DeVos: Such an ugly scar
January 15, 2015
Sri Lanka is an island slightly larger than West Virginia that lies 20 miles off the southern tip of India.
For eons, life was comfortable on this lush island, but that came to an abrupt end in 1505 when a Portuguese explorer dropped anchor. It took Portugal 120 years to decimate the Sri Lankans; subsequently it only took the Dutch 50 more years to wipe out the Portuguese.
Sri Lankans regrouped and spent the next hundred years battling the European invaders before the English pushed the Dutch aside to stop Napoleon. Colonialism being what it is, by 1815 the Union Jack flew from one end of the island to the other. The English, being what they are, turned the island into a giant tea farm, not granting independence until 1972.
For the last 10 years, Sri Lanka has been governed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. His leadership saw the end of a long-standing war; the economy and the standard of living had improved; he'd bolstered education and fostered numerous public works. By any measure he was sailing for an easy re-election. But middle-class Sri Lankans saw disturbing signs that the country's wealth, under Rajapaksa, was concentrating into fewer and fewer hands.
The Sri Lankans grew so concerned about income inequality that nine weeks ago, they selected a suitable opponent and just last week mustered an astounding 81 percent of the 12 million eligible voters to turn Rajapaksa and his cronies out. Sri Lanka's new president, Maithripala Sirisena, is already busy dismantling the old regime.
How different things are in the U.S. where we applaud the wealthy as they stand on the poor to suck the last blood of an anemic middle class. The 2014 U.S. midterms saw less than a 37 percent turnout; just over a third of registered voters in the U.S. are running things. The rest of us are apparently much too busy to drop a ballot in the mail, despite the fact that growing income inequality is far, far worse here than it was in Sri Lanka.
But even at that, I worry that we might not be able to fix things with ballots. Going back to the 2014 midterms, $353,660,503 was spent just on Senate races in the top 10 states. Colorado, for instance, was 6th, spending $33,465,814 on just the Senate race. Nowadays, when you have to write a six-figure check just to get an introduction to your senator, what hope is there for the common man? Who is out there to protect his interests alongside the interests of 6-, 7-, and 8-figure donors?
Take the XL pipeline for example. Here's billionaire brain-washing at its best and political corruption at its worst. It's a project that will enrich a select few at the expense of a foreign scar through the heart of our country. Hail Canada. And we're buying it!
It will create a lot of jobs. But these jobs will only last for a year or two and the vast majority of them won't be working on the pipeline. Most of them will be in peripheral jobs in fast-food and the service industries. These are jobs that are often at, or near, minimum wage. This means these workers will have to rely on welfare, food stamps, and rent-assistance programs just to get by, all subsidized by you and me. Oil CEOs will get bonuses even though it's entirely possible the pipeline will cost us money. What is certain is that the final portrait won't be the pretty picture our politicians are painting.
I expect the pipeline will eventually be built because in America, money talks while the middle-class forgets to vote and wonders where everything went. Like all scars, the pipeline will someday remind us of things we'd rather forget.