Plutocracy in America
- This week has been filled with interesting items about how Corporate
Capitalism runs our lives.
First we see the onslaught of legal laws agasint those who report crimes,
but only those who report crimes at the level of the Rich Elite, or the
Corporations. They are exempt from the laws, as see by our nations actions
at the highest levels of Government, against those trying to make them
subject to the same laws we are.
Some vital basics.
See Fascist Corporatism
Exxon and Chevron control access and fly overs to areas where their oil
spills are destroying peoples homes and lives and the environment, just as
the US Coast Guard porote4cted BP in the Gulf of Mexico, and then state,
woe is us we have 400 people on the ground cleaning up! But they did
noting to ensure their lines were up to par anyway, they count on a
certain number of leaks, and some explosions, it the profitable way to
It appears to me, they are now more openly waging war on the American
People then they ever have in the past, while I'm aghast that they also
need us to be well trained consumers, as we are their only source of
income, but they have the government to ensure they have no competition,
and we are forced to purchase from them for the most basic of human needs.
Many, many of these systems, of the Rich, the Elite, the Corporate
Capitalists, all exclusionary people or groups to the laws you and I are
bound by, are in control.
It would be good to get to know your masters, as after all, we work for
them, as does the Government we thought was ours.
Plutocracy literally means rule by the rich. "Rule" can have various
shades of meaning: those who exercise the authority of public office are
wealthy; their wealth explains why they hold that office; they exercise
that authority in the interests of the rich; they have the primary
influence over who holds those offices and the actions they take. These
aspects of "plutocracy" are not exclusive. Government of the rich and for
the rich need not be run directly by the rich. Also, in some exceptional
circumstances rich individuals who hold powerful positions may govern in
the interests of the many, e.g. Franklin Roosevelt.
The United States today qualifies as a plutocracy -- on a number of
grounds. Let's look at some striking bits of evidence. Gross income
redistribution upwards in the hierarchy has been a feature of American
society for the past decades. The familiar statistics tell us that nearly
80 percent of the national wealth generated since 1973 has gone to the
upper 2 percent, 65 percent to the upper 1 percent. Estimates as to the
rise in real income for salaried workers over the past 40 years range from
0 percent to 28 percent. In that period, real GDP has risen by 110 percent
-- it has more than doubled. To put it somewhat differently, according to
the Congressional Budget Office, the top earning 1 percent of households
gained about 8X more than those in the 60 percentile after federal taxes
and income transfers over a period between 1979 and 2007; 10X those in
lower percentiles. In short, the overwhelming fraction of all the wealth
created over two generations has gone to those at the very top of the
income pyramid. That pattern has been markedly accelerated since the
financial crisis hit in 2008. Between 2000 and 2012, the real net worth of
90 percent of Americans has declined by 25 percent.
Theoretically, there is the possibility that this change is due to
structural economic features operating nationally and internationally.
That argument won't wash, though, for three reasons. First, there is no
reason to think that such a process has accelerated over the past five
years during which disparities have widened at a faster rate. Second,
other countries (some even more enmeshed in the world economy) have seen
nothing like the drastic phenomenon occurring in the United States. Third,
the readiness of the country's political class to ignore what has been
happening, and the absence of remedial action that could have been taken,
in themselves are clear indicators of who shapes thinking and determines
public policy. In addition, several significant governmental actions have
been taken that directly favor the moneyed interests.
The latter include the dismantling of the apparatus to regulate financial
activities specifically and big business generally. Runaway exploitation
of the system by predatory banks was made possible by the Clinton
"reforms" of the 1990s and the lax application of those rules that still
prevailed. Attorney General Eric Holder just a few weeks ago went so far
as to admit that the Department of Justice's decisions on when to bring
criminal charges against the biggest financial institutions will depend
not on the question of legal violations alone but would include the
hypothetical effects on economic stability of their prosecution. Earlier,
Holder had extended blanket immunity to Bank of America and other mortgage
lenders for their apparent criminality in forging, robo-signing,
foreclosure documents on millions of home owners. In brief, equal
protection and application of the law has been suspended. That is
Moreover, the extreme of a regulatory culture that, in effect, turns
public officials into tame accessories to financial abuse emerged in stark
relief at the Levin Committee hearings on JPMorgan Chase's 'London Whale"
scandal. Morgan officials stated baldly that they chose not to inform the
Controller of the Currency about discrepancies in trading accounts,
without the slightest regard that they might be breaking the law, in the
conviction that it was Morgan's privilege not to do so. Senior regulators
explained that they did not see it as their job to monitor compliance or
to check whether claims made by their Morgan counterparts were correct.
