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Pres. Carter Says “America Has No Functioning Democracy”

Pres. Carter Says “America Has No Functioning Democracy”

It’s probably the first lesson they teach in “Former President 101”: after leaving the White House, avoid controversy at all cost. Generally, it’s advice that most ex-presidents follow – they make appearances, support inoffensive charities and help to bolster patriotism. Therefore, it’s particularly surprising when someone like Jimmy Carter declares, “America has no functioning democracy.”

At 88 years old, Carter isn’t pulling any punches. It’s damning criticism coming from a man who used to be the figurehead of the government. To break protocol this severely, he must realize that the protocol has already been severely broken.

As rare as it is for a one-time Commander in Chief to expose the government as a sham, it is rarer still when that President belongs to the same party as the current administration. Although Carter admits he voted for Obama, the Democratic Party allegiance hasn’t stopped him from making several criticisms of the nation’s current leadership:

1. Surveillance State

Prior to the recent revelations made about the NSA, Carter warned about the loss of civil liberties and the government’s penchant for tapping everyone’s phones, not just in cases of national emergency. Since Edward Snowden brought more attention to the subject, Carter has commended the truth-telling fugitive. “I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial,” he told CNN.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives voted against limiting the funding and power of the NSA, even after all of the public outrage.

2. Drones

Carter laments the fact that a country once so committed to justice is now targeting terrorist suspects and taking no accountability for the innocent bystanders who are killed in these attacks. Carter refers to drone assassinations as “disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.”

Meanwhile, last month Obama continued to defend the drone program, calling it both “legal” and “effective.”

3. Indefinite Detention of American citizens

Carter chides the government’s blatant abuse after granting itself the power to “indefinitely detain” an American citizen merely suspected of a terrorist association without due process. “This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty,” Carter notes.

Meanwhile, after three previous court losses, last week Obama’s administration finally appealed to a court crooked enough to deem the NDAA’s indefinite detention clause “legal”. It’s back on the books, folks.

4. Campaign Spending

Carter reminds us that, during his presidential campaign, he did not fundraise, instead using federal campaign money to fund the race. In fact, he points out, all presidential candidates did that… up until Obama’s run in 2008. It’s a decision and precedent that cannot be ignored when pinpointing when the President became so beholden to corporate and private interests rather than serving the public.

Meanwhile, despite speaking out publicly against Super PACs and Citizen United, Obama rode those loopholes to secure $1 billion and a second term.

5. Voting Rights Act

Carter disagrees with the Supreme Court that racism is a thing of the past, and worries about the repercussions of such a decision. “I think this is going to open up Georgia and other Southern states to take actions that may deprive minorities and poor people and possibly elderly people and others of the equal right to vote with those who are influential and affluent,” he said.

Meanwhile, Texas waited all of two hours after the Supreme Court verdict to start acting to restore discriminatory voting laws.

 

Take it from a former president himself – with the loss of liberties, human rights violations, and power siphoned to the rich – this is not the America we were once proud to be a part of.

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Photo Credit: Marion Doss

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554 comments

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3:46PM PDT on Oct 23, 2013

Couldn't agree with him more e.g. the latest brinkmanship over the debt ceiling.

7:22PM PDT on Oct 22, 2013

Thank you for the sad news, but I've known this for more than a decade. (p, t)

7:20PM PDT on Oct 22, 2013

Carter has confirmed my belief that I am a woman without a country. This is not the country of my birth. I don't know what it is, but I know that it has deteriorated and transformed into an ugly nation that is run by vicious thugs and bullies who will stop at nothing to gain or retain power. It's tragic, and parallels the fall of the Roman Empire. However, I can't say that being an empire is a good thing, but our country was on a path to greatness and that is no longer the case. I'm ashamed of our government's actions concerning Guantanamo Bay, the drones strikes, and indefinite detentions as well as the nations ongoing destruction of the planet. We need human beings who are environmentalists, humanitarians, and scientists is office.

4:13AM PDT on Sep 23, 2013

Thank you Kevin, for Sharing this!

8:51PM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

Hi Rainbow :)

(con't)

About the healthcare system, the Canadian government-websites describe (with some oversimplification) how the system works on paper, not in reality. There just aren't enough doctors practicing in Canada to have immediate walk-in like advertised. I come from Montreal, where a minority of the population has a regular doctor. Officially, everyone has healthcare. Unofficially,
http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/special-report-desperately-seeking-doctors-1.610352
http://www.cfp.ca/content/53/11/1858.full

I grew up, in Canada, following the news and hearing about the healthcare system, daily, from the inside from friends and family. Nobody ever mentioned Americans abusing the system, except to buy medicine before it became illegal to privately transport medicine sold in the U.S. across the border from Canada. The only time U.S. patients in Canadian hospitals were an issue was at the beginning of school-years at colleges with American students who had never touched alcohol and could suddenly get it freely. I tried to find statistics on what you are talking about, but could not find any mention of it. Do you have any?

Hi Suba :)

I don't consider you or most people here opponents. You're concerned about helping people by making sure that the system works as well as possible. The difference is that I require a much lower standard of evidence before abandoning the assumption that the sources of social problems are in inter-group relations.

8:44PM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

Hi Rainbow :)

(con't)

Some of the slavery you described matches "indentured servitude" exactly. Were the Aztec "slaves" actually paid enough to ever hope to buy their freedom? The usual practice today, in Africa, Asia, and just generally, is to take illiterate/innumerate people and let them pay back their $20 debt, but pay them ~ 20 cents a year so with "only" 100 years' hard work, they can get free.

