Some people may still believe that America is a classless society simply because no official aristocracy of royal lineage with its assortment of princes, dukes, counts, barons, and the like exist in this country. Compared to Great Britain and other European countries, the legacy of inherited titles and the attendant privileges that accompany them is absent in the United States.
However, the idea that a lack of a formal titled gentry means that there is no class system in America is a wildly misbegotten concept.
In truth, America’s oligarchy and the power it wields is primarily based on wealth — whether it be inherited or newly-minted — rather than genetics, and our entire society revolves around the unspoken class system created by income inequality.
Freshman Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) — one of the determined candidates who helped turn Southern California’s traditionally Republican Orange County into a Democratic stronghold in the “Blue Wave” of the 2018 elections — explained how the class system even extends into the inner workings of Congress as she revealed how the system in the country’s legislative body is designed for and set up for the wealthy during an appearance on CNN yesterday.
As the first single mother with young children to serve in Congress, Representative Porter was thrown into what was essentially a hostile environment when she arrived in Washington DC to assume her new office. Speaking with CNN host Van Jones, Porter was asked about reports that some of her colleagues in the House were “shocked’ at the cost of childcare in the nation’s capital.
“What is that like being — almost like an economic minority in the House?” Jones asked the Congresswoman who was a tenured professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law before she joined the government.
Porter’s answer came in the form of the story of her own shock at the rigged system that Congress currently operates under.
“I think this is one of the most surprising things for me is, I think I understood I was being elected to a position of privilege and of power and responsibility. I think I didn’t understand the extent to which Congress is kind of set up for — and run by — the wealthy,” Porter told Jones.
“And I’m certainly not at the bottom of the economic spectrum, I have a good job as a professor,” Porter admitted. “Like I’m very, very fortunate and very conscious of that. But some of the things that I’m told really reveal what a privileged institution it is.”
The congresswoman went on to explain that the assumptions of elected officials’ personal wealth built into the legislature’s rules are designed for the days when only the well-connected and well-off would ever make it through a campaign and wind up in Congress.
“When I was looking for a district office, I said well, you know, how do I pay a security deposit? They said we don’t provide funds for a security deposit,” she revealed. “And they said use your ‘personal funds.’”
“And so, like the healthcare, we start the job January 3, our health care as members doesn’t start until February 1st. So, I said well how do my children and I have insurance — as I’m ethically prohibited from working in another job — how do my kids and I have health insurance in that period? They said go on your husband’s. And I said I don’t have a husband. And then the answer again was ‘personal funds,’” she said.
In practical terms, if a tenured professor with a well-paying job prior to her election has difficulty managing the financial burdens that her taking office requires, imagine how difficult it would be for the average working person to navigate the transition to life in Congress were they decide to run and found themselves winning their seat.
Porter is working on legislative solutions that would allow people with more diverse economic backgrounds to run for Congress without having to face the economic stress that she has faced.
“This economic diversity is very important. And I have a bill I’m excited about, that I believe is going to have bipartisan support, called the Help America Run Act. And what it does is allow candidates to use campaign donations to pay for health insurance premiums and childcare costs, so we can continue to diversify the voices representing the diversity of the American people,” she said, to applause from the studio audience.
While such a solution could be a big factor in attracting a more economically diverse group of candidates to seek office unless it’s paired with campaign finance reform that prevents donations from supporters with legislative agendas for which they expect a quid pro quo, such a system could create a recipe for further corruption among politicians already besieged by lobbyists dangling potential campaign donations in their faces if they agree to fight for a particular issue that would benefit their clients.
Nevertheless, Congresswoman Porter has exposed just how much our system of government is designed and controlled by moneyed interests and how important it is that we do everything we can to isolate our elected representatives from the corrupting influences of lobbyist donations.
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Original reporting by Bob Brigham at RawStory.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.