Why Wealth Inequality is the Real Threat to Democracy

“Protect our democracy!” has become a rallying cry in the final weeks of this election season, as moderate, liberal, and progressive Democrats seek to coalesce behind Joe Biden for the sake of ousting the increasingly authoritarian Trump regime and letting our democratic institutions live to fight another day. And while the case can certainly be made that the current administration poses certain unique threats, it has also become apparent that the biggest threat to our democracy is the one that no one in establishment political and media circles wants to talk about: the growing income and wealth gap.

In the run-up to the first presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, Sam Pizzigati, co-editor of Inequality.org and associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, published an article in Common Dreams entitled “Let’s Start Debating What Dooms Democracy: Concentrated Wealth.” In the piece, he makes the following point:

“A deeply unequal society can never be a vibrant, healthy democracy. At its most basic, after all, the ideal of democracy rests on the notion that we all come out ahead when people can get together and freely discuss and debate the common problems they face. But in deeply unequal societies people don’t share common problems. They live in separate worlds. In one world, the world of the vast majority, people struggle day in and day out for economic security. In the other world, the universe of the awesomely affluent, deep pockets face an entirely different set of challenges — and their wealth ensures that their challenges get priority attention.”

As Election Day rapidly approaches, so does the confirmation process of Amy Coney Barrett, Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. In addition to her record of opposition to reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights, she has also has a reputation for ruling against the rights of workers. She’s hardly alone in this positioning; it seems the judges, politicians, and pundits who advocate against civil liberties are the same ones who consistently side with capital over labor, thereby enabling further concentration of wealth and resources under the control of the capitalist class.

Therefore, we must ask ourselves some fundamental questions: can democracy and capitalism coexist? Can we expect civil rights to be protected in such a hyper-competitive society as ours? Can the issue of economic inequality ever be addressed in a political system that allows for the outsized influence of unlimited campaign contributions by millionaires and billionaires?

Sam Pizzigati joined our podcast for a discussion of these topics and more. To hear our full conversation, click the player below (interview begins at 19:19):

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Photo: AP

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