Opinion: 158 families are buying American democracy

Half of all money donated to presidential candidates so far has come from 158 wealthy families. The concentration of political donations suggests those with the means to donate large amounts of money are being disproportionately represented over the average American.

David Goldman/AP/File
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks during a campaign event at Cobb Energy Center Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Atlanta. Half of the contributions made to presidential candidates have been from 158 families.

According to an investigation by the New York Times, half of all the money contributed so far to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates—$176 million—has come from just 158 families, along with the companies they own or control.

Who are these people?  They’re almost entirely white, rich, older and male—even though America is becoming increasingly black and brown, young, female, and with declining household incomes.

According to the report, most of these big contributors live in exclusive neighborhoods where they have private security guards instead of public police officers, private health facilities rather than public parks and pools.

Most send their kids and grand kids to elite private schools rather than public schools. They fly in private jets and get driven in private limousines rather than rely on public transportation.

They don’t have to worry about whether Social Security or Medicare will be there for them in their retirement because they’ve put away huge fortunes. They don’t have to worry about climate change because they don’t live in flimsy homes that might collapse in a hurricane, or where water is scarce, or food supplies endangered.

It’s doubtful that most of these 158 are contributing to these campaigns out of the goodness of their hearts or a sense of public responsibility. They’re largely making investments, just the way they make other investments.

And the success of these investments depends on whether their candidates get elected, and will lower their taxes even further, expand tax loopholes, shred health and safety and environmental regulations so their companies can make even more money, and cut Social Security and Medicare and programs for the poor—and thereby allow these 158 and others like them to secede even more from the rest of our society.

These people are, after all, are living in their own separate society, and they want to elect people who will represent them, not the rest of us.

How much more evidence do we need that our system is in crisis? How long before we make it work for all of us instead of a handful at the top? We must not let them buy our democracy. We must get big money out of politics. Publicly-finance political campaigns, disclose all sources of campaign funds, and reverse “Citizens United.”

This article first appeared at Robert Reich.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Opinion: 158 families are buying American democracy
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Robert-Reich/2015/1209/Opinion-158-families-are-buying-American-democracy
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe