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US Midterms 2018: Why Vote Candidates With Progressive Agendas

Reading Time: 13 minutes

The social, economic, and political systems in the US have been rigged to benefit corporations and the wealthy. What I have outlined below are some of the consequences of that and some of the explanations for how it came to be so over the last five decades. These realities should also serve as reasons for Americans to vote candidates with progressive agendas in the midterms Tomorrow.

I understand that rural poor Americans vote against their economic interest. In tomorrow midterms though, Americans need to specifically vote for candidates such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Stacey Abrams in Georgia, and their like.

Real Wages

These have have been dropping steadily. The middle class has been shrinking and those living below the poverty line increasing.

  • The Guardian (July 29, 2018). Almost 80% of US workers live from paycheck to paycheck. Here’s why.
    “Blanketing all of this are stagnant wages and vanishing job benefits. The typical American worker now earns around $44,500 a year, not much more than what the typical worker earned in 40 years ago, adjusted for inflation.” […]
    “What’s going on? Simply put, the vast majority of American workers have lost just about all their bargaining power. The erosion of that bargaining power is one of the biggest economic stories of the past four decades, yet it’s less about supply and demand than about institutions and politics.” […]
    “Today, fewer than 7% of private-sector workers are unionized, and public-employee unions are in grave jeopardy, not least because of the supreme court ruling.”
  • The New York Times (July 26, 2018). In Our ‘Winner-Take-Most’ Economy, the Wealth Is Not Spreading. “Even as corporate America has unleashed insatiable consumer demand for innovative low-cost goods and technology, it has driven economic trends that continue to increase inequality, stall wage growth and strengthen the power of business. ”
  • Big Think (May 18, 2018). 43% of U.S. households can’t afford the basics.
  • Vox (July 29, 2018). One chart that shows how much worse income inequality is in America than Europe. “The income share of the poorest half of Americans is declining while the richest have grabbed more. In Europe, it’s not happening.”
  • Axios (July 2018). Being 30 then and now. “In the mid-to-late-20th century, the American economy and culture were ripe for 30-year-old men, who — more than European and Japanese — typically landed well-paid careers, bought homes, and supported large families. But since then, getting ahead has become much harder. “
  • Bloomberg (July, 2018). Trump’s Tax Cut Hasn’t Done Anything for Workers.
  • Robert Reich on Facebook. Three things that happened six months since the GOP tax passed:
    • $625 billion in stock buybacks for investors
    • A $400 billion discount for multinational corporations on offshore profits
    • A lower average wages for workers after adjusting for inflation
  • Wealth Inequality in America, an excellent video. Wealthy inequality in the US has been steadily growing and it is what it is today again because of the kind of systems that are in place, laws that have been enacted, many of which benefit the rich.
  • Global Wealth Inequality, a video. The incredible inequality is of course has been influenced by US government, and corporation systems and their practices etc.
  • Truthdig (July 25, 2018). American Society Would Collapse If It Weren’t for These 8 Myths.
    “Our society should’ve collapsed by now. You know that, right?”No society should function with this level of inequality (with the possible exception of one of those prison planets in a “Star Wars” movie). Sixty-three percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. He could literally end world hunger for multiple years and still have more money left over than he could ever spend on himself.”Worldwide, one in 10 people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years. (If they only buy single-ply toilet paper.) Put simply, you cannot comprehend the level of inequality in our current world or even just our nation.”

Cost of Living

Cost of living has been increasing steadily during the entire period. That increase in costs of housing, health insurance, medical expenses, education, food etc. have not been matched my increase in income for the middle and lower class.

That in turn has meant the government having to step in with public assistance programs for many of the workers and their families, most well known of which are the Walmart workers.

  • Forbes (April 14, 2014). Report: Walmart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion In Public Assistance. “Walmart’s low-wage workers cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing, according to a report published to coincide with Tax Day, April 15.”

Another consequences of that has been an increasing number of the elderly filing bankruptcy faced with mounting bills, notably health care! One even having to sell his Nobel prize!

Yet another result of that has been the three richest in the country being wealthier than the bottom 50% of the population!

  • Forbes (Nov. 9, 2017). The 3 Richest Americans Hold More Wealth Than Bottom 50% Of The Country, Study Finds. “[I]t found that the country’s three richest individuals—Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos—collectively hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of the domestic population, “a total of 160 million people or 63 million American households.” Roughly a fifth of Americans “have zero or negative net worth,” the authors wrote.”

Yet another still is individuals are having to turn to GoFundMe fundraising campaigns to cover sky-high health-care or medical costs etc. Having seen enough of crowdfunding campaigns to cover medical bills, I posted the following on my Facebook timeline on July 25. 

And sure enough, less than a month later I came across an article also on Facebook which said that medical bills accounted for 1 in 3 GoFundMe campaigns.

Click here for the article. (The article turned out to have been published on July 3, 2018.)

Corporate Profits

These however have been rising steadily, some times dramatically. But, disproportionately bigger and bigger share of the profits have been going to the top 1%.

