Money and Politics – A Toxic Brew – October 2011

Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN – October 2011 - Editorial by Phyllis Stenerson

All issues in society are interwoven, each impacting the other in some way. Perhaps most glaring and egregious is the link between money and political power. Over the last 30 years wealth has shifted upward. Wages for the working class declined while the cost of living rose. The top 10% of earners got over 90% of all income leaving about 10% to be spread across the bottom 90% of workers. The average CEO is paid $275 to every $1 earned by regular employees. 

Income disparity, unemployment, poverty, homelessness and hunger inAmericaare at record highs. The middle class is in deep trouble. It may take more than a generation for families to regain financial stability.

Most analysts report the rich pay proportionately less in taxes than the working class. Taxes on capital gains and dividends have decreased while payroll taxes for regular workers have gone up. This is not a coincidence or happenstance of history. Money is buying power and influence, overpowering the voices of average citizens. It’s been a creeping plague for the past 30 years and is causing a crisis in democracy. 

Political campaigns have become outrageously expensive with races for Congressional candidates routinely costing more than million dollars and major campaigns topping a billion dollars. Billions of dollars are spent on skilled lobbyists to influence political decisions. Since a Supreme Court ruling in 2008 called Citizens United, corporations can now spend an unlimited amount of money to influence public policy with very little accountability. 

For example, the Tea Party started as a grassroots movement but was quickly taken over by Americans for Prosperity, an organization abundantly funded by billionaire oilmen Charles and David Koch and run by experienced, professional organizers. 

The only power sufficient to overcome organized money is organized people. Big money is turningAmericainto a plutocracy or oligarchy. Democracy is government by the people and for the people –  informed, organized, energized regular people. 

“There’s class warfare, all right,
but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Warren Buffett

 “In the general course of human nature,
a power over a man’s subsistence amounts toa power over his will.”
Alexander Hamilton

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals.
We know now that it is bad economics.”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“We can have democracy in this country,
or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few but we can’t have both.”
Louis D. Brandeis






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