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The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It

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From Common Dreams

The real divide is between democracy and oligarchy.

The market has been organized to serve the wealthy.
The market has been organized to serve the wealthy.
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The coronavirus has starkly revealed what most of us already knew: The concentration of wealth in America has created a a health care system in which the wealthy can buy care others can't.

It's also created an education system in which the super-rich can buy admission to college for their children, a political system in which they can buy Congress and the presidency, and a justice system in which they can buy their way out of jail.

Almost everyone else has been hurled into a dystopia of bureaucratic arbitrariness, corporate indifference, and the legal and financial sinkholes that have become hallmarks of modern American life.

The system is rigged. But we can fix it.

Today, the great divide in American politics isn't between right and left. The underlying contest is between a small minority who have gained power over the system, and the vast majority who have little or none.

Forget politics as you've come to see it as contests between Democrats and Republicans. The real divide is between democracy and oligarchy.

The market has been organized to serve the wealthy. Since 1980, the percentage of the nation's wealth owned by the richest 400 Americans has quadrupled (from less than 1 percent to 3.5 percent) while the share owned by the entire bottom half of America has dropped to 1.3 percent.

The three wealthiest Americans own as much as the entire bottom half of the population. Big corporations, CEOs, and a handful of extremely rich people have vastly more influence on public policy than the average American. Wealth and power have become one and the same.

As the oligarchs tighten their hold over our system, they have lambasted efforts to rein in their greed as "socialism," which, to them, means getting something for doing nothing.

But "getting something for doing nothing" seems to better describe the handouts being given to large corporations and their CEOs.

General Motors, for example, has received $600 million in federal contracts and $500 million in tax breaks since Donald Trump took office. Much of this "corporate welfare" has gone to executives, including CEO Mary Barra, who raked in almost $22 million in compensation in 2018 alone. GM employees, on the other hand, have faced over 14,000 layoffs and the closing of three assembly plants and two component factories.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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