Government benefits the rich and powerful

I am writing in response to the provocative question with which Drew Gilpin Faust ends her Nov. 24 Viewpoints article on Abraham Lincoln’s ideals. “But is it not now altogether fitting and proper that we heed Lincoln’s exhortation and rededicate ourselves to honoring those dead by ensuring that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth?”

It has never been more clear that our government is and has always been of, by, and for a few of the people, namely the rich and powerful. There was a brief interlude from Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to the Carter administration, when the rights of the majority of people who actually produced the wealth derived from America’s vast resources were protected to some degree.

Two deep currents have clashed to form the Charybdis that sucks into an abyss any attempts for positive action in Congress at the present time. One current is the “dedication” exhorted by Faust to continue the work of making America a real democracy culturally with a truly representative governmental system. The other current is the socioeconomic pattern that has existed since the 18th century beginnings of our country.

The United States has always privileged the rich and powerful and used governmental power to control the working, producing majority of slaves or “wage slaves.” Consider the continuing wars against labor’s rights to a voice in working conditions or the bloody battles to secure the rights of those deemed different for vague biological or cultural reasons as two of a multitude of examples.

The American system proclaims that protecting the rights of human beings from those who would oppress and exploit is the function of government. We create governments to “establish justice, … promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty.” Well, let’s do it.

John Marvin