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Growing disparity hurts our democracy

Drain the swamp.

That is what President Trump kept saying at campaign rallies last year.

Our political system is corrupt, Sen. Bernie Sanders shouted at his rallies as he ran for president.

Our democracy has been called a "corporatocracy" as they point out our democracy is ruled or controlled by corporations. Our elections have become a sad spectacle with big money steering voters to cast ballots counter to their own interests.

Both our local newspapers have carried stories on the effect of this inequity recently.

In the June 11 Duluth News Tribune, a USA Today article by Sarah Toy pointed out that we have one of the world's largest disparities between the rich and the poor — behind only Chile and Portugal.

The Superior Telegram on June 13 ran an editorial by state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, in which it was stated the biggest corporate tax handout in Wisconsin history, which is projected to cost more than $650 million over the next biennium, with 88 percent if this tax giveaway going to individuals making more than $500,000. Eleven millionaires making more than $35 million each will receive nearly $22 million in tax breaks. Taylor states many other specifics but the tale tells of our great divide that is growing wider. The rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer.

"Do unto others" — where has that gone in a democracy that claims to have moral values?

How bad is it?

In the May issue of Fortune Magazine, it was reported that in 2015, CEOs made 276 times as much as the typical worker. And that inequity is growing while we keep referring to ourselves as a democracy with moral values. And to make matters worse, the number of tax havens around the world keeps growing, allowing the wealthy elite to evade taxes.

Unbelievably, even our president will not show his tax statements.

Ralph Nader wrote a book on this inequity a few years back and cited one Switzerland bank tax haven that had 37,000 American accounts. Big corporations have moved plants overseas where they can obtain lower wage costs and escape U.S. taxes. How morally democratic is that?

The U.S. now ranks 21st among developed nations in the Reducing Inequality Index of Oxfam and the U.N. We are falling behind countries like Sweden, Iceland, Ireland, Canada, Italy and Slovenia.

We can do better. This 93-year-old farm boy remembers when our nation was struggling to recover from the depression. We can do it again, and this old fella begs the political parties and all of the many churches in this country to muster the moral strength to help us reduce this steadily increasing wealth inequity.

A recent working paper from a European Central Control Bank estimates America's top 1 percent controls between 35 and 37 percent of the wealth, rather than the 30 percent previously estimated.

Will the wealthy elite use their excess — more than they and all their kin could use in their lifetimes — for worthy causes that benefit lower income folk?

Bernie Hughes, Ed.D, is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at