In a democracy, it is important that those who make decisions on behalf of the people who elect them into office are also personally affected by those decisions. Such a premise is crucial for the functioning and integrity of a meaningful democracy.
If those in charge are wealthy entities or part of an extremely privileged, wealthy class not affected the least bit by the policies they output, then they not only become practically elected kings but they are also not likely to enact policies that would affect anyone but those very privileged, wealthy entities they themselves are part of.
One of the reasons that our lawmakers, including the President, have not made creating a meaningful social safety net for citizens a priority is that most of them are all wealthy and seldom, if ever, affected by lack of a social safety net and even most of the policies they draft. (If you don’t believe me and think welfare recipients have it so good, I challenge you to conduct a little experiment on you own by pretending to be unemployed/disabled/in need of welfare and see for yourself just how much money you would qualify for from our generous welfare system. I’ll eat my words and make a public apology if the amount of money you are going to get is actually going to enable you to properly live for one month – i.e. pay rent, pay necessary bills, transportation, health care, food etc. Dogs in a pound require more money than the meager “social safety net” this country pays human beings).
Congress, A Millionaire’s Club
A few months ago I wrote about the United States Congress being a millionaires club with 238 of the 535 “public servants” (Congressmen) having a net worth of at least one million dollars, effectively making them members of the 1%.
According to OpenSecrets.org that number has risen to 268 in 2012. In other words, now over half of our lawmakers are wealthier beyond the wildest dreams, and possibilities, of most Americans they govern.
That is a problem.
As OpenSecrets points out “while members of Congress have long been far wealthier than the typical American, the fact that now a majority of members are millionaires represents a watershed moment at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage“; all policies that affect people who are not part of the 1%.
It is no surprise, then, that our lawmakers are not making the strengthening and expanding of a social safety net, including a public option in health care, their priority and in fact, go after so-called “entitlement” programs everytime they talk fiscal responsibility and budget – as if it was welfare recipients, food-stamp recipients, the elderly, the poor and disabled that caused the economic meltdown and not the very entities our lawmakers have been deregulating for decades because they do line their corrupt pockets.
Whether social security is depleted or not will not affect a single member of Congress or their families. When the government is shut down for weeks leaving millions of people without a paycheck and other direly needed services, our lawmakers continue the gamble and casually use the livelihood of those people as a bargaining chip to extort more unconscionable concessions out of the other party. And they do so casually and while taking their time because whether the government is shut down for three weeks or for three months, they still get their $174,000 a year salaries.
A member of Congress – even the President himself who has done his share of rubbing his wealth and privilege into the face of the American people – never has to worry about needing unemployment benefits, disability benefits, Medicare, social security, housing or nutrition assistance. They never have to worry about fair wages, not having access to quality and affordable health care, that they will lose their homes or how to send their kids to college. They are sitting cushy and pretty on their constitutionally guaranteed salaries, pair of $800 Jimmy Choos (our “man of the people” wife’s favorite shoe designer) plus all the bribes they can get from the robber barons of big industry and the financial world that line their pockets.
It is no coincidence that most of our lawmakers, even Democrats, have, overall, prioritized doing the bidding for the wealthy and corporations – at the expense of everyone else and under the guise of “hard work” and “The American Dream.” They are so far removed from what real life is actually like for the entities they govern, they are not likely to especially care about addressing the very issues that those entities struggle with.
It is an especially cruel irony, therefore, that the individuals behind the Occupy Wallstreet movement, for example, – i.e. the 99% – have to look at these very dishonest crooks in Congress – the one percent – to do something about the 1%. It is absurd. It’s like asking the thieves to please do something about the thieves.
Of course our lawmakers are not going to do anything that may jeopardize the lucrative positions they are in. They are not going to cut off the very lifeline (or money line) that fleeces their pockets.
Coupled with the democracy-obliterating Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court (whose members will also never be affected by the decisions they make as most of them will be dead in less than a decade), it is now almost guaranteed that only those with immense wealth will win Congressional and presidential elections to ultimately make decisions about a social safety net they will never need.