The Congressional Budget Office figures on income distribution, prominently displayed in the Oct. 27 Advocate, undoubtedly will cause Republicans to retreat from their current protect-the-rich tax policies. But Occupy Wall Street protesters across the country should not unfurl their “Mission Accomplished” banners and retreat to recliners.
The dramatic concentration of wealth over the past 30 years is but one symptom of the undue influence of private money in electoral politics.
Of course the interests of the rich get heard above the interests of ordinary citizens. But the often-touted excuse “money buys access, not influence” is lame, and it hides the triple whammy of how completely our political process has become overrun by special interests.
To begin, becoming a viable candidate means attracting wealthy donors, a screening device that effectively blocks out voices calling for policies that might redistribute wealth.
Then, when elected, our politicians are forced to choose not WHETHER to be influenced by corporate/union interests, but WHICH corporate/union interests they will back. If your electoral war chest runs dry, you are toast in the next electoral contest.
Some may be under the illusion that amid the competition of special-interest groups, the public interest is served. You only need to look at our crumbling infrastructure, our diseased health-care system and our out-of-whack national balance sheet to put the lie to that myth.
Finally, last year’s Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court has ensured corporations and unions First Amendment (freedom-of-speech) rights for unlimited spending to influence candidate elections. Now corporate lobbyists don’t just draft the legislation for our politicians, increasingly they attack politicians who oppose their interests, control our political discourse and deliver the electorate to their stoolie legislators on a silver platter.
No wonder so many citizens are disgusted with our political system and opt out of participation. Man the barricades, Wall Street protesters, and don’t give up until every last dime of private money is removed from the electoral process!
This won’t be a democracy that works for us until we’re the ones paying for it.