Our Revolution Baltimore City/Baltimore County activist Charlie Cooper asked us to post this op-ed and we’re delighted to do so. Charlie is the President of Get Money out Maryland. Get Money Out – Maryland, Inc. (GMOM) is a group of volunteers trying to get big money out of our political system and make elections fairer.
Date: August 22nd
Twenty-eight million people still need enhanced unemployment benefits.1 They are struggling to pay rent and feed their children. In July, nearly 14 million children didn’t have enough to eat. But their relief has expired. Other unfinished business on behalf of workers:
• No guaranteed access to testing or care for people with COVID-19 symptoms,
• Inadequate testing and contact tracing,
• State and local governments and public schools facing fiscal ruin, and
• The U.S. Postal Service being run into the ground by a crony who has huge investments in FedEx and UPS.
Congress has provided only 10% of the necessary aid to cash-strapped states to assure that accessible, safe, secure, elections can be held in November. President Trump’s relief orders are mostly empty promises – completely inadequate to ameliorate the economic depression we are living with. Nothing can happen for families until Congress can assemble a majority to pass adequate relief legislation.
Meanwhile, financial manipulators and speculators have lost nothing. Today, the S&P 500 Index is up nearly 52% since the bottom on March 23. This recovery only happened because the Federal Reserve System has pumped $2.8 trillion2 into Wall Street – about $8,500 for every American.
That relief didn’t require Congressional action.3 The Fed claims to have the authority to create almost unlimited new cash based on a 1932 law known as Section 13(3). When financial firms run low on cash, The Fed can create U.S. dollars and buy the distressed assets, which, in turn, puts money in the hands of financial institutions. They then bid up a wide range of financial assets.
All the relief that benefits middle and working class – the eviction moratorium, unemployment insurance expansion, $1,200 checks, and small-business loans – had to be specifically authorized. Congress could have let these programs continue until conditions improve. Supplementary unemployment benefits, for example, could have been reduced gradually as unemployment falls. But Congress chose to let all these types of aid expire on arbitrary dates, regardless of the threats to our health and our families.
How did we arrive at this point where the wealthiest get automatic relief from a depression while workers need a miraculous Congressional consensus?
The answer is found in the campaign finance system. While the wealthiest buy influence with politicians using campaign donations, SuperPACs, and dark money, most people are either completely tuned out or distracted by media blather. Alas, media treatment of so many issues often promotes divisiveness and obscures the fact that the wealthy are winning the class war.
According to a 2014 study by Princeton and Northwestern university professors Gilens and Page: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” They found that the opinions of the bottom 90% of income earners have little impact; rather, policy-making hinges on support from economic elites, business interests, and people who can afford lobbyists and has almost nothing to do with the interests of the vast majority of Americans.
As a reward for their loyalty to corporate interests, over 430 former members of Congress are employed as federal lobbyists, with compensation many times their Congressional salaries.
The result of 40 years of government in the grip of wealthy campaign funders is that the top 1% of households hold 38% of the national wealth, while the bottom 50%, collectively, owe more than they own.
The only solution to this inequity is for workers to become more politically active. The good news is that they are. Low-paid workers are fighting for $15 an hour. Health workers are speaking up for their own safety and the safety of patients. People of all backgrounds are marching for racial justice. The youth-led Sunrise Movement is working creatively to save humanity from the consequences of climate chaos. Millions are speaking out to control money in politics and stop voter suppression.
Congress had a vacation for much of August. Doing nothing is apparently exhausting! But We the People cannot rest. Our chance for peace, prosperity, and a healthy environment lies in our own hands. We must act, and not just by voting, but by supporting worker-friendly candidates, and by continually pressuring our elected officials to do our bidding. Organized people can beat organized money – and we’re the only ones who can.