The U.S. commonwealth was woven from sacrifices, hopes and fates shared by immigrants. Sparks in Lexington, Boston and Philadelphia gave birth to our republic built on notions of citizen rights and the balance offered by the Constitution. These shared hopes fueled citizens’ teamwork. Unfortunately, the twice impeached Republican President Trump proceeded to tell 26,000 lies as recorded by the Washington Post. We cannot build teamwork and democracy with lies. Without shared truth, there is only deception.
The success of this hopeful commonwealth generated a dynamic that represented diverse citizens whose teamwork and innovation generated the most powerful economy on the planet. This economy built a vibrant agricultural system of production and trade that sparked the industrial revolution and urbanization powered with fossil fuels. The combined income, savings, investment and innovation accelerated capital formation. Unfortunately, accumulated capital has grown to unprecedented levels of inequality. Today 1% of the wealthiest households hold more capital than the entire middle class. The top 1% of U.S. households managed the increase their worth during the pandemic by $7 trillion while middle class households’ proportion dropped.
Our commonwealth has been victimized by this dangerous disproportion. Hope in the U.S. is shrinking as the Gini Index, a measure of capital concentration, has grown to its highest level. This inequality of wealth has generated more lies from Republican leaders who are willing to distort and deflect public policy, rather than describing the truth. This growth of elite incomes has fueled a variety of “conservative” political groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that works privately with the Republican leaders to share “free” copies of legislation that helps the GOP disable democracy. The latest example of this fraudulent legislation has been Voter Suppression laws, passed in Southern and Western states. It appears that the GOP wants to represent more wealthy white guys. They claim to strengthen American democracy with fewer voters.
The wealthy have spent billions to diminish the protection of citizens’ rights and representation. This dark money as described by Jane Mayer has enabled the very wealthy to buy more technology tools and influence over public media. Cambridge Analytica was bought by right-winged friends of Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon. We learned from Karen Haugen, a member of Facebook’s Civic Misinformation Team, that Facebook shares hate and conspiracy stories to increase profits. This has benefited GOP fringe groups that rally voters with ”stop the steal” messaging. The GOP has applied Tom Hofeller’s gerrymandering software to reduce the influence of diverse voters in state elections. This software used by state Republican leaders has corrupted our democracy by reducing the election effectiveness of non-Republicans. This is how concentrated capital at the top of the U.S. economy has generated a new sport for the wealthy by disabling democracy, equitable voting and representation.
The final factor in this tragic equation was the political insurrection and attack on our national election results Jan. 6, led by the twice-impeached GOP leader. When more than 1,000 rebels attacked Congress as they finalized the Biden victory by 7 million votes, the entire nation saw the fruit of Trump’s lies. There were 147 Republican officials who did not accept the Biden triumph. These people do not serve our democracy. Nor do those who use their wealth to derail democracy. This acceptance of lying leaders can be seen in Minnesota’s GOP as we witnessed similar distortions by Carnahan, Lazzaro and Medina of Minnesota’s GOP leadership. As we face the global crisis of climate warming, our commonwealth is in peril. We need to confront these lies and liars as there is no Planet B.
Mittlefehldt taught Civics and Economics and has two relatives who fought in the American Revolution.