Today was the anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
I was listening to NPR, stuck in traffic on the way home, and they said something I found rather funny. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was along the lines of “approval ratings across all areas of the government have never been so low.”
I kind of laughed to myself. Captain Obvious, to rescue!
No but really, I got this beautiful moment of clarity where all of these snippets of information, facts, anecdotes, and ideas that have been swirling around my head for the past few months/years (my brain is kind of like a snowglobe) all came together.
NPR says approval ratings are low because of the whole Obamacare thing. I think they’ve missed the big picture. Approval ratings of the entire Government including the President, Congress, House of Representatives, Judicial system, IRS, FDA, NSA and more are at an all-time low because they have been screwing us for a very long time now, and we’ve all finally run out of patience. They systematically have taken advantage of any & every loophole to further their own interests at the expense of the very people they are supposed to be representing.
This is because politics is no longer about serving the people, it’s about money. Money talks, and unfortunately, most Americans don’t have any. The United States Government has not been “of the people, for the people, by the people” for a very long time. It’s a bit more like, “of the powerful, for the money, by the wealthy.”
1. Bush V. Gore & the Electoral College
One of my first memories of the US political system at work was Bush V. Gore; the election of 2000. At the time I had only a limited grasp of the electoral system and no concept of institutionalized racism. I could not understand how someone could win the presidency, even though they got nearly half a million votes less than one’s opponent. Today I’ve learned that under the electoral college system, someone can become president with only 22% of the popular vote.
With a bit more education I came to understand that the electoral college is an outdated system kept in place because it’s inaccuracy allows for easy abuse of power. Both parties have the ability to take advantage of the electoral college, and therefore, neither party has taken serious steps to amend the most fundamental aspect of democracy: A fair voting system.
This is not how the US government is supposed to work.
2. The Great Recession of 2007
After a disastrous presidency, and a complete and utter failure to properly regulate investment banks, financial conglomerates, and insurance firms, the USA entered what we are now calling “The Great Recession” (I really think we could have picked a better adjective than “great”, especially since we used for the depression and all, but hey, that’s just me.)
The housing bubble burst, people lost the values of their homes which often meant their entire lives savings, homes were foreclosed upon, blah blah blah, you all know this. What is especially telling is what happened during the “recovery”. The Government gave massive taxpayer-subsidized bailouts to these “too big to fail” companies. Here is our chance! I thought, our Government wouldn’t give these bailouts without conditions attached about how the money should be spend, rules & regulations about future corporate practices!
I was wrong. Here’s an example of what actually happened:
AIG received more than $182 billion in federal loans and cash, including $40 billion in TARP funds. General Motors received $13.4 billion, and Ally Financial got $17.3 billion…
Last year, AIG Chief Executive Robert Benmosche was awarded $10.5 million in cash and stock, while Ally CEO Michael Carpenter got $9.5 million and General Motors CEO Daniel Akerson received $9 million. All but one of the top 25 employees at each company received over $1 million in compensation. Combined, the top 16 earners received over $107 million. –Center for Research on Globalization
These companies received our tax dollars as part of the government bailout. They showed gross neglect to their employees & the general public, and directly contributed to a crippling economic recession. Had the government been doing what we elected them to do (represent & protect the people) then where were the punishments, new regulations, and guidelines for how the money should be spent? The people we elected to represent us, continued to represent corporate interests over the common citizen.
For the people, no more. This is also not how the government is supposed to work.
3. Stagnant Federal Minimum Wage, Unemployment & Income Inequality
(sorry things got kind of wordy back there, I’ll keep the rest of this brief like skivvies).
As a direct result of the great recession, federal minimum wage has stalled at $7.25 for the past few years, while the cost of living (and top 1% salaries) continue to rise.
At a 7.9% unemployment rate for those age 22-28 with a bachelors degree, and more than half of us working at jobs that don’t require a degree anyway, the unemployment issue to me is also a personal issue.
My generation was told “go to college, otherwise you will have to work at McDonalds”. Then we successfully graduated college, could not find work anywhere, and were told “quit your bitchin’ you spoiled brats. You’ve got debts, go work at McDonalds”. We’ve taken out massive loans to pay the highest tuition rates in history, have the more debt than we can ever hope to pay off, only to realize our college degree is about as useful as a high school degree. The high school degree is the new GED. And if you only have a GED, you might as well go find yourself a nice, warm, cardboard box.
