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Debates Forum

  1. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    03 Aug '10 21:45
    The paradox with US democracy is that although the poor greatly outnumber the rich (as they do everywhere), candidates and policies which favor the rich over the poor continually win most elections. One would expect that over time the rich would simply be voted out of existence. But this clearly has not happened. Quite the contrary, the rich are getting richer at a dizzying rate while the middle class and poor either stagnate or become poorer. So how do we explain this paradox?

    The answer, quite simply, is that money wins elections. Although everyone is entitled to one vote, about 80% of campaign contributions come from just 2% of the population. That 2% (the rich) are buying far, far greater access to the levers of government than are the bottom 98%. Campaign contributions are, in essence, nothing more than a form of legalized bribery. And most candidates simply recognize a greater obligation to their de facto paymasters than they do to the voters.

    The result is that most often both candidates are pro-corporate candidates, who excite the voters with meaningless talk about inconsequential wedge issues, while they subsequently carry on with their pro-corporate agenda. If a candidate comes along who doesn't subscribe to the corporate agenda, his campaign can easily be swamped. In the 1896 election, for example, corporate interests enabled William McKinley to outspend William Jennings Bryan by a factor of 16 to 1. Most of the time, though, they prefer to buy both sides, if possible.

    The public, meanwhile, can see that no matter who wins, their interests are not being served. The interests of the rich always seem to be the winner (to a greater or lesser extent) regardless of the vote total. Consequently, voter apathy grows, just as it has been doing for several decades.

    The poor may have the most votes, but the rich have the most money. And in an electoral system that is dependent upon money to run, money wins.
  2. 03 Aug '10 22:01
    Originally posted by rwingett
    The paradox with US democracy is that although the poor greatly outnumber the rich (as they do everywhere), candidates and policies which favor the rich over the poor continually win most elections. One would expect that over time the rich would simply be voted out of existence. But this clearly has not happened. Quite the contrary, the rich are getting ric ...[text shortened]... ave the most money. And in an electoral system that is dependent upon money to run, money wins.
    And barring a revolution (which usually just replaces one set of rich bums with a new set of rich bums) this is the way it's going to remain.

    So the only answer is to come up with ideas that benefit both the rich AND the poor -- or at least come up with arguments that can convince the rich people that they'll benefit from something that helps the poor.
  3. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    03 Aug '10 22:27
    Originally posted by Melanerpes
    And barring a revolution (which usually just replaces one set of rich bums with a new set of rich bums) this is the way it's going to remain.

    So the only answer is to come up with ideas that benefit both the rich AND the poor -- or at least come up with arguments that can convince the rich people that they'll benefit from something that helps the poor.
    My answer is for the poor to quit thinking of the political system as an avenue for progressive change. The political system (as it exists) is an avenue for institutionalizing the status quo. Indeed, it is where proposed changes go to die. The rich have nothing to fear from the poor in the political system. Quite the contrary, it is the political system which shields the rich from the poor.

    A purely political democracy is not intended to liberate people. It is intended to keep them in check and maintain them in a perpetual state of economic dependence. Only economic democracy can relieve the poor from their virtual state of indentured servitude. But people are relentlessly taught that democracy equals political democracy exclusively and that economic democracy is somehow undemocratic.

    If the poor were to push for their own interests directly within the economic sphere with half the intensity they have in the past within the political sphere, they would be half way home to actualizing their own emancipation. But instead they are deceived into thinking that politics is the sole field where their grievances can rightfully be aired. But as we can see, a purely political democracy without economic democracy is an empty shell.
  4. 03 Aug '10 22:32
    Originally posted by rwingett
    My answer is for the poor to quit thinking of the political system as an avenue for progressive change. The political system (as it exists) is an avenue for institutionalizing the status quo. Indeed, it is where proposed changes go to die. The rich have nothing to fear from the poor in the political system. Quite the contrary, it is the political system whi ...[text shortened]... d. But as we can see, a purely political democracy without economic democracy is an empty shell.
    But as you stated previously, the poor do not push their own interests within the economic sphere because of all the money that the rich people spend to distract the poor with wedge issues.

    Do you envision some way in which this dynamic could be overturned?
  5. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    03 Aug '10 23:23
    Originally posted by Melanerpes
    But as you stated previously, the poor do not push their own interests within the economic sphere because of all the money that the rich people spend to distract the poor with wedge issues.

    Do you envision some way in which this dynamic could be overturned?
    The problem with politics is that you have to get 50%+ of the people on your side at once. Unfortunately, the most lasting legacy of Roosevelt's New Deal has been the destruction of class consciousness within the US, so that is unlikely to happen. The poor have been largely duped into thinking that capitalism can also work for them.

