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 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. 84% of Americans think money has too much influence over our elections, 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 our elections like a high-priced auction item. 

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.

It's time for the 99% to Rise.

Click here to join the mass movement of civil resistance or here to find a local team near you.

Want more hard data on the crisis of corruption? Here are the numbers:

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. As a result, members of Congress spend 30%-70% of their time fundraising. Source: Demos; Lawrence Lessig, "Republic Lost", p. 138

  • Campaign Spending Has Exploded. Between 1974-2010, political spending by all candidates for Congress increased by a staggering 2,237%. From 2000-2012, total federal election spending more than doubled, soaring from $3 billion to $6.3 billion. Add on lobbying and you're at $12.9 billion for 2012. Source: Lessig, p. 91; Vox

  • A Tiny Economic Elite is Putting Up the Cash. In 2014, just 0.23% of Americans gave $200 or more to political candidates, while a mere 0.04% gave the maximum amount to any one candidate. In 2012, 61 big donors giving an average of $4.7 million each matched the small-dollar contributions of over 1.4 million grassroots donors. Source: Center for Responsive Politics; Demos

  • Money Buys Results in Congress. The ROI (Return-on-Investment) from corporate lobbying & political contributions is off the charts:
    • 5,800% - Big Oil’s ROI on lobbying the 111th Congress 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 Source: United re:public

 

  • Citizens United and McCutcheon Will Make 2016 the Most Expensive, 0.1%-Dominated, Dark-Money Drenched Election Ever. Estimates hover around $10 billion dollars total, with the Koch brothers' political network already committing to spend nearly $900 million alone. The Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision made unlimited outside spending legal as "independent expenditures", resulting in $1.28 billion in outside spending in 2012; their 2014 McCutcheon v. FEC ruling permitted individual wealthy donors to dole out up $3.5 million each in direct contributions. Source: Bloomberg; New York Times; DemosDemos

  • Meanwhile, the 99% Has Been Left Behind. While the bottom 90% have experienced virtually no increase in income or wages for over thirty years, the wealthiest 1%'s share of total national income has risen to 20%, even while their taxes have been cut in half, with the top tax rate falling from 70% to 35% since 1980. The wealthiest 400 Americans now have as much wealth as the bottom 150 million. Source: Robert Reich

  • Economic Wealth Translates into Political Power. The richest 1% of Americans now control over a third of the nation's wealth, while the bottom 90% control only a quarter. That gross economic advantage buys immense political influence. According to a landmark 2014 Princeton Study on the responsiveness of government to different constituencies, while "economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy... the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." Source: Allegretto, EPIGilens & Page

 

Big Money Corruption is at the Root of Our Problems, Blocking Progress on Every Front

 

  • Climate Change: For every $1 the fossil fuel industry spends on lobbying and campaign contributions, they get $59 in federal subsidies from Congress, a 5800% return on investment. Since 2008, Big Oil, Coal, and Gas spends well over $100 million every year lobbying Congress. So despite a 97% consensus amongst climate scientists that climate change is real and caused by humans, over 56% of Republican Congress members are climate deniers. Source: Oil Change International; Center for Responsive PoliticsThinkProgress

  • Health Care: The health care industry has spent over $5 billion lobbying Congress and financing federal campaigns over the last decade. As a result, the Affordable Care Act - lacking a public option and failing to universally insure the public - has delivered millions of new clients to giant health insurance corporations, whose share prices have risen an average of 290% since the ACA was signed in March of 2010.  Source: Center for Responsive PoliticsThe Center for Public Integrity

  • Education & Student Debt: For-profit colleges have given nearly $10 million in federal campaign contributions since 2010. Despite overtly predatory practices, a full 86% of all for-profit college revenue comes from federal taxpayers, mostly in the form of federal government student loans, which burden 96% of their students, graduating with an average of $23,590 in student debt. And while these exploitative colleges only enroll about 10% of all college students, they receive 25% of all government student aid. Source: Center for Responsive PoliticsForbesFor Profit UU.S. Department of Education

  • Immigration & Mass Incarceration: Between 2000 and 2010, the three largest private prison corporations spent nearly $7 million in state and federal campaign contributions, and almost $20 million lobbying for policies that would produce more prisoners with longer sentences to fill their empty beds and generate higher profits. In ten years, the private federal prison population has more than doubled and private companies now jail almost half of all immigrant detainees. Source: Justice Policy Institute; Washington Post; Associated Press

  • War & Defense: Military arms contractors have contributed nearly $200 million to candidates and committees since 1990 and routinely spend well over $100 million each year lobbying Congress, incentivizing endless foreign military interventions to justify their profitable government contracts. In 2014, U.S. defense spending totaled $610 billion, more than the next seven countries combined, and accounting for nearly 20% of all federal spending.  Source: Center for Responsive Politics; Center for Responsive Politics; Stockholm International Peace Research