Here is who ultimately wields power in our political system: Rich people. And here is what they care about above all else: Tax cuts. Politics is an investment that pays off. The proof is in the numbers.
The Republican party is, in essence, a firm wholly owned by and run for the benefit of the rich, that cynically grabs ahold of social issues and the flag and anything else it can wave around to attract sufficient votes to enable it to successfully undertake its central mission of cutting taxes for the rich and cutting regulations on business and generally using the government as a tool to funnel wealth towards the wealthy. The Democratic party is a firm that does the same thing half the time and the other half of the time argues with itself over whether or not it can be allowed to do it. The root of the problem is that we have designed a system in which money can directly purchase political power. It is therefore completely unsurprising that moneyed interests will use politics as just another tool to make them money. That is pure, basic capitalist logic. Unfortunately in America it has the process of making a mockery of our stated democratic ideals in the process. But for corporations and those who derive great wealth from business activity, this is all just common sense. The sooner everyone understands this, the sooner we can have an honest conversation about how to change it—a conversation not cloaked in tedious bullshit about American Values and Protecting Our Families.
It’s about money.
In general rich people’s long-term capture of the government has paid off handsomely. The most obvious evidence is the extreme post-Reagan increase in economic inequality, which can be read as an indication that rich people are successfully pulling more of our national wealth for themselves, and doing a better and better job of protecting that wealth from taxation.
Since the turn of the century, a succession of federal tax cuts have directly rewarded political donors for their support of our presidents. A new report from ITEP shows that “From 2001 through 2018, significant federal tax changes have reduced revenue by $5.1 trillion, with nearly two-thirds of that flowing to the richest fifth of Americans... By the end of 2025, the tally of tax cuts will grow to $10.6 trillion. Nearly $2 trillion of this amount will have gone to the richest 1 percent.”
Even in an age when presidential campaigns cost a billion dollars a pop, they are still a bargain considering the return on investment.
If the public would understand our national politics in these terms, it would be a lot easier for them to understand why their problems never seem to get fixed, even though politicians say all the right things. The answer is that they are not rich. If they were rich, they would find that their investment in politics provided them with enough money to fix their own problems. Since they are not individually rich, the solutions to their problems involve socializing costs to support everyone, and “socialism” has been turned into a bad word by rich people, because it would cost them money.
It would, at minimum, be nice to be able to conduct the public dialogue about American politics honestly, without having it drenched in lies as a matter of course.
Just say that this is all about money. Then let the bottom 90% of people decide if this system is working for them.