After 100 days of Trump, middle America has suffered — bigly
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In America today, spending money on elections is considered free speech. 

Since the Buckley v. Valeo decision three decades ago, and with every federal election since then, our nation has slid closer to a plutocracy, a government for the wealthy, by the wealthy. And in six separate Supreme Court rulings, we’ve seen limits on political spending evaporate, each case further diluting the voice and will of the people.

As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once said, “Money, like water, will always find an outlet.” Our political system is the spigot. With our democracy increasingly hijacked by big individual and corporate donors, our elections have become the mechanism in which the economically powerful convert their money into political power.

Neither party has been immune from the toxic pull of big money because this is now the system. To win a congressional seat or the presidency means pitching a platform that can turn on the spigot of cash from the rich and powerful seeking to influence the policy decisions and governance of each candidate they help turn into an elected official.

And in the first 100 days of our 45th president of the United States, the assumption that our country is governed by a set of democratic principles in which our highest elected officials serve our public interest has been demonstrably and epically shattered.

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Let’s start with the composition of Trump’s Cabinet, a literal millionaires and billionaires club culled from corporate America. There’s Goldman Sachs at the table, represented by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn; Exxon Mobil got a seat in the form of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; General Dynamics got a front-row position with Secretary of Defense James Mattis; and Wells Fargo squeaked in with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

 

Then there is the president himself, who is still deeply entangled in his own business dealings as he wines and dines heads of states at his very own for-profit resort in Mar-a-Lago. And don’t forget his son and daughter, both with active and overlapping financial interests, now serving as his advisers in the White House.

In a comprehensive report published by Public Citizen, the organization tracks the daily policy decisions and statements of the Trump administration’s first months. The highlights — or lowlights, as the case may be — include: unraveling Dodd-Frank rules designed to protect the American people from a repeat of the Great Recession; repealing a host of EPA regulations designed to fight climate change and protect our air and water; and repealing Internet privacy protections that Big Telecom clamored for. Trump has also repealed rules designed to protect worker safety and rescinded a rule that would have given 4 million workers access to overtime pay.

So far middle- and working-class Americans have lost — big-time.

In fact, it’s hard to find a day when the Trump administration wasn’t changing policy at the behest of corporate interests and billionaire big donors.

And what makes this plutocratic administration so mind-bendingly appalling is that it was built around a great political con, in what is likely to be viewed by history as the nation’s greatest political heist. Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems win from coast to coast Falwell after Gillespie loss: 'DC should annex' Northern Virginia Dems see gains in Virginia's House of Delegates MORE campaigned against the very kind of leadership he has embodied since taking the oath of office. 

He campaigned to serve the interests of “the forgotten men and women” of this country, then swiftly forgot them himself and followed the lead of big business, proposing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, deregulation that enriches industries and harms ordinary people and government spending cuts to a whole host of agencies and programs that actually serve the very people he claimed were forgotten by previous administrations.

He was going to act differently than the rest of the politicians — no way was he going to do the bidding of the wealthy or corporate elites. No sir, he was too rich to be bought!

Donald Trump is the product of a deeply unhealthy political system, created by decades of conservative jurisprudence by the Supreme Court that has slowly and steadily morphed our democracy into a plutocracy. The strength of a citizen’s voice was never supposed to be based on the size of their wallet, yet here we are. The forgotten men and women — the underpaid, over-worked, exhausted and struggling working- and middle-class people of all races — get abandoned once again.

But this time they are fighting back. From the Women’s March to the People’s Climate March that will occur today, on Trump’s 100th Day, to the thousands of newly engaged citizens inspired to run for office, the people of this country are demanding democracy. For all our sakes, let’s hope we get it.

 

Tamara Draut is vice president of policy and research at Demos and author of “Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America.”


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.