In his fifth State of the Union Address, President Obama will profess concern about growing “income inequality” in America. Mr. Obama is right to be concerned. Inequality has grown during his presidency, and the most shocking proof is in the growth of inequality between the ruling elites in Washington DC and the American people they were elected to represent.
This year, for the first time in American history, “most members of Congress are millionaires,” reported the Washington Post – with 268 of 534 members of Congress joining the millionaires’ club. The Senate has grown even wealthier, nearly three times wealthier than Congress, with a median net worth of $2,794,024 according to an in-depth study by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Meanwhile, “the average American family’s net worth dropped almost 40 percent between 2007 and 2010” according to a triennial study by the Federal Reserve, and this drop “wiped away 18 years of savings and investment by families.”
Inequality has certainly grown during the Obama administration; between “The One Percenters in Congress,” as CNN calls them, and the ninety-nine percenters (the American people) who elected them. Perhaps that is why President Obama – the “One Percenter in Chief” who widened the income gap between himself and the American people by a whopping 462 percent during his presidency – is now trying to sell the illusion that he aims to close the inequality gap, when he has in fact made it bigger and worse.
But money is not the only measure of inequality in America. Inequality of power – between the governed and those who govern us, and even between different branches of government – has grown out of control in recent years. More than the NSA spying on American citizens, the president is now flaunting his scheme to bypass our duly elected representatives in Congress and push through a power-grabbing agenda using his “pen” and his “phone.”
This imperial disregard for the will of the American people and our elected representatives is a tell-tale symptom of the biggest inequality gap in America: between the way the ruling elites in Washington DC treat themselves and the way they treat American families.
Take Obamacare. While American families struggle to cope with the costs and consequences of Obamacare, Washington DC elites have exempted themselves and their rich and powerful friends from its burdensome mandates – with unions, lobbyist-connected companies, and even Congress and their staffers giving themselves special dispensations.
What about the costs of Obamacare? American families are dismayed at how their health care premiums have skyrocketed, but they have little choice but to pay these crippling premium hikes or risk their health by going without coverage. When the ruling elites in Washington DC feared the financial pinch of Obamacare, they didn’t buckle down and pay their increased premium hikes like the rest of us. They gave themselves a subsidy, which means “a member Congress earning $174,000 from the taxpayers can get a federal subsidy of as much as $948.18 per month (or $11,378.16 per year) to buy their Obamacare plan.”
Congress even has a special Obamacare hotline for staffers and members, so they don’t have to wait on hold for health care like the rest of America.
The IRS also jumped into the inequality game during the Obama administration. When Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner failed to pay his taxes, he got a free pass from Washington DC insiders, but when tea partiers across America dared to exercise their Constitutional right to free speech, they were targeted for persecution by the IRS.
Student loans: government employees can get their student loans forgiven under the “Public Service Loan Forgiveness” program, while “nearly 40 million Americans [who] are burdened with $1.2 trillion in student loan debt” (but don’t have government connections) are left to fend for themselves.
Housing: while American homeowners watch in dismay as their property values sink “underwater,” Washington DC enjoys some of the highest and fastest-growing property values in the country.
And while millions of American families, who cannot afford a vacation, struggled to stay warm during the coldest temperatures in years, the president went on a lavish 17-day Hawaiian vacation and stuck American taxpayers with the $4 million dollar bill.
The inequality gap in America has grown bigger under President Obama’s watch – between the ruling elites in Washington DC, and the American people they swore oaths to serve.
America’s Declaration of Independence stated the “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal.” But it did not promise that we would all live our entire lives equally, or achieve equal outcomes. Alexis de Tocqueville correctly called American equality the “equality of conditions,” writing that, because our abilities are all different, “man cannot prevent their unequal distribution.”
There is a restraining order on government power, otherwise known as the Constitution. This document placed power in the hands of a sovereign American people and our duly-elected representatives. The reason for the vast and growing inequality of money and power between a cadre of power elites in Washington DC with their “phones” and their “pens,” and we the people whom they swore oaths to represent, is because politicians in Washington DC have failed to honor their oaths to uphold the Constitution.
We in the tea party movement have a better, more optimistic view of America and of the American people. We trust the American people with the power the Constitution gave them. We believe in freedom: healthcare freedom, economic freedom, the freedom for Americans to follow their dreams. And if some Americans want to exercise their Constitutional right to seek office and become citizen legislators and part of the government, taking part in the decisions that are made — we support them, as long as they support the Constitution that says in clear language that they serve us, not the other way around.
Jenny Beth Martin is co-founder and President of the Tea Party Patriots that includes more than 3500 affiliated groups around the country.