They also accepted abusive treatment, e.g. being called "stupid" to their
face by senior Morgan executives. That's plutocracy at work. The Senate
Finance Committee hearing drew only three senators -- yet another sign of
plutocracy at work. When mega-banks make illicit profits by money
laundering for drug cartels and get off with a slap on the wrist, as has
HSBC and others, that too is plutocracy.
When the system of law that is meant to order the workings of society
without reference to ascriptive persons is made malleable in the hands of
officials to serve the preferred interests of some, it ceases to be a
neutral instrument for the common good. In today's society, it is becoming
the instrument of a plutocracy.
There are myriad other examples of complicity between legislators or
regulators, on the one hand, and special business interests on the other.
EPA judgments that are reversed under the combined pressure of the
commercial interests affected and beholden politicians is one. The
government's decision not to seek the power to bargain with pharmaceutical
companies over the price of drugs paid for with public funds is another.
Tolerance for the concealment of offshore profits in the tens of billions
is a third. Relaxed interpretations of the tax laws by the IRS to the
advantage of high income persons can be added to the list. So, too, can
the give-away to sole source contractors of the tens of billions
squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of such direct assists to
big business and the wealthy is endless. The point is that government, at
all levels, serves particular selfish interests no matter who holds high
positions. While there is some difference between Republicans and
Democrats on this score, it has narrowed on most major items to the point
that the fundamental properties of the biased system are so entrenched as
to be impervious to electoral outcomes. The most revealing experience that
we have of that harsh reality is the Obama administration's strategic
decision to allow Wall Street to determine how and by whom the financial
crisis would be handled.
Systemic biases are the most crucial factor is creating and maintaining
plutocratic orientations of government. They are confirmed, and
reinforced, by the identities and identifications of the persons who
actually hold high elected office. Our leaders are nearly all rich by any
reasonable standard. Most are very rich. Those who weren't have aspired to
become so and have succeeded. The Clintons are the striking case in point.
That aspiration is evinced in how they conduct themselves in office.
Congress, for its part, is composed of two rich men/women's clubs. In many
cases, personal wealth helped win them their offices. In many others, they
knit ties with lobbies that provided the necessary funds. Whether they are
"bought off" in some sense or other, they surely are often coopted. The
most insidious aspect of cooptation is to see the world from the vantage
point of the advantaged and special economic interests.
The devolution of the Democratic Party from being the representative of
ordinary people to being just "another bunch of guys" is a telling
commentary on how American politics has degenerated into a plutocracy. The
party's rolling over to accommodate the interests of the wealthy has been
a theme of the past four years. From the Obama White House to the halls of
Congress, party leaders (and most followers) have conceded the dominance
of conservative ideas about macro-economic strategy (the austerity dogma),
about retaining largely untouched the for-profit health care "non-system,"
about bailing out the big financial players as the expense of everyone
else and the economy's stability, about degrading Social Security and
Medicare. The last item is the most egregious -- and revealing -- of our
plutocratic ways and means. For it entails a combination of intellectual
deceit, blatant massaging of the numbers, and disregard for the human
consequences in a time of growing distress for tens of millions. In other
words, there is no way to conceal or spin the trade-offs made, who was
being hurt and who would continue to enjoy the advantages of skewed fiscal
Perhaps the most extraordinary achievement of the plutocracy's financial
wing has been to win acceptance from the country's entire political class
that its largely speculative activities are normal. Indeed, they are
credited with being the economy's principal engine of growth. It follows
that their well-being is crucial to the well-being of the national economy
and, therefore, they should be given privileged treatment. How this was
accomplished is the subject of a later commentary.
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