Bob Herbert is retiring after writing a column for the NY Times for 18 years. The entire column should be read, but here are a few choice quotes:
So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.
Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century.
There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.
Pretty terrible. The problem is that all the things being cut are being cut at the local and state levels, and with no will at the federal level to raise taxes and cut military and entitlement spending, states won’t get any help from the top in improving education or other municipal services.
This was a great article, even if it has some dire facts and figures. It’s too bad that we have gotten to the point where the working and middle classes are being drowned out by the money being sucked up by the rich.
We who are part of the poor majority seem to have forgotten that we have a voice. We’ve been divided by partisan politics, enraged by the media pointing fingers at government as the source of our financial suffering, and duped into supporting politicians and economic plans that blatantly screw us over even more! It’s an unfortunate cycle that we’ve allowed to continue for so long that I’m not sure how we can break out.
Remember that so many of the rich are happy to pay more taxes. They voted for Obama who promised to raise their taxes. Only Bush and congress can be blamed for the tax cuts to the rich, not the rich.
Yeah it’s not the rich people’s fault for making money – as if!
Yes, some of the rich are willing to pay higher taxes, and have asked to have their taxes raised. However, there are many more who don’t want higher taxes, particularly on their businesses, and have spent millions to lobby Washington to get their taxes reduced and regulations lifted. As long as Congress is under GOP control, there won’t be a single percentage point raise in taxes for the rich.
The beauty of our form of government is that we CAN change it – and the challenge is that we DON’T. As Thomas Jefferson so aptly put it, “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
The problems we face require both process change and the right people representing us. I got involved with No Labels (www.nolabels.org) as part of trying to help change the process, and I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised that many (if not all) of our representatives probably are actually trying to do the best job they can – and they are as much hamstrung by the current system as we all think we are.
There is a simple bottom line – elected representatives want to represent their constituents, both because that’s their job, and because that’s how they get to KEEP their job. In the current process winning elections requires enormous amounts of money – for House members especially, they have to spend as much as 90% of their time (90%!!) doing fund raising. If you or I had to spend 90% of our work time fund raising, how effective would we be? But the reason they need that money is to get votes – if we can deliver the votes, then no money would be needed at all.
Election mathematics are also simple. Of the people that can register to vote, on average only 2/3rds register. Of those, only 2/3rds vote. Of the ones that vote, the “swing” that delivers victory is usually less than 10%. So in essence less than 5% of the voters are controlling the outcome – a pittance compared to the 56% that didn’t even show up. The primaries are even worse – because in primaries, typically only 10% of registered voters vote. That’s why general election candidates are selected by extremist interest groups – the margin of victory in a primary race is often less than 2% of the REGISTERD voters.
So the challenge of getting better government is actually simple – it just isn’t easy. We need to find a way to rally the non-voting population and get them to show up and vote for change. Maybe the social networking world will give us that needed leverage in the future – I guess we’ll have to see. In the mean time, everyone needs to get involved, and tap your friends, your Facebook network, and everyone else that you can stop long enough to listen, and tell them to register and to vote.
If we can do that, money raising becomes less meaningful, which means the people with money have less influence, which ultimately means we have representatives that are looking out for us, because they know that we’ll be there to support them or throw them out if they don’t.