The following is addressed to Congressman Bruce Poliquin:
As a voter living in Blue Hill, Maine, I have three major concerns: global warming, Citizens United and income inequality.
I do not have to leave my front porch to see the effects of warming. Tides are higher than they have been in the last 45 years and the shoreline is eroding in new places. Ticks and Lyme disease seem to have increased with warming. I wonder what will happen to the economy here if the ocean temperature warms some more and the lobsters migrate to Nova Scotia. They are already gone from New York and Massachusetts.
I can see how the rich are getting richer by looking at the size of the private yachts that are now so big that they will not fit in Blue Hill Harbor. Such boats have never been bigger. This summer there was a 150-foot sloop here. You have to be very rich to afford such a boat. This boat is probably registered in a tiny country like the Grand Cayman Islands to avoid taxes. Such an owner gets the view of Blue Hill Bay without paying any taxes while property owners in Blue Hill pay the big, local town property taxes. Thus tax breaks help the rich get richer.
The growing concentration of wealth is what makes Citizens United a major issue for me. I think all congresspersons, Democrats and Republicans alike, should end this flood of money because it gives the appearance of dishonesty. The important word here is appearance. The reality may be that all our congresspersons are wonderful people with a passionate interest in serving their constituents. But Citizens United makes cynics of us voters. We ask ourselves “Whose dark money is paying this guy and pulling their strings?” Is it the fossil fuel interests and Wall Street? What do they care about the lobster fishery in Stonington? Maine could gain by a carbon tax, but the fossil fuel industry will lose. Such a tax is the free market Republican economic solution to capture the harmful externalities of fuel use. If he were alive, I think my former teacher Milton Friedman would propose such an answer. The cynical voter thinks that our representatives will vote against our interests and free market theory because they are the puppets of political dark money from fewer and richer billionaires and corporations.
So what does the data show? The Economist publishes a supplement called “The World in 2016.”
They report international survey results. “Is your country governed by the will of the people?” In 2002, 44 percent of Americans said yes. In 2015, only 23 percent said yes (page 111).
“Do you feel that elections are free and fair?” 58 percent in the USA said yes in 2002, 45 percent said yes in 2015. (page 111)
The top 1 percent of the richest people in the world owned 44 percent of all global wealth in 2009. It is projected that this will become 54 percent in 2020 (page 91). Income inequality is greatest in the USA and Portugal and least in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Japan (page 46). Greater inequality is associated with more social and health problems among the poor (page 46). Countries with more equality have higher happiness scores, Denmark being the highest.
It is the combination of great wealth and the dark money that Citizens United could bring American democracy to an end. What it leads to is the perception that politicians are no longer here to serve the citizens. Now it appears that their strings are pulled by the 150 rich families and corporations that make the big campaign contributions.
When a politician sends out a card that says “I serve the people,” more people are going to say to themselves: “Everything he says to us voters is a lie until proven otherwise.” That doubt is there even when politicians have told the real truth. I believe that in reality most elected politicians are honest, humane, caring persons. It is too bad that our current money-driven political system produces a different perception.
Citizens United and lots of dark money contributions are damaging the reputation of all elected officials, Democrats and Republicans alike. Quoting The Economist of Sept. 19, 2015: “Republican primary voters….think their rulers are corrupt, inept and mendacious” and “Voters are angrier than ever before with Washington and the political class” (page 30). It is not just me who sees these problems and their interconnections.
I hope for a better world for my granddaughter.