Cowley: I Feel Powerless

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Xiangyao Tang

Demonstrators march up the steps of the Utah State Capitol in protest of the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade in Salt Lake City on May 5, 2022. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Elle Cowley, Opinion Writer, Audio Producer

 

The last couple of years have been incredibly taxing. Time and time again, I feel as if our government makes decisions that benefit only a select few. COVID-19 continues to spread and has mutated into many new and more contagious variants. The government continues to sweep pressing issues under the rug in order to appeal to a select group of people. And meanwhile, they do nothing to address the issues many Americans actually want to act on. 

By making decisions that only benefit the minority of Americans, the government fails to accurately represent the people it governs. Our democracy is broken.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, national and local legislators repeatedly made decisions that failed to keep people safe. During the January 2022 Omicron spike, the Utah Legislature repealed mask mandates in Salt Lake and Summit counties a mere week after implementation. The Omicron variant spread much easier than previous variants, therefore posing a higher risk of skyrocketing case numbers. Even with this knowledge, legislators chose to remove all mask mandates and put more Utah residents at risk, especially the immunocompromised and those with other comorbidities. This move worked directly against the best interests of the people the Legislature should protect.

The federal government didn’t demonstrate any better response to the pandemic. They promised stimulus checks to help people make ends meet. In the end, the checks were disappointingly small and few and far between. The lack of governmental assistance forced people to put themselves at risk, going back to work before it became safe to do so. For many Americans, the assistance offered barely covered living expenses for a month. Even so, it didn’t stop conservative Congress members from pushing back, asking why they afforded such a “large sum.” However, the majority of Americans backed receiving financial aid from the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This string of unpopular decisions doesn’t stop at subpar COVID-19 response protocols. The leaked draft opinion from the supreme court revealed plans to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. If Roe v. Wade gets overturned, 33.6 million people with uteruses could lose access to lifesaving health care. The blatantly partisan opinion does not reflect the views of most Americans today. The majority of Americans don’t support banning abortion, including many from both ends of the political spectrum. The court’s opinion doesn’t reflect the ideals of the people they are supposedly representing. It also negatively impacts the health of millions. The supreme court is not a governing body elected by the people. Allowing six people to take away the reproductive rights of millions of people opposes democracy. Unlike the other branches of government, we have no way of voting the justices on or off of the court.

Our government also has a diversity problem. Although white men only make up 30% of the U.S. population, they make up 62% of elected officials. This lack of diverse perspectives severely limits the scope of congress. It doesn’t accurately reflect the U.S. population. This limited perspective is reflected in Congress’ approval rating. As of right now, it sits at a mere 20%.

It’s been proven time and time again that Congress favors those with the most money and influence. A Princeton study found that the wealthiest 10% of Americans — those that speak for big business — have the most influence over what the government passes. Our government does not have the majority of the American people’s best interests in mind, only those who can make large donations to their campaigns.

In its current state, our government has done nothing but disappoint and frustrate me. A good government enacts changes that benefit its citizens, not actively make their lives harder. At this time, our government makes decisions that only benefit those at the very top, sweeping the needs of the majority of Americans under the rug. We need a government that listens to what the people need, one that can make decisions to benefit the country as a whole. I, like most other Americans, am tired of feeling powerless to the interests of the select, privileged few.

 

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@elle_cowley_