Restoring the Public Trust

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At www.tompaine.com

No wonder working men and women and their families are strained to cope with the rising cost of health care, pharmaceutical drugs, housing, higher education, and public transportation – all of which have risen faster in price than typical family incomes. The recent book, Economic Apartheid in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity , describes how “thirty zipcodes in America have become fabulously wealthy” while “whole urban and rural communities are languishing in unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, growing insecurity, and fear.” This is a profound transformation in a country whose DNA contains the inherent promise of an equal opportunity at “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” and whose collective memory resonates with the hallowed idea – hallowed by blood – of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The great progressive struggles in our history have been waged to make sure ordinary citizens, and not just the rich, share in the benefits of a free society. Yet today the public may support such broad social goals as affordable medical coverage for all, decent wages for working people, safe working conditions, a secure retirement, and clean air and water, but there is no government “of, by, and for the people” to deliver on those aspirations. Instead, our elections are bought out from under us and our public officials do the bidding of mercenaries. Money is choking democracy to death. So powerfully has wealth shaped our political agenda that we cannot say America is working for all of America. In the words of Louis Brandeis, one of the greatest of our Supreme Court justices: “You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy, but you cannot have both.”

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