Monday, January 09, 2012

How Different Are We?

by Dick Mac

I think all of us relate best to those who are like us: economically, racial, ethnically, culturally, religiously, intellectually, etc. That does not mean we do not seek out those different from ourselves; it means only that most people are most comfortable with the familiar.

When we work and play with others like us, we are empathetic and sympathetic. We relate to the challenges and confusions our peers face. Perhaps we have, or are currently, experiencing some of the same challenges and joys.

Middle class people understand the challenge their peers have with paying a mortgage and private school tuition. Working class people understand how each other struggles with the costs of transportation, energy, and the lowliest forms of entertainment. Poor people understand how other poor people struggle with the food budget, clean clothes, and housing. When our challenges are similar, we are most connected with others.

This is the process, in some way, of ghetto-ization: similar people grouping together geographically.

The rich tend to live in areas with other rich people, and suffer similar challenges.

People who work for a living (and I do not mean people who work in a multi-billion dollar company they have inherited from three generations of success) relate to the same financial woes. These are challenges the wealthy never understand and some middle-class Americans deny (lest they be labelled whiners).

When electing representatives in Congress, middle-class, working people rarely get to choose from any candidates similar to themselves. Our choices are generally a pool of very wealthy people who can afford to run for office, and are connected to corporations that fund their campaigns.

When those elected officials arrive in Washington, D.C., they represent the interests of other rich people and the corporations who have funded their victories -- even if those rich people and companies do not live in their districts. Making the wealthy and corporate entities disproportionately represented in Congress.

I know that there are people in my congressional district who live below the poverty line, and others whose net worth is probably in the multiple millions, and most are like me: middle-class and/or upwardly mobile professionals or tradesmen. I would say the percentage of multi-millionaires is minuscule, and the percentage of those living in poverty higher by triple, quadruple, or perhaps ten times that.

Yet, my district is represented by a very wealthy man who considers himself a "conservative"; and can not and does not relate to the majority of us in his district. He is in Washington representing the interests of someone other than me and the majority of my neighbors.

How many congressional districts are represented by people who earn, or have inherited, dramatically more than their constituents? It seems the number is pretty high.

But the financial gap between Americans and their representatives in Congress has widened considerably . . . according to an analysis of financial disclosures by The Washington Post.

Growing wealth widens distance between lawmakers and constituents

See, also, 10 Ultra-Rich Congresspeople Who 'Represent' Some of the Most Financially Screwed Districts.

In my district, public transportation is of utmost importance to most constituents. In fact, in most urban and suburban areas, public transportation is vital to commerce. People need to get to and from work, and few cities have sufficient room and infrastructure to allow everyone to drive.

Public transportation is of no consequence to the wealthy. It is a burden and the wealthy have convinced many middle-class Americans that public transportation is a waste of taxpayer money.

Why does this matter? Just last week, Congress ended a commuter tax break for public transportation (rich people don't take subways), and retained the commuter tax break for parking costs (rich people drive).

This is basically a $561 annual tax increase on middle class and working class Americans, at a time when taxes for the wealthiest Americans are being slashed.

If we relate most to those who are like us, and I think that is pretty obvious, then how many of us are actually represented by politicians with similar concerns, hopes, challenges, and aspirations?

It seems a tiny percentage.

Why? Because American electoral politics is driven by money. The more money you have (or have behind you), the more likely you are to be elected; and the more likely you are to represent the interests of other wealthy people and/or wealthy backers.

How many working-class Americans are represented by working-class people?

Does your Congressional delegation represent your interests?

I suggest you call their office and ask how much they ear and how much they are worth.

Then, stop voting for Republicans and Democrats who are always funded by wealthy and corporate interests, and vote for your neighbor. How do you meet your politically active neighbors?

Contact the Green Party.

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