**Headline and first line changed from prior posting
**Headlined at OpEd News, June 28
By Arlen Grossman
There’s a reason most Americans don’t get what they want.
Billionaires and Large Corporations own this country. Period.
They make the rules and reap the benefits. They control the politicians and thus the laws. What they want, they get.
Which is why even though Republicans number between one-quarter and one-third of the electorate, they control the presidency, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, and most state governments.
Which is why polls show that even though most Americans want universal health care, more social security, stricter gun laws, stronger environmental laws, more spending on social services and less on the military, they never get them.
The majority of the American people also want debt-free college education for all students, a higher minimum wage, a massive infrastructure spending program, higher taxes on the wealthy, and fair trade that protects American workers and the environment. Those things don’t happen because it doesn’t matter what the people want.
George Carlin summed it up well: “The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they’re an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything.”
The rich and corporations have always had undue influence in our government. But it was the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that put the final nail on the coffin of American democracy. That ruling essentially allowed the rich to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. That made it easy to control politicians and buy elections, thus ensuring they get the laws that benefit them.
Our government is run by legalized bribery, and unless you are wealthy you are out of the game. Republicans especially, but Democrats too, play by these rules.
A 2014 study from Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. is dominated by its economic elite. The wealthy dictate national policy, while average Americans are essentially powerless. According to the report: “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
Meanwhile, the rich keep getting richer, and consequently more powerful. According to The New York Times, the “richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.” UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez estimates that between 2009 and 2012, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of total income growth. This country has the highest wealth inequality among industrialized nations, higher than any time since 1928, the year before the Great Stock Market Crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.
How can we change this? It won’t be easy. When conditions get bad enough, and Americans take to the streets in massive numbers, when and if they vote in candidates who believe in grass roots democracy, only then can the system be changed and the views of average Americans matter. That is unlikely to happen anytime soon, because the billionaires and big corporations–who own most of the mass media–like the status quo.
It should be evident to all that America is an oligarchy, a country run by a small group of wealthy individuals. Those who pretend otherwise are not paying attention and deluding themselves. The future of our country, and the world, depends on our finding the path back to democracy. Unfortunately, the obstacles have never been greater.
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