By Joe Mayhew, Commentary
At the end of the day, we all want one thing: economic justice. However, the income gap in this country is widening, and the working class's honest labor is increasingly devalued. This has not happened by accident or misadventure; rather, it's the work of new corporate aristocrats and the ultra wealthy to tilt the scales in their favor.
This injustice was worsened by the disastrous 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which allows the wealthy elite to pour unchecked amounts of money into our political system. Last month, New York became the 17th state to urge Congress to amend our constitution to overturn this ruling. This is good start, but it's not enough. New York state legislators need to build on this momentum and pass meaningful legislation today.
Passing small donor matching funds and closing the limited liability company (LLC) loophole are two great places to start. Studies have shown that small donor matching funds increase diversity in political candidates by appeasing candidates' rightful fears that they lack the needed funds to run a successful campaign and diversify both the racial and economic backgrounds of those who contribute to campaigns.
Closing the LLC loophole goes hand-in-hand with overturning the Citizens United decision by preventing individuals from circumventing New York campaign contribution limits by creating and giving through multiple LLCs, which are each considered separate "people."
Unchecked political spending disadvantages working families and props up those career politicians who only pander to the wealthy. When money is speech and corporations are people, middle-class families fail.
The fact is corporate-backed politicians make sure never to bite the hand that feeds them. No clearer example can be found than in Wisconsin, with former Republican presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker. Walker has a history of passing anti-labor legislation, and in 2012 the Labor Party spearheaded a recall effort to remove him from office. However, in that election, outside groups spent more than $58 million to keep Walker and his regressive labor policies in power. Once again, backed by corporate cash, Walker was re-elected in 2014.
Walker is just one of many politicians benefiting from unlimited corporate spending. Corporate-backed politicians nationwide are leading pushes to roll back collective bargaining rights and block workers' attempts to win fair wages and working conditions.
To make matters worse, the U.S. Congress has approved trade deal after trade deal that has outsourced millions of American jobs to cut costs and increase corporate profits. Much of those profits are stored off-shore, to avoid taxes and investments in American infrastructure, ensuring U.S. workers miss out on even more jobs and opportunities.
It's a race to the bottom, and countries with the lowest standards for labor protections are primed for corporate exploitation. It's a lose-lose for workers around the globe, and something must be done, because, today, common sense baseline standards of living are the exception, not the rule. They must be fought for in the workplace and at the ballot box.
Not all politicians are beneficiaries of big money in politics. Honest elected officials have more responsibility than ever before. Yes, it's great that New York has added its name to the list of states fed up with money's unchecked political influence, but this long-term push does not erase the real struggles of working class people that already exist.
Every-day workers are the ones who make our great country work. It's past time our elected worked for them, as well.