Last week I spent a night in Beaufort, South Carolina. It’s a lovely town on a bluff overlooking the marshes and estuary rivers which almost completely surround the downtown area. Much like a smaller and slower, and undiscovered Charleston. And it happens to be in the 1st Congressional District – my district. I had a good conversation with a new friend, and as I’ve heard from so many people who support both what I’m saying and my run for congress, she was very skeptical that we can actually change anything in Washington or America. “The arrogant bastards just have too much power.”
I get so frustrated with that sort of statement. And I hear it a lot. In fact I’ve yet to meet anyone who thinks we CAN make our economy work for all of us. So here’s my counter-argument in short - we outnumber the arrogant bastards three-to-one. This is still a democracy. Let’s make the changes we need before it’s too late.
I hate to pit this argument as an “us versus them” situation, but elections really do boil down to just that. So let me take a stab at who “them” may be.
Many people are uncomfortable with me specifically calling out “Wall Street”, primarily because most people are unsure of exactly what “Wall Street” is. Of course I’m not referring to the actual street itself in lower Manhattan. I’m referring to the handful of ginormous banks, investment companies, insurance companies, and other private financial institutions which control the flow of the majority of US dollars – more than $30 trillion dollars – more than eight times the annual federal budget and almost twice as large as the federal “debt”.
Wall Street exists by collecting interest on loaned dollars and collecting transaction fees on stocks and bonds and other securities traded for dollars. You give them dollars, they give you a piece of paper which you hope sometime in the future some greater fool will buy from you for more than you paid for it. Fifty seven percent of the 115 million American households have some money invested in Wall Street – 65 million households. Of those, about a third have a considerable amount invested – only 23% of Americans or 26 million households have their savings and retirement tied up in the stocks and bonds offered by Wall Street.
So let’s assume those 26 million American households – perhaps 52 million voting age Americans, will never agree with anything I’m saying for fear that their retirement savings will be negatively impacted - (which they won't, in fact the opposite is likely to happen). That still leaves 77% of American households, perhaps 178 million of us of voting age who DON’T have much, if any money invested in Wall Street. And because we 178 million are relying almost exclusively on our weekly wages to live, as a group, every year we are doing worse and worse as more money is raked in by Wall Street in the quest for more and more profits. And every year more and more of that top 23% are forced to drop out of Wall Street and join the rest of us when they lose their jobs, drain their savings (taking all their money out of Wall Street), and end up living paycheck-to-paycheck like most Americans – again all in the quest for profits.
As far as I know, we still live in a democracy where each person of voting age gets one vote. Despite the now hundreds of millions spent by candidates to get elected, those dollars don’t buy votes in the general elections. Just yesterday that point was proven by a Tea Party candidate in Virginia who with just $150,000 beat incumbent congressional majority leader Eric Cantor who’d spent more than $4 million to stay in office.
So let’s just vote the bums out. We outnumber our wealthier fellow Americans three-to-one – 178 million of us to their 52 million. So what’s the problem? Why can’t we make the changes we need?
As I see it, there are two problems involved with making the changes our economy requires to make it work for all of us.
1. The only people running for office are probably going to be just as bad as the ones we vote out of office. If every candidate is no better than any other, I’ll agree that we may as well quit right now. However, I offer myself as an example of a candidate who is nothing like any other candidate. I’m not a career politician. I have no interest in going to Washington to make lots of money. I want to get in, get shit done, and get out. I have better things to do with the rest of my life than argue with politicians. Surely there are other people who feel as strongly as I do about our current economic situation and they too are willing to run for Congress in the coming years. Which is also why I decided to run for Congress. Sometimes, even in failure, our actions inspire other people to take action. If I get elected this year – great. If not, perhaps my attempt will inspire other people like me who aren’t politicians, who don’t care about getting rich in Washington, and who can pick up my ideas and carry them forward at the next election in two years. Even if none of those people get elected, just the fact that we’ve started the conversation may eventually move enough of the career politicians to make changes. Every previous movement in America has required less than ten percent of the population to bring about sweeping legislative change. We potentially have 178 million voting age Americans – 77% of us who could force the changes we need to make. What are we waiting for?
2. Up until yesterday, when just $150k beat $4M in Virginia, I was going to suggest that the 178 million of us voting age Americans who struggle to earn a living are too easily swayed by the very convincing political ads run on TV. Today I have hope that all Americans are not fooled by slick television commercials and can see past the hype to the candidates who really want to help make our economy work for all of us.
So is my run for Congress a Quixotic and ultimately futile attempt? Am I asking people to support me in a ridiculous quest with no hope of making our society better for all of us? I don’t think so, only because as long as we still have a democracy with one vote per person, we who are struggling in our economy outnumber by three-to-one those who are thriving in our economy. Let’s vote in people who actually care about making a difference for ALL of us, not just the rich.