Commentary: "Dollar democracy" in America

(Xinhua) 10:14, September 21, 2021

BEIJING, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- "A government of the people, by the people, for the people," a notion then U.S. President Abraham Lincoln mentioned in his 1863 Gettysburg Address, has often been quoted to describe the American-style democracy.

In fact, America's democracy reeks of the stink of money. The only touchstone to determine whether a government befits that people-centric notion is not through its words, but by examining whose interests it truly serves.

It is now increasingly clear that the so-called American democracy only protects the rich. From the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008 to the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic, the rich in the United States have always been the most protected group of people in trying times.

And when a crisis ends, America's rich usually get richer, while the poor poorer. Such exacerbated wealth inequality is often described by some Western economists as a "K-shaped recovery." The upward and downward strokes of the letter K are compared to how the wealthy and the poor would bounce back after in the post-recession period.

Facts have also proved that the so-called American democracy only speaks for the rich.

In a 2014 study by Princeton University and Northwestern University, after reviewing answers to 1,779 survey questions asked between 1981 and 2002 on U.S. public policy issues, experts found that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

While the median American household paid 14 percent of their income in federal taxes, the 25 richest Americans, according to an investigation by ProPublica, a nonprofit organization based in New York, paid a "true tax rate" of just 3.4 percent between 2014 and 2018 with their collective net worth rising by more than 400 billion U.S. dollars in the same period.

Another cold hard truth is that the American democracy is dictated by the rich.

"American democracy is an illusion. The people do not govern. Politicians respond almost exclusively to the desires of special interests and the wealthiest citizens," said Charles Wheelan, a senior lecturer at the Rockefeller Center at U.S. Dartmouth College.

For example, in the case of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the American company was granted immunity from class-action lawsuits, although it was blamed for giving rise to the current drug crisis in the United States as its painkillers are easy to make patients addicted. As a result, the victims received far less compensation than expected because of the court decision.

Furthermore, the U.S. government has actively transferred social wealth upward through finance, intellectual property rights, occupational licensing and land use in institutional design, said Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles in their book "The Captured Economy."

No wonder that 70 percent of Americans believe that the economic system in their country unfairly favors powerful interests, according to a 2020 survey by Pew Research Center.

From its start, America's democracy was about the rich. The country's founding fathers were among the wealthiest people in the colonies when they drafted and signed the U.S. Constitution. It is thus not difficult to understand why the Unites States is a country ruled by the "dollar." As affluence equals influence in the United States, a democracy of the people, by the people, for the people is no more than a hoax. 

(Web editor: Xia Peiyao, Bianji)


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