  • Market Watch (July 31, 2018). America’s 1% hasn’t controlled this much wealth since before the Great Depression. “The gap between the rich and the poor in America has ballooned over the last several decades.In 2015, the top 1% of Americans made 26.3 times as much income as the bottom 99 percent — an increase from 2013, when they earned 25.3 times as much, according to a recent study released by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning Washington, D.C. think tank.”

One of the reasons their profits keep soaring is the legislation — legislation they themselves are able to dictate thanks to the system of lobbying!

  • Le Journal International (Feb. 2016). Lobbying: the political influence in USA. “Lobbying remains intimately linked with financing. The main objective of a lobbyist is to make his worries known to the political agenda, to influence the decision making, whether at an executive, legislative, federal or State level. Their influence can also be applied to block the decision-making process. Therefore, influence is created on the long-term by forming strong contacts with politicians and often accompanied by financial benefit relating to electoral campaigns.”
  • The Guardian (May 18, 2018). 12 years in jail for shoplifting: how Walmart is helping prosecutors hike up sentences. “The case of a man facing 12 years in prison for shoplifting shows a growing trend in America: corporations successfully pushing state prosecutors to increase shoplifting charges to felonies[.]”
  • The Atlantic (Aug. 1, 2018). Jeff Bezos’s $150 Billion Fortune Is a Policy Failure. “[H]is fortune is also a policy failure, an indictment of a tax and transfer system and a business and regulatory environment designed to supercharging the earnings of and encouraging wealth accumulation among the few.”
  • The Institute for New Economic Thinking (April 6, 2018). The Corporate Plan to Groom U.S. Kids for Servitude by Wiping Out Public Schools. “Again and again, he found that corporate-backed lobbyists were able to subvert the clear preferences of the public and their elected representatives in both parties. Of all the areas these lobbyists were able to influence, the policy campaign that netted the most laws passed, featured the most big players, and boasted the most effective organizations was public education. For these U.S. corporations, undermining the public school system was the Holy Grail.”

One of the consequences of that has been the steady widening of the difference between the pays of CEO’s and average worker.

  • Axios (July, 2018). Corporate CEOs took home more than you think.
  • Politico (July 30, 2018). ‘Eye-popping’ payouts for CEOs follow Trump’s tax cuts. “Some of the biggest winners from President Donald Trump’s new tax law are corporate executives who have reaped gains as their companies buy back a record amount of stock, a practice that rewards shareholders by boosting the value of existing shares.” […] “To be sure, 44 percent of companies say they also plan to reinvest some savings in their operations through initiatives like new factories, research and development and higher wages, according to Morgan Stanley. That’s the kind of uses that featured prominently in Republicans’ marketing of their tax bill.”

Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system is broken: it unfairly targets — and makes getting and seeking justice difficult for — the poor, especially the minorities. Their incarceration rate has been steadily increasing, especially following the privatization of prisons.

The Military Complex and the Privatization of Wars

Privatization of wars The US has engaged in has meant again the very wealthy and connected making money off of the war machine the US military has become, which gets the lion’s share of the budget. The big private contractors, of which there aren’t many, basically siphon taxpayer’s money but are not really accountable to anyone.

Wall Street

Wall Street’s influence has been steadily increasing and their power and recklessness resulted in the 2008 financial meltdown. They were bailed out by Obama but far from putting checks in place to rein them in to prevent a repeat, the opposite has happened. Inside Job, a documentary by Charles Ferguson provides a very good background, context to — including the names of the individuals responsible for — the meltdown.

Election Related Issues

Citizens’ United and money in elections have eroded more of what is symbolic of a democracy: the vote and the voting process!

There have also been concerted efforts to decrease the value of the votes of the ordinary. Gerrymandering for example is one. Or as Obama put it, “drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around” as reported in the article below.

Other have been voter suppression tactics, such limiting the number of polls, the requirement for photo IDs with residential address or even voter IDs but limiting the opening times and hours of the office where one gets them, enacting “exact match” voter laws by different States etc. Still other voter suppression tactics have included eliminating voters through the use of software, such as Crosscheck, etc. allowing candidates to cheat basically. All or most of that affect the marginalized — minorities and lower class — from exercising their voting rights for different reasons.

The doors to such practices were opened wide with the gutting, in 2013, of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

  • The Atlantic (July, 2018). Voter Suppression Is Warping Democracy.
  • NBC News (July 20, 2018). Voter purge frenzy after federal protections lifted, new report says. Nine states with a history of racial discrimination are aggressively removing voters from the rolls, the Brennan Center for Justice says.
    “A key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was designed to protect minority voters from state disenfranchisement, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, allowing states to begin making changes affecting voting without first getting federal approval.” […] “Voter purges — cleaning up and pruning voter rolls down to remove inaccurate information — are a normal part of all election roll maintenance. But if purges are done too aggressively or with bad information, advocates warn, they can disenfranchise eligible voters, who may not know they’ve been purged until they go to the polls on Election Day and are unable to vote.”
  • Vice News (Oct. 16, 2018). how the gutting of the voting rights act led to hundreds of closed polls.”In the years following the Shelby decision, jurisdictions once subject to federal supervision shut down, on average, almost 20 percent more polling stations per capita than jurisdictions in the rest of the country. There are now 10 percent more people per polling place in the formerly-supervised areas than in the rest of the country.”Furthermore, within 18 counties in 13 states examined at a granular level, many of the closed polls were in neighborhoods with large minority populations. This analysis is the first attempt to look nationally at poll closures since the heart of the Voting Rights Act was removed.”

