As if we needed any more evidence that our democracy is rigged for the wealthy and elite among us, the past several weeks has provided us with a few shining examples. So, as a public service, here are just a few of them:
*Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort received a 47-month sentence for financial and fraudulent crimes that could have gotten him at least 15 years … from the same Judge T.S. Ellis who gave African-American Congressman William Jefferson 13 years for bribery and corruption. Judge Ellis also made it a point to say that other than these crimes, Manafort had led an otherwise “blameless” life. Right.
*Wealthy parents, including two actresses and some former CEO’s were charged with paying to help their children cheat on entrance exams and falsify athletic records to get accepted into elite universities.
*Former Trump lawyer and so-called fixer Michael Cohen testified before the House Government and Oversight Committee and alleged that his former boss ordered him to threaten litigation against schools he had attended if they were ever to release his grades or SAT scores. What could he possibly be afraid of?
*Immediately after the tragic crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Jet that was made by Boeing, that country and several others immediately halted all flights by that particular airliner, a 737 Max, until more could be learned about what caused the crash … but not the United States. The FAA dithered for three days before finally grounding the planes. It’s been reported that Boeing’s CEO lobbied President Trump against grounding the aircraft in several phone conversations. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Acting Secretary of Defense is a former 30 year Boeing executive with no military service.
So, just a few examples here. There are more of course. These are just some of the more recent and newsworthy events. But this kind of stuff happens daily. This is America in the year 2019, and there is no end in sight. We the people have let it happen. Too many of us decide to sit out elections.
We throw up our hands in disgust. Some of us say the two political parties are both the same … that both sides do it. To a certain extent that’s true. But at least one of the two parties, the Democrats, are acknowledging the problem and have put a series of proposals on the board to address it. The Republican Party? Never mind.
The system is rigged. The recent college admissions scandal should come as no surprise. We know elites have a leg-up when it comes to getting their kids in prestigious universities. But, have we not heard many on the right side of the political aisle rail against affirmative action? After this scandal, you would think that point might be moot. Don’t count on it though. God forbid if a black or brown kid gets a chance. We can’t have that, can we?
The current president of the United States used to demand that the first African-American president release his college transcripts. Perhaps we know the real reason now: his own transcripts are probably less than stellar. It’s been said that his grades at Fordham weren’t high, yet he managed to get accepted at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance. Supposedly his older brother Freddy put a good word in with a college admissions friend there. And, knowing that his father Fred was a wealthy real-estate developer and potential donor certainly didn’t hurt. Plus, daughter Ivanka and son Don Jr. certainly had a little help because of dad’s timely donations, as did Jared Kushner with his wealthy father’s contribution to Harvard.
This isn’t meant to pick on Donald Trump. This is common among the wealthy and well-connected. It’s just that he happens to occupy the highest office in the world. So, in a sense, we see the rigged system on full display in the oval office daily. And hell, we may as well throw nepotism into the mix: Ivanka and Jared in the West Wing. Aristocracy personified.
It’s almost as if we’ve entered another gilded age … a time where the big corporations are getting bigger, and the wealthy are getting wealthier. It’s systematic and pervasive. To use a baseball analogy, the one-percent—the wealthy elite—are standing on third base the moment they’re born. The rest of us? We’re at home plate, hoping to maybe bunt our way to first. In other words, the odds are stacked against most Americans from the beginning. We can’t decide who our parents are of course. It’s just that some have a considerable leg-up right from the start. It’s not their fault. It is what it is.
Believe it or not though, there are solutions to all of this. We can start taxing the wealthy and corporations more. We need to reverse the recent Republican/Trump tax cut. We need to stop the revolving door of politicians and lobbyists. We need to even the playing field in the way we finance our elections by moving toward a publicly funded system and eliminating dark money. We need to get to universal health care for everyone. We need to make it more affordable for all Americans to attend college or trade school.
Yes, it’s quite the wish list. But it’s not an impossible task. The elite will not go away quietly. After all, when you’re used to being at the top of the food chain, you’ll fight long and hard to sustain the status quo. The events of the past few weeks have only put an exclamation point on what we all know to be true: the system is rigged. The question is—what are we going to do about it?