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Kleptocrat Nation | The Nation

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Kleptocrat Nation

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Onward to Reclaim America!

About the Author

Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower has been called America's favorite populist. He's been editor of The Texas Observer, president of the...

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This old American democratic tradition already has deep support at the grassroots.

People are wriggling free of the fetters of corporate culture.

A couple of years ago, Japanese police discovered more than 400 pieces of women's underwear in the home of Sadao Ushimura, a fellow who was a prominent official in Japan's finance ministry at the time. Urshimura proclaimed total innocence of any possible scandal or perversion, explaining: "I picked up all lingerie on the streets by pure chance."

We still have our underwear in America, but we've been stripped of a garment far more delicate and precious: our democracy. On this sprawling continent with its cacophony of voices and unprecedented crash of cultures, we've been able to hold it all together through the years because of our people's instinctive and tenacious belief in the sanctity of democratic principles.

But something has gone terribly wrong in our country. The essence of democracy--our power to control decisions that affect us--has steadily and quietly been pilfered by corporate kleptocrats. They have collected up our democratic powers piece by piece, hoarding them in the privacy of their own fiefdoms. These elites (fully abetted by the governmental elites they have bought), now effectively control the decisions that affect We the People--everything from public spending priorities to environmental degradation, from wages to war and from what's on the "news" to who gets elected.

This has not taken place "by pure chance," but through deliberate filching, and the filching now has reached the level of wholesale looting. We can no longer avoid the reality in front of us: The elites have pulled off a slow-motion coup, radically wrenching America's power balance from a people's democracy to Kleptocrat Nation.

This would be terribly depressing except for one thing, which is that one basic has definitely not changed in our land: The people (you rascals!) still have that instinctive and tenacious belief in our historic democratic principles. The antidote to kleptocracy is the age-old medicine of democratic struggle, agitation and organization--and all across our country, the rebellion is on!

As happened in the rebellion of 1776, as happened in the populist revolt against the robber barons of the nineteenth century, and as is already happening in community after community today, America's historic democratic yearnings will not be long suppressed. Despite our present leadership (with their autocratic, plutocratic and imperialistic ambitions), this is a nation of irrepressible democrats, and their spirit will out.

I think of my country like a rose bush. Many people say roses are fundamentally flawed because they have thorns. But I see it differently--I think it's wonderful that thorns have roses.

America is a thorny bush, for sure, but the ordinary people are its roses, and they are the beautiful story of this book.

Excerpted from Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time To Take It Back (Viking, 2003) by Jim Hightower.

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