As the gap between the richest Americans and everybody else continues to expand at an alarming rate, it's curious how a state like Utah, with a minority of the super wealthy, continues to overwhelmingly vote Republican, though the evidence leaves little doubt that Republicans, especially on the national level, favor maintaining and even inflating the spread at the expense of those of lesser means.
In August, Standard & Poor's reported that the wealth gap is slowing U.S. economic growth. The report noted that income for top earners has far outpaced earnings of everybody else. That disparity translates into less spending for the lower economic classes, while the rich save more of their wealth. S&P estimates that the result will be an economy that grows 2.5 percent annually over the next 10 years, compared with the 2.8 percent forecast just five years ago.
In the March/April 2011 edition of Mother Jones, Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot published an article titled "It's the Inequality, Stupid" that included a series of charts disclosing just how wide the gap is becoming. Between 1979 and 2005, the wealthiest Americans—the top 5 percent—gained $632,048 per household in annual income, while the next 95 percent lost $36,636. Productivity in America has surged since 1979, but average overall wages for 99 percent of us have increased by only 80 percent, while the top 1 percent has realized a gain of more than 340 percent.
You get the point. The rich are getting richer, and the rest of us are pretty much treading water.
America appears to be heading in the direction of a plutocracy, where the super rich call the shots. Examples of how that scenario plays out can be found in numerous countries around the world where a small percentage of the population hold all the cards and the vast majority of the rest end up living in abject poverty.
I can understand why the wealthy in Utah would vote Republican. That makes perfect sense. But what about everybody else whose comparative incomes are losing ground every year? Why would intelligent Utah voters of moderate means continue to support a party that favors the rich at their expense? Republicans work diligently to protect their wealthy benefactors over their less-affluent constituents. What specifically have they accomplished to improve your financial wellbeing?
The Democrats have proposed increasing the minimum wage and creating meaningful jobs for the middle class by funding desperately needed infrastructure projects like highways, bridges and water-treatment plants. This funding could be offset by eliminating bogus tax loopholes for those who don't need them but got them anyway because they can essentially bribe their Republican representatives with tempting campaign contributions.
The crazy thing is that both the rich and the rest of us benefit from more and better-paying jobs for middle-class Americans. That would also increase the demand for goods and services, which means more profit for the rich, who would realize increased sales. All economic groups would end up paying more taxes to help reduce the federal deficit. Federal aid to the needy would decrease. It's a win-win situation.
What do Republicans have to offer in comparison? Very little. Their primary economic goal is to protect their rich donors. Increase taxes on the rich? You've got to be kidding! Don't you know that the top earners are the job creators, and their wealth trickles down to benefit those of lesser means? Surely you can't deny the fact that the less fortunate are lazy and incompetent takers who deserve their lower station in life.
The trickle-down theory is a farce. The excessive earnings of the rich aren't about to result in hiring more employees or expanding their business interests. Instead, after they've purchased about all they can stand, they put the rest in savings in overseas banks, and nobody else benefits from that extra wealth.
Ask yourself which party it was that provided affordable health care for the masses. Who was it that saved moderate-income families from going bankrupt because of health concerns? Then ask which party has fought Obamacare tooth and nail.
There's a lot more, but it all points in the same direction. For whatever reason, Republicans have decided to back the excessively well-to-do at the expense of those lower down the economic ladder. The Democrats, on the other hand, appear more amenable to watching out for the welfare of those who are rapidly losing their fair share of the American pie.
Unless you're one of the really rich ones, why would you continue to choose Republicans to represent you in Washington? The next big choice we have is this November, when we vote on candidates to represent us in the U.S. Congress. We can choose Democratic for all four districts. Think hard on whether it's really in your best interest to keep voting Republican when that party's primary goal is to favor the demands of billionaires.
Ray Hult is a committed progressive Democrat and the author of several books on the topic of agnosticism. He worked for the FBI for 27 years as a special agent stationed in California, Texas and Utah.