Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

May 20, 2014

We the People: Who wants to be a millionaire?

CROSSVILLE — Most of us would like to have a little extra in the bank. Americans still want to believe that with hard work anyone can be successful. Conservatives preach that fantasy. It’s a cruel lie.

Since the 1980s enormous salary and bonus packages have bolstered the wealth held by the 1%. As the affluent earn investment returns at rates higher than average economic growth, resources are concentrated into fewer families.

Six Wal-Mart heirs control more wealth than 40% of the nation’s population. And Wal-Mart workers? Not so much. Folks on the right ask you to trust that the wealthy will create good jobs for the rest of us. Economic reality doesn’t support that assertion. With depressed incomes and less spending money in the lower and middle classes, the economy languishes. As more borrow to meet basic needs, debt burdens rise. The wealth gap increases. We are becoming less a democracy and more an oligarchy.

Leading economists know that we can curtail this growing inequality by restoring previous tax rates on the wealthy and establishing a living wage for workers. This could be done by giving workers opportunities to bargain and passing "fair wage" laws. Even a Fox News contributor encouraged the government (!) to ensure that corporate managers don’t place their needs above those of their employees. But that would require regulation, which, along with taxes, causes conservative consternation. The moneyed elite spend plenty to make sure that such policies are not passed.

Speaking of greedy billionaires, let’s revisit the Koch brothers. One particularly strident Chronicle contributor employed smoke and mirrors to defend his good friends Charles and David. It is disingenuous to pretend that the Kochs contribute equally to all parties and interests. The Kochs have given a pittance to progressives when it served their purposes. In 2012, the brothers offered a paltry $110,000 to Democratic candidates. That same year they donated $2,200,000 to Republican office seekers. Additionally, it’s estimated that the Kochs deluged conservative causes with up to $400,000,000. It’s difficult to know exact amounts as the boys adeptly keep their donations in the dark through “social welfare” non-profits which don’t have to disclose their benefactors.

Interestingly the Koch Bros. have incurred the ire of governors in the red states of Oklahoma and Arizona. Seems their push to protect their fossil fuel empire by applying fees on solar panels has met with resistance from those governors who recognize fees as taxes. Oops. These fees/taxes arguments, however, miss the point and waste our time.

Democratic fundraising is also rife with excess and secrecy. The extreme influence of cash in our democracy is dangerous. No matter who is buying influence, or from whom, big money is making the voices of the majority irrelevant.

The affluent few buy economic, political and legal policies that make our hard work increasingly fruitless. Without being born or marrying into a rich family we have few opportunities for prosperity.

We in the 99% need to speak together with one voice. People, not Money, must control our democracy whether they are Republican, Democratic, or something else. Otherwise, we can only brush up on trivia and hope for a chance in the “hot seat.” Good luck.



 

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