It’s an issue that often comes up with my students. They believe the key problem in the country is the growing polarization between the two major political parties. Nothing gets done because politicians from opposing parties don’t seem to agree on anything.
But, as Robert Weissman [ht: ja] explains, “That story is not true.”
In fact, Americans overwhelmingly agree on a wide range of issues. They want policies to make the economy more fair and hold corporate executives accountable. They want stronger environmental and consumer protections. And they want to fix our political system so that it serves the interest of all, not just Big Money donors. These aren’t close issues for Americans; actually, what’s surprising is the degree of national consensus.
The problem isn’t that Americans don’t agree. The problem is that the corporate class doesn’t agree with this agenda, and that class dominates our politics.
The question in the table from a recent Democracy Corps/Roosevelt National questionnaire (pdf) is a good example. Fully 73 percent of those polled were (very or somewhat) convinced by the following story:
The rules that govern our economy no longer work for Americans. For 40 years, economic policies have rewarded large corporations and the wealthiest with the promise that their gains would “trickle down” to everyone else. It hasn’t worked. Instead we have faced sluggish growth and economic insecurity for more and more Americans with all the gains going to the top. It is time to rewrite the rules of our economy so small businesses and average American families have a chance too, not just the wealthy and well-connected. That starts with preventing corporations and CEOs from flooding the political process with money so they can manipulate the rules to their advantage. Then we can focus on policies that will grow our economy and level the playing field—rebalancing the tax code so those at the top pay their fair share like the rest of us, changing corporate governance so CEOs prioritize long term investments in workers and their companies over short-term gains and speculation, and ensuring banks do what they’re supposed to do and serve America’s families and provide loans to productive businesses. We can also raise wages for working people by guaranteeing equal pay for women and create more family-supporting jobs by investing in infrastructure and making college more affordable. We have the power to rewrite the rules of our economy.
The same is true on a wide variety of issues, from increases in the minimum wage to expanding Social Security.
American opinion is not divided. What is true is that the views of the average voter are trumped by a corporate elite that finances and writes the rules for political debate in the United States.
That’s the real gridlock that needs to be broken up.