Some Things To Think About
Bret Callentine insists in his article in the Observer of April 19 that American voters should think. In the words of the G.O.P.'s star performer, "You Betcha!" We the people of the American electorate should think about the way our democracy, the government of the people, for the people, and by the people, is being eroded and is on the verge of becoming an oligarchy.
The gap between the rich and the rest of is larger than it has been since the start of the Great Depression. We no longer have a broad-based prosperity. From 1974 to 2007 the richest 1% of households increased their share of the total national income from 9% to 23.5%. The income of the richest 0.1% rose from an average of $4 million in 1974 to $24.3 million in 2005. These are figures from the Congressional Budget Office. Yet the Republican Congress was absolutely adamant about extending the Bush tax cuts for the super rich at the same time they are eliminating food stamps for the poor. Taxing the super rich at a fair rate can help to lower the deficit. Eliminating food stamps cannot.
We need to think about how it has happened that the very rich individuals and corporations, of which there are very few, have been able to out-vote the middle and working classes, of whom there are many. They start with the advantage of having limitless money. Money is power. Since 1970 they have learned how to organize. The Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, and Chambers of Commerce have worked together. They control as many elected officials as possible by making huge contributions to their campaigns. Then there are the lobbyists. The deregulation of the financial sector, which resulted in the near meltdown of the whole system in early 2008, was certainly a result of vigorous lobbying. Over half a billion (that's a "b" not an "m") was spent on health care lobbying in 2009. The Chamber of Commerce alone officially reported spending $144.5 million to kill health care reform, financial reform, and climate change legislation. The lobbyists know how to go about their job; many of them used to be legislators themselves. They are making a lot more money now than they did then.
The only organized counterweight to these forces was the unions. But over the last few decades the monied interests have been able to drastically weaken unions by their targeted use of campaign contributions and lobbying efforts. It has been made harder for workers to organize. Now they are going in for the kill. Unions of public servants are about all that are left. The very right to collective bargaining is being denied in Ohio and in Wisconsin. Middle and working class Americans should think hard about what this means for them. The rewards for the country's growth and productivity have not trickled down to the middle class. We have stalled, while the rich continue to become richer. We shouldn't continue to promote millionaires to billionaires. We don't need them. What we need is a government which promotes the common good.