Reclaiming the American Dream for All !
by Peter Mathews (1087 words)
The naked truth has been exposed, and the emperor has no clothes: American Democracy has become Dollar Democracy, where policies made by elected leaders are bought and paid for by campaign contributions from wealthy special interest lobbyists and super rich individuals. In the 2012 federal elections alone, Congressional and Presidential candidates and their supporters raised and spent over $6.2 billion dollars. The bulk of this money came from wealthy individuals and groups: the top one- half of one percent of the U.S. population. As Will Rogers said, “We have the best Congress money can buy.” Rich individuals and corporations hire lobbyists to walk into the offices of Congresspersons to whom they donated, and ask them to vote in favor of their corporate interests against the public interest. As a result, the U.S. Congress and other elected leaders have made decisions that benefit wealthy corporations and super rich individuals, to the detriment of regular Americans such as Breanna Lane, Manny Arroyo, and Frank Greenthaler.
In a form of “legalized bribery”, many politicians vote for tax cuts, tax loopholes, and corporate subsidies for their wealthy donors. This forces spending cuts in programs that help working Americans and the economy prosper and grow; for example, cuts in funding for small business, infrastructure, health care, teachers, firefighters, police officers, government employees, and research and development of new technologies. Congresspersons are choosing their rich donors over suffering working Americans. Here are some shocking examples:
Breanna Lane, a 22 year old Utah woman loses part of her skull in a tragic auto accident. This is shocking enough. Worse still, the uninsured waitress is kept waiting for four months, with her scalp temporarily sown over the missing part of her skull, because the hospital and Medicaid can not agree on who should pay the bill! After a painful and horrifying four months, she finally receives her surgery to reattach the missing part of her skull.
Manny Arroyo, a 62 year old Nevada man, who worked decades for a large U.S. corporation, and has “full health care coverage”, loses his wife to cancer and is stuck with approximately $10,000 in “co-payments.” This crushing debt is a heavy enough burden on his life. Even more heartbreaking for him is his belief that his wife’s death may have been unnecessary! He believes that if their healthcare providers had not delayed specialized diagnosis and treatment, her brain cancer may have been found and treated before it killed her.
Frank Greenthaler, an uninsured 29 year old California college student and full time worker starts bleeding internally from his intestine. He rushes to the nearest hospital. He waits for three hours before the treatment preparation begins. Barely able to stand, he makes it clear that he does not wish to drown in medical bills. He is kept at the hospital for 5 days and is “temporarily stabilized” by the doctors and nurses. Stabilized but still in serious condition, he is told that he needs to find his way to a Los Angeles county hospital, so that his surgery will be paid for by the county instead of the private hospital! After major surgery and several days at the county hospital, Frank is discharged and is stricken with a $20,000 medical bill from the private hospital. As a working student who can barely make ends meet, he cannot pay the $20,000. This goes on his credit record. The young Californian makes a rapid recovery and is two semesters away from graduating with an engineering degree. Because of his mounting debt, he applies to become a police officer and passes all the tests except the financial credit test. His inability to pay the $20,000 medical bill shatters his dream of becoming a police officer and eventually a forensic psychologist.
As a professor of political science at Cypress College in Southern California, I’ve seen hundreds of students who have had to drop out of college in the last several years because they could not afford the skyrocketing tuition and textbook costs. One of my students in particular discovered his strong interest in the study of politics in my introductory American Government class. His enthusiasm for this subject was sparked by a discovery that politics does not have to be about money and power games, but should be about making a positive difference in the world. His goal became to finish his community college credits, earn his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in Political Science, become a university professor, and inspire young people to change the world for the better.
The tragedy is that this academically promising young man became side tracked from this meaningful goal. After a semester or two, because of unaffordable education costs, he had to drop out of school and go to work full time to pay for the rising cost of living in Southern California.
In addition, Dollar Democracy has cost us millions of well paying middle class jobs. In a pleasant middle class neighborhood in Long Beach, in which Long Beach City College and a Boeing plant are located, signs of outsourcing are apparent. In recent years, many homes have been put up for sale. Boeing, which, a few years ago, employed 55,000 people, homeowners who earned a solid middle class living, has exported most of it’s jobs and manufacturing to low wage states and low wage countries such as China. Only several thousand jobs are now left here. Policies of Free Trade, not Fair Trade, were imposed by many American political leaders who were influenced by corporate donors, lobbyists, and wealthy investors who benefited from cheap labor found in low wage states and countries.
The above tragic scenarios could have been avoided if American political leaders did not have to rely on the private financing of their campaigns, and private lobbying by wealthy corporate and individual donors. American campaigns and elections must reject this Dollar Democracy and replace it with True Democracy based on Clean Money publicly financed elections as practiced in Maine and several other states. In doing so, our elected leaders will be free to make decisions that benefit the public interest and promote the “General Welfare” as mandated in the preamble of our Constitution. They can then pursue policies of Fair Trade, creating high paying jobs, rebuilding the middle class, a universal health care system that covers every American, and a tuition free public education system from preschool through technical school, trade school, college and university. ♦
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To find out who is funding the campaigns of members of Congress and other elected officials, visit www.opensecrets.org.
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The above Op-Ed is based on a book that Peter Mathews is writing on money, politics, and the American Dream, Dollar Democracy: with Liberty and Justice for Some; How to Reclaim the American Dream for All