Something has gone astray in this country. The issues have to do with money, government, and values, and have become clearer with the recent economic downturn. The rich are getting much richer, the middle class is slipping fast, and the poor are becoming more numerous and poorer. Our democracy has become ruled by a wealthy elite. Our national values have been distorted: a reasonable reward for effort is no longer sufficient, the consequence for recklessness has become a bailout, political debate has turned into grandstanding gridlock, and elected office has become a corrupting route to self enrichment.
The Occupy Wall Street movement unites 99 percent of us in recognizing these trends. Our government is no longer being run “by the People”, but by special interests and the super rich. This 1 percent does not include mere millionaires who worked for their money! Wall Street, mega corporations and Congress have formed a shameless axis of greed that must be reformed if our democracy is to be restored.
Congressional elections must be separated from the influence of special interest money. Statements suggesting that large campaign contributions do not buy access, favors, and sway votes in Congress, are simply false. The Citizens United decision, giving corporations the free speech rights of people, makes a mockery of fair elections, and must be overturned by a Constitutional amendment. Super PACs fill the airways with half truths, slander, and lies, and then anonymously disband. Meanwhile, the candidates disavow any control over the PACs’ activities.
Congressional perks fit for royalty must be rescinded. Let Congress be covered by Social Security and buy their own health insurance. Cut their salaries in half (thank you, Rick Perry). Put them up in a Motel 6 if maintaining two residences is a burden. Perhaps they’ll talk to each other around the ice machine.
The ability of members of Congress to vote on legislation while buying stocks that are affected must be eliminated. Being exempt from insider trading laws, better fits a description of organized crime than public service. Holding elected office should be an honor, not the road to unearned riches. The line between healthy self interest and greed is no longer recognized in Washington. Whatever one’s representative and senators say, if they are not actively working to reform the houses of Congress, their overriding motivation is, apparently, to serve, protect, and join the 1 percent.
What role government should have is a question we will divide over. The opinions of conservatives, progressives, and all political parties will be different. These issues are important ones, and will help shape our future. However, they cannot be productively debated until we reform a political system now beholden to the money and influence of the 1 percent. A democracy cannot function with so much power concentrated in so few hands.
It is unfair to say that the two party system is not working. It’s certainly working for some people! It has successfully increased the benefits for its elected members and molded a tax code that intentionally requires tax attorneys to figure out. But what happens when Leona Helmsley and Bank of America pay no taxes? Leona had the answer when she said, “Only the little people pay taxes.” That would be the other 99 percent. You and me.
Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless, spontaneous movement that sprang up to say “Enough!” There is common ground for outlooks from one end of the political spectrum to the other, but no association with any political party. We can debate our differences once we have reestablished the principles of democracy over the influence of corporate personhood and control by the richest 1 percent.
We stand, as part of the 99 percent, in support of Occupy Wall Street.
Southwest Colorado Greens is a local chapter of the Green Party of Colorado, and may be contacted at [email protected]