Current efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act include massive tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent, at the expense of covering the sickest and most vulnerable Americans who need access to health care. This reflects the priorities of the donor class, not the majority of Americans. If we want health care solutions that work for the people — not just the richest who will always be able to afford health insurance or corporate health care companies like insurance providers or pharmaceutical companies — we must sources from which politicians get their money.
Strong majorities of Americans support clean energy, fighting climate change, and ending government subsidies for dirty energy companies. But instead, Congress’ priorities are exactly the opposite — with more than 100 votes in this Congress to block action on climate change, weaken clean air and clean water standards, and dismantle wilderness protections.
Ever wondered why our Congress can’t pass comprehensive climate and environmental policies? Why their priorities are so different from ours?
Because the same people responsible for polluting our air, water and climate are the ones spending hundreds of millions on political campaigns and lobbyists.
In the 2012 election cycle, oil companies spent more than $73 million on campaign contributions. Mining and electric companies contributed an additional $44 million. And for every $1 the industry spends on campaign contributions and lobbying, they receive $59 back in the form of government subsidies and tax breaks. That’s a 5800% return on their investment.
U.S. income inequality is the highest it’s been since 1928. In 2012, the top 1 percent of Americans received 22.5 percent of total income. The bottom 90 percent received only 49.6 percent. A family in the top 1 percent has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family. Meanwhile, Congress’ priorities include cutting taxes for the wealthy and slashing spending on food stamps.
Why won’t Congress tackle this growing problem?
Because as the cost of campaigning continues to grow, candidates rely more and more heavily on a small number of large donors. When the Supreme Court eliminated aggregate giving limits in McCutcheon vs. FEC, it meant a small number of individuals who can afford to (about 4 in 1 million Americans) are now being called upon by candidates around the country for money. And that means that the priorities of those wealthy donors become the priorities of the candidates themselves. As Demos
This is why Congress bailed out Wall Street, but failed homeowners facing foreclosure. It’s why the House’s proposed budget includes slashing taxes for the wealthiest and balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. It’s why 30 major corporations paid more to lobbyists than they paid in taxes during three years of record profits. Again and again, Congress’ priorities reflect those of the 1 percent at the top — and addressing growing income inequality is not one of those priorities.
Just over 3.5 million Americans earn at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. More than 1.5 million of them work in the food preparation and service industry. And yet, despite millions of Americans relying on the minimum wage, the wage’s real purchasing power is the same as it was 40 years ago.
Why won’t Congress act to increase the federal minimum wage, even when it would help millions provide for their families and give them a leg up toward achieving the American dream?
Because powerful business interests don’t want to pay their employees more, cutting in to their profits. The National Restaurant Association, whose members employ the largest group of employees earning the minimum wage, has shelled out $13.1 million in federal contributions to candidates, candidate committees, and political parties in the last 25 years.
Employees earning the federal minimum wage are, by definition, unable to compete with numbers like that. As a result, elected officials spend a lot of time talking to donors who don’t want an increase in the minimum wage, and a lot less time talking to constituents for whom an increase to $10.10 an hour could potentially change their lives.
Shifting to a small-donor-driven campaign funding model would change the incentives for politicians so that they would have to listen to everyday Americans, not just the National Restaurant Association.
From the environment to how much hard working Americans take home in their paycheck–they’re all impacted by the way our elections are financed.