Shut down Wall Street, not Washington

Tuesday saw the first government shutdown since “Toy Story” hit theaters, “Seinfeld” was still on NBC and “Gangsta’s Paradise” was a No. 1 hit. To put things in perspective, I was five years old the last time this happened, and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t anywhere near as politically attentive then as I am now, but I can say without a doubt that what we are witnessing right now is not a government shutdown.

There are about 800,000 furloughed federal employees who might disagree with me. But hear me out on this one.

The federal government is, for all intents and purposes, in lockdown mode. The failure of Congress to present the president with the 2013-14 fiscal year budget has frozen all “non-essential” programs (things like WIC, a program for low-income mothers and their children providing access to formula and other childcare essentials; the National Park Service; and NASA, among others) while funding continues to go to our military occupation of Afghanistan and spying on American citizens by way of the NSA (apparently it’s more important for us to spy on and kill people rather than help nearly nine million moms and kids get access to formula).

There’s no debating that. But what I would dispute is the very idea that the “government” has shutdown at all, because it hasn’t. That’s because the U.S. isn’t governed from Washington; it’s governed from Wall Street, which marches on ever triumphant.

And why shouldn’t it? No one in Congress has done anything to alter the relationship between Wall Street and Washington because they personally benefit from it. Forty-eight percent of Congress has a net worth of more than a million dollars, according to a January report published by OpenSecrets.

The men and women of Wall Street fund their campaigns and get rewarded as a result – with tax cuts, lax regulation and even the best present of all – a government shutdown that drains the life of the agencies supposed to keep them in check.

Thursday marked the 100th anniversary of the income tax. Today the income tax, which originally provided a way of taxing away the wealth (and thus the power) of those at the top and returning some sense of fairness to our economic and political system, is little more than a joke.

A September 2012 article in The Atlantic puts it in perspective – the U.S. today is more unequal than it was in 1774. Yes, even if you count slaves, the gap today between the rich and poor is far higher than it was in the age of powdered wigs, Sam Adams and the first Tea Party.

Here’s a crazy idea – how about we, the people, shut down the government? Not the one that provides women and children with formula, that cares for our veterans – the one that bribes politicians, cuts its own taxes and gets us involved in wars we have no business being in. It’s time for a government shutdown that puts the people first and Wall Street profits last.

Devin Griggs is president of the Murray State College Democrats.
Column by Devin Griggs, Opinion Editor