Wealth and power in America is nothing new. The United States was formed by the most powerful and influenceable. But the unchecked power over the last 225 years has led to an overwhelming imbalance of wealth in the U.S. today. Last week Thomas DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller, released the annual securities compensation report illustrating the real damage done from such an unchecked balance of power. The worst financial crisis in the world since the great depression drove over 8 trillion dollars out of the economy and caused a net loss of nearly 9 million jobs. A bankrupt market policy of irresponsible behavior lead to the collapse that millions have yet to recover from.
DiNapoli’s report illustrates a disparaging separation between Main Street and Wall Street. In 2013 the bonus pay of employees in the financial industry was 65 percent more than the total compensation of all wages for every full-time minimum wage earners in the entire United States. That number does not include wages paid, but simply bonuses paid to the average financial sector employees. To grasp that number, 165,200 Wall Street workers in New York City alone received $10 billion dollars more in just bonuses than was paid in gross salary to 1,085,000 full-time workers nationwide. These numbers do not include wealthy business owners, often referred to as job creators, and the imbalance between the one percent and the rest of the US is even wider. The major issue is not the wealthy but what the wealthy are doing with the money.
Everyone has heard of the Koch brothers and their billions controlling elections nationwide, but few have heard about the unknown rich that are using their money as influence to change laws at every level. Michael Eisenga, wealthy GOP donor and Wisconsin business owner, used his influence created from a large campaign donation to both Rep. Joel Kleefisch and his wife Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, to change laws capping how much wealthy men must pay in child support. Eisenga had been denied by several courts to lower his financial responsibility in concern to his child support. So when he did not get what he wanted out of the family court system he took his influence to where he knew it would pay off, the Wisconsin State Legislature. Rep.Kleefisch was not only influenced enough to consider the idea, but when presented with the bill drafted by Eisenga’s lawyer, he actually took the bill to the floor of the Wisconsin State House. In Massachusetts Sen. Richard J. Ross (R-Wrentham) proposed a bill that would require women to get a judge’s approval before dating or having sex while going through a divorce. Ross’ bill was a direct result of a large campaign donor’s influence to change legislation for his own personal wishes, so he could keep his soon-to-be ex-wife from dating. The unchecked imbalance of wealth go hand in hand with the power of influence all over the US.
We only hear reports of the well known power brokers in politics, but it is the unknown influences that cause the greater difficulties in our daily personal lives. Elections have consequences and so does blind ignorance of our own lack of action. The U.S. Supreme Court has paved the way for large corporations to have as much power in elections as an individual but when a corporation has billions of dollars to spare the influence of the common citizen becomes null and void. We are electing officials who create laws to make sure their friends no longer have to skirt the law, they get to create the law. The wealthier the donor the more likely his/her phone call will be answered. Electing bankers, lawyers, and other already wealthy high powered officials will continue the unchecked imbalance of power in the U.S. and around the world.
Opinion By Kimberly Beller