Sachs: America’s Political Class Struggle

Jeff Sachs says the “level of political corruption in America is staggering,” and that “powerful forces, many of which operate anonymously under US law, are working relentlessly to defend those at the top of the income distribution. … The Republican Party’s real game is to try to lock that income and wealth advantage into place.” 

However, while the “rich will try to push such an agenda,… ultimately they will fail”:

America’s Political Class Struggle. by Jeffrey D. Sachs, Commentary, Project Syndicate: …This month’s deal … to extend the tax cuts initiated a decade ago by President George W. Bush is being hailed as the start of a new bipartisan consensus. I believe, instead, that it is a false truce…

Since Ronald Reagan became President in 1981, America’s budget system has been geared to supporting the accumulation of vast wealth at the top of the income distribution. Amazingly, the … annual income of the richest 12,000 households is greater than that of the poorest 24 million households.

The Republican Party’s real game is to try to lock that income and wealth advantage into place. They fear, rightly, that sooner or later everyone else will begin demanding that the budget deficit be closed in part by raising taxes on the rich. … The Republicans are out to prevent that by any means. … Their leaders in Congress are already declaring that they will slash public spending in order to begin reducing the deficit. …

For the moment, most Americans seem to be going along with Republican arguments that it is better to close the budget deficit through spending cuts rather than tax increases. Yet when the actual budget proposals are made, there will be a growing backlash. …

The problem for the rich is that, other than military spending, there is no place to cut the budget other than in areas of core support for the poor and working class. Is America really going to cut health benefits and retirement income? Will it really balance the budget by slashing education spending…? Will America really let its public infrastructure continue to deteriorate? The rich will try to push such an agenda, but ultimately they will fail.

Obama swept to power on the promise of change. So far there has been none. His administration is filled with Wall Street bankers. His top officials leave to join the banks… He is always ready to serve the interests of the rich and powerful, with no line in the sand, no limit to “compromise.”

If this continues, a third party will emerge, committed to cleaning up American politics and restoring a measure of decency and fairness. This … will take time. The political system is deeply skewed against challenges to the two incumbent parties. Yet the time for change will come. The Republicans believe that they have the upper hand and can pervert the system further in favor of the rich. I believe that they will be proved wrong.

I agree that there is a growing sense that neither party represents the interests of the middle class, but I’m not sure that a third party — which could split Democrats and increase the power of the GOP — is the best answer to this. I’d prefer that we break the lock that big money has on the political process, and then rely upon the natural evolution of a Democratic Party that is not as beholden to big money interests. But the chances of reducing the influence of wealth on the political process are disappointingly dim, and even a third party would eventually be captured by the same forces.


Originally published at Economist’s View and reproduced here with permission.