I have a 4-year degree from McGill University, the 18th best university in the world (at the time of my attendance), and yet I have been told I am “not qualified” for unpaid internships, haven’t landed jobs because I was competing with Masters degree-holders who were laid off during the recession for the spot, and don’t have the “experience” to work at American Eagle Outfitters.
This has all culminated in massive amounts of income inequality that has hit a fever pitch in the US – as signified by the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the Fast Food Workers Strike, and oh you know, Wal-Mart casually holding a food drive for their underpaid employees (what a fucking slap in the face. Just use part of your 15 billion in profits to hand out a few Christmas bonuses to your low-income workers, ya jerks)- and yet, tax reform has yet to happen, the minimum wage has yet to be raised, bailout money has not gone to should-be-retirees (the folks that lost their savings due to immoral corporate practices & can’t retire on time, thus, there are not openings for new workers to enter the workforce), and CEOs are not being fined for seriously immoral business practices that directly harm economic growth.
Whew. That was a really long sentence. Onward, my friends!
Once again, the Government seems to be turning a blind eye to basic, pressing issues plaguing the country.
You know what they are focusing on though? Vaginas.
4. Stomping on Women’s Rights
I am part of a gender which is paid 77 cents to every man’s dollar. But my rent is not 23% cheaper than a mans. Women do not get a 23% discount on bills, the way we do on our paychecks. Just because we are paid less, doesn’t mean we get to pay less. Just a thought.
Republicans called Obamacare a “war on bros” because women go to the doctor more often, due to feminine health issues. But the men who complain about the unfair cost of women going to the doctor are the same men who wrote into the law that women must go to a doctor if we want certain services, even if a doctor visit is not medically necessary. These are also the same guys that are pushing to make abortion illegal, but have nothing to say about men who abandon the women they’ve impregnated. As Slate said, “men who don’t want to pay for maternity care don’t understand the circle of life.”
These are also the same politicians that have the gall to tell women who want insurance-covered birth control to “keep their legs closed” because apparently women should not be having sex without the intent to reproduce. But it’s ok for men to have sex without the intent to reproduce, because these politicians seem to have no problem allowing Viagra to be covered under insurance. But gay sex is bad too! So I’m not sure who they think these men are supposed to have non-child-bearing sex with… animals maybe? Idk.
Women are continuously underrepresented & shut out of a male-dominated government that continues to waste time passing law after law regulating the female reproductive system, instead of addressing issues that actually matter. Like income inequality. And tax reform. And corporate power. And healthcare reform. And, you know, that entire fucking recession I might have mentioned once or twice.
Regulating the female body is definitely not what a government is supposed to be doing.
5. The Government Shutdown over ObamaCare
This was, like, the biggest hissy fit in the history of mankind. This is like, the Trojan War being started over Helen of Troy hissy fit status. Some of you may disagree, but it seems to me like the shutdown was House Republicans holding the entire government hostage, furloughing thousands of workers, and creating economic uncertainty, all because they were too fucking stubborn to admit they lost the ACA fight, since it was, you know, already passed nearly a year before the shutdown ever occurred.
And here’s another great example of politicians blatantly abusing their political power & legal know-how to make the system work for them, at the expense of everyone else: The House GOP changed the rules before the shutdown to better serve their purposes.
Would the founding fathers approve of this? Methinks not. Methinks this is also not what a government is supposed to be doing.
5. Governmental Constipation Because Republicans Hate Obama
Filibustering is only one way Republicans have been halting all progress Obama hoped to make during his presidency. There’s also judicial nominees, which is one way a President can have a seriously long-lasting effect on the country, years past his term.
Whoops! Just kidding, not for Obama. Nearly 20% of Obama’s nominations have been blocked by Senate Republicans, who haven’t really been all that shy about admitting that they’re simply doing this to make Obama seem like a failure. This is disrespectful both to our President, but also to the millions upon millions of citizens who voted for, and put him into office.
Once again, not what a government is supposed to be doing.
My main point is that I was taught the government was supposed to serve the best interests of the people, that our politicians were supposed to be servants of the public. They are not. They are slaves to money, and most Americans don’t have any money. Herein lies the “big picture” problem with the US Government, and only when a disconnect between money & politics is achieved will we ever see an improvement in that state of politics in America.
Until that time, I will continue to flirt with the idea of moving away. But not to Toronto, because they seem to be happy with their crack mayor, and that concerns me.
I hope I’ve given y’all something to think about. If you’ve actually gotten to this point in my blog post, I am most impressed with your attention span.
Now I must go make dinner, toodles.