by Jan Baughman
(Swans - October 23, 2006) With the upcoming US midterm elections, observers are speculating on whether the Democrats can regain control of Congress and if so, what such change would mean. The Republicans have framed the election debate in terms of fear and terrorism and the Democrats have obediently followed suit, not redefining it in an agenda of peace and diplomacy; rather, they are merely attempting to prove they are equally tough. They, too, are beneficiaries of the military-industrial complex, and historically have been as likely (if not more) to wage war. Just as the US government under both parties' leadership has divided and conquered entire countries and cultures, imposed sanctions on the innocent, starved the people, destroyed the infrastructure, stolen the resources, so too has it weakened and fractionated its own citizens. From slave wages and the dismantling of labor unions; to voting barriers, gerrymandering, and election fraud; the marginalization of the freedoms of speech and organized protest; and the pricing out of all but the wealthy from elected office, the general public is as powerless to stop the endless war as it is to change the course at home so long as we continue to vote for the status quo. A shift from a Republican to a Democrat majority is not change; the Democrats no longer represent the once traditional party values that supported the working class.
Opensecrets.org lists the estimated range of net worth for members of Congress. Of the top 25 wealthiest, 10 are Democrats, with the lowest ranking of the 10 being Jim Cooper (D-Tenn) at $14,116,811 to $30,725,757. The number one among all of Congress falls to Herb Kohl (D-Wis) at $269,098,030 to $284,549,005. In the Senate alone, the top four wealthiest members are Democrats: Kohl; John Kerry (D-Mass; $164,741,510 to 234,262,099); Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA; $78,150,023 to $101,579,003); and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif; $43,343,464 to $98,660,021). When you're worth double- to triple-digit millions, how can you fathom the struggles of the working class?
Many assume that female Democrats are a more sympathetic, compassionate alternative to the male leadership. Don't count on pro-war Hillary Clinton (D-NY), number 9 in the Senate at $10,080,005 to $50,200,000, to feel your pain and try to ever touch health care again. We've written about Feinstein in these pages, reporting on her war profits thanks to Defense Department contracts awarded to her husband's company, and the $29.9 million worth of houses they own. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) ranks number 9 in the House with a net worth of $14,746,108 to $55,085,000. Representative Pelosi left the Congressional Progressive Caucus when she obtained her leadership position... It's worth noting that the Progressive Caucus is co-chaired by the anti-Feinstein/Pelosi female California Democrats, Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey. Lee's rank is 294 ($153,014 to $522,000) and Woolsey's is 332 ($73,017 to $395,000). Which women do you suppose will more likely represent your values?
Don't get me wrong -- Democrats can make things happen when it's in their interest. Take Steve Westly -- California's state controller who spent $35 million of his $220,000,000 estate but lost the bid to run against Arnold Schwarzenegger in the upcoming gubernatorial race. Westly lives in one of the wealthiest enclaves of the country, Atherton, California, where zoning laws that prevent houses over 30 feet tall have caused residents to build down, hauling away tons of dirt to accommodate basements, wine cellars, and guest houses that are the size of a normal house. The town of Atherton imposed a dig fee that would offset damage from all the digging and hauling, and Westly faced a $92,400 dirt bill for his proposed 1,826-square-foot guesthouse. He and others facing such bills demanded that the fees be rescinded -- and their pressure worked. Money talks.
All the while, the median American income is $46,326, less than half of Westly's would-be dig fee.
It may be more comfortable and certainly less discouraging to ignore the events unfolding around us rather than acknowledging the actualities of life, but the course we're on is quickly leaving the majority in the dirt. Let's start now to shift the tides and vote for candidates that reflect progressive values. Some of these candidates might be Democrats; they probably won't be mega-millionaires; and they will most likely be found in the Green Party.
For over a decade we've brought you uninterrupted ad-free advocacy work free of charge. But while our publication is free to you, we are long on friends and short on cash. We need you, our readers, to help us financially. Please consider sending anow. Thank you.