By Azor Cole, American Promise Citizen Empowerment Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The forces corrupting our democracy are out in the open for everyone to see. Special interests, funding both Democrats and Republicans, are increasingly blunt about their ability to elect candidates using our country's preferred political currency: money.
"I'll cut your money off. And others will do the same. We've had enough," said Stephen Cloobeck, major Democratic party donor and Diamond Resorts International founder, on MSNBC, when asked about Democrats using the terms "millionaires" and "billionaires" negatively. The message is clear: Support a pro-corporate agenda and you'll be financially rewarded; oppose one, and you'll be publicly threatened.
Money's outsized political influence is on full display for the world to see, but simply seeing and understanding is not enough. Politicians don't like being jerked around by wealthy donors, but they do like being re-elected. To get money out of politics, we've got to replace its political influence with ours: The will of the people.
With Congress steeped in tax talks, wealthy donors see an opportunity. The House Republican tax plan stands to enrich a sliver of the population at the expense of all others. The bill's proposed estate tax cuts would reward the top 11 donors from 2016 federal races with an astounding 67.5 billion dollars in tax breaks, more than the average U.S. family would earn if they worked for one million years.
Normally, political players stick to the script about tax bills- this is a bill for the middle class; we're putting Americans back to work. This time around, from some, we're seeing this usual gloss replaced by startling honesty.
“The most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan,” Gary Cohn, the leading White House economic adviser and former chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs, said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday.
“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’” Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), himself a millionaire, said on Tuesday.
In a working democracy, elected officials respond to the will of the people, not the size of the donor's check. The fight for a 28th Amendment to place reasonable limits on campaign contributions will take mass mobilization of concerned citizens, and it's already underway! 19 states have called on Congress for a constitutional Amendment overturning the disastrous Citizens United ruling, and legislation exists in both houses of Congress for such an Amendment. As citizens, it's our responsibility to stand up to injustice, and this certainly fits the bill.