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The real gulf between us

On this side of the field: retired folks on fixed incomes, the unemployed, the underemployed, middle class citizens — ever fewer in number, whose real incomes have barely improved during the last couple decades. Regard the single moms and grandparents raising families with little income to spare, aging workers forced out of jobs or passed over for advancement. Take a look at students leaving high school with diplomas that qualify them for little more than low-end labor, college students bearing degrees that bring them work at a coffee shop, at best. Consider the people living hand to mouth, justifiably afraid of what the next day, week or month will bring. Check out families broken by debt, led by grifters and by their own greed into financial traps from which they cannot escape.

On the other side of the field: the 10 percent of the population that controls more than 40 percent of the country’s wealth; corporations now regarded under law as “individuals” for purposes of campaign finance; elements in the media and, in particular those in the 24 hour news cycle-driven television and radio industries, that tilt the news to drive wedges between those on the other side of field, creating superficial animosities and fruitless antagonisms that keep people focused on unproductive issues, that keep them from uniting to fight for their common good and advancement. Regard the politicians who eat up the campaign money, who heel to the urges of lobbyists, who use public money to prop up ravenous villains and the greedy interests at the root of the economy’s potential undoing, at the source of the despair felt by many in this failing republic. Those same politicians enjoy the blessing of comprehensive health care and a future following “service” kissed with fortune provided by their benefactors and lush pensions compliments of their constituents.

Make no mistake, there is a gulf between these two sides of the field. And that gulf grows wider each day.

And the chance “ordinary” people can close the gap and do anything to loosen the grip of wealth on politics is remote. It is made more remote by the gullibility of those most in need. Partisanship is encouraged and financed by interest that stand to gain even more by the failure of the “unwealthy” to join together and take the few steps left to restore a healthy process to the nation.

Who benefits when people are divided, pitted against one another in fruitless partisan battles? Who stands to benefit by creating divisions, skewing information, drumming up issues that, in effect, take proponents nowhere? By confusing people?

Who benefits when ordinary people are convinced the deficit is overwhelming — the source of their, and their children’s undoing — yet are simultaneously told they (read: the wealthiest of citizens in particular) should not pay additional taxes? Who benefits when people are convinced spending must be reined in, yet are led to believe Social Security, Medicare, entitlement and government pension plans should be off limits, not to mention military spending? Who loses when the fiscal truth of less spending/more taxes is obscured and the resulting confusion leads to another round of partisan ping pong in the legislatures, none of it profitable for anyone but those who already hold the wheel?

How long will it be before people recognize that, as long as we elect our leaders, wealth will play a disproportionate role in our governance and we must work diligently to minimize the damage by demanding a Constitutional Amendment undoing the recent Supreme Court ruling concerning corporate status. We must similarly demand meaningful campaign finance reform, and term limits. And, most important, we need to stop heeding the purveyors of division, stop falling for Big Money-financed “grass roots” movements, cease expending our energies on battles defined for us by corporate interests and move in unison to reinsert the average voter in government as much as is possible.

Karl Isberg