The most important thing we must do to save our democracy is get big money out of politics. It’s a prerequisite to accomplishing everything else.
Today, big money continues to corrupt American politics – creating a vicious cycle that funnels more wealth and power to those at the top and eroding our democracy.
In the 2018 midterm elections, wealthy donors and Super-PACs poured millions into the campaigns of the same lawmakers who voted to pass the 2017 tax cuts, which gave them huge windfalls.
Consider conservative donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, whose casino business received an estimated $700 million windfall, thanks to Trump and Republicans’ tax cuts. The couple then used some of this extra cash to plow more than $113 million dollars into the 2018 election, breaking the record for political contributions by a single household.
That’s not a bad return on investment – for them.
All told, almost 40 percent of total contributions in the 2018 midterms came from people who donated $10,000 or more. Yet these mega-donors comprise a tiny 0.01 percent of the U.S. population.
It’s a worsening vicious cycle: Lawmakers cut taxes and slash regulations for their wealthy campaign donors. Mega-donors and corporations funnel some of that money back into our political system to keep their lackeys in power. Politicians then propose another round of tax cuts, subsidies or bailouts to secure even more donations.
If this isn’t corruption, I don’t know what is. It also breeds cynicism in our democracy. The game seems rigged because it is. A 2015 poll found that the majority of Americans say lawmakers are corrupt, out of touch with their constituents, and beholden to special interests.
In the 2018 midterms, Americans demanded an end to the corruption. And there are signs lawmakers are finally getting message. House Democrats’ first piece of legislation aims to end the big-money takeover.
We must end this vicious cycle in order to reclaim our democracy. We must get big money out of politics. Now.
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Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the the twentieth century. He has written fiften books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, “Inequality For All.” Reich's newest book is “The Common Good.” He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary “Saving Capitalism,” which is streaming now.