Big Money vs. American Democracy

GovernmentForTheSuperRich-2.pngOur nation is in crisis and our democracy under attack.

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, our democracy fails to respond and the super elite among 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?

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 the wake of Citizens United and the rise of Super PACs and dark money, never has it 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 hidden dictatorship of the money of the 1% and put it back in the hands of the People.

We face a choice - rise together now to reclaim democracy for the 99% or give up hope for a better future for us all.

If the crisis isn't clear to you already, consider these facts.

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 CenterCongressional Budget Office;  Washington Post
  • Money Buys Results in Congress. The ROI (Return-on-Investment) from corporate lobbying & political contributions is staggering:
- 5,900% - Big Oil’s ROI on lobbying for $20 billion in fossil fuel subsidies
- 22,000% - Multinational Corporations’ ROI on lobbying for a temporary tax break on offshore investments in 2004
- 77,500% - Big Pharma’s ROI on a 2003 lobbying campaign to keep prescription drug prices high by baring Medicare from bargaining for competitive prices
  • 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 ProjectPolitico;  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. At least $931 million of the outside spending since 2008 has been come from secret sources. Over 85% of presidential ads bankrolled by these 501(c)s contain lies or deception. Source: The NationAnenberg Public Policy Center

Rule by Big Money 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: SojournersNewsweek
  • 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 RepublicNational 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

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