by David Rosen
from CounterPunch Website
It followed the Court's 2010 ruling, Citizens
United vs. FEC, allowing the rich to spend unlimited sums on political
advertising. Some wonder if this is not a 21st century
form of buying an election?
Sanders acknowledged the potential consequences of the Court's decisions:
The contemporary concept of oligarchy was popularized by the Russian experience.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, innumerable state companies were privatized. The country was in disarray and, in an effort to stabilize the economy, the Yeltsin government "redistributed" state-owned enterprises to trusted cronies.
They came to wield unprecedented power over the
economy, the state apparatus and the mass media.
He means to differentiate this "small number" from the larger world of the rich and superrich, the plutocrats, who - as a class - have long exercised considerable influence on the U.S. political system.
Plutocracy is derived from the Greek
ploutos meaning "wealth" and kratos for "govern."
Oligarchs are plutocrats who use their
enormous wealth to further a particularly conservative, if not rightwing,
Piketty finds that that in 2010, the top 1 percent controlled 20 percent of U.S. income and, together with the next 9 percent, the superrich controlled 50 percent of all income.
The IRS recently noted that in 2011, 11,445 U.S.
taxpayers declared incomes of more than $10 million.
They may well be plutocrats in the old-fashioned sense of,
But are they oligarchs?
Both initiatives stalled in the political marketplace.
Is he an oligarch?
They makeup seven of the top 11 wealthiest Americans:
This is 'real' money.
The Koch brothers are major backers of the Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity; they are reported to have donated an estimated $196 millions to fight the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
The Waltons have led the charge against public education, committing an estimated $1 billion promoting privatization - no teachers' union or community accountability - through charter schools.
Adelson famously holds court for Republican
presidential hopefuls who visit his Las Vegas castle to kiss his ring and
proclaim their undying support for Israel.
The rich are getting phenomenally richer while
the income of the rest of Americans stagnates or falls. Both American
plutocrats and oligarchs are fighting to hold on to - and increase! - their
wealth and influence during this restructuring. And they are succeeding.
This elite truly enjoys the privileges of its social status, operating on its own economic, political and moral terms. It's a value system shared by plutocrats around the globe.
They endow cultural institutions, their names shameful promoted; they are delivered anywhere on the globe via private jets; they are escorted in chauffeured limousines through busy city streets; and they are celebrated at exclusive get-togethers like the Davos World Economic Forum.
Like nobility of old, the obsequies media
present them - like other celebrities - in the most favorable light.
Local Chambers of Commerce, real-estate
interests, financial players, large retailers, trade associations, unions
and other special interests lubricate the wheels of government. Lobbyists
facilitate, legislators dutifully legislate, deals are cut, someone wins and
- in most cases - the vast majority of ordinary Americans loose. It's the
way the game is played.
Most U.S. officials don't take cheap bribes.
Corruption takes place, but low-level scammers, whether from the private or
public sector, are regularly busted. However, when it comes to real money,
that's another story.
Their wealth buys influence. They use their financial power to determine public policy, involving laws, court decisions, tax codes, zoning ordinances, corporate subsidies, outsourcing and purchasing contracts.
Their wealth enables them to promulgate their
self-serving vision at the local, state and federal levels, benefiting every
step of the way. They link economic policy to social programs, seeking to
dictate civic values - public morality - with regard to abortion rights,
teen sex and gay rights.
These grand oligarchs garnered their wealth the
old-fashioned way, by brutally exploiting their wage-labor workers. And in
those good-old-days, politicians were really for sale, no questions asked.
And then came the Progressives.
The collapse of the Great Depression stalled economic growth. The enormous expansion of the national economy during World War II and the post-war recovery made Ford # 1.
Ford symbolizes the highpoint of consumer
capitalism. And then came globalizations and a new generation of plutocrats
These families are the living center of the
modern industrial oligarchy which dominates the United States, functioning
discreetly under a de jure democratic form of government behind which a de
facto government, absolutist and plutocratic in its lineaments... It is the
government of money in a dollar democracy.
...focused national attention on the robber barons.
Occupy Movement focused popular attention
on the 1 percent. Inequality - and the growing power of the oligarchs - is
becoming a national political issue, most evident in the election of Bill
de Blasio as New York's mayor.
They championed financial and economic policies
contributing to the great recession of 2008-2010 from which the nation has
yet to fully recover. And they've made the lives of ordinary Americans
harder, materially worse. Their policies have failed, yet they remain in
Yet, he dutifully bailed out the banks and
let walk the perpetrators of
the financial crisis. And he's backed
the most reactionary immigration and intelligence policies as well as
promoted the worst trade pact (the
Trans-Pacific Partnership) since NAFTA.
Hillary Clinton will likely only be Obama-heavy. If elected, Clinton will have much to prove, especially that she's tough. The plutocratic ruling class has no national answer, a workable program, to address the changes the nation faces amidst capitalism's global restructuring.
Their goal is to maximize private gain at the
expense of the vast majority of ordinary Americans. And
Clinton, like her husband before her,
will help facilitate the further distribution of wealth to the top 1
But at least no one will have any illusions that
it could be different...