Bender: Government by the rich, for the rich

Tony Bender
Tony Bender

If you needed another example of democracy for sale, Michael Bloomberg is spending $37 million to buy the presidency. Based on the current conversion rate, that's 2.37 billion rubles. Enough to buy 23 million Big Gulps.

It's said history doesn't repeat itself but that it rhymes. Well, roses are red...

In 1776, equality in England was impossible, social stratification was the norm, and royalty ruled. Bloomberg's gambit is evidence that an economic royalty has replaced the British monarchy our forefathers rejected. Tax dodges and the legislative subversion of progressive, corporate and estate taxes have created fiscal empires with a stranglehold on democracy.

Bloomberg says if he wins, he won't be beholden to anyone. Maybe, but one individual's ability to buy an election is more dangerous than the existing system of legalized bribery. They're not contributions. They're transactions. A $100,000 payment can return millions in tax breaks and deregulation.

The Supreme Court itself assaulted democracy when it ruled that political donations are free speech and therefore corporations get most of it. Corporations aren't people, my friend, but money is power. A glance into any courtroom or prison is proof that wealth buys a better brand of justice.


Kill the rich, you say? Now, hold on there, Bucko. Like every other Horatio Alger devotee, I have visions of plunder myself. (Ten Powerball tickets, please.) No, the answer is removing money from politics.

If we're to return to American ideals of citizen governance, elections have to be publicly-funded and the playing field leveled. The FCC gives licenses worth billions to broadcasters. They, in turn, ought to give candidates free and equal access to the airwaves. You know, a little quid pro quo.

It was never the intent of the founding fathers to have a professional political class, but take the Republican Party today as an example. Could it be more obvious that their job security matters more than yours? They've not only absolved Donald Trump of obvious criminality but declared him some kind of messenger from God with a third grade vocabulary. We need term limits.

Even with term limits, though, wealth has its advantages. Retirees and those of means can afford to serve in the North Dakota Legislature. It's harder for working parents and small business owners who must pay someone to work in their absence. A reasonable salary would go a long way toward a government that better reflects the diversity of its citizenry.

Meanwhile, gerrymandering remains a pox on the U.S. House and state legislatures. It's un-American, undemocratic cheating. Districts should be based on population, not demographics. Diverse districts yield representatives whose heels aren't dug in at the starting line. You want government to work? End gerrymandering. End voter suppression by a Republican Party faced with shrinkage it cannot otherwise overcome. (Hence, build that wall.)

The electoral college further disenfranchises voters. In 2020, the presidency will be decided by six states, and if I'm understanding GOP talking points correctly, Ukraine. The rest of us have nothing more than protest votes. In a fair system, elections are won by the majority.

That said, in 2016, 38.6% of Americans disenfranchised themselves by failing to vote, failing to understand that their vote is their currency. In American elections, you get what you pay for.

Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service.

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