Tuesday, November 15, 2005


By Brandon

Edited by Advocate 1

"a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically free elections"

Whenever we read this definition of government to our conservative friends, they almost invariably believe that we are defining socialism. Unfortunately for them, this is not a definition of socialism; rather, it is the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary's definition of democracy.

Of course this might have something to do with the fact that economic conservatives are so pathologically obsessed over the idea of wealth and how to hoard it that they define freedom in terms of dollar and cent signs. And we're here to tell you that the connection between political freedom and economic freedom is tenuous at best and disingenuous at the worst.*

For all intents and purposes the Framers believed we had the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. They also believed in equal opportunity. To this the conservatives frequently add that there is not a right to an equal outcome, that we do not have a right to wealth and success. In this one regard they are correct, but what they fail to mention is that the very policies they promulgate have effectively made opportunity obseolete.

The wealthiest 1 percent in this country owns 38.1 percent of the wealth. The top 96 to 99 percent owns 21.3 percent of the wealth. The top 90 to 95 percent owns 11.5 percent of the wealth. The top 80 to 89 percent owns 12.5 percent of the wealth. The next 40 to 59 percent owns 4. 58 percent of the wealth. The bottom 40 percent owns a mere 0.2 % of the wealth. In other words, the top 10 percent of the country owns approximately 70.9 percent of the wealth.

The situation is exasperated by the fact that this top ten wields a disproportionate degree of political power. It is no accident that we have 56 lobbyists for every elected official in Washington DC. Nor is it an accident that these lobbyists often write the self-serving legislation which is approved by their Republican lapdogs in the United States Congress. To call this Democracy, when unelected entities and individuals have hijacked the American government, is both ludicrous and obscene if not a threat to the very Representative Government that the conservatives are currently undermining.Ideally, the American Dream is supposed to work like this: you serve as a dedicated employee, you save what you can along the way, you make a few sacrifices here and there, you engage in a little fair-minded competition, and the magic of the free market will allow you to pull yourself up by your own boot straps.

Would that it were so.

According to the 29 December, 2004 edition of The Economist :

"Between 1979 and 2000 the real income of households in the lowest fifth (the bottom 20% of earners) grew by 6.4%, while that of households in the top fifth grew by 70%. The family income of the top 1% grew by 184%—and that of the top 0.1% or 0.01% grew even faster. Back in 1979 the average income of the top 1% was 133 times that of the bottom 20%; by 2000 the income of the top 1% had risen to 189 times that of the bottom fifth. Thirty years ago the average real annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives was $1.3m: 39 times the pay of the average worker. Today it is $37.5m: over 1,000 times the pay of the average worker. In 2001 the top 1% of households earned 20% of all income and held 33.4% of all net worth. Not since pre-Depression days has the top 1% taken such a big whack."

Nevermind the disingenous rhetoric about economic freedom. The dirty little secret here is that with so much wealth concentrated at the top, and so little left for the lower and middle classes to compete for, the American dream has become an anachronism. You stand a better chance of winning the Power Ball Lottery than you do of getting rich. The odds have been stacked against the majority of the American people who do the actual work. The game has been rigged by those who have used and who continue to use unfair (and often illegal) practicies to protect their ill-gotten gains.Why, if you didn't know better, you think that the ultimate goal of the economic conservatives was to abolish Jefferson's concept of a meritocracy, with a permanent, upper class meritocracy.

You just have to give those conservatives credit. They really do believe that any regulation or economic policy that benefits the middle and lower classes is a part of an all encompassing Marxist plot. Never mind the fact that they routinely smear democracy as socialism, socialism as communism without bothering to differentiate between the three: the truth of that matter is that conservatism̢۪s contempt for average American is so visceral that it places them in opposition to the very ideals of capitalism and Constitutional government which they so hypocritically claim to support.
Those top 400 fortunes are growing so nicely, Pulitizer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston adds, because taxes on top 400 incomes are sinking so steadily. In 2000, the nation's richest 400 — average annual income: $174 million — paid 22 percent of their incomes in federal tax after exploiting every tax loophole they could find. The Bush tax cuts have dropped that effective tax rate, Johnston calculates, down to 17.5 percent.

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