Polls show that two-thirds of Americans want taxes to be raised for taxpayers earning more than a million dollars a year. It’s not happening. Obama is pushing for the TPP, the Trans Pacific Treaty, which democratic presidential contenders oppose. All over, public opinion has been cornered into impotence: the public wants one thing, they tolerate the opposite. The public’s mind has been made into boiled pasta: easy to gobble, no backbone.
Angus Deaton just got the Nobel in economics. Here is an example of his prose: “There is a danger that the rapid growth of top incomes can become self-reinforcing through the political access that money can bring. Rules are set not in the public interest but in the interest of the rich, who use those rules to become yet richer and more influential… To worry about these consequences of extreme inequality has nothing to do with being envious of the rich and everything to do with the fear that rapidly growing top incomes are a threat to the wellbeing of everyone else.”
As I have explained for more than a decade, this is nothing new. This exponentiating growth in wealth, and thus power, for the few is how the Roman REPUBLIC was destroyed (and replaced by the despicable and stupid Roman plutocracy, aka “empire”).
The same phenomenon also happened when the Imperium Francorum (Empire of the Franks) went from the mild plutocracy known as the “Renovated Roman Empire” to the hard, abusive and demented plutocracy of the Late Middle Ages, “Renaissance”, and “Enlightenment”.
158 families, some of them not even bothering to reside in the USA, are busy buying themselves a president of the USA. Hey, why not? This has been working ever better for nearly half a century, ever since Mr. Nixon using public money to boost Mr. Kaiser’s health maintenance scheme (the President and the Kaiser: quite a program!). Say NYT’s Confessore, Cohen and Yourish, October 10, 2015:
“They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.
Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.”
Notice that the New York Times admits that the Supreme Court has “LEGALIZED” ways to channel the power of the few. Notice that Judicial power legislates. Notice that a new form of power has appeared: it’s expressed not just by the wealthiest, by a subclass of the wealthiest, a subclass which profited from the reorganization of the ultimate values of the USA:
“These donors’ fortunes reflect the shifting composition of the country’s economic elite. Relatively few work in the traditional ranks of corporate America, or hail from dynasties of inherited wealth. Most built their own businesses, parlaying talent and an appetite for risk into huge wealth: They founded hedge funds in New York, bought up undervalued oil leases in Texas, made blockbusters in Hollywood. More than a dozen of the elite donors were born outside the United States, immigrating from countries like Cuba, the old Soviet Union, Pakistan, India and Israel.”
Something the New York Times does not imagine is that these people became so rich precisely because they changed the laws first. An example is the entire financial industry, because of the dismantlement of the Banking Act of 1933 (Glass-Steagall). Hedge funds get money from banks and shadow banks, and that would not have happened before Clinton. If the New York Times does not understand it, those politically connected “donors” do, as the New York Times itself observe:
“But regardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlement programs. While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth ….”
Obama went to a hall in Los Angeles. It cost only $33,400, per person, to be there. A fracking family (family making money from fracking), gave $15 million to a particular Republican candidate. Another family, which made a fortune from a hedge fund, gave eleven million dollars. And so on. Even French TV is taking note, and discovers “it’s a threat to us all“. What? No appreciation for a short and brutish life as in the Middle Ages, serving great lords of finance and drinking fossil fuel water?The New York Times admits wealth prevents democratic expression. Actually the paper seems to be a bit confused between the notion of “democracy” and “demography”:
“In marshaling their financial resources chiefly behind Republican candidates, the donors are also serving as a kind of financial check on demographic forces that have been nudging the electorate toward support for the Democratic Party and its economic policies. Two-thirds of Americans support higher taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year, according to a June New York Times/CBS News poll, while six in 10 favor more government intervention to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly seven in 10 favor preserving Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are.
Republican candidates have struggled to improve their standing with Hispanic voters, women and African-Americans. But as the campaign unfolds, Republicans are far outpacing Democrats in exploiting the world of “super PACs,” which, unlike candidates’ own campaigns, can raise unlimited sums from any donor
What does the concentration of wealth at the top do? Mostly shape minds in a way which serves the top guys.
The degree of manipulation of opinion is astounding, and obviously deliberate. (Media are mostly owned by plutocrats: so it’s no surprise!) One could call it a science. A technique is to write an article relating scientific, or sociological facts, say about global melting of ice, or medical care, or guns, and then allowing only commentary derisive of the article. (The Daily Mail in the UK apparently does this to a particularly obvious extent, I observe.)
Another technique is to (implicitly) present banks, and the money-changers as the savior of humanity (the New York Times’ Krugman does this), while not talking about Too-Big-To-Fail banks, Shadow Banking, or the dark connections between banking, derivatives, and politicians.
Angus Deaton, the Nobelist from Princeton University, has looked at the Dark Side: he observed that a lot of financial help to poor countries backfires, as it makes more sustainable for governments to mismanage the society and economy they rule. So the problem with development is more governance (what I call “empire”) than anything else.
Governance is failing worldwide, and this explains why 80 plutocrats are richer than the rest of the world combined.
The recipient of the “Prize of the Bank of Sweden in Economic Science” is a harsh critic of economic aid from rich countries, like the United States of America, to poor countries. “I have come to believe that most external aid is doing more harm than good,” he wrote in his 2013 book, “The Great Escape.” “If it is undermining countries’ chance to grow—as I believe it is—there is no argument for continuing it on the grounds that ‘we must do something.’ The something that we should do is stop.” The Scottish born Deaton, indeed, is not afraid of controversy: he questions the widespread presumption that rising inequality is always a bad thing.
In other words, Deaton dares to say aloud that the hysterical pursuit of wealth may be good for economic activity. But Deaton claims to have found evidence that wealth brings happiness… until an income of $75,000 income. After which it starts to backfire.