JEFF REIFMAN: The latest attack on net neutrality provides a perfect opportunity to reassess the operating integrity of our government and the effectiveness of our well-worn responses. Over the past week, I’ve seen requests to sign petitions, requests to call my representatives and requests to donate to relevant organizations to continue their work within the system. But, what if the system is fundamentally broken? What if it’s evolved to work against our interests? […]
Lately, I’ve been telling people that the U.S. political system has essentially jumped the shark, a term used to describe that moment when a television series rapidly declines in quality. At this point, our government is so inherently corrupted by the influence of money that it no longer functions as a democracy.
A recent Princeton Study confirms this. One of its authors, Martin Gilens states, “contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.” We’re also fooled into complacency because “the politics of average Americans and affluent Americans sometimes does overlap. This is merely a coincidence, the report says, with the interests of the average American being served almost exclusively when it also serves those of the richest 10 percent.”
Several key issues led me to this conclusion personally: “contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.”
Gun violence: In 2011, someone shot a U.S. Congresswoman in the head and in 2012, another killed twenty elementary school children. Mass shootings occur regularly (there was another today as I wrote this). Gun violence is a rising public health issue, currently the second leading cause of death in young people aged 15 to 24. Yet, despite all of this, there has been no reform on this issue.
Climate change: Scientists generally agree that the 350 ppm atmospheric CO2 is the safe maximum for preserving life as we know it on earth, yet last May, CO2 surpassed 400 ppm. Last month, an iceberg six times the size of Manhattan broke off Antarctica and is floating in the open ocean. Ocean acidification is disintegrating the basic building blocks of our food chain. All of this is in the wake of the massive Deepwater gulf oil spill. Not only has no progressive reform taken place but the President won’t even kill the noxious KXL pipeline.
The wealth gap: The top .1% of the wealthiest Americans hold 22% of the country’s overall wealth (you read that right, the top tenth of one percent). The wealthiest 5% of Americans control more than 60% of overall wealth. More disparity is unimaginable in a democracy.
We typically respond to these kinds of challenges by supporting single issue advocacy organizations but clearly this approach is not getting us very far. Single issue organizing may be an effective strategy for indefinitely funding an advocacy non-profit, but it does not appear to be a winning strategy politically. I’m no longer optimistic that organizations working within the system in this way will bring about the changes that we need. MORE