The lane closures on the George Washington Bridge during four days last September, including the first day of school and the anniversary of 9/11, had significance well beyond Chris Christie and New Jersey politics.
Hanging over our heads, is an attitude, an operative mode that favors individual or corporate interests over the common good. The lane closure revelation bumps up against everyday news that telegraphs the bias. For example, Freedom Industries’ president, Gary Southern haughtily expresses regret that his company’s storage tank, not inspected by state or federal inspectors for over twenty years, has leaked a caustic chemical used for processing coal. Three hundred thousand West Virginians can use their tap water only for flushing toilets. The Koch brothers are still running loathsome commercials in selected states to discourage the young from getting health insurance, adversely affecting millions. More than just a few US Senators insist on passing additional sanction bills against Iran, defying Obama, sane negotiations to avert war, and millions of Iranians already suffering under the current sanctions.
It is symptomatic, in fact representative, of national, even global behavior and priorities: banks like Chase, an international bank, gambles and loses billions, not mindful of repercussions to millions of people. The GOP shuts down the government and risks default. Never mind the millions who suffer because of it. Americans depend on reforms that large majorities favor, for example, a ban on assault weapons, background checks for gun purchases, immigration reform, a higher minimum wage, extension of unemployment payments, regulation of banks, tax reform. None of these reforms will be done as long as there are Republicans to do the bidding of the rich elite.
I know. We have always had corruption in our history. We’ve had robber barons holding millions hostage. This is true, but we have never seen such a global shutdown of the resources needed to recover the common good – a representative government, a vital media, labor union representation, public education and an informed citizenry. Even our for-profit prisons and local law enforcement seem to be used for quieting dissent and managing the mentally ill, not for promoting the general welfare.
The common good quotient doesn’t even seem to apply to wars. Wars in Iraq, started through deception, and Afghanistan were fought by 1% of the population while mostly the 1% elite gained from them. No common good sacrifice drew us together. It was replaced by the pay-sometime-in-the-future national credit card.
Even in the early stages with the disclosure of motive and the political game of power in New Jersey, “Bridgegate” seems a microcosm of global events which unfold each and every day. Raw power and money – the exercise of profit and greed — easily take precedence over the common good.
With the rise of power and money, unregulated and uncontrolled, our global course has been altered since the slow but relentless unfolding of the conservative will to control global direction, change ushered in by determined conservative forces some 40 years ago. In effect, the gradual coup led by plutocrats took “common good” and “general welfare” out of all global governing documents and replaced them with “individualism” and “free enterprise.”
As history’s broom was guided to the right by institutions hijacked by conservativism’s paid agents and lobbyists, cultural references – commercials, books, magazine, internet, TV programming, for example – were altered, to complete the think-tank socially-engineered mind meld with more reactionary thinking. Nostalgia for the past, “rugged individualism,” and “free enterprise” were slipped into our thinking.
As evidence unfolds for the “Bridgegate” scandal, we will see the same pattern of politics, power and greed on a local scale we now see globally. One of the most likely motives for closing two of three lanes crossing the George Washington Bridge into New York seems to be a $1 billion Fort Lee development project, a pet project of Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich, called Centuria. It sits adjacent to the George Washington Bridge and the project’s sale to prospective residents is based on a direct 2 lane access to the Bridge.
A bonanza of money rides on its funding, funding which was (at the time of the closure) in delicate straights. Other motives have been proposed for the Christie administration closing down two lanes of the bridge, but this one seems to ring most true, with a Christie power grab seeming to unfold.
Much of Christie’s power has depended on his despotic moves, which have kept allies and enemies, alike, in line, contrary to his news conference claims. Associates know his spite and rancor are real. He has demonstrated a vicious temper, a propensity to bully and belittle those weaker than himself. He has displayed an insatiable thirst for revenge against real or perceived enemies, and sidesteps the law to achieve this. In public he can act with great fervor and honor, which his almost 2 hour performance expressing sadness and contrition put on display.
