Why Your Vote Doesn’t Really Matter
It’s been a debate for ages; “is it even worth casting my vote”? Hundreds of millions across America answer this question every election year, and about 50% say “no”. Political officials and organizations — especially the ones on your side of the aisle — will emphatically tell you to answer “yes”. “Sometimes, the vote comes down to single digits…literally!” some will say. “How can you complain about anything if you won’t even vote to change it?” is another common guilt-trip tactic used by political forces to get people to the polls. However, I have a sharp reality to share. In our current state of affairs, your vote doesn’t matter much at all. Your vote is essentially void after it is cast, but not for the reason that you think. Before you bite my political head off — allow me to explain why.
Let’s take a step back and revisit the 2016 general election (I know, I don’t want to either — but bear with me). Election day arrives, and one of three things happens. You either intend to vote in person, have already voted by absentee ballot, or intend not to vote at all. Let’s say you opted for one of the first two, and your ballot is now cast. Whichever candidate you voted for, you now feel a sense of pride, patriotism, and belonging. You have voted by your values and morals and are hoping your candidate not only wins but works to enact the changes that you want to see. If you are a Democrat, you’re probably looking to see gun law reform, loosened restrictions on abortion rights, and a more progressive tax system. If you’re a Republican, you are most likely looking to see lower taxes overall, tighter abortion restrictions, and strengthened border, among many others.
Fast forward to today. The 2020 election has now happened, and we are looking retrospectively at the past four years. Since the elected President was a Republican, we would expect to see Republican policy recaps flooding the media explaining everything the President did over the last four years. Yet, that is not the story we see. The most significant abortion restriction passed during this time wasn’t even federal — it was at the state level. No major loosening of gun restrictions took place either, and taxes for the middle class barely changed. However, a few things did happen during this time.
Firstly, taxes were cut — but not for the middle class as voters had hoped. Large corporations received the bulk of tax deductions in a bill titled the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”. If you find this erroneous, consider the Census Bureau’s analysis of mean income for American families over the last four years. There are five economic brackets, broken down based on what percent of the highest gross income each family makes. Moreover, this divides the population into five groups. Those who made 25% or less of the top income, those who made 26%-50% of the top income, those who made 51%-75% of the top income, those who made 76%-95% of the top income, and finally those who made 96%-99% of the top income. When you compute the average yearly income growth of each of these brackets over four years, an interesting pattern appears. Every single one of the brackets grew by about 20% from 2017–2020, the approximate length of the election cycle. In essence, all families, on average, brought in about 20% more in 2020 than they did in 2017.
Now let’s switch gears for a moment and look at the growth of American corporations over the last four years — specifically the largest ones. Apple, for example, was worth 616 billion on January 1st, 2017. On January 1st, 2021, Apple was worth 2.25 trillion. That is a 360% increase in value over four years. How about Amazon? 389 billion to 1.6 trillion — about a 410% increase. And if you want your mind blown, take a look at Tesla. Rising from 30 billion to 820 billion over four years, Tesla takes the crown for the biggest value climb this election cycle with a growth factor of 2,700%.
So, to recap, the average American family’s income grew by about 20% during the Trump presidency, and this was generally true for all income brackets. But, conversely, corporations grew at an exponential rate, doubling their worth as quickly as every few days. Yet, we don’t hear about this in the news and nobody seems to pay any attention to it. Are we willfully ignorant, or just being very, very manipulated? The answer is probably the latter.
The explanation for this immense problem lies in the hands of individuals called lobbyists — specifically corporate lobbyists. In layman’s terms, the job of a corporate lobbyist is to approach politicians and fund their campaigns in exchange for political favors later down the road. Where do the lobbyists get this funding? Corporations — and large ones at that. Say, for instance, that a company like Pfizer is developing a new cure for a disease. We will assume this disease is cancer since everyone knows what that is. Pfizer decides that to maximize their profits, they need to minimize the amount of tax they pay on their income for this new cure. Thus, Pfizer hires a corporate lobbyist who will approach various legislators and say something along the lines of the following.
“Hey, we want to maximize our profits on this new cancer cure because we know everyone will need it. If we fund your campaign and get you re-elected, we just need you to take this tax bill that we’ve written up and get it passed through Congress. If you can do that, we’ll also give you ten million dollars and a very cushiony job at our lobbying firm after you retire from Congress. Sound like a plan?”
That tax bill that Pfizer wrote will essentially exempt them from all their major cure-related taxes and make their profit margins near perfect. This also allows Pfizer to charge hundreds or thousands of dollars for this cure without consequence, because they will make sure they have legal protection to do so in the bill they write.
