Billionaires: Buying Our Democracy to Line Their Pockets and Empty Ours
July 22, 2022
Last week, an unknown sum of dark money paid every Republican Senator and one Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to kill the trillion-dollar investment and tax plan Democrats have been working on for a year. The plan, which you might have originally known as the Build Back Better Agenda, was remodeled as the Budget Reconciliation Plan.
Budget Reconciliation, a version of which passed the House in November 2021, would have started to reverse 40 years of trickle-down tax breaks for the rich and corporations. Dozens of billion-dollar corporations – like Amazon, Starbucks, and Netflix who now pay little to no federal income taxes, would have been required to pay at least a 15% minimum tax so they would pay into the U.S. economy like the rest of us.
Taxing the ultra-wealthy would provide federal funds for policy measures that folks in the United States not only need, but want. Potential policies that would benefit the country include: more affordable health care, climate change mitigation, and reduced household energy costs.
Dark money and corporate donors used their influence (money!) to flood Congress with messages that benefited them, but drowned out the voice of the people.
The Constitutional declaration, We The People, should be the driving force that motivates legislators, not corporate interests. We need to get the out-sized influence of dark money and corporate dollars out of politics to heal our democracy. There are responsible Congresspersons who recognize the need for federal reform, and they have created bills that provide solutions.
The John R Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R.5746 S.4) and The For the People Act (S. 1) are ready for debate and a vote. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act corrects the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decisions that diluted the safeguards of Voting Rights Act and dismantles new barriers to voting and election integrity put into place by 19 state legislatures. Chief Justice Roberts said Congress needs to act or else states are sovereign on election law. Returning election law to the state level would again allow for state legislatures to combine already in place redlining tactics with voter suppression and disenfranchise Black and Brown voters. This country is not a collection of sovereign states, so we need federal standards for elections.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R. 5746 S. 4) would establish guidelines for elections, like: times, appropriate locations for in-person voting, and rules for early voting boxes, etc.). The For the People Act, is transformative legislation that ensures clean and fair elections by reducing or eliminating the influence of big money, dark money, and foreign money in politics. S.1 also calls for easier voting access. For example, States would register new voters on election day for federal elections and establish independent (i.e., non-partisan) redistricting commissions to reduce partisan gerrymandering.
S.1 would strengthen the ethics and financial disclosure requirements for the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, and Federal officers and employees. One way this will be done is by prohibiting congresspersons from serving on the boards of for-profit entities.
Is it no wonder why corporate special interests have rallied to oppose these bills! They want to continue to carry on with the status quo – and use money to influence Congressional decision-making. We can work around them! If Senators committed to the preservation of “We The People” carve out filibuster exceptions similar to the ones that they have done for Budget Reconciliation measures, Federal executive nominations approvals, and Supreme Court Nominations, then significant action can be taken to protect our democracy.
Our faith and sacred documents give us much needed guidance about our role in the body politic.
The Bible says,
“There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor. 12:25-27).”
And, Catholic Social Justice tradition and the Catholic Catechism dictates that democratic participation in our communities is both a right and a responsibility and each person must be equipped with the proper resources. As a United Methodist minister, I also find guidance from our founder John Wesley who said, “there is no holiness without social holiness.” Taken together with NETWORK’s Build Anew agenda, we are well-equipped for this righteous cause. I pray you’ll dig deep this year and call on your friends and families to do the same!
We are at a critical time in our country, so contact your Senators now and demand that they work to save our democracy by suspending the filibuster and passing election reform bills.