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The Mad Hatters have taken over

The country has slipped down the rabbit hole and the mad hatters are in charge. As if to confirm the fear of many Americans that the country is in decline, our leaders seem incapable of governing.

Has democracy run its course? Are we at a point where the “common good” has been so distorted it is beyond recognition? Have the system’s checks overwhelmed its balances?

How do we defend against ourselves as internal conflicts multiply? Were we naive to think that the greatest threats to our security were external? Doesn’t history teach us that great nations decay from within?

Were we at a point where one devastating terrorist attack was enough to topple our house of cards? Were the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan overreactions that sapped our strength and diverted us from more important problems at home?

Do we honor our veterans, past and present, by losing the American dream … not to some foreign power but by our own failings?

These are some of the questions we should be asking as we watch this once proud and powerful nation spin out of control. These self-inflicted wounds may not be fatal but they could be unless our leaders agree that the common good is paramount.

The welfare of the rich is not in jeopardy. That will not happen because they have the power and the money to get attention. Lacking resources, the poor are at a distinct disadvantage. Their welfare is easily ignored.

The middle class, despite its size, can be overlooked in the clash between the “wants” of the rich and the “needs” of the poor. The middle class is the fulcrum on which the other two are balanced. Maintaining that balance could be defined as the common good.

Republicans tend to weigh in on the side of the rich while the Democrats advocate for the poor. They both stretch to reach the middle class where most of the voters reside. The middle class is also where most of the independents are located, split between those that hope and believe they have a chance to be rich – the upper middle class – and those that fear they may slip into poverty – the lower middle class.

The “plight” of the rich is not particularly worrisome. One would not expect the poor or middle class to be up nights worrying about the haves. Unfortunately, not many rich seem to be concerned about the poor. Those that do now tend to be Democrats or that fast disappearing class of liberal Republicans.

One would think that in a democracy the poor and middle class, by the sheer weight of numbers, would dominate the system. That was never the case. The rich have always been able to assert more power and influence.

Our country has written too many checks and our account is unbalanced. The Republicans are right in focusing our attention on the spending problem. If only they were as concerned about the checks and balances essential to social equilibrium, like health care for all, social security and tax fairness.

While the Republicans precipitated the debt ceiling crisis, President Obama could have avoided it by immediately shutting down the two wars he inherited and letting the Bush tax cuts expire. By not doing so, he backed into the debt ceiling crisis and set the stage for a shabby display of brinkmanship by House Republicans.

Almost all of whom signed a “no tax increase under any circumstances” pledge as part of their election campaigns. Was that a promise to assure their election or an abdication of responsibility?

We need more politicians who will not confuse their own good with the common good. I fear it is becoming more difficult for people like that to be elected.

Alice is not the only one who ventured into “Wonderland.”

James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.