    The attraction of working within the economic sphere is that you don't have to get a 50% majority. You only need enough people to build one worker owned business at a time. The trick is not to aim for the top. Aim, instead, at the bottom and slowly build your way up. That is a death sentence in politics (as any third party can show), but is perfectly feasible in the economic sphere. Economic democracy is such an under-reported issue in this country, though, that most people have no concept of it. All their attention is dominated by political politics, which is guaranteed not to advance their interests. The way to change is to show that economic democracy exists in the first place and that it does work.
  6. 04 Aug '10 09:41
    Originally posted by rwingett
    The problem with politics is that you have to get 50%+ of the people on your side at once. Unfortunately, the most lasting legacy of Roosevelt's New Deal has been the destruction of class consciousness within the US, so that is unlikely to happen. The poor have been largely duped into thinking that capitalism can also work for them.
    John Steinbeck commented that socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.
  7. 04 Aug '10 09:54 / 1 edit
    It is indeed money that distorts democracy. Obama is far to the right of Eisenhower's policies, yet Obama is the "left" candidate. The politicizing of the SCOTUS (one of the more serious mistakes of the Founding Fathers) has ensured that money is now entrenched in the political system of the U.S. On the long term this will do grave damage to the U.S. economy, unless the electorate realizes they have to stop it soon (perhaps with a contitutional amendment).
  8. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    04 Aug '10 10:39
    Originally posted by KazetNagorra
    It is indeed money that distorts democracy. Obama is far to the right of Eisenhower's policies, yet Obama is the "left" candidate. The politicizing of the SCOTUS (one of the more serious mistakes of the Founding Fathers) has ensured that money is now entrenched in the political system of the U.S. On the long term this will do grave damage to the U.S. ec ...[text shortened]... s the electorate realizes they have to stop it soon (perhaps with a contitutional amendment).
    Your proposed solution to fix a dysfunctional political system is for the electorate to sponsor a constitutional amendment? It's just more dysfunctional political theater that will change exactly nothing. You cannot fix a broken political system through that same political system. Neither Obama nor SCOTUS can save you. You need to abandon the siren song of politics and look for other avenues to enact meaningful change. Building economic democracy is the way forward. Relying exclusively on politically motivated solutions is guaranteed to keep us locked forever in the past.
  9. 04 Aug '10 12:51
    Originally posted by rwingett
    Your proposed solution to fix a dysfunctional political system is for the electorate to sponsor a constitutional amendment? It's just more dysfunctional political theater that will change exactly nothing. You cannot fix a broken political system through that same political system. Neither Obama nor SCOTUS can save you. You need to abandon the siren song of ...[text shortened]... usively on politically motivated solutions is guaranteed to keep us locked forever in the past.
    So basically there's nothing that most of us can do but wait for economic democracy to arrive to save us?
  10. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    04 Aug '10 12:54 / 1 edit
    As usual, rwingett identifies the US system as the only democratic system on the planet. Of course he is aware this is false, but it doesn't stop him.
  11. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    04 Aug '10 13:19
    Originally posted by Palynka
    As usual, rwingett identifies the US system as the only democratic system on the planet. Of course he is aware this is false, but it doesn't stop him.
    The thread deals specifically with US democracy, as the very first sentence indicates. I do not deny that there are other democratic systems in existence, but they fall outside the scope of this thread, except for how their lessons may be applied to the US system.
  12. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    04 Aug '10 13:21
    Originally posted by Melanerpes
    So basically there's nothing that most of us can do but wait for economic democracy to arrive to save us?
    Nothing, or nobody, is going to arrive to save you. There is no messiah. It's up to you (and everyone else) to collectively save yourself. In that regard there is indeed much you can do.
  13. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    04 Aug '10 13:23
    Originally posted by rwingett
    The thread deals specifically with US democracy, as the very first sentence indicates. I do not deny that there are other democratic systems in existence, but they fall outside the scope of this thread, except for how their lessons may be applied to the US system.
    You said this, right?

    A purely political democracy is not intended to liberate people. It is intended to keep them in check and maintain them in a perpetual state of economic dependence.
  14. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    04 Aug '10 13:24
    Originally posted by Palynka
    You said this, right?

    A purely political democracy is not intended to liberate people. It is intended to keep them in check and maintain them in a perpetual state of economic dependence.
    Yes. That's correct. So?
  15. 04 Aug '10 13:25
    Tax policies in the US do not favor the rich. A neutral tax policy would be the government collects taxes in the way a sandwich shop owner sets prices. If you want a sandwich you pay a fixed price regardless of your income. We have a graduated income tax and therefore the wealthier not only pay more taxes they pay at a higher rate.