- April 15, 2014 in Columnists
Are you a puppet of the plutocracy?
You will never be among the top 5 percent of wealthiest Americans, but you’ll be ruled by them for the foreseeable future. And did you know that the top 5 percent controls 72 percent of the wealth in this country? Think about that. Ninety-five percent of Americans control just 28 percent of the wealth.
Recently, in the Supreme Court’s disastrous yet predictable ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the court gutted more campaign finance laws, allowing donors to give whatever they chose to political parties and PACs. The ruling comes with the backdrop of a recent Center for Responsive Politics study that, for the first time in history, a majority in Congress are millionaires. With this kind of wealth inequality and the expanded ability of the rich to shovel money at politicians, what are the chances our leaders are working for our best interests?
But most astonishing is the fact that the fat cats themselves often don’t have to defend their frenzied feeding on the public’s dime, because the plutocracy has trained an army of poor and middle class mostly conservative Americans to defend their wealthy masters. Why a retired Tea Partier collecting Social Security and Medicare and barely making ends meet is out condemning the very government they depend on for their existence and defending corporate America is mystifying to many. But it all makes sense if you look at the master plan.
Number one is identifying the real Americans. From Sarah Palin down to dimwitted right wing radio talk show hosts, they repeat this idea that they represent the real Americans while everyone else — including liberals, minorities and gays, among others — are somehow less American, less patriotic. It’s key that the targeted listeners think they’re the chosen people.
Number two is to rile up their followers with hot button issues. They’re coming for our guns. They want you to pay for liberal women’s abortions. They’ve kicked God and creationism out of the classroom. They want gays to marry and risk our great land of becoming the next Sodom and Gomorrah. Illegals are coming for our jobs and destroying our culture as a by-product.
It’s not unlike what football teams do before they hit the field or soldiers hear before going into battle. Fox News, radio programs, Republican politicians, and push polls and mass mailings fire up the base. Now, of course, the plutocrats don’t actually care about these hot button issues. They just use them to piss people off enough to vote their candidates in so that said politician will continue the real agenda: protecting the plutocracy with tax breaks, dodges and other financial schemes. And nothing motivates quite like resentment so…
Number three is the fear of socialism. This is Mitt Romney’s infamous 47 percent. It’s Joe the Plumber’s wealth redistribution. It’s Rush Limbaugh’s demonization of Sandra Fluke over contraception. It’s the tried and true refrain of illegal immigrants who come here, have anchor babies and go on welfare. It’s the people receiving unemployment benefits and food stamps from this “food stamp president.” This is about “lesser Americans” taking from the real Americans.
Nothing says socialism and the lesser Americans taking from the real Americans better than Obamacare. It’s a neo-con plutocrat’s wet dream. It’s framed as a government takeover of healthcare that will cause you to lose your doctor, lose your lunch and with death panels, lose your life. It’s always been about taking the real Americans’ healthcare and giving it to the lessers.
Number four is the distractions. I’m convinced that Benghazi is an Arabic word meaning, “The Fast and Furious didn’t work.” If it’s not one trumped up “scandal” it’s another. The Drudge Report reliably prints these dubious scandals where everything and anything about the President is shown in the worst possible light. The President vacations too much. He spends too much on vacation travel. The First Lady wants to deprive kids of dessert. Everything is designed to keep the fires of resentment burning. After all, he’s one of them, isn’t he? He’s not a real American. Government is the enemy.
Number five is the coronation of the aristocracy. The wealthy are the “job creators,” a euphemism focus-grouped and provided by Frank Luntz, the man who has kept the GOP two steps ahead of progressives in framing issues. Job creators are super-Americans who benevolently provide jobs for us lesser Americans for which we’re never quite grateful enough. When Cletus is laid off, instead of blaming that big company that outsourced his job in order to maximize profits, he blames the government for wanting to raise minimum wage or regulate business to keep them from destroying the environment. Cletus’ rage is misdirected from the corporation that sold him out for more profits to government.
But this is key: it’s not a matter of left vs. right when it comes to the elite who run the republic. I know I’ve written about conservatives and Republicans here, and it’s easy to demonize the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Rupert Murdoch and Fox News, but the truth is the plutocrats aren’t constrained by labels. Remember that the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which many blame for the financial meltdown, occurred under Bill Clinton’s administration. And in 2008 Wall Street funneled the bulk of donations to Barack Obama. When Obama didn’t genuflect enough, they gave most donations to Mitt Romney in 2012.
Why did Rupert Murdoch just tell Fortune magazine that he could see himself voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016?
“I could live with Hillary as President,” he said and probably would’ve twisted the end of his handlebar mustache if he had one.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being wealthy. Whether one builds a fortune or inherits one, there’s nothing inherently wrong with great wealth. And of course people are free to hold conservative, libertarian or any other view.
But what is wrong is when someone uses that enormous wealth to put a thumb (or foot) on the scale of competition and opportunity. When our billionaires and millionaires buy politicians to rig the tax code to protect their assets, exploit their workers and install a glass, hell, a Teflon ceiling to advancement for the poor and middle class, then that’s wrong.
When huge corporations collect politicians in order to maximize profits while damaging the environment, that’s wrong. When those same companies use their money and leverage to shield themselves from liability from their own wrongdoing and even collect subsidies and bailouts that the average lesser American would never be afforded, that’s wrong.
When big money donors use their wealth to assist their selected political puppets in laws to discourage, block or disenfranchise voters, that’s dealing a death blow to democracy.
But what happens when the masses of aggrieved plutocracy-protecting voters wake up and see that their fight isn’t with liberals, illegal immigrants, minorities, gays, or Al Qaeda? What happens when people realize it’s not the food stamp user with the iPhone in line in front of them at the market who has destroyed the American dream but speculators, bankers and other corporate criminals who brought our economy to its knees and then reached into our pockets to bail themselves out? How will people react when they find out that to their corporate masters, they too are really lesser Americans?
What happens when we set aside all of our other political differences to come together with the devastating knowledge that our votes are stronger than their checkbooks?
To paraphrase a line from Rick Grimes, these self-appointed wealthy masters of the universe are going to feel pretty stupid when they realize they’re fucking with the wrong people.