By Tony Casson 

“They are corrupt and their actions are evil; not one of them does good.”
Psalm 14:1b NLT

“We find greedy men, blind with the lust for money, trafficking in human misery.”
Thomas C. Clark

The pursuit of the American dream has halted for millions of people who have had a family member become the sustenance required to feed the appetite of an insatiable prison/industrial monster. For all of them, the American dream has become the American nightmare. Unlike the nightmares that produced imaginary monsters in the closets of our youth, this nightmare is a living breathing thing with distinct body parts that can be identified as corporate greed, political cronyism and a shameless disregard for humanity.

The interests of corporate America and America’s politicians have become so inexorably intertwined as to appear almost inseparable. It is becoming increasingly apparent that powerful corporations and businessmen are selecting our leaders and then pulling their strings or calling in favors that come due as a result of the indebtedness created by their friendship or financial support.

If this diminishing of the lines that should clearly separate the two was not evident before, last year’s irresponsible and indefensible decision by this nation’s Supreme Court that “corporations are people” should serve notice that the final nail has been driven into the coffin that holds the right of the American people to decide the country’s fate, fortune and future.

With the way paved wide, clear and smooth for unlimited individual and corporate contributions to so-called “Super-Pacs” formed to support political candidates, it should be very evident that any notion that American’s leaders are chosen by and indebted to America’s citizens is purely superficial.

Political cronyism and outright corruption has existed since the earliest days of this country’s relatively short history. There has always been an abundance of unsurprisingly inadequate laws prohibiting undue influence on our political leaders. Influence that was purchased through exorbitant donations, expensive gifts and outright bribes was deemed illegal. This nation’s affairs were intended to be handled honestly, out in the open and with the rights and concerns of all American citizens taken into consideration.

The line separating corporate America and the influence of wealthy individuals from our political leaders has always been crossed quietly and secretly as a result of friendships, alma maters and the proverbial “good old boy” network. But the blatant public erasing of the lines, which the Supreme Court just completed, was begun in earnest with the formation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 1973.

I wrote about ALEC in Removing the Chains of Fear,” published here on October, 28, 2011, but the main thrust of this unholy alliance is this: Powerful businessmen and corporations sit together with legislators from every state in the union in private sessions three times a year to discuss, plan and write so-called “model legislation” affecting all facets of American life. Much of the “legislation” that is written directly benefits the very companies and individuals helping to write the laws.

As a result of a piece of ALEC’s “model legislation” dubbed “Stand Your Ground,” several corporate members recently ended their affiliation with ALEC. “Stand Your Ground” was blamed for creating the environment in which an unarmed 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin was murdered by a “Neighborhood Watch” member in Florida. Following the public uproar and the revelation of ALEC’s involvement in the drafting of the legislation, several large corporations such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart withdrew from the organization.

Things had already been heating up for ALEC in recent months with attacks by National Public Radio, Bloomberg News and numerous other sources, such as the website www.alecexposed.org, questioning the ethics, if not the outright legality, of the relationship between businesses and lawmakers as those relationships existed within ALEC.

It was in these private gatherings between ALEC’s legislative and business members in the early 1980’s that America’s Culture of Incarceration was born. Once the notion took hold that there were fortunes to be made from the chaining of human beings, two significant things began in earnest: There was a major push begun to lock up more people for longer periods of time; and the concept of private prisons for profit was born.

For millions of American citizens, the American nightmare was about to begin.

More tomorrow…