In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Americans agree, by a 54-41 landslide, that “the economic and political systems in the country are stacked against people like me.” . . . Some 71% of GOP primary voters agreed when asked whether they felt “out of place” in their own country.Wilkinson says that while white men feel with some justification that they have lost power they once had, neither women nor minorities feels much empowered as a result.
I think this sense of powerlessness is driving a lot of the dissatisfaction with America. As to where it comes from, Robert Reich has some ideas:
A security guard recently told me he didn’t know how much he’d be earning from week to week because his firm kept changing his schedule and his pay. “They just don’t care,” he said.As to why people don't turn to the government to help them in the struggle with corporations:
A traveler I met in the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport last week said she’d been there eight hours but the airline responsible for her trip wouldn’t help her find another flight leaving that evening. “They don’t give a hoot,” she said.
Someone I met in North Carolina a few weeks ago told me he had stopped voting because elected officials don’t respond to what average people like him think or want. “They don’t listen,” he said.
What connects these dots? As I travel around America, I’m struck by how utterly powerless most people feel. . . .
Consumers, meanwhile, are feeling mistreated and taken for granted because they, too, have less choice. US airlines, for example, have consolidated into a handful of giant carriers that divide up routes and collude on fares. In 2005 the US had nine major airlines. Now we have just four.
It’s much the same across the economy. Eighty percent of Americans are served by just one Internet Service Provider – usually Comcast, AT&T or Time-Warner. Giant health insurers are larger; the giant hospital chains, far bigger; the most powerful digital platforms (Amazon, Facebook, Google), gigantic.
All this means less consumer choice, which translates into less power.
Finally, as voters we feel no one is listening because politicians, too, face less and less competition. Over 85 percent of congressional districts are considered “safe” for their incumbents in the upcoming 2016 election; only 3 percent are toss-ups.I have never understood why we ever let companies that compete against other merge, unless one of them is on the verge of bankruptcy. Isn't competition the essence of capitalism?
In presidential elections, only a handful of states are now considered “battlegrounds” that could go either Democratic or Republican.
So, naturally, that’s where the candidates campaign. Voters in most states won’t see much of them. These voters’ votes are literally taken for granted.
Reich's points about how few elections are competitive suggests two more things we might do to help the national mood: put an end to gerrymandering of electoral districts, and abolish the Electoral College.