Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The complicity of the 1%

I've just seen a video that really explains what's going on with wealth distribution in America and our perception of that distribution. What I get from that video is that the top 1% own 40% of all the wealth in the country, and they've done a good job of keeping that statistic out of the news. The bottom 80% have a mere 7% of the wealth. So who has the power to make the policy decisions? Most certainly not the bottom 80%.

Worried about the budget deficit? We (80% of us) didn't create it. The top 1% built that. They have the power to influence policy decisions and they must have a really good reason to keep it that way. What could that be?

Worried about the war in Iraq? We didn't get us there. Afghanistan? We didn't get us there. Worried about the $600 billion domestic demand sucking trade deficit that no one in policy circles has any interest in discussing on TV? The 1% created that. Worried about the bees? The top 1% want to sell us genetically modified bees. Worried about the food supply? The top 1% want to sell us patented, genetically modified food - without the labels to tell us what we're eating. How about a "Just-us" system that prosecutes poor people and offers easy settlements with minimal press coverage for the 1%? The great divide in the justice system was built by the 1%.

Well, in a way, we did play a part to create the system we have now with our indifference to voting. Voter turnout in the last midterms was the lowest since World War II, concluding a trend that has been going on for 30 years or more. There is a natural experiment in South America that illustrates how voter turnout can predict income inequality. If we don't vote, someone else will, and they will write the laws for us. It's that's simple.

Low voter turnout in America is a feature not a bug. It's a problem on both sides, both parties, and the effect is intentional. For there is no way for the top 1% to amass that kind of dominating wealth unless they can influence policy at the highest levels of government at the expense of everyone else, without interference from the rest of us. We should be working, not voting. The economic policies we have in place now created the massive monopolies and mega corporations that surround us today. They were designed by the 1% and have been building since the Reagan years.

You can point to any problem in government today and lay it at the feet of the top 1%. There is no one else that has the kind of power to influence policy like they do. Yet, when we listen to the news, there is nothing to be said about their complicity in the problems we face today. It's like they had nothing to do with it. But they are there, in the shadows, counting their money.

I know I sound like a broke record, but I'm going to say it again. The best way to reverse course is to institute fundamental campaign finance reform. We can remove incentives for large campaign contributions and provide incentives for our leaders to listen to all of us instead of just 1% of us.  Then the middle class, along with everything else we love about America can be restored to the rightful owners. All of us.

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