My Coming To Grips With The Question: Is America Still A Democracy?
Sometimes you know things viscerally, but you don’t want to know them at a higher level of consciousness. That’s the way I’ve been with something my good friend Bob Walters has been saying for years, a rap that generally runs: “I have said since the 60s that the US is not a democracy, it is a plutocratic oligarchy. This is not news. So why are so many people finally waking up now and acting like it is news!”
His case is that our entire legislative and electoral system has been largely undermined for decades by the pervasive and sleazy influence of money.
Being in denial, I thought that it wasn’t that his view was totally wrong. It was just a bit too far out there for me.
Then came the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision – a decision that rubs the faces of us Americans who can’t make million dollar PAC contributions in the fact that money rules. And those of us that don’t have the money have almost no voice in our “democracy.”
Still I was resistant. Who really wants to be that cynical?
And then I watched Michael Moore’s film, “Capitalism: A Love Story.”
In it I found out about Citigroup memos that were sent to their fattest of fat cats in 2005 and 2006. The one from 2005 was headed, “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalance.” The report ran to 35 pages and started with:
“The World is dividing into two blocs – the Plutonomy and the rest. The U.S., UK, and Canada are the key Plutonomies – economies powered by the wealthy…
… In plutonomies the rich absorb a disproportionate chunk of the economy and have a massive impact on reported aggregate numbers like savings rates, current account deficits, consumption levels, etc. This imbalance in inequality expresses itself in the standard scary “global imbalances…”
It went on to say:
“…We project that the plutonomies (the U.S., UK, and Canada) will likely see even more income inequality, disproportionately feeding off a further rise in the profit share in their economies, capitalist-friendly governments, more technology-driven productivity, and globalization.”
Citigroup’s 2006 follow up report was headed, “Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer.” Here’s a quote:
“…Back in October, we coined the term ‘Plutonomy’… Our thesis is that the rich are the dominant drivers of demand in many economies around the world (the US, UK, Canada and Australia). These economies have seen the rich take an increasing share of income and wealth over the last 20 years, to the extent that the rich now dominate income, wealth and spending in these countries. Asset booms, a rising profit share and favourable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper and become a greater share of the economy in the plutonomy countries… Indeed, David Gordon and Ian Dew-Becker of the NBER demonstrate that the top 10%, particularly the top 1% of the US – the plutonomists in our parlance – have benefited disproportionately from the recent productivity surge in the US.”
My current Bob Walters-like enlightenment was long overdue.
My excuse – if one can have an excuse for keeping one’s head in the sand – for taking so long to twig to what Bob has understood for almost half-a-century is that if material like the above had been given the proper play by the media and proclaimed loudly – even people like myself would have caught on sooner. But of course our major media outlets have been bought and paid for by the super rich with pro-rich agendas.
So is America really a democracy or a plutocratic oligarchy? No contest. I now have to go with Bob on this one.
The Big Belch – a graphic novel about the
environment and corporate greed that is kind of like
Dr. Strangelove meets BP with drawings.