The American Dream, once a reality, is slowly fading into a distant memory. Rising inequality is undermining core American values such as the principle that all people are created equal.
Since the 1970’s the middle class has seen its income and wealth dwindle. According to Joseph Stiglitz, over 90% of new income growth flows towards the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. Large-scale corporations have driven this wedge between the wealthy and the middle class.
While such companies are frequently profitable, revenue is not “trickling down” to the rest of the country. Instead, profits have helped line the pockets of business executives: The ratio of CEO to average worker pay has increased from 20:1 in 1965 to 300:1 in 2013.
How is it possible that the biggest corporations can accumulate wealth at the expense of ordinary Americans? Large corporations naturally have an incentive to not only maintain, but increase their wealth. As we have seen in past election cycles, they have done everything in their power to limit regulation and further lower their taxes.
Unfortunately, it is the rest of the country who ends up footing the bill. The disastrous Citizens United ruling has allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money through super PACs. As a result, corporate interests have taken over Washington.
This process of buying elections has created a political system in which elected officials are not beholden to the people, but to special interests. However, inequality does not have to be dictated by the actions of the top percent.
Candidates like Preston Picus are bravely standing up to the concentration of corporate money in American politics. In his book Send Our Reps To Rehab, Picus has condemned what he calls Washington’s money addiction. He realizes that America’s broken political system is the number one issue threatening our country.
What makes Picus different from other candidates is that he actually walks the walk. As part of his campaign for California's 12th District, he has pledged to only accept donations of $540 or below (1% of the average household take home).
He is not beholden to corporations, but to the people working longer hours and earning less. Closing the gap between the 0.01% and the rest of the country no longer constitutes a hopeless cause with a candidate like Picus. He brings the determination and independence needed to make the American Dream a reality again.