The United States Is Not a Democracy.
Note: this is a speech I gave on 7/18 for the Confront Corruption rally in San Jose.
I gotta tell you, I can’t tell if the system is broken, or if it’s working perfectly.
Most days it seems like it’s broken. The 2008 economic “recovery” made the rich richer and the poor poorer. Individuals in the U.S. pay astronomical amounts for basic health care. The United States represents only 4.4% of the world’s population, and yet we incarcerate 22% of the world’s prisoners. There is nowhere — nowhere — in the US in which someone working a minimum-wage job, 40 hours a week, can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment.
Black Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 are between 40% and 45% more likely to die before age 50 than their white counterparts, and yet try getting a white person to admit that racism is still a lethal factor in America. Sometimes they’re shot by the cops, who so far have faced minimal consequences despite murdering unarmed citizens on video. Sometimes black folks go to the doctor, and the doctor dismisses their pain or their symptoms until it’s too late, leading to a much higher infant mortality rate for black babies. Sometimes living in a food desert gives them heart disease or diabetes, and as I mentioned before, healthcare is well-nigh unaffordable for everyone but the rich so they die young.
There is nowhere — nowhere — in the US in which someone working a minimum-wage job, 40 hours a week, can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment.
But then again, maybe the system is working perfectly.
In 2015 the bottom 90% of Americans made an average income of $34,307; the top .01% made $6,747,439. It’s been a good couple of years for the top .01%.
The health insurance industry is thriving, with intentionally opaque practices which are not regulated, designed to avoid paying out at all costs. It’s a good time to be in insurance.
The prison-industrial complex is thriving too, with militarized police arresting folks, mostly people of color, for “drugs,” because more arrests mean more federal funding. The more people they incarcerate, the more money they make, and the judicial process is a joke for anyone who isn’t rich enough to hire the best lawyer they can find. So it’s a good time to be in law enforcement.
And it’s a great time to be in politics. Corporations are people now and it’s very, very hard to figure out who gives how much to whom, rendering the concept of the people electing officials laughable. One figure: according to the NRA’s website, Paul Ryan got almost $10,000 from the NRA last year. That’s so funny, because that’s the amount an average American family of three has to pay out of pocket for medical bills each year, compared to second-place country, Canada, at $1800. But no, that ten grand goes to making sure the NRA gets to sell guns, and Americans can’t afford checkups.
When 20% of Americans can’t afford health care and yet for some reason Washington can’t seem to act, to get us access to a basic necessity we all have because we all have bodies… that’s not a democracy.
When officials whose job it is to regulate certain industries have financial interests in deregulating them, like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos holding stock in for-profit colleges… that’s not a democracy.
When more children die from gun violence between 2018 and 2012 than soldiers have been killed in the “war on terror” in the last seventeen years, when children have to stand up and make speeches and beg our elected officials to do something and somehow we still, STILL do not have meaningful gun law reform…. that’s not a democracy.
When children are torn from their parents at the border in the most disgusting human rights violation in decades and the administration responds with, “Yeah we actually don’t even know where 20% of these kids’ parents are,” and the shame of what we are allowing doesn’t make our politicians stop it…. that’s not a democracy.
When the elections have been tampered with by powers overseas, and our own President denies what American intelligence agencies have told him and he is still in office…. that’s not a democracy.
When the man in the Oval Office is not the person the citizens elected… that is not a democracy.
We can call it crony capitalism. We can call it an oligarchy. But whatever we call it the fact is that this country is no longer run by its citizens. This is not a matter of political party; this is a matter of whether or not our system of government is actually responsive to the will of the people and it. Is. Not.
This country is no longer run by its citizens. This is not a matter of political party; this is a matter of whether or not our system of government is actually responsive to the will of the people, and it. Is. Not.
We need sweeping, meaningful reform now. Not lip service, not thoughts and prayers. I mean reform like the abolition of the electoral college. I mean reform like getting money out of politics, because the people whose jobs it is to protect us have no incentive to do so. I’m talking another Presidential election, now, because not only did the American people not elect this man, but it’s been proven that the election itself was rigged in the worst way.
We do not deserve the honor of calling ourselves a democracy as we stand today. But we do deserve better, and we are willing to work to get it.