With liberty and justice for all
Every year about this time (it’s around Independence Day when this is being written), I think about being a citizen of these United States. It’s a notion that’s less popular these days. Seems like everyone is trying to force me to join up as a card-carrying globalist. But, to be honest, I just can’t do it.
You see, as corny as it sounds, I love being an American. I stand at baseball games and sing the National Anthem, and I know all the words. When I see someone in uniform, I feel proud. When I walk up the steps on Capitol Hill, I still feel like I’m ascending into a higher place, where freedom and justice still stand as our greatest objectives. Even living here in Washington, I am still moved at the sight of the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
I think that voting is the greatest act I can contribute as a regular Joe. I read the newspaper to assure that I am informed, and I get as disgusted as everyone else about the shenanigans that go on that have nothing to do with keeping our country safe and free and blessed with the spirit that makes us what we are. It’s what we are, and the notion of what we could be, that I seek to preserve. You see, I’m a little old-fashioned that way.
What we are is the most beautiful and sometimes silly mix of stuff that any nation ever visited upon this sometimes crazy planet. We are the inventors of poker, a game that perfectly blends skill and chance into a balance of bravado rarely enjoyed in any other pursuit. Americans invented the blues and jazz, saucy blends of tempo and abandon that are both as sad and as introspective as they are irreverent and carefree. The United States’ contributions to literature include the cowboy sagas, Mark Twain novels and Horatio Alger stories, giving dreams and hopes of adventure and wealth to generations.
We produced the robber barons: Astor, Carnegie and Rockefeller; then sent the union men, like Gompers, to keep them in check. Our industry has built the empire of IBM, but still found room for Apple. Americans cheered on Babe Ruth for his bat and Jackie Robinson for his bravery, noting the different kind of heroics in each. We have fought conflicts that left us wondering whether war was ever a civilized option, and we have fought when no other option was viable. The humus of the battlefield has borne the fruit of freedom across the globe.
Even our hatreds are truly American. We hate monarchs and people who put on aristocratic airs. We hate intrusion into our freedoms, when someone tries to force us to do what they think is right. We loathe taxes, because taxes mean that someone else is controlling our purse strings. We chafe at regulation because it reduces our options and puts barriers around our ability to produce at will. We don’t like cheats, influence peddlers, back-room deals, insider trading, bushwhackers, elitists, bigots, snobs, liars and people who tell us we’re either too ignorant or too unsophisticated to understand.
Yes, there is something wonderfully unique about being an American_one of a strange group of folks that love the flag and frown at the government that sometimes forgets who that flag represents. Old Glory represents people who seek an unfettered opportunity to live and grow and thrive as each sees fit. As the old pledge goes, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Given that the freethinking people of this nation fiercely defend and worship their independence and freedom, how is it that the message isn’t getting to Washington? How is it that we have created a class of elected representatives that often forget the very spirit of the people they are charged to represent? Instead, we are treated to a form of elitism that is as uncharacteristic of our heritage as the crowning of kings.
Property qualifications for voting were dropped after 1812. Since then, when have we allowed a requirement that a person must be wealthy or they can be wholly excluded from the rewards of citizenship? Isn’t that what spectrum auctions do? In their barest form, auctions reward wealth above industry and financial elitism above sincerity. They take the freedom of opportunity and put it on the block, selling it one channel at a time.
Perhaps the tendency of lawmakers who are pressing the auction agenda forward is understandable. After all, Americans are impatient people, and impatience with attempts to balance the nation’s federal budget problems is likely at the core of this activity. But shouldn’t this impatience be tempered with the desire to do the right thing?
There’s also a bit of Hollywood (another American institution) in all this. Problems are often thought to be solvable in the space of a three-reeler, and anyone that takes longer than that is deemed ineffective. Politicians, constantly running for reelection, need some alleged victory to tout their worthiness. Meanwhile, they raise money_tons of money_to finance their endless campaigns that feature the media blitz, the attack ad and the talking head. Corporations, PACs and the monied classes learned long ago the value of the political contribution.
This summer, we are witnessing the sale of MCI, a company that took on the powers-that-be simply to exist. It’s going to British Telecom. This is not the first or last time for entry by foreign companies into the U.S. telecommunications industry. The examples are numerous and growing. Each time a merger or buyout occurs, lawmakers and regulators will be required to pass judgment on whether each new mega-deal is good for our economy. They will most likely acquiesce to every request.
You see, despite what you may read or hear about the antics of John Huang and his Chinese supporters, foreign money in the form of campaign contributions (usually laundered through American interests) passes into the hands of campaign coffers like a steady stream. A $50,000 check to spend a night in the White House is peanuts compared to the vast amounts of money being spent all over the United States to urge a vote here or there. If Huang is guilty of anything, it’s his arrogance in not professionally dry-cleaning the boodle first.
Sen. Fred Thompson’s (R-TN) committee is staring at a moth hole, while the entire fabric of our republican form of government is unraveling before us. Isn’t it obvious to Congress why the American public is unconcerned about these hearings? The electorate already believes that everything is for sale in Washington_including votes. Why should they believe otherwise? They have no evidence to the contrary. Spectrum auctions merely confirm the “red-tag sale” impression of government.
But we, as Americans, still have hope. That’s another great feature that we possess. The future always looks bright to us, even when everything is looking pretty bleak right now.
We hope that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will see the light and get us off of this 100-mph auction merry-go-round. We hope that the next group of FCC commissioners has some knowledge of the industry and not just the politics surrounding it and stifling it. We hope that someday Vice President Al Gore will shut up about the “information superhighway” and start talking about people, like the little two-way shop operators who are just trying to get ahead.
Every year I take time out to think about the fabric of our great nation, about from where we’ve come and where we might arrive. I think about the virtues admired in our presidents: Lincoln’s honesty, Washington’s bravery, Jefferson’s vision and Truman’s common sense. Our nation’s anthem was penned during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, when British forces were beating on the door and Francis Scott Key considered our opportunities for victory. It was a perilous time for our young nation, but we prevailed and launched the greatest republic that the world has ever seen because we believed. I still believe_and my beliefs are not for sale at public auction.
Schwaninger, MRT’s regulatory consultant, is a partner in the law firm of Brown and Schwaninger, Washington, DC. He is a member of the Radio Club of America.