The Problem is Representation

The Problem is Representation

U.S. citizens across the country recognize that there is a problem with the legislative system. Though many contest the problems of the legislature, Daniel Weeks believes that the problem is the decline in representation brought about by big money in politics. Read his full article below:

 Representation.jpg

U.S. citizens across the country recognize that there is a problem with the legislative system. Though many contest the problems of the legislature, Daniel Weeks believes that the problem is the decline in representation brought about by big money in politics. Read his full article below:

 Representation.jpg

On Wednesday, I did what every responsible citizen does on April 15th: I paid my taxes.

On Saturday, I’ll march in protest.

I do not protest the idea of paying taxes to a government that represents the people. In fact, I consider it the mark of a civilized society when citizens come together and pool their common resources for the common good. Our roads and bridges, schools and universities, parks and public safety, science and sanitation (not to mention microwaves, GPS, and the world wide web) all testify to the good that can come from paying taxes in a representative republic.

Instead, I protest the decline in representation itself.

A landmark Princeton study of political representation in the United States recently confirmed what ordinary Americans have known in their guts all along: Money talks. According to the report, special interests and affluent Americans exert a degree of influence over public policy that is wholly disproportionate to their numbers – and directly in proportion with the amount of money they invest in political campaigns.

Consider the official reports for 2014. Of the $696 million spent by outside groups to influence the midterm election, 100 wealthy donors provided more than half. A single liberal billionaire, Tom Steyer, accounted for more money – $74 million – than the bottom 99 percent of citizens combined. And that’s before the $172 million in spending from undisclosed sources is taken into account. Not to be outdone, the conservative billionaire Koch brothers and their network of affiliated groups have pledged to spend close to $900 million in 2016.

The return on their investment in politics is staggering, according to a growing body of evidence assembled by academics. For example, a yearlong examination of 14 million records by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation found that America’s 200 most politically active corporations received a combined $4.4 trillion in federal business and support between 2007-2012 – 760 times the $5.8 billion they spent on lobbying and campaign contributions.

The same cannot be said for average Americans, who account for only a tiny fraction of campaign and lobbying expenditures. After carefully comparing decades’ worth of public opinion surveys on major issues of the day with policy outcomes in Washington, the Princeton study on representation concluded that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically nonsignificant impact upon public policy” when they differ with the preferences of the economic elite.

Bottom line: When affluent Americans disagree with the general public, We the People come up empty-handed time and time again. A slew of tax and regulatory changes since the 1980s favoring economic elites, combined with diminishing public investments in infrastructure, education and social spending that once buoyed the middle class, point to more than mere disagreements in public policy; they point to a persistent gap in political power.

Absent systematic reforms of our campaign money system, the influence gap is likely to widen in the years to come. Indeed, five years after the U.S. Supreme Court voted, 5-4, to allow unlimited corporate and union spending in elections under Citizens United, money not only talks – it yells. Here in New Hampshire, the 2014 midterm elections blew all previous spending records away, as candidates and out-of-state interests rushed in to buy up the airwaves to the tune of $100 million. A fraction of one percent of New Hampshire citizens provided the majority of campaign cash raised by candidates.

Meanwhile, more than half of the total spending came from so-called “independent” groups whose primary purpose was to sully the other side, making our contest for U.S. Senate the most negative in the country.

“It is money with no manners for democracy,” said New Hampshire’s late reformer Doris “Granny D” Haddock, “and it must be escorted from the room.”

Escorting big money out of politics is precisely what New Hampshire citizens intend to do this Saturday on the 240th anniversary of Paul Revere’s “Patriots’ Day” ride.

In the latest installment of the NH Rebellion Walk Across New Hampshire, Republicans, Democrats, and independents will gather at Nashua City Hall for a rally and culminating march to the Crowne Plaza Hotel to sound the alarm of systemic corruption before the largest gathering of 2016 presidential candidates yet. Led by “Paul Revere” on horseback, the 15-mile march to Nashua will begin Saturday morning with a ringing of the historic Paul Revere bell in downtown Lowell, Mass.

Our message for the presidential candidates who are flocking to the Granite State is clear: We, as taxpaying citizens of the United States, demand equal representation. To achieve that basic end, we demand the next president work with us to stop the systemic corruption of money in politics. Our votes and our very republic are at stake.

 

This article and more can be found at http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/16522354-95/my-turn-representation-not-taxation-is-the-problem

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