Corporatism poses increasing threat to American democracy

Opinions Columnists | Journalism freshman

Modern American democracy has been turned on its head, morphing from a capitalist system into a corporatist plutocracy run by the rich and big corporations.

Corporatism is defined as a society in which corporations exert political power over the government and the people within the bounds of its jurisdiction. A plutocracy is more simply defined as a government that is essentially run by a small group of the richest citizens.

In the landmark 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporations legally became “people” who can unlimitedly fund political candidates. After this case, the election of many of our politicians has been legally bought, giving corporations incredible power over political decisions that affect them.

If multinational corporations can fund politicians indefinitely, that means they can put conditions on the money they independently give. This often leads to backdoor meetings where corporations and industries instruct politicians on which way to vote and address certain issues in exchange for a well-financed campaign.

Unfortunately, the wealthiest campaigns are often the most likely to win elections, leading a large percentage of American political positions to be occupied by corporate puppets. It is not a mere coincidence that every winner of the presidential election in the past several decades has been the one who spent the most money on his campaign, or that 90 percent of congressional seat winners are the ones who spent the most, according to information from The Center for Responsive Politics. It is an unhappy fact that in our current election system, the victor is almost always the one with the most campaign money.

The top 10 percent of the richest Americans held more than half of the annual wealth earned in the U.S. in 2012, according to a Sept. 10, 2013 Seattle Times article. To put that in perspective, it means 31 million people in this country made more in 2012 than the other 282 million people combined. This deficit is the highest proportion-wise since the government implemented the income tax in 1913, and the gap is only widening.  

Many corporations own the media outlets that perpetuate the illusion of American democracy. They are creating false distinctions between parties which, in truth, are both owned by corporations and discredit politicians who may reject their bribery attempts or are otherwise not ideal representatives. Because of this, there will likely never be a third party with legitimate influence and power in this country.

Corporate greed is the leading reason why minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living, which if it had, would likely exceed $21 an hour. If the minimum wage at the very least kept up with inflation, it would be more than $10 by now. But because corporations are not willing to pay their workers a reasonable amount, minimum wage has been kept artificially low.

This lack of reasonable pay has permanently crippled the middle and working classes and has hindered economic growth. As many economists have pointed out, when middle-class Americans earn more money, they—and this is a shocker—also spend more. Middle-class Americans spending more would help to pull our economy out of its current rut, but with wages so low it is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

However, money knows no bounds. Americans cannot expect “people,” whose main interest is profit, to take a hit to their own revenue in order to help the country. In our current system, money is alpha and omega, and green is the only color that matters. Actual people are irrelevant.

The people have been lead, like lemmings to the sea, to a system in which the rich become richer, and the poor become poorer. Here the American dream of upward mobility we lay to rest, and may it rest in peace. Meanwhile, the people must say hello to an unprecedented degree of income inequality. ‘Merica!