John Stang – News Editor
In these times of great economic peril, the American people seem to be looking for a scapegoat to blame for the total collapse of the economy.Â The blame seems to be going to two different places: profiteers on Wall Street who made a Faustian bargain with the world of derivatives and hedge funds, or the United States Federal Government for exponentially expanding the deficit. Either way, the populist movement is back in full swing burning both groups in effigy.Â This new group calls themselves the Tea Party Movement.
Tea Partiers, and Republicans who are riding this new wave of populism, are calling for less government intrusion, deregulation of businesses, lower taxes, and a return to God.Â Most importantly, they wish to return the government back to the people.Â Now, I have nothing against people supporting this mindset.Â What befuddles me is an inherent contradiction in their logic.Â You see, they want businesses to thrive and people to keep their wealth, which makes sense.Â The problem is that this causes an income disparity that only allows a few people to be able to run for office.
For instance, Timothy Noah notes in a recent series of reports for Slate that today the wealthiest 1% have about 15% of the nation’s income.Â This is compared to about 18% for the top 1% in the 1920s-1940s, before regulations were put into place around the 1940s that forced people to pay higher taxes on their income. The period between the 1940s-1970s is called the great compression because the income disparity was lower than it was in previous decades.Â Then, in the 1980s it shot up again because of lax policies and lower tax rates.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, a Ronald Reagan appointment, said in 2005 about the problem, “This is not the type of thing which a democratic societyâ€”a capitalist democratic societyâ€”can really accept without addressing.”
The reason that this concerns me is that the ones who own quite a bit of this wealth are those who serve in congress.Â According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan think tank, there are currently 238 millionaires in congress.
They also report, “About 1 percent of all Americans are considered millionaires, while more than 44 percent of congressional members claim that distinction. And 50 members of Congress boast estimated wealth of at least $10 million.”
Most of these are not unknown facts.Â The senate is called “The Millionaires Club” for a reason.Â Being rich is not a bad thing, but it probably does have an impact on the way they represent the people.Â Not surprisingly, these congressmen are probably looking out for white collar culture and not those wearing a more bluish tint.
Furthermore, the report also states that many congressman hold stake in companies like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, the Milwaukee Brewers, and other corporate franchises.
So, I ponder the question: how can congress represent the true will of the people when they seem to be immersed in the corporate culture and seem to be in the same class as 1% of the population?Â The simple answer to this quandary is to find a way to narrow the income gap so Joe the Plumber, Joe Six-Pack, and any other Joe with a redneck sounding name will feel like he actually has representation. This could also mean restricting the amount of money making candidates more transparent in who they are receiving money from in the first place.
Finally, it might also be helpful to allow for some honesty to the people of these new “populist revolutions” that corporations are laughing all the way to the bank when it comes to using them as props in their game to deregulate and lower taxes.Â The Koch brothers, who own Koch industries, are just one example of energy conglomerates that have been paying millions of dollars for years to dupe average Americans into convincing people that having a deregulatory lifestyle is the best way to run a nation.
President Obama once proclaimed that it might be time to “spread the wealth around” to Joe the Plumber at which the title of socialist was bestowed upon him.Â In a different sense, spreading the wealth around might mean higher taxes for the wealthy creating a much fairer playing field for congressional candidates, thus the creation of a true republic “Of the people, by the people, and for the people.”Â Until that happens I will look at these campaigns to take back the country for the people as a joke.Â My final word of advice is to slightly paraphrase the words of Sarah Palin and say “spread baby spread.”
To read more commentary by John Stang check out his blog called “Power Walk” at http://wwwstangblog.blogspot.com (no dot after the www). Â His opinions do not reflect those of the Brackety-Ack.