Regarding the latter, Martin Luther King Jr. observed: “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”
Regarding the former, Ronald Reagan was dead wrong when, in a taped speech in 1965, he said, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority . . . always vote(s) for the candidate promising the most benefits from the treasury with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship.”
He was dead wrong because what he described has never been tried. From the beginning wealth has always governed this country.
As a group, we are mostly too individually apathetic, too self-centered, too myopic, too busy, and/or too mired in our own morass to much give a damn or care for what would be best for our society; to seek to actually develop a representative democracy actually representing the interests and needs of society. And, for many of us that are older, earlier, it didn’t seem to matter.
As a nation we prospered and grew the middle class from the advent of WWII through 1973. We were a manufacturing giant. Poverty decreased. Education soared. Home ownership increased. Capital created new and expanded business. Through its Unions, Labor managed an increasing piece of the pie thus increasing the demand for goods and services. But real weekly wages peaked in 1973, and have been declining since.
Dwight Eisenhour warned in the late 1950’s of the “military-industrial complex”. Interestingly, his first draft of the speech read “military-industrial-congressional complex”. Too bad “congressional” was not retained inasmuch as it is the influence of wealth on Congress that prevents a representative democracy from being representative of the people.
It took awhile but from the 1970’s forward, Labor’s influence weakened while Capital’s influence, always strong, further strengthened. Income and wealth have been further concentrated by the richest among us. Free market competition has waned as Government rules shift to increasingly favor large national and international corporations while private and corporate wealth increasingly influenced Government rules. The need for the two wage earner family intensified.
The distribution of wealth in our nation is not like that of Canada, England, France or Germany; it is more like Mexico, Brazil, Russia and South Africa.
Not since 1929, an ominous year, has the gap between the rich and the poor, the inequity of wealth distribution, been wider.
It is almost impossible for a middle-class citizen to run for national public office. Whether aspiring or already there, members are an elite club of wealth supported mostly by the even more wealthy. The Supreme Court has said that “money is free speech”. And with this money, through advertising, often false or misleading, we in the majority are led to believe that by our vote a representative democracy will represents our interests. And that is pure bullshit!Wealth is power. Power corrupts. This is our Congress: As Americans worry about their own finances, their elected representatives in Washington—with a collective net worth of $3.6 billion—are mostly in good shape to withstand a recession. U.S. senators had a median net worth of approximately $1.7 million in 2006, the most recent year for which their financial data is available, and 58 percent of the Senate's members could be considered millionaires. In the House of Representatives, the median net worth was about $675,000, with 44 percent of members having net worths estimated to be at least $1 million. Members of Congress saw their net worths soar 84 percent from 2004 to 2006, on average. http://www.opensecrets.org/pressreleases/2008/CongressFinances.3.13.asp
Tax breaks for the wealthy, subsidies for the Corporations, cronyism at the highest levels, the stench of no bid contracts, etc. will continue until candidates no longer need to rely on private wealth and corporate money; when only public money is used by the candidates for election to public office. Private wealth and corporate money must be removed from politics.
Gay rights, women’s rights, civil rights, repeal of prohibition, women’s right to vote, prohibition itself, all were lead by a peoples movement. Today, none could be more important than a movement for public financing, and public financing only, for all federal elections.
Mandatory public financing, the hard money, and elimination of soft money influence will only come about through constitutional amendment. How, if ever, this might be accomplished will depend on the peoples effort to demand such change. It is not a priority for either the Democrat or Republican party.
It is a priority of third parties. Your third party vote this November may tell the big boys, the duopoly, that you have a message for them. When enough of us do, they will have to listen.
Election reform from Congress may nibble around the edges. But do not expect Congresspersons to piss in their soup until they are forced to do so by a very strong peoples movement which will only be lead by a third party.