Al Gore: ‘Our system of government, itself, is in real trouble’

On his Monday program, Keith Olbermann offered his Current TV platform to his network’s chairman, former Vice President Al Gore. According to Gore, both sides of the aisle finally hammering out a debt ceiling agreement is a signal that the American system of government is “in real trouble.”

“[I] think this should be a wake-up call for all Americans, Keith — that our system of government, itself, is in real trouble,” Gore said. “We have been making, as a country, a whole series of really bad decisions, and we became the greatest country in the world, as we still like to describe our country, by making better decisions than practically any other country in history because we had a high-quality debate among ourselves.”

“We put the facts on the table and tried to find the best evidence of what was true and what was not, and then apply the rule of reason and try to get good policies,” Gore added. “It didn’t always work perfectly, but it worked a whole lot better than it is working now. And what we have now is a lot of bad decisions that are based on flawed premises and illusions and special-interest arguments.”

Gore didn’t blame policy for his pessimism, but instead faulted a debate shaped by money which took the message away from the Democratic Party.

“[M]oney plays way too big a role now,” Gore said. “More than three-quarters of all of campaign money raised in both political parties is now spent on 30-second television ads and the amount goes up every single year. And the only places where they can raise that much money on a regular continuing basis is from special interests and business lobbies. And they end up calling the tune. And as a result — Emmanuel Cleaver said earlier, very eloquently, that ‘Democrats lost control of the dialogue, the conversation of democracy is now distorted.’”

Gore suggested that higher taxes on the wealthy were perhaps the answer to the ailing economy, which he said was the response that got the economy back on track under President Clinton in the 1990s.

“Why, for example, with almost 10 percent unemployment is there virtually no discussion and/or virtually no proposals to deal with unemployment?” Gore said. “When President Clinton and I took office, one of the ways that we got that big surplus is by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and spending money on education and job training and programs designed to improve our ability to have a successful economy. And now, not only is there no discussion of the unemployment.”

“We get the impression from the dialogue that it’s way more important to cut taxes even further on the wealthiest Americans and eliminate the inheritance tax, and that’s way more important than getting jobs for people,” Gore continued.

The former vice president also offered a brief history lesson for viewers. He explained the debate was not as centralized at the time of the founding of the country. But with television, the ability to communicate a message has changed.

“[I] think we got to this bad place partly because there was a massive change in the way political conversation in our democracy takes place,” he said. “Back when our founders wrote the Constitution and hammered out all of this, all of the design for America, all of the communication took place in the printed word. And with television it’s very differently. It’s centralized, and you know Thomas Paine could walk out his front door and find a dozen print shops within a five-block area, all of them low cost. If you go down to the local TV station and say I would like to deliver this essay or whatever, they would laugh you out of the premises. You have to have lots of money.”

According to Gore, the antidote would be the Internet and he offered Markos Moulitsas, the editor of the Daily Kos, as an example of its success.

“Now, we have a new medium of communication that is already beginning to affect television, and that’s the Internet,” Gore said. “And it has low-entry barriers for individuals, Markos Moulitsas, who you had on earlier is an example of the kind of voice that is now being heard on the Internet, and eventually, when more and more people get involved and express themselves and organize, we need to use the digital tools that are now available to organize around the views that we think are important to implement to make our country a better place. As long as people stay relaxed and laid back, if they feel strongly about something, it’s not going to work.”