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EDITORIAL: Campaign financing erodes our democracy

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Economic policy in America has led to an unprecedented gap between the rich and the poor, with corporations distributing profits among executives and board members rather than the workers who help earn them.

Productivity is a measure of the total output that workers produce. As wages are the compensation that workers receive, naturally productivity and wages should rise, or fall, at a ratio relatively close to 1-to-1. That was the case for the post-World War II years, but things have gone awry since the 1970s.

“From 1973 to 2013, hourly compensation of a typical (production/nonsupervisory) worker rose just 9 percent while productivity increased 74 percent,” according to the Economic Policy Institute.

This is an abhorrent gap caused by legislation that allows corporations to eat up profits for themselves, whether directly (via lower taxes for corporations) or indirectly (anti-union laws and loopholes are a huge contributor). 

While the data is concerning, even more so are the human faces that these graphs, charts and statistics take form in. Families allegedly part of the middle class are struggling to make ends meet, and far too many Americans are struggling despite coming from hardworking families.

“In my first two years at college, I've had to make a decision that my high school self could not have imagined: Go to class, or go to work so I could afford food to eat,” said Crystal Cox, a University of Missouri student, according to CNBC. “This is the reality that I, and many students who come from low-income families, face.”

In a democracy — though that label is rapidly warping into a distinction in name only — like America, voters choose which politicians enter office, and logically vote for the candidate they believe will best represent their interests. The country is made up, definitionally, mostly of those who are not in the top 1, 5 or 10 percent. Why is the working class voting in politicians who carve out the unions, programs and regulations that protect them?

Because elections can now be bought more easily than ever.

Take President Donald J. Trump, who invested a whopping $66.1 million into his successful bid for the Oval Office. With the ability to self-fund with his piles of cash, Trump was able to sway the normal agency of voters via advertisements, events and other campaign elements that other, less fortunate politicians are unable to do. By using his wealth to sway voters, Trump was able to coerce them into ignoring the fact that he and his policies would harm them.

This self-funding continues to be a problem, of course. If you believe what Trump did was a circumvention of the normal Democratic process, then what presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is doing should shock you.

Bloomberg’s campaign began only in late November 2019, around three months ago. He is already spent more than five times the amount Trump did during the entirety of his campaign.

“Democratic presidential hopeful Bloomberg has contributed $464 million of his own money toward his White House bid, according to a disclosure … ” according to MarketWatch.

It would be one thing if Bloomberg’s late entrance rendered his money useless against the tide of democracy, but the opposite has proven the case, with his poll numbers flying upward, inserting him into the thick of a contentious Democratic battle.

It is clear that money can buy elections — a truth reaffirmed by law through the infamous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case — and that when money buys voters, not solid policy, legislation ignores the masses. Politicians know they can buy votes with their wallets and no longer care for pleasing their constituents.

The way forward, for now, is to be mindful of candidates’ funding. Look into where exactly they are receiving their campaign cash, and realize that the more money they receive from themselves or corporations, the more likely they are willing to do their or corporate bidding, rather than exercising the will of their constituents.

Overall, there must be structural change, and that starts with capping self-financing and overturning Citizens United. 

When money is speech, and when money equates to excessive amounts of political power, we are not all equal.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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