Saturday, April 30, 2022

America's Changing Body Politic

Did you know that the top 1% now controls 70% of all wealth in this country? That's the most of any country at any time in history. In addition, almost all of this wealth is derived from inheritance and rent and not earned income.

The top 1%  constitutes about 1.5 million households owns more than 15 times the bottom 50%.  Their combined wealth is approximately $34.2 trillion dollars while the bottom 50% is roughly 2.1 trillion dollars. The upper 10% hold more than 88% of the total equity of all corporations and mutual fund shares.

Over the last 30 years, the wealth of the top 10% has increased by 69% while for the bottom 50% it has actually decreased by half, from 3.6% growth to only 1.9%.  The average net worth of the top 1% is 11.1 million dollars.  Wealth for the 1% has increased 160% from 1979 through 2019 while the bottom 90% saw an increase of just 26%.

The widening disparity between the elites and everybody else stems from several factors. The most notable being their dominance of public and private equity, and extraordinary generous tax breaks. The net worth between the richest top 10% and the bottom lowest 10% has more than doubled between  1982 and 2016. The largest jump coming after 2010 when the Supreme Court upheld Citizens United which gave Corporate America its personhood and defacto card blanche control of politics.

Citizens United allowed corporations to dominate elections by allowing them to donate virtually unlimited amounts of money while simultaneously capping the average voter. It also put the cost of mounting an election out of reach for the average citizen.

Thinking about running for Congress? The average cost is just over $2 million dollars...and that's for a two year term which means you'll constantly be in "fundraising mode" not just for you, but for the party and its chieftains as well. And the pay? Just $174,000. 

The U.S. Senate has been called "the most exclusive club in the world". To buy a seat will set you back an average of $15 million, with some seats going for as much as $28 million, and this is for a single six year term and it doesn't anymore than the House.

The total cost of Congressional elections prior to the 2010 Citizen United mistake was $2.48 billion (2008). By 2012 it was $3.66 billion. As of 2020, that figure ballooned to $8.73 billion. Presidential elections went from a total of $2.79 billion in 2008 to $5.70 billion in 2020.  

The average cost of running for governor is north of $15 million. In the 2018 race for Governor of Florida, Democrat Andrew Gillum raised $55,062,506.00 while his opponent (and eventual winner), Republican  Ron DeSantis ponied up $58,847,418.00. In Wisconsin, the cost to run for governor went from just over $35 million pre-Citizens United to around $93 million in 2018.

Where's all this money coming from? Well, a good chunk of it is coming from the candidates themselves. Practically everyone running for governor, and certainly Congress is at least a millionaire (Senate is a private reserve for multi-millionaires). In 2020, over half of all members of Congress are millionaires. Some are richer than that. Take Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) for instance. His net worth is over $344 million.

The rest of the money, however, comes from these corporate "Frankensteins" which the Supreme Court declared to be "people" and whose wealth is the equivalent to free speech.. They "contribute" (which sounds much better than saying "buy") the seats and those who fill them.

The largest donors usually come from Wall Street, following by high powered law and investment firms, Big tech, energy, healthcare, and defense industries. Much of it depends on  the committees an individual sits on.  Don't forget too that corporate lobbyists funneling money and perks to these individuals in the form of speaking engagements and dinners at $100,000 per seat, seminars at resorts, and donations to their "leadership" PACs.

Meanwhile, these same lobbyists often write the bills and shepherd through all the various committees which will get voted on and become laws. As an aside, as these pieces of legislation wind their way through the Byzantine corridors of power, committee members often like to tack on their own perks for taxpayers to pay for. Some of these are designed to make them look good to voters back home, while others are in-kinds payments to various generous donors.

Here's something to consider. Did you know that Congress has a retention rate of over 90%? Fewer than 10 seats at any given time are in jeopardy of a turnover. I find that utterly amazing given that Congress has a disapproval rating in the 70's (during the first week in January 2021 it was 80%). Its highest approval rating in the last decade has only been 36% (March 2021). That still means that more 60% of the public think they suck at their jobs!  So, how do they manage to have a 90+% retention rate if something shady isn't going on?

Well, besides the obvious---money---there's also gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is where the two corporate owned parties get to redraw districts every ten years in order to pick their voters. No, seriously. It allows them to draw districts in all sorts of convoluted ways to ensure that they the appropriate number of partisan voters to keep the seat.

With Independents being the country's majority political bloc and growing while the numbers for the Republican and Democrat parties crash, it's going to be interesting to see how much longer this charade will be allowed to go on.

As an aside, it's worth nothing that in 2020 report by the Center for Public Accountability, corporations who publicly call for racial equity routinely donate to candidates, PAC, and groups which promote racial gerrymandering.  So, despite their "feel good" advertising, many of those same corporations are buying politicians who will support redrawing districts to reduce the influence of minorities.

Going hand-in-hand with money and partisan gerrymandering is the lack of term limits (we can also include referendums, rank choice voting, voter ID, and ballot initiatives). Politicians and their corporate masters have a good thing going. They don't want to keep having to retrain newly elected candidates.