The real Christie seems to have been revealed to the Hoboken city mayor, Dawn Zimmer, whose city was 80% underwater after Hurricane Sandy. After she refused to endorse Christie for governor, her city received only $300,000 of relief instead of the $100 million she requested, which seems a pittance considering Sandy’s toll of $3.8 billion of total damage to structures alone. Based on many recent stories of Christie spite and retribution, she now wonders if her portion of the federal funds doled out by Christie was drastically reduced as retribution for her withheld endorsement.
Looking at the impact, closure of the busiest bridge in the world, the gateway to NYC, affected 160,000 vehicles each day for 4 days involved perhaps a million people. Add to that the traffic congestion which stopped emergency vehicles, the impaired NY businesses, school buses and people who needed to get somewhere, and maybe you had over a million impacted. Obviously personal political revenge, or a simple spiteful exercise of power, took precedence over the common good on those four days of willful risk to the lives of a few million people – men, women and children.
As any of America’s vulnerable can tell you, the common good has been swallowed by the power elite.
The marked redistribution of income and wealth in the US has come rather quickly, due to concerted efforts by an amalgam of banks, government, corporations and media. Seemingly the Wall Street fraud, perpetrated by a force of speculators, banks, realtors, credit raters, corporate executives, and timid regulators brought the last push of redistribution that channeled bailout money to banks, stripped 401K holders of asset value, crushed millions of middle class jobs, laid off teachers, police and firemen, while Wall Street got bonuses and corporations held onto bailout money, this while the rich elite hid their money from tax collectors (like Mitt Romney) in foreign banks.
Millions are still unemployed due to the Wall Street greed that nearly crushed the world economy, an economy saved by bailouts which rescued the rich but not so much the poor and the middle class. Still we have seen over the last ten years, especially, a massive redistribution of income and assets – a reverse Robin Hood economy where the needs of the many are subverted for the needs of a few.
Look at the Iraqi War, started on an ideological whim by George W. Bush and a few of his cronies, many of which profited wildly. Millions of men, women and children suffered death, dismemberment and lifetime anguish because of the Bush administration and a cadre of neo-conservatives who championed the war and are still free to make excuses for it. Meanwhile Bush operative policy left a fractious country the size and population of Texas to smolder in a sectarian strife their incompetent minions fostered in self-serving arrogance – common good, indeed … common slaughter wrought by greed and arrogance.
Gains for our economy, for the middle class and for the poor are still blocked by the GOP. The GOP obstructs most or all progress for public funding of infrastructure, health care, jobs, education, police protection, fireman, teachers, environmental protection, the unemployed, food stamp recipients – just to name a few – for their own benefit or that of their rich puppet masters.
Look at priorities. Why is school funding declining? Why is the student-to-teacher ratio ballooning? Why don’t we have money to build shelters against savaging tornados at all Oklahoma schools – in May last year, six children died in the mile-wide More, Oklahoma tornado, this for want of shelters. Even after 20 first graders were murdered by a madman with an assault weapon, why does the NRA spend hundreds of millions of dollars campaigning for the gun lobby to sell assault weapons without background checks? And why don’t we take care of the mentally ill rather than seeing them on the streets, homeless or dumped by hospitals?
At the same time subsidies to Exxon-Mobil continue and all monolithic corporations have record profits, one out of six children lives in poverty. The top 1% gained 95% of all income and wealth between 2007 and today, while college students amass billions in debt and have difficulty finding jobs that enable them to repay their student loans. Members of the GOP work mightily to deny unemployment to 1.3 million people, which will grow to 4 million by the end of the year. These same heartless members will castigate people getting food stamps – over fifty percent children and seniors – and cut food stamps while keeping welfare for the rich.
Are you getting the picture? This is the world we live in now. The “Bridgegate” episode is just another sorry story, most likely caused by a spiteful bully whose thirst for power hopes to go national – even global – in a successful 2016 presidential election. It appears that his quest for power left scores of people at risk because of his actions, or that of his operatives.
The Preamble to the Constitution speaks of general welfare. The house rules casino capitalism. Unfortunately the house is Charles Koch and the power elite whose money dictates house rules.
Perhaps we can reverse the George Washington bridge concept and open up a General Welfare lane of traffic that goes in circles. It already has been designed for the poor, and it gradually cycles in the middle class.
Where does it lead, the same as the current plan?
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