"Renaissance Thinking About the Issues of Our Day"
Before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought legislation to the floor last night to put 400,000 teachers, firefighters, and cops back to work - the American people weighed in on what they wanted to happen.
The plan was simple - give $35 billion in federal aid to states across the nation to hire mostly teachers - as well as cops and firefighters - and pay for it by levying a one-half of one-percent tax on millionaires.
That's it. It's really simple.
And remember that one-half of one-percent of that tax would be on income OVER a million bucks.
As in people who make $999,999, they wouldn't be affected at all.
And people who say make...one million - one hundred thousands dollars - as Joe Biden pointed out, they'd only pay an extra five hundred bucks a year - and that's it.
So CNN asked people what they thought of the plan - and a whopping 75% said they approved.
75% wanted Congress to pass the bill.
And when it comes to that new surtax on millionaires alone - the American people support that too.
According to a poll this week by the National Journal - 68 percent of Americans support a surtax on millionaires.
Only 27 percent oppose it.
So let's recap this...on Thursday night - the Senate considered legislation that 75% of Americans supported - legislation that's most controversial provision - a one-half of one-percent surtax on millionaires - also had the support of 68% of Americans.
Seems like a no-brainer, right?
Well... the legislation failed.
And not because it didn't get enough votes to pass - because it did get enough votes to pass - a majority of Senators - all Democrats - voted for it - but it failed because it didn't get enough votes to overcome a unified Republican filibuster.
That's right - every single Senate Republican filibustered the bill - a bill that had the support of 75% of Americans - but not the support of a single Republican senator.
Republican senators turned their backs on four hundred thousand teachers, firefighters, and cops - and most importantly they turned their backs on what the American people wanted - in order to protect millionaires and billionaires from a one-half of one-percent tax increase on their money after they've already made a million dollars.
So how does this happen?
How can this happen in a democracy - in a government of REPRESENTATIVES - not leaders - but representatives who are supposed to REPRESENT their constituents?
The answer is...Unequal influence.
There's unequal influence in our government - a topic I explore in my book - Unequal Protection.
It doesn't matter that 75% of Americans support a particular piece of legislation - because that 75% doesn't have powerful, high-priced lobbyists working for them.
But the 1% - people who don't feel like paying an extra few hundred bucks in taxes every year so that teachers can go back to work - they have lobbyists - and all it takes now-a-days are a few strategic campaign contributions and you too, if you're rich enough, can own your very own lawmaker - in particular, you can own your very own Republican lawmaker, although there are some Democrats that are for sale too - and you can make them vote any way you want them to vote.
And it's not just about jobs or taxing millionaires and billionaires - unequal influence is pervasive everywhere.
According to an NBC/Wall Street journal poll earlier this year - 74% of Americans want to cut off billions in taxpayer subsidies to big oil corporations.
But because big oil has the lobbyists - and thus more influence - Congress has done nothing to end that corporate welfare.
Huge majorities of Americans opposed the bailout of Wall Street back in September of 2008 - so much so that the Capitol Hill switchboards were brought down - they were flooded with millions of people calling their Member of Congress asking them to vote "no."
But constituent phone calls are no match for check-writing Wall Street lobbyists when it comes to influence - so Congress passed that stomach-turning bailout anyway.
Poll after poll after poll shows most Americans wanting fundamental reform of our healthcare system.
But even though - 53 million Americans are uninsured - premiums are skyrocketing - and our health outcomes are embarrassing compared to other developed nations - a universal healthcare system is COMPLETELY off the table in Congress - it's a non-starter. Why? Because millionaires in the health insurance industry want more, more, more money.
It doesn't matter what the people want - it doesn't matter what idea makes the most sense - or what policy will benefit the most people... it's all about who has the most influence.
And since the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people - and that money is speech - then corporations now have the most influence.
And they will until this nation has a revolution.
Not a violent revolution - but a revolution in the sense that a new generation of leaders rise up to fundamentally change this unfair economic and political system.
A revolution that ends corporate personhood and gets money out of politics.
Back in 2001 - as George W. Bush was pushing his outrageous tax cuts for the rich through Congress - Senator Bernie Sanders saw this trend of unequal influence - and he wrote an article on his website saying:.
At a time when more and more Americans are giving up on the political process, and when the wealthy and multi-national corporations have unprecedented wealth and power, it is imperative that we launch a grass roots revolution to enable ordinary Americans to regain control of their country...
Exactly ten years and one month to the day that Senator Sanders wrote that article - on September 17th of this year - people began camping out near Wall Street to protest unequal corporate influence in our political system.
The Occupy Wall Street movement was born.
And, like with all movements, standing on the shoulders of the giants who preceded them.
That's The Big Picture.