Other parts of what you described are also entirely in line with the Western tradition of slavery. Conquered peoples, slaves or otherwise, were normally allowed to maintain their cultures and demanded this permission as a condition of surrender. (There is actually a huge problem related to this in the Middle East, but that is a whole other discussion.) Slaves were also traditionally assured of food and shelter, on pain of extreme penalty to slave-owners, and not drafted. More importantly, we got onto the discussion of slavery from one of greed vs. practical reality. Regardless of how slaves were treated, conditions of freedom, etc., for businesses to grow, after a point they needed workers bound to them by law, force, or need rather than choice.

About the healthcare system, the Canadian government-websites describe (with some oversimplification) how the system works on paper, not in reality. There just aren't enough doctors practicing in Canada to have immediate walk-in like advertised. I come from Montreal, where a minority of the population has a regular doctor. Off

8:30PM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

Hi Rainbow :)

(con't)

The "loopholes" with the $92 billion are other countries where companies already pay taxes. They're just not paying them to the U.S. government because those operations are outside the U.S. This is actually another good point about why Walmart cannot raise pay in the U.S. that much. A lot of its income is from outside the U.S. If it moved the money to the U.S. to raise those workers' pay, it would lose a chunk to taxes. I should probably point out that if the patriation taxes weren't there, the U.S. would be able to engage in classic economic imperialism and be a whole lot wealthier in general.

Ethics (not the same as empathy) have a place in determining what constitutes a problem, but still not really any in finding its causes.

Peasants in the 17th century didn't need to read to farm. Their problem was that farms had just become so efficient that they no longer needed their traditional workforce. This is how unemployment, rather than labour-shortage, first became an issue. Strictly speaking, they didn't need to read to work in the factories either, but they were smart enough to want jobs that would pay for food and not kill them.

Some of the slavery you described matches "indentured servitude" exactly. Were the Aztec "slaves" actually paid enough to ever hope to buy their freedom? The usual practice today, in Africa, Asia, and just generally, is to take illiterate/innumerate people and let them pay back their $20 debt, but pay them ~ 20 c

7:41PM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

Hi Rainbow :)

(con't)

Tax: Here is the most recent data I could find on Wal-Mart's income tax:
http://www.stock-analysis-on.net/NYSE/Company/Wal-Mart-Stores-Inc/Analysis/Income-Taxes

Depreciation:
http://www.stock-analysis-on.net/NYSE/Company/Wal-Mart-Stores-Inc/Analysis/Property-Plant-and-Equipment
Beyond that there is inventory. When a computer's price goes down as it becomes obsolete, when food goes bad on the shelf, or clothes go out of style or season and have to be liquidated, that's depreciation.

Amortization:
Are you really telling me that Wal-Mart, with about 4,690 locations in the U.S., has not bought new property? Leveling the cost over multiple years to smooth out profit-reports for investors' simplicity converts the cost of new assets to "amortization".

Yes, debt can be sold, but it is sold by the debt-holder, not by the company that owes it. No, it is not good to have large debts. The only "value" of a debt to a company is in the operations which it is used to fund which, hopefully, turn higher profits than the interest on the debt. Walmart doesn't own its own debt.

You misunderstood the Forbes article about companies not paying taxes: Corporations are legal fictions. They don't pay taxes, or make profits, or have employees, or get greedy, or do anything. Their shareholders can do those things. That doesn't reduce the numbers of dollars paid to the government stemming from income through the company.

The "loopholes" with the $92 billion

7:18PM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

Hi Rainbow :)

Sorry I didn't reply earlier. I have been having problems with my account.

My math was wrong, but the conclusion that I drew from my result, that redistributing the top executives' compensation among the workers would not achieve the wage-hike that you described, was correct even with the corrected math.

Costco is a very different company: It can afford more pay per customer service employee because it caters to fewer customers who individually purchase more, so it needs better service, but less of it. Other companies cannot just follow Costco's model with their customer-bases. It has lower pay for executives because at the top level, the numbers of executives do not really change, so their per-person value to the company roughly scales with the company's profits. Costco's net profits are a ninth those of Walmart's and its raw revenues are a fifth. Wal-Mart stands to gain a lot more from attracting better executives at the top so it offers more to attract them.

Interest:
http://www.stock-analysis-on.net/NYSE/Company/Wal-Mart-Stores-Inc/Ratios/Long-term-Debt-and-Solvency
With your figure of ~ $36 billion EBITDA, assuming low amortization and depreciation, that's about $3 billion paid in interest. (It was actually much less than that because amortization and depreciation are significant.)

Tax: Here is the most recent data I could find on Wal-Mart's income tax:
http://www.stock-analysis-on.net/NYSE/Company/Wal-Mart-Stores-Inc/Analysis/Income-Taxe

6:52PM PDT on Aug 13, 2013

Stephen,
I just sent you a green star for being one of the most civilized opponents I'd met on these threads. Took a while for me to come back here, because on another thread I was bombarded with personal attacks from someone who couldn’t handle logic.

Anyway, incremental steps are a good start. Some expensive tests and drugs are certainly medically unnecessary. But again, cost should not be the determinant of treatment considering most procedures are far less expensive than what they are put out to be.

I quite like the idea of preventing drugs not properly tested from being insured.

There is something wrong with the mere concept of malpractice insurance, as it implies the doctors expect to screw up & be sued. If doctors concentrated more on doing a good job than “being protected from those big bad patients” lawsuits would be far fewer and malpractice insurance would be unnecessary. Also capping malpractice settlements would only encourage more malpractice in our current system.

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