure borders.

Trump encourages a combination of all three — tribalism, libertarianism and loyalty.

But the core of our national identity has not been any of this. It has been found in the ideals we share — political equality, equal opportunity, freedom of speech and of the press, a dedication to open inquiry and truth, and to democracy and the rule of law.

We are not a race. We are not a creed. We are a conviction — that all people are created equal, that people should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, and that government should be of the people, by the people and for the people.

Political scientist Carl Friedrich, comparing Americans to Gallic people, noted that “to be an American is an ideal, while to be a Frenchman is a fact.”

That idealism led Abraham Lincoln to proclaim that America might yet be the “last best hope” for humankind. It prompted Emma Lazarus, some two decades later, to welcome to America the world’s “tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It inspired the poems of Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes, and the songs of Woody Guthrie. All turned their love for America into demands that we live up to our ideals.

“This land is your land, this land is my land,” sang Guthrie.

Pleaded Hughes:

That idealism sought to preserve and protect our democracy — not inundate it with big money, or allow one party or candidate to suppress votes from rivals, or permit a foreign power to intrude on our elections.

It spawned a patriotism that once required all of us take on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going — paying taxes in full rather than seeking loopholes or squirreling money away in foreign tax shelters, and serving in the armed forces or volunteering in our communities rather than relying on others to do the work.

These ideals compelled us to join together for the common good — not pander to bigotry or divisiveness, or fuel racist or religious or ethnic divisions.

The idea of a common good was once widely understood and accepted in America. After all, the U.S. Constitution was designed for “We the people” seeking to “promote the general welfare” — not for “me the narcissist seeking as much wealth and power as possible.”

Yet the common good seems to have disappeared. The phrase is rarely uttered today, not even by commencement speakers or politicians.

There’s growing evidence of its loss — in CEOs who gouge their customers and loot their corporations; Wall Street bankers who defraud their investors; athletes involved in doping scandals; doctors who do unnecessary procedures to collect fatter fees; and film producers and publicists who choose not to see that a powerful movie mogul they depend on is sexually harassing and abusing women.

We see its loss in politicians who take donations from wealthy donors and corporations and then enact laws their patrons want, or shutter the government when they don’t get the partisan results they seek.

And in a president of the United States who has repeatedly lied about important issues, refuses to put his financial holdings into a blind trust and personally profits from his office, and foments racial and ethnic conflict.

This unbridled selfishness, this contempt for the public, this win-at-any-cost mentality, is eroding America.

Without binding notions about right and wrong, only the most unscrupulous get ahead. When it’s all about winning, only the most unprincipled succeed. This is not a society. It’s not even a civilization, because there’s no civility at its core.

If we’re losing our national identity it’s not because we now come in more colors, practice more religions and speak more languages than we once did.

It is because we are forgetting the real meaning of America — the ideals on which our nation was built. We are losing our sense of the common good.

© 2018 Robert Reich

Robert Reich, a former U.S. secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. To comment, submit your letter to the editor at SFChronicle.com/letters.

Moral movement against guns is gaining steam now

By Robert Reich, San Francisco Chronicle, February 28, 2018

Excerpt… most Americans also want gun controls. Ninety-seven percent support universal background checks, and 70 percent favor registering all guns with the police. Preventing gun violence is coming to be seen less as an issue of “gun rights” and more about public morality… The moral void of Trump has been a catastrophe for America in many ways, but it’s contributing to a backlash against the systemic abuses of power on which so much of the violence in American life is founded… If Americans can’t be secure from someone packing an assault rifle, or from the predatory behavior of powerful men, or from the police, we do not live in a functioning society.

Make no mistake. This is all about power — a powerful political lobby that has bullied America for too long, powerful men who haven’t been held accountable for their behavior, police who for too long have been unconstrained.

A moral movement is growing against the violence perpetrated by all of them, making it necessary for both government and business to take action.

It is being led by people whose moral authority cannot be denied: students whose friends have been murdered, women who have been abused, the parents and partners of black men who have been slain.

It is already having a profound impact on America.

Full text – sfchronicle.com

For years, big corporations had welcomed the opportunity to accumulate more customers by giving discounts to NRA members. Yet in the aftermath of the shootings in Parkland, Florida, and the activism of high school students, corporations are bailing out of their deals with the NRA.

As we’ve seen with the corporate firings of sleazebag movie moguls and predatory television personalities, nothing concentrates the minds of CEOs like a moral protest that’s gaining traction.

Since Donald Trump became president, the NRA has behaved like a subsidiary of the alt-right. At last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference, NRA President Wayne LaPierre cloaked his pro-gun address in paranoia about a “tidal wave” of “European-style socialists bearing down upon us,” telling his audience “you should be frightened.”

Most Americans know this kind of talk is bonkers. Not incidentally, most Americans also want gun controls. Ninety-seven percent support universal background checks, and 70 percent favor registering all guns with the police.

Preventing gun violence is coming to be seen less as an issue of “gun rights” and more about public morality. “Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” President Obama asked in 2012 after 20 first-graders were massacred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Obama got nowhere, of course, but now change seems to be in the air. Why? I think Trump deserves some credit.

Trump’s response to the slayings in Parkland has been to urge schools to arm teachers. It’s a proposal that’s not only wrongheaded — more than 30 studies have shown that additional guns increase gun violence and homicides — but profoundly immoral.

If the only way to control gun violence is for all Americans to arm themselves, we would all be living in a Darwinist hell.

The moral void of Trump has been a catastrophe for America in many ways, but it’s contributing to a backlash against the systemic abuses of power on which so much of the violence in American life is founded.

The Parkland students are insisting that adults stand up to the immorality of the NRA. Corporations are responding. So are politicians. “We get out there and make sure everybody knows how much money their politician took from the NRA,” said David Hogg, one of the students.

Similarly, the #MeToo movement is insisting that America wake up to the immoral behavior of powerful predatory men.

More by Robert Reich

Has the real meaning of America been lost?

Harvey Weinstein and his ilk aren’t killers, but they are accused of assaulting or even raping women whose careers depended on them. For years, these women didn’t dare raise their voices. They were told this was the way the system worked, much as we’ve been told for years that there’s no way to take on the NRA.

Would the #MeToo movement have erupted without the abuser-in-chief in the Oval Office? Maybe. But Trump’s personal history — 19 women have accused him of sexual misconduct — has helped fuel it.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement predated Trump, but our racist-in-chief, who attacks black athletes for protesting police violence, has given it new meaning and urgency as well.

The NRA’s position that everyone should carry a gun contrasts with the reality that a black man brandishing one is likely to be shot and killed by the police.

The cumulative and growing force of these three intertwined movements comes from a basic premise of our civic life together, which Trump’s moral obtuseness has brought into sharp focus.

In order to survive, people need several things — food, water, a roof over our heads. But the most basic of all is safety. That’s why governments were created in the first place.

If Americans can’t be secure from someone packing an assault rifle, or from the predatory behavior of powerful men, or from the police, we do not live in a functioning society.

Make no mistake. This is all about power — a powerful political lobby that has bullied America for too long, powerful men who haven’t been held accountable for their behavior, police who for too long have been unconstrained.

A moral movement is growing against the violence perpetrated by all of them, making it necessary for both government and business to take action.

It is being led by people whose moral authority cannot be denied: students whose friends have been murdered, women who have been abused, the parents and partners of black men who have been slain.

It is already having a profound impact on America.

© 2018 By Robert Reich

Robert Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. To comment, submit your letter to the editor at SFChronicle.com/letters.