If the game is hopelessly rigged, why continue playing?
Here’s a fun factoid: More than 40% of all American campaign contributions for federal elections came from one-100th of one percent (0.01%) of U.S. households, according to a recent article published last month in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
In the article, the authors used economic research to explore the question: “Why Hasn’t Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality?” Here’s a summation of what they found:
First, both Republicans and many Democrats have experienced an ideological shift toward acceptance of a form of free market capitalism that offers less support for government provision of transfers, lower marginal tax rates for those with high incomes, and deregulation of a number of industries. Second, immigration and low turnout of the poor have combined to make the distribution of voters more weighted to high incomes than is the distribution of households. Third, rising real income and wealth has made a larger fraction of the population less attracted to turning to government for social insurance. Fourth, the rich have been able to use their resources to influence electoral, legislative, and regulatory processes through campaign contributions, lobbying, and revolving door employment of politicians and bureaucrats. Fifth, the political process is distorted by institutions that reduce the accountability of elected officials to the majority and hampered by institutions that combine with political polarization to create policy gridlock.
In other words, the extremely rich have purchased and now own our political institutions and the politicians themselves, in both major party flavors. The extremely rich, when they care to, control which humans will appear on the ballot, and which will prevail in final elections (with the possible exception of the race for U.S. president, however, rest assured that both major candidates have been pre-purchased). Thus, policy is ultimately dictated by the extremely rich.
As the Supreme Court majority might have said themselves, corporations are people, my friend. And money is free speech.
Like some wayward Starwars Jedi apprentice, I am beginning to feel myself turn toward the Dark Side. What is the point? What is the point of expending the energy to promote – through writing or discussion or contributions or voting – any particular political idea or candidate, when the outcome already has been decided?
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
Now that’s change you can believe in.