May 12, 2011 | By Stephanie Niedringhaus
Most of us know that the huge wealth gap between a tiny fringe of super-rich Americans and most of the rest of us has grown to historic proportions. But do we understand that this gap robs all of us? By that, I don’t mean just financially. Enormous wealth concentrated in the hands of the elite few is cracking the democratic foundation of our nation. It is long past time to ring the alarm bells.
Today, I attended a panel discussion entitled “Reclaiming Our Democracy; Money, Politics, and the Fall of the Middle Class.” It was sponsored by Common Cause and Faith Advocates for Jobs. The crowd was large, and the discussion was sobering.
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, one of the key speakers, told a chilling tale of how decades of improved prosperity for our nation’s “middle class” (most of us) have been reversed in the last thirty years. This has come at a time when unions have lost much of their power (and have come under vicious political attack in recent months), when there is increasing disinvestment in education and infrastructure (e.g., cutting teachers), and when our tax system has grown far less progressive.
Meanwhile, our super-rich have seen their share of the nation’s wealth skyrocket! The statistics are shocking, as can be seen here.
Why did today’s discussion include “reclaiming our democracy” in the title? Because the current extreme concentration of wealth translates into political power, which is helping to shape our government’s policies and laws. The elite few can afford armies of lobbyists and legal expertise to influence the political process, and they can funnel enormous amounts of money into elections. This allows them to maintain and grow their wealth and power – at the expense of most of us, especially people struggling at the economic margins.
In short, our democracy is being chipped away, day by day.
Do you want to learn more? If so, watch for our upcoming campaign on the wealth gap – Mind the Gap!
It is time to reclaim our democracy. More to come...