“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” This quotation from Luke 12 does much to address one of the most glaring issues in America today: the corrupting influence of money in our democratic system or conversely; the desire of those who have been given much but fail to reciprocate their blessings to a society that has enabled their good fortune. It is a topic that books can and are being written on, and a short synopsis of some recent events amplifies this corrupting influence.
The recent tax law that was passed by Congress is a classic example of this corrupting influence. In spite of an overwhelming disapproval of the procedure and text of this bill by the American people, the donor class prevailed. In order to drastically reduce the corporate tax rate, eliminate estate taxes (that only benefit 1/5th of 1 percent of Americans), and benefit their patrons, both houses of Congress proposed and rushed this bill through committees without public hearings, without informing their constituents what was in their bill. (Even senators didn’t even know what was in it, as Sen. Tester demonstrated in a video broadcast on national news.) In addition, this tax bill would kick some 13 million people off health care, eliminate itemized deductions on numerous expenses that average Americans depend upon while increasing the national deficit by $1.5 trillion!
The constituents that benefit most from this supposed “tax reform” are not you and I, not average Americans or Montanans. The bill sure helped Speaker of the House Ryan. For his efforts in shepherding the bill through the House, he was given $500,000 by the billionaire Koch Bros. shortly after the bill passed. It helped other legislators, such as Montana’s Sen. Daines, by creating a substantial tax benefit on his real estate properties. Adding insult to injury, sycophants in Congress will try to convince us that this law will create jobs. Not true. Past history and top economists say no.
Most Americans depend upon internet access in one form or another. Imagine if the sites you wanted to go to were restricted or substantially slowed? Or, if the sites you wanted to go, or the services you wanted such as Netflix or Hulu became cost prohibitive? The fact is, the recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission to undo the net neutrality principle does exactly that. Why would the FCC do this? Simple. The FCC members are appointed by the executive branch, controlled by the GOP. Wealthy donors to the GOP, i.e., CEOs of Verizon and AT&T demanded it. It vastly improves their bottom line and the GOP leadership could then repay them for their sponsorship. If you believe that the internet belongs to the public and should be accessible to all on a fair and equal basis — ending net neutrality does exactly the opposite. A corruption that hurts Americans of all stripes.
The recent tax law and the FCC decision on “net neutrality” are just a couple of examples of how many people of wealth and power are exploiting our democratic system. Freedoms and opportunities that we enjoy have come as a result of the efforts of millions of Americans who have advocated through the ballot box, through their right to petition, their right to speak out, their right to have a self-government that speaks for them, a government system they believe in. When citizens who have been given much, but only take for their own benefit, America becomes a lesser place. It is not what Americans have fought, died, and advocated for.
And make no mistake, political corruption due to excessive money happens on both sides of the political aisle. It is a tale of moral and political turpitude. But right now, the same party controls each house of Congress, the executive branch, and the Supreme Court. We are at a historical precipice: we can either advocate changing problems in our system, or expect this corruption to continue. The future of America is in the balance.
James is a resident of Eureka.