My take on Politics and the Widening Income Gap in America

America has been successful largely due to its strong, robust and financially stable middle class. From before the 1920’s until the late 1970’s, the income gap between the top 1% and the remaining 99% of the population in America remained fairly steady. By the late 1970’s, the differences in income between the top 1% and the rest of us in the U.S, were clearly on divergent paths. But the incomes of the wealthiest in America began an astronomical ascent in the mid 1990’s. Over the past twenty years, while many Americans have taken cuts in wages and benefits or lost jobs, the incomes of the top 1% have skyrocketed.

When debating how to deal with our nation’s financial shortfalls, politicians tell us programs for the poor are the cause of America’s financial problems and we must make cuts in the entitlement programs aimed at helping the most vulnerable in America. Congress does not look at history or consider the fact that roughly 2/3 of all entitlements in the U.S. go to our nation’s corporations, banks and the wealthiest. They do not discuss the loss of income taxes due to tax codes and loopholes for the wealthy. It’s not difficult to connect the dots and see that the extreme inequality of wealth in our nation is due to the convoluted tax laws, nor is it surprising, since we allow politicians to pass legislation that is crafted by the lobbyists. Not only are the politicians not writing the bills, more often than not, they don’t read them. The lobbyists brief politicians on what they need to know about what they will be voting on. This certainly appears to have helped lobbyists achieve their goal of passing legislation favorable to their wealthy clients.

Once elected, it seems that a politician’s main job becomes fundraising. They have no time to research that which they are debating or voting on. They leave that to the lobbyists, who are only too happy to help out. Politicians are passing laws that rig the rules in their financial donor’s favor, and in return, the wealthy are donating more and offering lucrative jobs to politicians, as they all get wealthier. Their symbiotic relationships work very well for them, but not for the rest of us. Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff spent 4 years in prison for conspiracy to bribe public officials, yet the bribery continues in Washington D.C. Worse yet, today, it is the norm. You need only look at a graph comparing the income of the top 1% versus the remaining 99% of us over the past century to see what this political shift has done to the income gap in the U.S.

In the 1970’s, Ralph Nader gained national attention in the push for corporate reforms in areas like automotive safety and pollution controls. Before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 1972, Luis Powell wrote a confidential letter to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urging businesses to organize and unite. He sited Nader as antagonistic to businesses and called for corporations to use their influence to sway politicians and create laws beneficial to business. As the corporate lobbyists organized and gained strength throughout the 1970’s, the income gap widened at an increasing pace. The symbiotic relationships between politicians and CEO’s developed and strengthened. Policies shifted from benefitting the middle class and the poor, to benefitting those with the most money. In the late 70’s, we saw the beginning of the demise of labor unions, along with an increase in business friendly legislation. Alterations to and finally the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and the carried interest provision in the tax code, (which essentially renamed hedge fund manager’s wages as capital gains, and are therefore taxed at lower rates than wages) are examples of such business friendly legislation. The carried interest provision allows the wealthy, mainly hedge fund managers, to pay lower rates on income taxes than their secretaries or small business owners. It has been estimated the carried interest provision tax loophole will cost the U.S. 1.2 billion in 2014 alone. This is only one example of the countless laws, regulations and loopholes that unfairly benefit the wealthy.

In spite of our nation’s financial struggles, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are willing address tax loopholes or entitlements that favor the wealthy, such as 83 billion dollars in perks that went to banks in 2013. Even when the Democrats had a majority in both houses of Congress, they did nothing. Sadly, our elected representatives from the Democratic and Republican parties are not willing to upset their financial donors in order to represent their constituents. We need politicians who will represent the majority of America. It is imperative that we stop electing candidates because of miss-placed, blind loyalties. Republicans and Democrats differ in name and rhetoric, but not in action. Stop arguing that your political party is better than the other is, arm yourself with information, and support and vote for candidates that are not beholden to big money. It can be difficult to find this type of candidate, since big money supports so many politicians today.

Many voters say they do not want to vote for third party or independent candidates, because they think that without deep pockets funding a candidate, they can’t win. I ask these voters, “How can you continue to elect big money puppets and expect different outcomes?” If big money funds a candidate, that candidate will cater to big money interests. Don’t discount independent and third party candidates simply because they are not from “your” party or because they do not have deep pockets. Unless you are part of the 1%, the Democrats and Republicans are no longer your party. Because third party and independent candidates are often self funded and not beholden to big money, they might be the ones to stop the rigging of laws and tax codes in favor of business and the wealthy. With your support, independent and third party candidates could be the ones with enough strength and conviction to straighten out the mess made by the established parties.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
Donate Volunteer Find an Event