Thursday, December 18, 2014

Who does that policeman really work for, anyway?

There is an interesting statistic floating around to suggest that the top 10% own about 85% of all the non-home wealth in the United States. This would be ludicrous if true. Well, it's true. As of 2010, the top 10% owned 85% of all the wealth, and I doubt that has changed much in 4 years. The picture isn't much different with respect to net worth, either. The top 10% owned 77% of all net worth in America in 2010. Given current employment and other economic data, not much has changed since then.

One other interesting thing to note is that the rate of concentration of wealth increased during the Great Recession, which suggests an enormous transfer of wealth during that period from the poor to the wealthy.

Considering the concentration of wealth in this country gives rise to a very interesting question to me. I see a police car on the road, and I think the officer in the car is there to protect me. Really? Given the distribution of wealth, who is he really protecting?

Once I started to notice the distribution of wealth, I began to see that government goes where the money is. The police are protecting the people on the hill, next to the capital. Everything else seems to be for show, to give comfort to everyone else so that there will be no unrest or protest in the streets.

When I think of the federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI, CIA, and Treasury, again, I think of that ratio and I am reminded of who they really work for. It's not ordinary people like you and me. No, sir, they're working for someone else.

That ten percent has everyone else working for them, while they're taking it all in. This isn't an accident. Sure, we could say that is just how it is and that we should accept it for the way it should be. There may be some truth to that, since accepting things the way they are gives us peace.

But accepting things the way they are gives us another power, one that many of us never realize: the power to change things to be something better for all of us. The distribution of wealth is a reflection of our participation in politics, or the lack of it, nothing more and nothing less. When more of us are involved, the distribution of wealth tends to flatten out. If more of us vote, income inequality becomes less of a problem and we can all focus more on problems that affect us all. The government tends to listen to everyone instead of the people who just have more money when more people participate in politics. That's just the way it is, right?

This relationship between voter participation and income inequality has been proven in at least one natural experiment in Argentina where compulsory voting was abolished. As voter turnout decreased over the years, income inequality increased. In the United States, voting is voluntary, not mandatory, and given our experience, if we do not vote, we are essentially giving our money and our power to someone else, usually with more money and power.

Much of the problem with voter turnout seems to arise from how our candidates for office are chosen. Larry Lessig is a political activist who has noticed the corruption in our government, particularly in the way that political campaigns are financed and run. To put this in a nutshell, candidates seeking elected office must appeal to the "relevant funders", approximately 150,000 out of more than 300 million in America, who fund more than 60% of political campaigns. Those people get to decide who even has a chance of running and winning. If you can't get your campaign money from one of them, you're not going to run and you won't even have a chance of winning if you try to run for office.

Those 150,00 people? They're the top 0.05%. They're the people the government works for. Everything else you see in government is just for show, to keep the peace and order so that we don't rise up and rebel against that tiny minority. This is what we're up against, but it's also important to remember, that tiny minority needs us and depends on us to work for them.

The Mayday.us SuperPAC, the SuperPAC to end all SuperPACs, can restore the balance of power so that Congress works for all of us, not just a tiny few who sincerely believe that they can do a better job of running the world without help from anyone else. The Mayday.us campaign has a simple purpose: to fund all political campaigns with many millions of small donations rather than just a few really big donations from donors who aren't thinking of the rest of us.

When we can remove big money from politics, then we can truly say that the government works for all of us. To trust my government, I need to know they're thinking about me, not just 150,000 sincerely deluded Americans who happen to have a lot more money than me.
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