The United States is run by the wealthy elite, not the democratic vote. This was the finding of a major study last year by Princeton University, which showed that even when a stark majority of Americans agree on an issue, if the wealthy disagree, lobby and throw money at politicians, the wealthy get their way. Princeton said the US is no longer a democracy. We are now an oligarchy.
The study, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” examined 1,800 different US policies passed from 1981 to 2002. The desires of the populace overwhelmingly lost out to the desires of the economic elite.
Jimmy Carter told Oprah. Bernie Sanders campaigns on it. Lawrence Lessig and Elizabeth Warren consistently tell us that the system is rigged. How did we get here? What can we do to stop it?
Certainly the disastrous Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court aided our oligarchical transformation, opening the flood gates for Super PACs and letting corporations use money as free speech just like regular human citizens could if they had any money. However, the US has been long battling the influence of big money and more often than not, loses those battles. In 2016, the question will be if we will forever lose the war itself.
Why else would billionaire financial and media guru Michael Bloomberg throw a public temper tantrum about how he’ll have to run for President if the candidate who wants to restore democracy wins the Democratic primary? The only working theory I have is that for the first time in decades, the ruling class is scared. The corporate-funded political parties are scared too.
Experts on the issue like Ellen Brown, President of the Public Banking institute tell us that democracy gave way to an oligarchical stronghold long-ago. She builds a timeline from the establishment of the gold standard and a Federal Reserve system controlled by a handful of private banking families to the rise of globalization and control of the media to show how oligarchy overtook the democratic process.
“Control of the media and financial leverage over elected officials then enabled those other curbs on democracy we know today, including high barriers to ballot placement for third parties and their elimination from presidential debates, vote suppression, registration restrictions, identification laws, voter roll purges, gerrymandering, computer voting, and secrecy in government.”
Note that Brown references several voter suppression issues that we often equate to civil rights as part of the recipe in our oligarchist cookbook. I’m going to move on to other topics, but I feel it is always important to take notice of how intertwined systems of economic control over the people intersect with issues we equate to racial, gender and sexuality civil rights. Though these are separate issues, they are not entirely separate issues. Intersectionality in public policy is a thing too.
There are short-term solutions in front of us on these economic issues. Clearly, Americans need to demand severe campaign finance reform, which a vast majority of Americans already support. We should break up the big banking institutions and reinstate the Glass-Steagall act that the Clintons destroyed, as Bernie Sanders has suggested. We need a public banking option as Bernie Sanders has advocated doing through the post office. We need an audit of the Federal Reserve, as also endorsed by Bernie Sanders. We should break up the media cartels by undoing the Clinton Telecommunications Act of 1996 that made them possible. We need to reexamine globalization, Clinton’s NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership being pushed through now. In short: I believe we need the economic leadership of Bernie Sanders and not more of the same through another Clinton.
Nobel Prize winner, Professor Joseph Stiglitz has written and spoken about how due to these issues, and the massive income inequality in the United States today, the only solution to the problem may be an economic model similar to that of the Scandinavian countries, and that the “American dream” has become myth. This sounds a little like Bernie Sanders too, doesn’t it?
When President John Fitzgerald Kennedy went in front of the American people to inspire them to push forward the space program’s voyage to the moon, he said, “We choose to go the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because the goal will serve to organize and measure the best of energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others too.”
I propose that though the challenge of pushing through publicly financed elections, breaking up the banks and the media cartels, and pushing through ways to reestablish wealth equality in this country are exactly this sort of challenge. These goals will not be easy. That’s where Hillary Clinton is right. The fight will be hard. Where she is wrong though is that the fight is not impossible. This fight is necessary. We must be unwilling to postpone. We must intend to win, because frankly, we might not have another chance.
For long-term solutions to restoring democracy and overthrowing oligarchy, we need to look at some other policy issues championed by Bernie Sanders, and despite what Hillary Clinton tells you, Democrats for nearly a hundred years. We need to address economic inequality head on.
Before his passing, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed The Second Bill of Rights, an economic bill of eight rights that would have offered:
- the right to employment
- the right to high enough income to support food, clothing and leisure for all Americans
- farmer’s rights to fair income within a system of corporate agriculture
- the right to freedom from monopolies
- the right to housing
- the right to medical care
- the right to social security and safe retirement
- the right to an education
FDR said that the political rights guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights had “proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.”
I propose that FDR’s Second Bill of Rights is exactly the challenge that the movement behind Bernie Sanders is fighting to achieve. Just like after the Great Depression, Americans need a level playing field after the Great Recession. These were the Democratic Party’s tenants for nearly 100 years. I can only imagine that corporate influence and funding is why they’ve been abandoned by all but one candidate today.
These are not new American values. These are the American values that Democrats, even Republicans, Independents and others have championed throughout our history. I believe these are the values held by a majority of Americans today.
I believe we have a rare opportunity in history to fight for these values again, and win. I believe in Bernie Sanders because he believes in these values. He says time and time again: no President, not Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton, no one, can change our rigged system without a political revolution of the people standing up to say, “enough is enough.”
Enough is enough.
You won’t hear fair analysis of this on your TV screens or in your newspapers, because the very corporate and economic elite that have been fighting against these values for nearly a hundred years own the media cartels. It is up to all of us to research and reach out to each other and stand up for our long overdue economic bill of rights, and reclaim our once great democracy from the oligarchs who stole it from us. Advocates of the status quo like Hillary Clinton will only continue to move the Democratic Party to the right of center, creating an oligarchy of extremism. Only Bernie Sanders stands with nearly 100 years of Democratic principles, celebrating FDR’s call for an economic bill of rights. He is no extremist, as the Clinton camp is trying to paint him. His platform is the standard of Progressivism, and has been, since the Great Depression. We must do what is hard, because it is what is right. Nothing else will do. We must end oligarchy in these United States and put an end to a system of economic inequality that is destroying the American dream.
Enough is enough.
To paraphrase JFK: We choose to fight for a political revolution based on an economic bill of rights to reclaim democracy, not because it will be easy, but because it will be hard, because the goal will serve to restore our democracy and overthrow oligarchy, because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.
Enough is enough.