Kathleen McQuillen is Iowa Program Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee and wrote an opinion article to promote Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson's tour in Iowa.
Why is Gov. Terry Branstad so eager to privatize Medicaid and mental health services in Iowa, despite any solid evidence that such moves would save money or improve Iowans’ health? [Testimony Calls into Question Medicaid Savings Estimate, Oct. 7]
Is our governor, like too many other elected officials, “governing under the influence”? This term is increasingly used when policy decisions are made not in the interest of the public good, but for the advancement of private profit. Corporations and their leaders invest deeply in this practice both through lobbying and campaign contributions.
At the national level, there’s no better example than the weapons industry, which rakes in billions each year because of our perpetual war economy. Americans might like to believe that the Pentagon budget is decided in the public’s best interest and not for private profit, but that’s simply not the case.
The Obama Administration, for example, intends for the U.S. to spend roughly a trillion dollars over the next decade developing new nuclear weapons.
Though the development of nuclear weapons is a disaster for life on Earth, it means huge profits for the corporations that build these weapons. Key players in the nuclear weapons industry spent nearly $71 million on lobbying in 2014 and $24 million supporting congressional candidates in the 2014 election cycle.
It’s fair to ask: Is the development of such weapons in the interests of the public good or is it in the interest of private profit for the weapons industry?
One person in a position to know is Col. Lawrence Wilkerson. Wilkerson, a career military man who later served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, has called the military-industrial complex “the principal influence on national security and ultimately on foreign policy decision-making.”
As the top aide to Powell during the build-up to the disastrous Iraq war, the retired colonel has seen how it works from the inside. Wilkerson asserts that the problem is “systemic.” Good people, he said, are functioning inside a system that is “insidious, pernicious, and acting in the background.”
It is not only the weapons industry that is active in this system, Wilkerson says. He points as well to those corporations that “lobby for longer sentences in order to keep their prisons full and their profits growing.” He notes the true purpose of the National Rifle Association, supposed defenders of the Second Amendment, is “keeping the arms merchants of the world selling their arms.”
So whether it is Governor Branstad’s Medicaid and mental health privatization schemes, the NRA’s promotion of guns-for-all, the private prison industry’s building and sentencing plans, or the weapons industry push for ever newer weapons, this practice of governing under the influence weakens our democracy and puts public policy making in the hands of profiteers.
Iowans have a unique opportunity during the presidential caucus season to shine a light on this problem. Everywhere candidates go they should be asked what steps their administration will take to assure us that public policies will be based on the public good for the many and not the private profit for the few.
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson will speak about “governing under the influence” at the Memorial Union, 8 p.m, Oct. 21, Olin Hall at Drake University, 7 p.m. Oct. 22, Central College, 7 a.m., Oct. 23, and Becker Communication Studies Building at University of Iowa, 7 p.m. Oct. 23. More information at http://gui.afsc.org/.