In one of the most appalling aspects of our current politics, our elites – elected officials, media lords and corporate chieftains, have swept the opinions and concerns of most Americans off the table to pursue their own agenda.
So we’re stuck with sterile political games focused on the national debt, even while a majority of Americans favor higher taxes on the rich and more aggressive action to reduce unemployment.
We get the highly touted insider trading conviction of a hedge fund billionaire while the Justice Department doesn’t pursue its own FBI’s massive evidence of the too big to fail bank’s fraud at the heart of the financial collapse.
It’s clear that whoever is setting priorities is not us. Take for example President Obama’s deficit commission, which has worked hard to legitimize the austerity agenda embraced by most of both parties. Not only was it stacked with well-known deficit hawks, It was made up of a collection of lifetime politicians, bureaucrats, with a CEO thrown in – because we wouldn’t want the CEOs to feel left out of any big idea brainstorming.
But what about the rest of us? Over at Campaign For America’s Future, Dave Johnson has been asking some intriguing, relevant questions.
For one, what would the deficit commission have looked like if it truly reflected the population of the country, rather than the backroom.
If a 100-person deficit panel truly reflected the country, it would present a stark contrast to the gang the president relied on:
• 19 people on the commission would receive some form of Social Security benefits, 12 of those as retirees. And on this deficit commission they get to talk when the ones making over $250K propose cutting Social Security.
• 43 of the commission members would have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement. 27 of those less than $1,000.
• 98 of the 100 members would make less than $250,000 a year.
• 50 of the members would come from households in which the total income of all wage-earners is less than $52,029.
• 13 would have income below the poverty level.
• 14 members would be receiving food stamps.
• 16.6% of the commission members would be un- or underemployed, and would be wondering why they are on a deficit commission at all instead of a jobs commission.
• The commission would include the right proportion of factory and construction workers, and people who work in a kitchen, and work waiting tables, and teaching, and nursing, and installing tires, and all the other things that people do except, apparently, those on DC elite commissions. (People who do hard, manual labor get an extra vote each on what the retirement age should be.)
• 74 members would not have college degrees.
• 20 would not have graduated high school.
• 18 would speak a language other than English at home.
Under present circumstances it’s highly unlikely that the president would appoint a commission to consider the deficit or anything else for that matter that wasn’t stacked with wealthy insiders intent on slashing government services for anybody who is not like them. But highlighting the disconnect does point out in a particularly graphic way why those at the top have managed to get left out when its time to divide up the sacrifices.