Let us consider the role that money plays in the polarization of America’s electorate. In today’s world of giant media outlets, multinational corporations, electronic transfers of wealth and political influences that employ the latest advertising ploys, Americans have become pawns on a global chess board.
One need only think of Citizens United, PACs and daily pleas for money by political parties and advocacy groups to see that America is the objective in a massive bidding war.
Our representatives in Washington devote less time working at what we’ve elected them to do and more time trying to raise money. The more we feed this financial arms race, the larger it becomes. The result is obvious, a coalescence of wealth and co-opted political power at the top. In the last five years, 95 percent of all gains in the economic recovery have gone to the top one percent.
While captains of industry espouse supply-side economics, it is a healthy middle class that creates jobs, particularly when provided decent wages. As a nation, we do our best when our highest earners pay a marginal income tax that returns genuine benefits to America. This approach contributed significantly to building our nation’s infrastructure in the 20th century. In those days, the wealthy were well served, as was our country, by a broadly shared prosperity. Today, however, we’ve lost our way. In a nation that self-indentifies as 80 percent Christian, the privileged role of “mammon” represents at the very least a disconnection between who we say we are and what we do.
When state Assembly candidates Chad Mayes and Karalee Hargrove debated on Z107.7, Hargrove alluded to the extraordinary amount of money the Mayes campaign had accumulated. She mentioned his $1,500 coffee klatches with Sacramento lobbyists, saying that in contrast, nearly all of her campaign funds came in small amounts from local voters, the people she would serve. Who our candidates are indebted to matters. Karalee Hargrove is connected to this community, not to a continuum of influence intent on shifting the public’s wealth to the private sector.
So much is at stake. On one side we have a venture capitalist mentality that would acquire and privatize public gains made during the American century. On the other side, we have Americans who feel a debt to history and future generations to preserve an America worthy of our founders’ noblest aspirations. The measure of our greatness is inextricable from our commitment to one another. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are ideals that flourish where there is opportunity, education, security and a united people.
In contrast, the shrink-our-government sentiment expressed of late is akin to self-loathing, the denial of America herself. At the heart of this is an all consuming greed. Greed is tricky and plays on our insecurities. It says deregulate corporations or they’ll seek greener pastures, underfund and over-regulate schools into failure while exalting charters and for-profits, force tuitions up and let students borrow against unforgivable loans, localize and control our national parks, and embrace the convenience of big box stores that export local revenues and leave in their place a plethora of traffic meridians, signal lights and a population increasingly desperate for the next blue light special.
Greed’s divisive tactics are also diversionary. It asks that we focus on any number of emotionally charged issues while it picks our pockets and transfers America’s wealth to an elite private sector that does not answer to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Our ballots offer us a way back to an America that balances opportunity with the public good, but only if we exercise our right to vote.