It’s Not the Wealth, It’s the Influence It Buys

David Brooks is a columnist for the New York Times and regarding fiscal matters I often am in agreement with him. In his latest column he is arguing that the 1% at the top of the food chain is not the real problem. He contends that if the government took away all their wealth the national debt could only be reduced by 2%. He believes the current Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is not focusing on the true causes of our economic woes by focusing on the top 1%.

I can agree with much of what Brooks argues. And, to an extent, I agree that the causes go far beyond the 1%. But, the one thing that OWS is helping bring to attention is the enormous political and economic power wielded by what that 1% represents. It represents the major share holders in the largest corporations in both this nation and the world. They have the means, and have used it, to corrupt or bend our political and economic institutions to their favor. And their power and influence is growing.

The attempts to get big money out of politics is age-old. For a brief time the Feingold-McCain Act placed a loose lid on campaign financing but it did so half-heartedly and with dulled teeth. Lobbyists have been with us since the beginning of the nation but it could be argued they have never been greater in numbers, better financed, or more influencial. President Obama promised to take on the lobbies and weaken their grasp on politics but nothing of substance has occurred.

When the US Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that essentially corporations were citizens and thus campaign contribution limits could not be imposed on them, what little control Feingold-McCain offered was thrown under the bus and corporations are possibly more powerful than ever.

I doubt most of those who are active in OWS, or those who are sending in their CARE packages and checks, want to do away with America’s upper-class. Their gripe, and mine, is not that we have rich people and poor people. The complaint is that one person’s vote should somehow be just as powerful as the next, regardless of wealth. The major political parties, along with their elected politicians, don’t seem too interested in protecting the vote of the average American. And all the average American has to do is look at the huge bailouts provided our “too important to fail” banks and ask themselves, who’s bailing me out?

Income in the years after the Great Recession has fallen more than income did during the Great Recession. The wealth of the 1% has risen during recent years the same percentage as the wealth of the 99% has fallen. The best said about the American middle-class is that it is stagnant, but in fact it is declining. The average annual income of the 1% is $1.1 million while the average annual income of the 99% is just $32 thousand. The wealthy have tax breaks and loopholes unavailable to the 99%, the General Electrics avoid all federal income tax, unearned income on investment is taxed at half or less what a middle-class hourly worker would be billed. And, whether you like or not, Warren Buffett’s secretary IS still paying a higher tax percentage than her boss is.

I recently heard a noted author remark, “Capitalism for the average person and socialism for the capitalist.” Conservatives argue the fault of not having a job or health insurance lies with the individual citizen. Reality, however, strongly suggest the consequences of Bank of America’s eminent failure lies with the people’s government, which is the collective individual. The people are burdened with taking care of themselves while misled corporations also become the burden of the people.

Looks to me like the people are in a lose-lose situation while the BofAs are playing by win-win rules.



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