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Democracy is eroding. The cause? It’s not what you think.

Minorities are having their voting rights strangled. Gerrymandering is subverting legitimate representation, as is the interference of foreign adversaries who are manipulating voters. Democracy is crumbling beneath our feet. 

Believe it or not, the greatest threat to democracy isn’t Trump, or even Vladimir Putin. They are only symptoms of a greater problem.

The greatest threat to democracy is inequality.

A major report earlier this year described as such, including the fact that the U.S. (#1) and U.K (#2) have the highest level of inequality in the developed world. Forbes now reports that the “humongous wealth gap” is only getting worse. Furthermore, a 2014 study which concluded that the U.S. is more of an oligarchy than a democracy. It should come as no surprise that moneyed interests control Washington.

But what does that have to do with democracy? The wealthiest citizens enjoy far greater influence on policy, government and our daily lives than the rest of us. The Koch brothers are the most obvious example. We typically don’t recognize the extent to which it affects our families though.

And that’s where inequality undercuts democracy – our voice as “the people”, as those with extreme wealth steer policy in their favor. Ask yourself, why is income from hard earned labor is taxed at a higher rate than income from stocks and investments? Who is responsible for that? You can bet that it’s not the majority of Americans.

“In country after country, the influence of rich elites over policymaking is skewing economies in favour of those at the top, at the expense of economic progress for all,” explains the UN Association – UK

The theory is not new. Former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously weighed in.

“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have extreme wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can’t have both.”

The Guardian also argued that the higher the inequality, the more likely we are to move away from democracy.

The most effective way to address inequality:

What is the most effective way to address the inequality that is eroding our democracies? Better family planning. 

Yes, helping parents wait and plan is the proven most effective way to break the cycle of generational inequality and poverty – which is now at a staggering 40%. And it’s not just about being effective, or outcomes. A fair start in life is the first and overriding human right. It takes precedence over anything with which it conflicts, including the wealth that people at the top are using to destroy democracy. Parents and communities have a right to those resources to give kids a fair start. 

Let’s start the Second American Revolution, the one where we come together as free and equal people with future generations, in our nation’s capital. The idea is simple: The District can reach many of its goals at once by promoting smaller families so that communities and families can invest more in each child. It is centered around every child’s right to a fair start in life, and is designed to address the greatest threats facing the District and nation, including inequality and climate change.

Take Action:

Help kids get a fair start. Support our effort for Guaranteed Minimum Income for kids in D.C. by tweeting @MayorBowser. Read more here.

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