If you’ve followed the string of crises that have stricken America since the crash on Wall Street, you’ve heard we’ve suffered a housing crisis, credit crisis, job crisis, debt crisis and a financial crisis that really set off the previously mentioned crises.
But what you haven’t heard of is any suffering from the oligarchy – or the 1 percent in this country – unless you read the Wall Street Journal where the super-rich go to whine. It’s always the bottom 99 percent getting hammered.
It’s understandable the super-rich wouldn’t suffer from the ebbs and flows of the free-market, i.e. the booms and bust of an economy; they have a shield of wealth. But most of all the rules of the game have been written in their favor.
As I wrote in my last column, every time Goldman Sachs, Bank of America or Citigroup endorsed a candidate with campaign donations, they indirectly wrote the rules – which is why they were rescued in the midst of the financial crisis, and homeowners weren’t. This lends itself to my point about the explicit and implicit corruption in politics, but I’ll tend to that later in
First, it’s no wonder U.S. economic policy is directed toward the higher echelon of society, especially when you consider most of the policy makers setting the rules are members of the oligarchy in this country.
“Members of Congress had a collective net worth of more than $2 billion in 2010, a nearly 25 percent increase over the 2008 total,” according to a Roll Call analysis of Congressional financial disclosure forms.
The report continues to say: “Overall, 219 Members of Congress reported having assets worth more than $1 million last year…”
So, not only are members of Congress typically richer than most Americans, but their net
worth has increased in the midst of a housing crisis, credit crisis, jobs crisis, debt crisis and, lastly, a financial crisis.
In light of this, I don’t really question why Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-Calif.) has pushed the cause of kidney care in Congress, supporting her husband’s practice which has boomed, “thanks in part to his joint ownership of dialysis centers with DaVita, a giant in the industry and one of Ms. Berkley’s biggest campaign contributors,” as the New York Times reported.
She is one of the richest members of Congress, as she and her husband hold assets valued at $9.29 million, and she is the most telling example of the explicit corruption in our politics. Our politicians are indentured servants to the people and organizations funding their campaigns, and to an extent it isn’t their fault.
“In 93 percent of House of Representatives races and 94 percent of Senate races that had been decided by mid-day Nov. 5, the candidate who spent the most money ended up winning,” according to a post-election (2008) analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
However, those factors don’t address the implicit corruption of our politics, which are best addressed with a sports analogy: Say the Detroit Lions are contestants in the National Football Conference championship game, facing off with the Green Bay Packers, and the Packers have decided to bribe the officials, except not with cash. The Packers promise the officials quadruple whatever they’re earning now as officials.
That is the implicit corruption of our politics, and illustrates why many members of Congress, after they retire, become lobbyists for the very industries they were supposed to have stewardship over. For example, former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) cashed out at the end of his term to become a lobbyist, as did former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), and former Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah).
This is what the Occupy Wall Street protesters need to fight. They need to find a way to reverse the effects of the Citizen’s United case and find a way stop the deluge of corrupt funds that flow through our polity, because out of this corruption is borne the very economic inequality that stifles the bottom 99 percent.