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Government Exists to Serve the People, not the Privileged

Research & Commentary
April 04, 2013

by Salvatore Babones

Many Americans feel like our political system does not fairly represent the views of the majority of the people. Politicians seem to be perpetually out of touch with realities on the ground. People are suffering, and the government doesn’t seem to care.

At a time when millions of Americans are out of work or even out of a home in America’s Realonomy — the real economy where ordinary people work, live, and try to get by — it is ridiculous that the top political priority in Washington is finding ways to cut the federal budget.

Cuts to the government budgets (aside from weapons systems and other corporate contracts) are popular in America’s business community because they make tax cuts possible. And tax cuts almost always mean tax cuts for business and the wealthy.

The only broad-based tax cut of the last fifty years, 2% the Social Security tax cut, only lasted for two years: 2011 and 2012.

[pullquote]The only broad-based tax cut of the last fifty years, 2% the Social Security tax cut, only lasted for two years.[/pullquote]

Why is government more concerned with keeping business happy than with helping ordinary Americans? In a word: corruption. Corruption caused by extraordinary levels of economic inequality.

When inequality is low, as it was in America during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, politicians care enormously about the well-being of ordinary people. Ordinary people have money to give. More importantly, ordinary people feel empowered to monitor and discipline their representatives.

When inequality is low, workers can afford to pay dues to representative organizations. Ordinary people have more free time and gain more education. People have the luxury of participating in democratic society rather than just working to get by.

When inequality is low, rich people just aren’t rich enough to corrupt the government.

The rising inequality of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s led to such a massive shift in America’s income that today ordinary people simply don’t matter to politicians. Only the wealthy matter. And of course America’s multi-billion dollar corporations.

The irony is that the scale of private spending to influence politicians and campaign outcomes — a few billion dollars a year — is trivial compared to the rewards at stake. For example, the Bush tax cuts constituted a 300 billion dollar a year gift to the wealthy. Private investors in the Bush campaigns were repaid a hundred times over.

Policies like low taxes, high defense appropriations, and the privatization of government services are incredibly corrupt because they represent an incredibly expensive way to benefit a small number of people.

On the other hand, untried policies like increasing Social Security benefits and raising the minimum wage may be equally expansive, but would benefit tens of millions of people in America’s struggling Realonomy.

Call it vote-buying if you want, but when a government effectively buys the votes of 80 or 90 percent of the population, I call that government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Government should serve the people — as many people as possible. Until the Supreme Court gives corporations the right to vote, that means us. We should not be shy about demanding policies that benefit the majority. Only a corrupt government prioritizes the desires of the few over the needs of the many.

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