By Robert Schlesinger |
In America today, the top 1 percent earns more income than the bottom 50 percent and the wealthiest 400 individuals own more wealth than the bottom half of the country--150 million Americans. We have the most unfair distribution of wealth and income of any industrialized country.
In America today, the middle class is largely disappearing while the rich and largest corporations are doing phenomenally well. Meanwhile, despite a $15 trillion national debt, the effective tax rate for the top 1 percent is the lowest in decades and many large corporations enjoy huge tax loopholes and pay little or nothing in taxes.
In America today, while insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry enjoy large profits, 50 million Americans lack health insurance, and we are the only major country on Earth that does not provide healthcare to all as a guaranteed right.
All of these disturbing American realities, and many more, are related to the sad fact that the Washington political establishment is much more interested in representing the wealthy and the powerful than the needs of ordinary Americans. Why is that? The answer is simple. We have a horrendous campaign finance system in which Big Money is able to elect the candidates of its choice and defeat those who oppose its agenda.
The absurd Citizens United Supreme Court decision makes a bad situation much worse. Now, corporations can go right into their treasuries, set up super PACs, and spend as much as they want, without disclosure, on political advertising. This gives the Big Money interests even more power over the political process. It makes it harder and harder for the voice of the average American to be heard.
If we are serious about giving ordinary Americans the power to control their political future, we must overturn the Citizens United decision, eliminate super PACSs, and move toward public funding of elections. Our goal must be a government that represents all of the people, and not just those wealthy individuals and corporations who can put millions into political campaigns.
About Bernie Sanders Junior United States Senator from Vermont
Robert Weissman President of Public Citizen
Jennifer Marsico Senior Research Associate at the American Enterprise Institute