Take this practice and imagine it being done to all 535 legislators in Congress, every single day, by hundreds of large corporations. You can see how very quickly our “democratic system” becomes a corrupt “rich corporation bargaining game”.
If all of this sounds like a conspiracy theory, take a look at major politicians’ donor records. A glance will show you that their biggest donors are usually large corporations or PACs (political action committees), which are essentially just giant coalitions of corporate lobbyists. And this is equally true on both sides of the aisle — neither party is innocent. The one positive is that in recent years, awareness for this problem has somewhat grown, and some politicians have begun running on a “grassroots” campaign policy. This, in essence, means that the candidate will only accept individual donations from private citizens or privately-owned organizations, and are committing to refusing any funds from corporate lobbyists or super PACs. But, the vast majority of politicians have not adopted this practice and certainly don’t intend to.
If you’re wondering why this corrupt process has not yet been corrected, here’s a shocking truth for you — the practice of corporate lobbying isn’t even illegal. A Supreme Court decision made in 2010 called “Citizens United” dealt with a lawsuit that was attacking exactly the problem I just described. The Court ruled in a 5–4 decision that what large corporations were doing was constitutional, and to prohibit them from doing so would be an infringement on their constitutional right of free speech. Fortunately, if this case was revisited today, I believe we would see a different result as the ramifications are much clearer today than they were in 2010.
Unfortunately, getting the court to revisit this case would be nearly impossible. Establishment politicians are not going to be on the side of the public in terms of overturning this decision — they enjoy the money they are receiving and definitely won’t pass any anti-corruption legislation or back an appeal to Citizens United. Doing so would prevent them from receiving their lofty post-Congress job offers and multi-million dollar corporate paychecks.
The only way to get this decision overturned would be through a “backdoor” method, which would entail passing anti-corruption acts starting at the municipal level and working our way up to the state level. It is not a commonly known fact, but there is a way to change federal law without actually rewriting anything at the federal level. It’s informally referred to as the “¾ compromise” (not to be confused with the ⅗ compromise, which entailed the racist practice of counting black citizens as ⅗ of a vote in federal elections). This congressional “backdoor” has one simple premise — if a single bill is passed into law by ¾ of the states (38 out of 50), it then becomes ratified into federal law (there are a few conformational steps after this to officially ratify the law at the federal level, but nothing substantial enough to prevent it from happening).
Now, don’t get me wrong — this would be a treacherous endeavor. Talk about an uphill battle — you would be battling politicians left and right (pun intended) while trying to get 38 states to pass an anti-corruption bill. Nonetheless, it’s a trek I believe we desperately need to embark on. The alternative would be to turn a blind eye and allow this exploitative practice to continue, which is not an option. Historically, we know what happens when rich people get too much money — the government becomes a fascist regime. It’s fundamentally unavoidable. When all wealth is consolidated to the point that a select few own nearly everything, there is no other option than fascism because the general public has no option but to obey. This is a terrifying reality that we must realize now before it’s too late.
While I could go into much deeper detail about this topic, I will restrain myself. There is enough to discuss here that I could write for pages and pages more. The gist is simple — large corporations — headed by their CEOs and executive boards — are slowly but surely taking over our government. They are quite literally buying political influence, and it isn’t even illegal. I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but this is no conspiracy theory. The evidence is there — but no one sees it because it’s hidden in plain sight.
So, to tie this all together — does your vote matter? Not really, but not for the reason you think. It does matter in terms of getting your party to win, as some decisions can be so close that the difference between vote counts is in the single digits. It does matter in terms of voicing your opinion and participating in democracy, there is no question about that. But, ultimately, your vote isn’t doing anything because the politicians you are voting for aren’t even going to work for you. Sure, there will be bills here and there that do benefit the public, as politicians and corporations have to keep us entertained enough to not realize the corruption taking place. But, as a whole, we are electing politicians that show up to Capitol Hill to write and pass bills for billion-dollar CEOs, corporations, and PACs — period. Our legislative system is fundamentally flawed and it isn’t working for us anymore.
If there’s anything I believe in strongly, it is our democracy. America isn’t famous for nothing — we founded our country on ideals that were revolutionary and radical, at the time. Since then, other countries have sought those founding principles to the point of having their revolutions and political uprisings. But now, our prized possession is under attack by something most aren’t even aware of — corporate corruption — and it is corroding away at our democracy, one bill at a time. It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, gay, straight, male, female, immigrant, or native — this problem is affecting us all. If there’s anything to be “bipartisan” on, it’s this. We need each other — we need everyone — to take corporate corruption head-on. Our futures, and the future of our country, depend on it.