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I don’t want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need to make my wish come true, and that is a return to democracy here in our great United States.

Unfortunately we continue to move further and further down the road toward an oligarchy of the rich and powerful, leaving behind remnants of our democracy. 

Republicans on the state level are gerrymandering voting districts to keep their old guard safely in power, while they disenfranchise millions of voters. Corporations are busy pumping millions of dollars into keeping their enormous wealth shielded from paying a fair share of the tax burden. Fear, lies, religion, and fake news keep millions of our fellow citizens blinded as our democracy fades further and further into the history books.

America has become a country where 1% of the population now controls more wealth than the remaining 90% of working Americans. This my friends is not a democracy but an oligarchy, controlled by a few powerful individuals and large corporations. Mock me if you want, deny the truth, live in a fantasy, but this is our new reality.  

So, this Christmas, my letter to Santa simply asks for one thing, to make my Christmas wish come true, and that is a return to our democratic values. Values that made this country great and created a large middle class that prospered and provided a future for their children and a better life for all.  

Present-day robber barons such as Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates sell themselves as great American success stories. In reality, these individuals sap profits in the billions off the back of workers. To pay a worker a living wage of $15 per hour is a problem but don’t dare talk about a CEO’s compensation of $14,000 per hour. Blame those damn socialists, label progressives as communist, but keep the money, the tax breaks, the corporate subsidies rolling in for the rich and powerful.  

We see the inequality right here in our Island City. Homeless individuals on park benches or camped out behind commercial businesses, panhandlers at every intersection, affordable housing crisis for working families, a public health system totally overburdened and underfunded. Our city is not alone, as many municipalities equally struggle to deal with inaction on the regional, state and federal level. No money to address a whole slew of issues that seem to be getting worse by the day, but plenty of money for the top 1%.  

Large corporations are equally to blame as profits soar, CEO pay increases, stock prices keep rising but the average worker’s pay has remained flat over the last 20 years. Corporations have been very busy buying out competitors and creating near-monopolies for the services they provide. Cities such as Wilton Manors now have very little choice when it comes to bargaining with the likes of Waste Management for garbage and recycling programs. Waste Management can now dictate when they will pick-up trash, when they will pick up recycling, what can be recycled and what will be done with those items. The interest of residents is no longer part of the equation, because the current near-monopoly here in Broward County by Waste Management leaves very few choices for cities. Waste Management’s CEO last year had a compensation package of close to 12.5 million dollars annually. Wonder why their management is looking for ways to cut corners here in Wilton Manors and every other city, greed at the top and a monopoly on services that offer no other choice but for us to be bamboozled. 

For now, let’s embrace the holiday spirit and enjoy the remaining days of the year. Spend time with family, friends, neighbors and have some good cheer! That is the beauty of the holiday season. Take a break from the problems swirling all around us and let the holiday joy offer hope as we celebrate with loved ones and move ahead to a new year. 

Unfortunately COVID concerns continue to darken celebratory spirits. We still need to be careful and concerned. Now is not the time to be complacent. We will one day move past this pandemic, move away from subsidizing the rich and powerful, and move away from labeling those seeking a better life as socialist and communist. 

I will leave my fellow Islanders with a Yuletide blessing: “May we all be filled with joy, love and harmony as we welcome the Yuletide spirit, allowing it to shine within and all around us throughout the year and to guide us in making life just better here.”

Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.


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