Entitlements is an interesting word. It means having the right to something. It also means holding the belief that one is inherently deserving, privileged over another. In today’s America the word entitlement is often thrown around like a dirty word–implying that those who receive certain services aren’t actually “deserving”, AKA the typical welfare recipient. More recently however, the conversation about entitlements has expanded, pointing out others who receive benefits from government that result in great wealth.
Big corporations are subsidized by the government to the tune of several billion dollars a year. We justify this assistance–tax cuts, and incentives–because corporations provide jobs, goods, and services we can’t afford to lose. In our current political climate, all a corporation needs to do is threaten to move or lay off workers and politicians panic. Government could, just as easily, through import taxes and levies, make it less attractive for corporations to relocate out of country. Yet, politicians don’t take that route which makes one wonder.
Even if the government didn’t subsidize corporate America, people with money are still more likely to get more money. How? Because they have excess. Wealthy people invest. Investors get money from the interest off their investments. The hard work of those who borrow–often for things like school, housing, and to start new businesses–creates the money that goes into the pockets of those with excess due to the interest charged on the money which is borrowed. We call it “free money” because it requires almost no risk and very little effort on the part of investors (though it’s hardly “free” to the borrower). The have-nots, no matter how hard they work (and the vast majority work quite hard), rarely make enough excess to invest. Thus the gap between the “have a lots” and the “have a littles” gets wider .
Interestingly the Bible condemns such behavior. Check out Lev. 25:37. In fact, in the Old Testament among God’s chosen people the sale of land was not supposed to be permanent and in the year of Jubilee land returned to its original owners. Talk about a serious redistribution of wealth. Today, at least in America’s capitalistic mindset, wealth redistribution is a horrifying concept. Even though the ultra rich could never have gotten rich without a robust, hard working middle class, most seem to believe they are entitled to what they have and are extremely reluctant to see the world any other way. Socialism they say, makes people weak, dependent and unwilling to work for themselves. Conveniently they ignore how little investment capitalist actually labor.
The kind of socialism people, like Bernie Sanders, talk about is an attempt to level the playing field. Sanders wants the haves to give back a larger portion of their “free money”. He wants the borrowing middle and lower class who have given them their “free money” to reap some of the reward. So he, and a growing number of us who agree with him, would like to increase corporate taxes, unearned income taxes, and inheritance taxes. Might some “undeserving” people also be helped if we as a people make this kind of social contract with our fellow citizens? Probably. But, that’s a risk worth taking if it means those who benefit the most from a strong economy end up baring a bigger portion of the overall burden for the social good.
Another social welfare hot button is healthcare. Many people believe healthcare should be the right of everyone, rather than a privilege of wealth. To this end Sanders, and others, have advocated for a single payer system, which basically is medicare for all. In a single payer system all American citizens would be covered and 95% of households would see a decrease in healthcare costs. So what’s the problem? In a nutshell–for profit insurance companies and drug pharmaceuticals don’t want to give up their billions in profit every year. So to secure that end they contribute to various campaigns. In other words, the problem is purchased politicians who do not represent the will of the people.
Politics does not have a lack of ideas. Politicians, (the ones calling the shots at the moment) have a lack of character. And, we, the people, have a lack of will. We must do the difficult work of replacing long term politicians who have shown themselves to be in the pockets of corporate America and the wealthy elite. We need to build relationships with one another and refuse to be taken in by negative ads paid for by political PACS which are funded by special interests. We must elect representatives whose first priority is the people and who will demonstrate their commitment to us by legislating campaign finance reform. A wealthy corporate executive should not have more power in a democratic election than a middle class school teacher but until we get big money out of politics by replacing paid for politicians the wealthy elite will continue to have a bigger voice.
Greed and elitism are not American values. At least, they aren’t the values I want to demonstrate or pass on to my children. The time has come to send that message to Washington. In the next few months five special elections are slated in California, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, and South Carolina to replace representatives who have taken other jobs, most in 45’s cabinet. Only one of these positions was originally held by a democrat–California’s 34th District. Of the other open seats, Montana’s has the greatest chance of switching from Republican to Democrat which is probably why the Republican candidate has received more than a million dollars from contributors outside the state of Montana.
I didn’t start this blog planning to plug Rob Quist’s quest to be Montana’s sole Representative. Still, it’s easy to see how I got here. There’s nothing elitist or entitled about Rob Quist. He cares about Montana because he understands what it means to live close to the land, to work hard, and to be a good neighbor. If middle class America is going to regain its voice in Washington, people like Rob Quist deserve our votes. Don’t sit this one out, Montana. Vote Rob Quist as our U.S. Representative. Replace Zinke with a man for the people.