My old friend did it again. He’s a good bellwether for far-right conservative thinking, because he is a born-again fundamentalist Christian, far-right libertarian who thinks abortion is murder and that women should be ruled by men because, well, women are women, and the Bible supports what he thinks. He reads far-right writers, and he watches and listens to far-right media. If he thinks something, you can easily guess where he is getting his ideas.
Anyway, he recently wrote in an e-mail: “You’ve probably heard Churchill’s comment on democracy – ‘It’s the worse form of government except for all the others.’ This can be said about money and elections also – ‘The rich are the worse ones to choose our leaders except for all others.’ Society can be looked at as composed of various groups – rich, poor, artists, criminals, theologians, those living on welfare, students, men, and woman – a vast number of different groups. To become rich takes drive, perseverance, intelligence, ability to comprehend reality, etc., and I for one would rather have the rich chose my leaders than another group’s choice.”
After reading that last quote in bold print, I think my old friend is planning to vote for Trump. Hail Julius Caesar or should I say Heil Hitler?
My old friend also wrote: “As far as labor unions donating to a candidate there is nothing wrong with that except when that union is a government union. It’s a vicious circle with the public as the victim. Government unions donate the most money to politicians because their bought politician will sit across the bargaining table when deciding pay and benefits for that union.”
A government union? Really? I didn’t know we had government unions. Was he talking about labor unions for government employees? He hasn’t replied to my e-mail response yet, so I don’t know.
I Googled “government union” and found this: “The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union representing 670,000 federal and D.C. government workers nationwide and overseas (less than one half of one percent of all workers in the U.S.). Workers in virtually all functions of government at every federal agency depend upon AFGE for legal representation, legislative advocacy, technical expertise and informational services.”
In addition, the U.S. Census reports that there are about 90,000 state and local governments. What about the people who work for them? Do they count? In March 2013, federal, state and local governments employed 21.9 million people, but only 35.7% belonged to public-sector labor unions, or 7.8 million workers.
My old friend alleged that “government unions” victimized the public. What about the 21.9 million Americans who work in the public sector—are they victimized too by those evil government unions? If he meant union workers earn more than non-union workers, he’s right. According to the AFL-CIO on average, union workers’ wages are 27 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts. Unionized workers are 60 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions. More than 79 percent of union workers have jobs that provide health insurance benefits, but less than half of nonunion workers do.
Wow, that should make all workers, who aren’t rich, want to belong to a labor union. What’s wrong with all those workers who don’t want to belong to a labor union? Are they stupid like my old friend thinks?
What about my old friend’s claim that “government unions” (the proper term is public sector unions) have more money to donate to the elections of representatives who will do what’s best for the millions of workers the unions represent?
Let’s find out. The National Education Association (NEA) funding comes from dues paid by its members ($295 million in dues from a $341 million total budget in 2005). Typically, local chapters negotiate a contract with automatic deduction of dues from members’ paychecks. Part of the dues remain with the local affiliate (the district association), a portion goes to the state association, and a portion is given to the national association. The NEA returned 39 percent of dues money back to state affiliates in 2012-2013, and federal law prohibits unions from using dues money or other assets to contribute to or otherwise assist federal candidates or political parties, in accordance with their tax-exempt status.
But billionaires like Bill Gates (worth $79.2 billion), the Walton family ($144.7 billion), or the Koch brothers ($100 billion) do not have laws that stop them from contributing money or otherwise assisting federal candidates or political parties.
Did you know that in the 18th century the U.S. Constitution only allowed white men (but not Jews) who owned property to vote—about 10% of the total population?
Who votes today?
- Young people are much less likely to vote than older ones. From 1972 to 2012, citizens 18-29 years old turned out at a rate 15 to 20 points lower than citizens 30 year and older.
- Voter turnout also varies by race and ethnicity. In 2012, turnout rates among eligible white and black voters was 64.1% and 66.2%, respectively, while it was only 48.0% and 47.3% among Latino and Asian American voters respectively. The 2012 election was the first presidential election in which black turnout exceeded white turnout.
- Women’s voter turnout has surpassed men’s in every presidential election since 1980. In the 2012 election, 7.8 more women than men voted. Interestingly though, older women are actually less like to vote than older men. In 2008, 72.2% of men 75 years and older voted, compared to only 64.9% of women that age.
- Wealthy Americans vote at much higher rates than those of lower socio-economic status. During the 2008 presidential election, only 41% of eligible voters making less than $15,000 a year voted compared to 78% of those making $150,000 a year or more. Studies have shown that this difference in turnout affects public policy: politicians are more likely to respond to the desires of their wealthy constituents than of their poorer constituents, in part because more of their wealthy constituents vote.
- According to the Census Bureau, 46.2 million people—about 15 percent of the U.S. population—currently lives below the poverty line (and 16 million of those who live in poverty are children who can’t vote). Crunch the numbers and about 12 million, who are poor, vote. In 2012, more than 130.2 million Americans voted, and the poor, my old friend thinks shouldn’t vote, because they aren’t as intelligent as the rich, represent less than 10% of the total that voted. But my old friend also thinks the rest of us ignorant fools, who aren’t poor or rich, should not be allowed to vote too.
Instead, my far right, conservative friend wants the 536 billionaires in the United States to rule the rest of us, but maybe he includes the 9.63 million households that are worth $1 million or more.
What about the rest of us ignorant losers who aren’t as intelligent as the rich—you know, the other 242 million adult Americans that aren’t members of the 2.9% who are millionaires and billionaires?
It’s obvious that my old friend supports an oligarchy and not the republic the U.S. Founding fathers gave us. Do you know the difference between an oligarchy, a republic and a democracy? I hope so, because our future depends on it (please watch the video included with this post). When you vote, if you vote, don’t vote for any candidate supported by millionaires and billionaires. Vote for the candidates that most labor unions endorse, because labor unions represent the interests of almost 150 million American workers even if they don’t belong to a labor union. The wealthy—on the other hand—support their own interests, the interests of the 2.9%.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal.
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