By Arlen Grossman
It’s not your grandfather’s America anymore.
Democracy in the United States has failed. So we shouldn’t be surprised when tax cuts favor the wealthy, and we see the rich growing richer and the poor losing ground. In addition, climate change is worsening, health care is ignored, the military keeps overextending itself, and there is inaction on gun control. And we shouldn’t expect justice to be blind. Not when the poor and people of color crowd our prisons, while the rich and powerful never see the inside of a cell (prime example: the Wall Street bankers who caused the 2008 Great Recession).
We shouldn’t be surprised at the myriad other shameful government policies that benefit the rich and powerful, and hurt the rest of us. Regressive policies are the norm and will undoubtedly get worse. Democracy is but a faded dream.
Why? Because Billionaires and Big Corporations own this country. Period. Lock, stock and bonds.
Billionaires and Big Corporations control our political system, which explains why Republicans keep winning elections even when there are more Democratic voters. They control our economic system, too, which explains why the richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, and according to the Urban Institute, almost 40 percent of American children spend at least one year in poverty before they turn 18. It explains why the average American almost never gets what he or she wants from government.
A 2014 study by two Princeton academics, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, concluded that “In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule—at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover … even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
Clearly, Oligarchs and Plutocrats are in charge of this country, with no intention of giving back their power.
The Billionaires and Big Corporations control American politicians with lobbying and campaign contributions (legalized bribery), and happily reap the benefits. The rest of us go through the motions of democracy. We work to change policies through petitions, contacting our representatives, sending money, and voting for our favorite politicians. But all of that is futile. We’ve long lost our Democracy, and it’s not coming back anytime soon.
Sure, they’ll throw liberals a few bones, like gay rights and legalized marijuana, but when it comes to economic issues, the rich and powerful always win and the rest of us always lose. George Carlin understood: “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.”
How did this happen? After the Great Depression the average worker was doing well, the American Dream was accessible, and each subsequent generation in the 1950s and 1960s did better. In the 1970s, feeling overwhelmed by Great Society and other liberal programs, the business community and other conservatives decided to fight back.
Some attribute this newfound assertiveness to a memo from future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell to a friend affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which laid the groundwork for an aggressive pro-business, anti-liberal attack. The “American economic system is under broad attack,” wrote Powell. “Business must learn the lesson . . . that political power is necessary…”
Soon, right-wing think tanks, like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, sprung up. Then came Ronald Reagan, the Moral Majority, the decline of labor unions, right-wing radio and television, and the Tea Party. The biggest boon for wealthy Republicans was the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, which allowed billionaires like the Koch Brothers to spend as much as they want, i.e. to essentially buy elections.
It is painful to acknowledge our lost democracy. But reality is hard to deny. We can hope the American people will rise up and take back the country from the Billionaires and Big Corporations. Just don’t expect it in the near future. The odds are too much stacked against the average citizen. Good luck, fellow American, eventually the pendulum might begin to swing back the other way. Just don’t be surprised if it’s not in your lifetime.
**published in OpEdNews, October 26, 2017