The United States Presidential Election – The hope for political changes in favor of the 98%

I am following with great interest the recent developments of the campaigns for the 2016 United States presidential election. During the last years I have lost hope in political change, mainly due to the extreme and ever increasing concentration of power and wealth all around the world. We are living in a system where power and wealth are factually synonymous and concentrated in the hands of a small minority. A system which consists of deep and complex interdependencies among power structures such as politics, media, police, army and intelligence agencies. Even for an optimist it should be difficult to envision how this situation could change to the better. I personally thought that we already missed the point in time where such a change would have had been possible and that a certain kind of revolution in the near future seemed unavoidable. But then I heard about Bernie Sanders, one of the potential candidates for the democratic party for the 2016 United States presidential election. Suddenly, change seems possible again and I hope with all my heart that the voters in the United States make use of this historic opportunity. Let me be more clear:

If your annual income is less than $200,000 voting for Bernie Sanders is without alternative, independent of your ethnic background, your religious beliefs, your favorite party, your gender or your age.

This seems to be a strong statement, but it is exactly what I personally believe to be rational. Let me briefly explain why. As mentioned before, power and wealth are factually synonymous and concentrated in the hands of a small minority. This means that those in power have a strong self-interest to maintain, or even to increase, this predominant inequality. The campaigns of almost all candidates are for the most part funded by wealthy individuals and big corporations. This is very suspicious for a democracy where the power should be vested in the people and this fact alone should raise your awareness. There is an exception though: Bernie Sanders.

Currently, the majority of the population is getting systematically exploited by a small minority. Most of the hard-working people do not get their fair share of the cake, families and children are living in poverty, while in the US more than 50% of the income is going to the top 10% and almost all of the income increase in recent years is going to the top 1%. In addition, the current system fosters an irreversible destruction of the environment. Those are issues which are not acceptable and of extreme urgency. Let me give you a few facts to think about (together with their sources).

  • The wealthiest 85 people on the planet have more money than the poorest 3.5 billion people combined. [1]
  • The amount of money that was given out in bonuses on Wall Street last year is twice the amount all minimum-wage workers earned in the country combined. [1]
  • Since 1990, CEO compensation has increased by 300%. Corporate profits have doubled. The average worker’s salary has increased 4%. Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage has actually decreased. [1]
  • 110 million Americans live amongst such high levels of air pollution, the federal government considers it to be harmful to their health. [4]
  • The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. [3]
  • Each year, humankind adds six to eight billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and destroying forest, pumping up the concentration of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming – an effect that could raise temperatures by three to ten degrees by the year 2050. [5]
  • In 2013, 45.3 million people lived in poverty in the USA. [2]
  • The poorest half of the US owns 2.5% of the country’s wealth. The top 1% owns 35% of it. [1]
  • The top 1% of America owns 50% of investment assets (stocks, bonds, mutual funds). The poorest half of America owns just 0.5% of the investments. [1]
  • Up to 400,000 people are killed each year in the US due to preventable medical errors. [6]
  • $765 billion, or 30% of all US healthcare costs, each year is wasted. [6]
  • The US spent $80 billion on incarceration in 2010 alone. [3]
  • Three out of four young black men in Washington, D.C., can expect to serve time behind bars. This is despite the fact that people of all races use and sell drugs at the same rate. [3]
  • More than 96% of convictions in the federal system result from guilty pleas rather than decisions by juries. [3]
  • A large study has found that up to one half of all plants and animals species on dry land could face extinction by the year 2050 due to global warming. According to the World Resources Institute, 100 species die each day due to tropical deforestation. [4]
  • 92% of US physicians admitted to making some medical decisions based on avoiding lawsuits, as opposed to the best interest of their patients. [6]

This is definitely not a world in which I want to live and I am sure that most people would agree with me. We cannot expect candidates like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump to change things to the better for the majority of the population, the not super wealthy, or in other words: the 98% (sometimes also called the 99%). The campaigns of those candidates are funded by the establishment and those campaign contributions are not just donations, they are investments. Therefore, my hopes are with Bernie Sanders, and so I hope are your’s. If we want to live in peace with respect for the environment and its limits, if we want social securities, a working health care system and a law system based on justice, there is simply no alternative to Bernie Sanders.

I am not an American citizen myself. I was born in Germany and I am currently living in Switzerland. The problems described here are global problems and not only an American issue, although many of them are more extreme in the US than in other countries. I will probably take a closer look at some of these issues in future blog posts. For the moment I am just excited about the mere possibility of political change in the US, which might even spread to the rest of the world.

 

[1] http://www.alternet.org/economy/35-mind-blowing-facts-about-inequality
[2] http://www.povertyusa.org/the-state-of-poverty/poverty-facts/
[3] http://mic.com/articles/86519/19-actual-statistics-about-america-s-prison-system
[4] http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/20-gut-wrenching-statistics-about-the-destruction-of-the-planet-and-those-living-upon-it.html
[5] http://www.lightparty.com/Economic/EnvironmentalFacts.html
[6] http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertszczerba/2013/10/22/six-frightening-facts-you-need-to-know-about-healthcare/

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