They'll tell you it's all about relationships and for once they're not lying. It's about knowing whose back to scratch and whose pocket to pick. It's about knowing how the game is played and who the players are. They don't want change (although you wouldn't know it by their campaign rhetoric!). They like it the way it is. No new ideas. No "reformer" troublemakers. They want to keep the status quo just as it is. They benefit from the laws they write and they know the levers to keep the unwashed masses (that's us) in line.  

This applies to referendums, rank choice voting, and ballot initiatives too. They don't want to hear from you. They don't really want your opinions. They don't want to risk being booted out by being "ranked" lower than some newcomer.  They don't want the voters submitting and voting on changes they can't control.

Another thing they oppose is those pesky Independents and third parties. Independents have been the nation's largest voting bloc for some time now. Currently, just over 40% of Americans are Independent, but you won't hear them admit it. They want you to think that Independents are closet partisan voters, which couldn't be further from the truth.

They don't want Independents or third party candidates running for office if possible, like requiring them to have 50 or 500 signatures to get on the ballot while a Democrat or Republican needs only three. They'll keep them out of debates whenever possible. The establishment media will typically ignore them, or treat them like a clown show. But to allow the voting public to take them serious is strictly verboten!  Of course, they keep the money away.

78% of the public believes that the two political parties and their politicians don't give a hoot about the public.  This includes 68% of Democrats, 82% of Republicans, and 83% of Independents. Personally, I think 78% is a low number. Americans have long been fed up with our broken system. We know no one is serious about fixing it. We've allowed ourselves to become apathetic.

America is no longer a democratic Republic, although we still pretend it is because we're too proud (and stubborn) to admit the truth. What is the truth? The truth is that we were the world's richest and most powerful nation. We enjoyed a degree of freedom and quality of life unmatched in human history. And while we were intentionally or perhaps willfully distracted, it was stolen away from us.

We've allowed the country to become a neo-fascist Corporatocracy wrapped up in an American flag just as we were warned about decades ago. We've allowed ourselves to become a surveillance state out of manufactured fear and the false promise of security.  We've been made afraid of words and being called names, Perhaps worse of all, we've been made to forget what it meant to be an American. 

We've replaced "citizen" with consumer. We've substituted "patriot" with globalist. We've confused equal opportunity with equal outcomes. We've been conditioned to see our differences instead of our commonalities. Conformity has replaced independence of thought. We've chosen the low road of mediocrity instead of the vistas of greatness. 

America was founded on the premise of being a nation governed by and with the consent of its citizens. That was the "Great Ideal" America offered to the world; that government should serve its people. Not the other way around. Today, it's ruled by a political class which is little different from the one our Founding Fathers had sought to vanquish over two centuries ago.  We can still turn this around, but only if we come together. We've been intentionally divided along artificial fault lines. Divided the ruling elites control us. United there is nothing that can stop us. What will it be America?

 If you want to know more, please take a look at the links below. If you enjoyed the article, please consider passing it along to others and don't forget to subscribe. It's free! Lastly please be sure to "like" us on whatever platform you use to read A/O. It helps with the algorithms and keeps our articles in circulation. Thank you!


State of Money in Politics: The Price of Victory is Steep


Cost of Election (1998 - 2020)


Which Industries Are Giving the Most Money to PACs, Parties,and Candidates?

Corporate Political Spending Is Bad Business


Anonymous said...

Agree and if you look at KY tax structure you will see that the working class people are taxed into poverty! The retirees are continually taxed with an increasing school tax that should have been paid in full upon retirement!
In KY people pay taxes on our purchase, home, autos etc and think we own these and try to set our selves up for our golden years. We soon learn that all of those purchases we made belong to the state, county and the largest thief is the school systems as we rent those purchases back from them in the form of a tax or better term excessive taxes! Kentucky is not a place to retire but a place to retire from!! Waiting to leave where I grew up as were taxed out!! TN is the place to be but looking at the retirees tax breaks in AL or SC!!!!

Think about it. The choice is retire and live or be taxed into poverty by the elite law makers in in KY!!

Paul Hosse said...

Very well stated Anon! Good job! Yes, the tax structure in Kentucky is not just obsolete, but backwards to boot. I've always questioned seniors and the disabled (or those on fixed incomes) having to pay school taxes (or at least the same full percentage). That also goes for those without children in the school system. On top of that, Kentucky continues to rank in the bottom tier nationally despite that fact that we throw more money into the school system than more populated states.

I also question why retirees or those on fixed incomes pay property tax. Yes, we do get a small "discount", but it doesn't offset the rate increases which never match (let alone exceed) COLA's on Social security or disability income.

I've bee a big proponent of allowing voters to decide on tax increases. Politicians are literally bought and paid for by special interests groups. They've never meet a tax they didn't like, and they've shown time and time again that they are poor managers of our money.

Proposals of rates increases, like school tax, property tax, gasoline tax, water and electrical rates, and so forth need to be decided by the people who are forced to pay for them. And thanks to partisan gerrymandering, Citizens United, unfair election laws and the absence of term limits, the old adage of "if you don't like 'em vote 'em of out" is no longer either applicable or realistic. Incumbent politicians have 93% likelihood of reelection.

Enjoyed your comment. Thank you and keep 'em coming!