In the aftermath of the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, millions remain jobless, foreclosures continue to tear families from their homes, and students are burdened as never before by crushing debt. Public education and other essential services are being dismantled and more and more children are growing up in poverty. As our young veterans slowly return from distant wars to a nation of declining opportunity, catastrophic global climate change accelerates unchecked.
Yet as we, the 99%, fall ever further behind and struggle just make ends meet, a tiny fraction of the wealthiest 1% of Americans - the very people whose reckless Wall Street schemes caused the crash - are getting richer by the day. How can this be?
Short answer: our democracy has been corrupted by big money. Our politicians represent the interests of the billionaires and corporations who pay for their campaigns instead of the people who vote them into office.
The system is rigged and the people know it. 75% of Americans believe money buys results in Congress, and Congressional approval ratings are the lowest in our nation's history. There can be no doubt: our democracy no longer serves the People. It serves the worst of the 1%, who buy it like an auction item in our corrupt elections.
In this post-Citizens United world of Super-PACs, "dark money" and unlimited corporate dollars cascading in campaign coffers, it has never been so clear that we simply cannot solve our most urgent problems, we cannot build an economy that works for all, we cannot renew the promise of the American Dream, until we free our democracy from the domination of big money and place it firmly in the hands of the People.
We now face a choice: to rise up together and reclaim democracy for the 99%, or to give up hope for a better future, condemning ourselves and our children to a dying planet and a decaying Republic.
Want more hard data on the crisis of corruption? Well look no further.
Rule by Big Money: The Facts
- Big Money Wins Elections. Candidates who raise and spend the most money routinely win more than 90% of federal elections in a given year. Hence why members of Congress spend 30%-70% of their time fundraising. Source: Demos/US-PIRG; Lawrence Lessig, Republic Lost, p. 138
- Campaign Spending Has Skyrocketed. Between 1980-2008, the total spending by Presidential Candidates rose a staggering 1,435%. Between 1982-2010, spending by all candidates for Congress increased 525%. Source: OpenSecrets.org; Lessig, p. 91
- Meanwhile, the 99% Has Been Left Behind. Since 1979, while top tax rates fell from 70% to 35% and the wealthiest 1 percent’s income grew 277% -- the three-fifths of Americans in the middle saw income growth of just under 40%. In 2010 alone, 93% of income gains went to the top 1 percent. Source: Tax Policy Center; Congressional Budget Office; Washington Post
- Money Buys Results in Congress. The ROI (Return-on-Investment) from corporate lobbying & political contributions is staggering:
Source: United Re:public
- Unlimited “Outside Spending” Made the 2012 Election the Most Expensive in History. Experts project a total price-tag ranging from $9.8 to $11 billion. Post-Citizens United, billionaire and corporate spending on elections ads has jumped 1139%. Right-wing Super PACs alone are expected to spend over $1 billion on the 2012 elections. As of June, 47 individuals giving +$1 million dollars accounted for 57% of the $230 million raised by Super PACs - 1,082 donors giving +$10,000 accounted for 94% of that fundraising. Source: Ad Age; Wesleyan Media Project; Politico; Demos/US-PIRG
Outside Spending is Increasingly Bankrolled by Anonymous Funders. Nearly 90% of campaign ads aired through April came from so-called “dark money” groups - shadowy 501(c) nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors. Over $780 million have come from secret sources since 2010. Sources: The Nation; Huffington Post; Open Secrets
Big Money Corruption Blocks Big Change On All Fronts
This crisis of democracy blocks change on nearly every front in the struggle to win liberty and justice for all. For example:
- Economic Justice: In the groundbreaking 2004 study “Inequality and Democratic Responsiveness,” Princeton professor Martin Gilens concluded: “When Americans with different income levels differ in their policy preferences, actual policy outcomes strongly reflect the preferences of the most affluent but bear virtually no relationship to the preferences of poor or middle-income Americans.” Case and point: Wall Street spent $1.9 billion in 2009 alone to weaken efforts at financial reform. Source: Sojourners; Newsweek
- Immigrant Rights: The ultra-right wing lobbying group ALEC and one of its corporate funders the Corrections Corporation of America - a for-profit prison firm that profits off of high incarceration rates - has been tied to Arizona's anti-immigration bill SB 1070 and other copycat laws across the country. Source: National Public Radio
- Racial Justice & Civil Rights: ALEC spent millions to help push for discriminatory voter suppression laws - also known as “Voter ID” laws - that disproportionately target people of color. Attorney General Eric Holder likened them to Jim Crow-era poll taxes. Source: Brennan Center for Justice
- Climate Change: For every $1 the Big Oil spends on lobbying and campaign contributions, they get $58 in freebie cash from Congress in the form of subsidies and other giveaways. A recent International Energy Agency study showed cutting fossil fuel subsidies globally would provide half the carbon cuts needed to solve climate change. Source: Price of Oil
- Education Rights: For-profit colleges contributed $58 million to national elections in 2008. These schools secured 25% of all taxpayer-funded Pell Grants - they only enroll 9% of all college students. Source: United Republic; National Bureau of Economic Research
- Universal Health Care: Health insurance companies secretly funneled over $107 million through the US Chamber of Commerce to elect Speaker Boehner’s anti-health reform congress. Source: National Journal