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Letter to the editor

Democracy matters — Getting the big money out and the people back in

April 1, 2011

We hear it every day. Budget cuts at the state, local and national level. The funding for student loans and grants will have to be cut; college and universities tuition is increasing, the size of your classes will grow, and food service workers in your dining halls and cafeterias will face layoffs. That’s not all, back home your favorite high school teacher, the crossing guard at your elementary school, police and firefighters in your neighborhood, all are being threatened by major budget cuts. This is getting personal!

What’s going on and what can we as students do about it?  The first point is to understand who created this crisis. The answer is Wall Street and other investment bankers who precipitated the 2008 economic meltdown, not students or public workers. But we are the ones being asked to pay for their mess, despite the fact that their profits are soaring.

Why? Here’s the second point: students don’t contribute to politicians’ election campaigns, but bankers and other big corporate executives do. According to the well-respected Center for Responsive Politics, over the last decade the financial industry, along with insurance and real estate sectors, was the biggest contributor to federal campaigns. Individuals and PACS associated with these corporations gave more than $2.5 billion to candidates and parties between 1990 and 2010 ($2,526,439,799 to be exact). 

We need to stand up and speak out! We can and must let our legislators know that we don’t want these budget cuts to critical services.  Instead of forcing universities to raise our tuition, our state representatives should be raising taxes on the people responsible for this crisis. Even if they just restored the tax rate on the wealthy that existed before the short-sighted Bush tax cuts, we would very substantially reduce the deficits that are threatening the livelihoods of so many Americans. 

At the same time that we are fighting these threats to our education, we also need to find ways to destroy the bond between politicians and their big funders. We need to get big money out of politics and people back in. Organizations like Democracy Matters and Common Cause are leading these fights. Join us at our next meeting on Wednesdays at 4:30pm in Pete’s Creek or e-mail me, kayla.godes@uwrf.edu, for more information.

As students we have the political power to affect our lives – there are millions of us! But we have to join together to use that power effectively – to make our own lives better as well as our society’s.

Kayla Godes
student