Inequality missing from Chip Roy’s answers about democracy

By Derrick Crowe
August 30, 2018

Republican Chip Roy should be congratulated for asking exactly the right question in politics during the Aug. 29 Congressional District 21 Debate at the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. Speaking about the balance of power in our democracy, he asked,”Who gets to decide?” Roy’s question is profound. It’s the question that animates politics. The problem is that his cartoonish answer ignores the real problems of inequality and democracy.

Roy asked, and I’m paraphrasing, “Who gets to decide? Is it Nancy Pelosi and some bureaucrat? Or will we get Washington out of the way and let us make these decisions?”

If the principal behind Roy’s remarks is that a tiny group of elites and power-holders shouldn’t make decisions for a great mass of people, and that people deserve a say in the choices that affect their lives, that’s a perfect starting point for humane politics. But Roy’s definition of those power-holdersDemocratic leaders a thousand miles away! Beltway paper pushers!—is incredibly blinkered.

Power-holders and elitists don’t just reside in Washington. Some of them had sponsorship logos on the program for yesterday’s debate. Some of them were in the room.

The Deciders: Inequality Overwhelms Democracy

A study by Marten Gilens and Benjamin Page published by Cambridge University Press in Sept. 2014 made the situation crystal clear: the desires of the great mass of the American people, of the working class, do not drive policy in America. They write:

[E]conomic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In other words, the many have virtually no say in what happens to them in the backrooms of our corporate-cash-soaked politics.

Because that’s true, the policies written by the bosses and bullies take even more power away from people in every area of their lives. These special interests use captured courts and Congress to smash the rights of workers. The bosses break barriers to monopoly and remove choices from the marketplace. They aid and abet Wall Street criminality. The bullies shore up inherited wealth, power and privilege.

The Rigged System and Inequality

Roy’s approach is clever because, by taking swipes at a scrambled set of elites or making an embarrassing reference to “the deep state,” he catches a little shine from the public’s growing realization that the system is rigged without offering any real political analysis.

But since Chip seems unable or unwilling to accurately describe the rigged system, let me do it for him in plain language:

  • The ratio of wealth to income is growing.
  • Absent big interventions, it will grow forever.
  • That means that if we don’t get in the way, the 21st Century will “look like the 19th century, where economic elites have predominantly inherited their wealth rather than working for it” (“The short guide to Capital in the 21st Century,” Vox, Apr. 8, 2018).

Furthermore, that means that the power to make real choices about the issues that affect all of us will accrue in fewer and fewer hands. When Roy says, “Get Washington out of the way,” he means, “Let it happen.”

Inequality’s Results: The Working Class Gets Soaked

And here’s what it means when Trump and Chip and their friends get the obstacles out of their way, like they did when Trump’s tax bill passed:

“Companies in the S&P 500 index are set to authorize $1 trillion in stock buybacks in 2018, a record and a 46 percent jump from last year, according to an estimate this month from Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

“…One in four Americans don’t think they’re “at least doing OK” financially, and more than one in five respondents said they were unable to pay the current month’s bills in full, according to the results of a late 2017 Fed survey released in May” (“Americans Are Making Less Money Despite Trump’s Promises,” Bloomberg News, Aug. 28, 2018.).

Who decided that this was the way it was going to be? Who got their way when the GOP tax scam bill passed? 

We know the answer. The people who wanted it this way, the people who get to decide, are the people on Chip Roy’s donor list. In Oct. 2017, when the fate of the GOP tax law was uncertain, one Politico headline read, “Angry GOP donors close their wallets.” After they passed it, another Jan. 2018 Politico headline read, “Big donors ready to reward Republicans for tax cuts.” The tax plan was and remains wildly unpopular, but when they get to decide instead of us, what we want does not matter.

Misery for the Many, Profits for the Few

As if to drive home the point that he wants the decision-making power concentrated only in the hands of an elite few, Roy blasted Kopser’s stated support for Medicare For All. There’s just one problem: According to a June/July 2018 Reuters/Ipsos poll, Medicare for All is supported by more than 70 percent of Americans, and by a majority of Republicans. But Roy’s elitist donors don’t want it, and that’s what matters.

The deciders don’t want anyone in the way of making profit the only thing that matters in a private insurance market. They want to go back to the days of what Roy laughably called “health care freedom,” when a quarter of Texans had no health insurance, when companies could discard you like garbage for having a preexisting condition. They want to go back to the days of 2006-2009 when Texas had the worst uninsured rate in the nation–because those were the days when nothing got in the way of a few making money from the misery of the many.

So here’s a little warning for Chip Roy and the elites behind him: We’re not going to get out of the way. We’re going to stand between you and the well-being of our families and our rights to health care, education, and housing. And this November, as Ted Cruz put it, we will “crawl over broken glass” to voteand we noticed who put the glass there, by the way. When we do, we’re going to make some new choices about representation in Washington.