“Right to work”

There have been concerted efforts to undermine the workers and their power. “Right to Work” was one legislation aimed at doing just that, and it did. It has undermined unions and bargaining power of workers.

Tax Loopholes and Cuts

Tax laws and loopholes have helped the rich and corporations siphon huge chunks of their profits off to tax havens, with minimal liability for tax at home.

Tax cuts again and again and again (started during Reagan’s tenure, then followed up by The two Bushes, and then Trump), all Repuglican Presidents, have NOT helped the middle or lower classes, of course.

  • Bloomberg (July, 2018). Trump’s Tax Cut Hasn’t Done Anything for Workers.
  • Robert Reich on Facebook. Three things that happened six months since the GOP tax passed:
    • $625 billion in stock buybacks for investors
    • A $400 billion discount for multinational corporations on offshore profits
    • A lower average wages for workers after adjusting for inflation
  • The Atlantic (Aug. 1, 2018). Jeff Bezos’s $150 Billion Fortune Is a Policy Failure. “[H]is fortune is also a policy failure, an indictment of a tax and transfer system and a business and regulatory environment designed to supercharging the earnings of and encouraging wealth accumulation among the few.”

They benefit the very wealthy, the 1%. Disproportionate percentage of politicians belong to the 1%!

The tax cut actually results in money transferring from the poor to the very rich. There is no trickle down; as a matter of fact, there’s “sucking up” if you will!

  • NPR (Nov., 2017). CHARTS: Here’s How GOP’s Tax Breaks Would Shift Money To Rich, Poor Americans.
  • NBCNews (July, 2018). What did corporate America do with that tax break? Buy record amounts of its own stock. “The White House promised ’70 percent’ of the tax cut would go to workers. It didn’t.”
  • Robert Reich on Facebook. Three things that happened six months since the GOP tax passed:
    • $625 billion in stock buybacks for investors
    • A $400 billion discount for multinational corporations on offshore profits
    • A lower average wages for workers after adjusting for inflation
  • The Atlantic (July 31, 2018). Are Stock Buybacks Starving the Economy? “Stock buybacks are eating the world. The once illegal practice of companies purchasing their own shares is pulling money away from employee compensation, research and development, and other corporate priorities—with potentially sweeping effects on business dynamism, income and wealth inequality, working-class economic stagnation, and the country’s growth rate.” […] “Companies spent roughly $7 trillion on their own shares from 2004 to 2014, and have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on buybacks in the past six months alone.” […] “How much might workers have benefited if companies had devoted their financial resources to them rather than to shareholders? Lowe’s, CVS, and Home Depot could have provided each of their workers a raise of $18,000 a year, the report found. Starbucks could have given each of its employees $7,000 a year, and McDonald’s could have given $4,000 to each of its nearly 2 million employees.” [Emphases mine.

That’s why the current administration is looking for yet another round of tax cuts.

Education System

Education system has also been failing, the very wealthy pushing for charter schools and allowing (making?) public schools to fail so that they can profit (as the car manufacturers did with the public transportation systems along time ago). The poor and middle class, who rely on public education, suffer because of this of course.

  • The Institute for New Economic Thinking (April 6, 2018). The Corporate Plan to Groom U.S. Kids for Servitude by Wiping Out Public Schools. “Again and again, he found that corporate-backed lobbyists were able to subvert the clear preferences of the public and their elected representatives in both parties. Of all the areas these lobbyists were able to influence, the policy campaign that netted the most laws passed, featured the most big players, and boasted the most effective organizations was public education. For these U.S. corporations, undermining the public school system was the Holy Grail.”

And for Some Different Things

Then there are those very wealthy, who — after having from all the systems directly or indirectly to amas the wealth that they have — have pledged to give most of their wealth away to or to spending them on “worthy causes” instead of leaving them for their children.

Some, like Bezos of Amazon, aren’t even paying enough, forget about giving enough, to those who work the daily shifts — and in the process contribute — to making him the richest man in the world.

And then there’s the secret surveillance program.

  • The Rolling Stones (Dec. 4, 2013). Snowden and Greenwald: The Men Who Leaked the Secrets.
    ‘The more Snowden saw of the NSA’s actual business – and, particularly, the more he read “true information,” including a 2009 Inspector General’s report detailing the Bush era’s warrantless-surveillance program – the more he realized that there were actually two governments: the one that was elected, and the other, secret regime, governing in the dark. “If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all, secret powers become tremendously dangerous.”’ […] “Another concern was what he viewed as the willingness of big business to further government secrecy.”

Candidate with progressive agendas, as far as I have seen and heard, have vowed to support and further policies and bills that repeal currents laws and policies which are responsible for these conditions and trends. Doing so should put a break to them in the short-term and reverse them in the long-term.

What do you think?

 

 

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