Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘plutocracy

Plutocracy system in the USA?

A billionaires’ election system?

Since when as the common people actually elected who they knew is right for the job?

Are the Us citizens imagining that they have just elected the new Congress?

In a formal way, they did have. The public did vote.

In a substantive way, it’s not true that they have chosen their government.

 posted this Nov. 11, 2014

Understanding and Overcoming America’s Plutocracy

This was the billionaires’ election, billionaires of both parties.

While the Republican and Democratic Party billionaires have some differences, what unites them is much stronger than what divides them, a few exceptions aside.

Indeed, many of the richest individual and corporate donors give to both parties. The much-discussed left-right polarization is not polarization at all. The political system is actually relatively united and working very effectively for the richest of the rich.

There has never been a better time for the top 1%. The stock market is soaring, profits are high, interest rates are near zero, and taxes are low.  (But real wealth generated by the working people has not materialized in this economy)

The main countervailing forces — unions, antitrust authorities, and financial regulators — have been clobbered.

Think of it this way.

If government were turned over to the CEOs of ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, Bechtel, and Health Corporation of America, they would have very little to change of current policies, which already cater to the 4 mega-lobbies: Big Oil, Wall Street, defense contractors, and medical care giants.

This week’s election swing to the Republicans will likely give these lobbies the few added perks that they seek: lower corporate and personal tax rates, stronger management powers vis-à-vis labor, and even weaker environmental and financial regulation.

The richest of the rich pay for the political system — putting in billions of dollars in campaign and lobbying funds — and garner trillions of dollars of benefits in return.

Those are benefits for the corporate sector — financial bailouts, cheap loans, tax breaks, lucrative federal contracts, and a blind eye to environmental damages — not for society as a whole. The rich reap their outsized incomes and wealth in large part by imposing costs on the rest of society.

We can’t actually tote up the total spending on this campaign by the richest donors because, thanks to the Supreme Court, much of the spending is anonymous and unreported. Still, we know that the Koch Brothers, through their complex web of shell groups, put in at least $100 million and probably much more.

Many other billionaires and corporate contributions helped to raise the total kitty to more than $3.6 billion.

The evidence is overwhelming that politicians vote the interests of their donors, not of society at large. This has now been demonstrated rigorously by many researchers, most notably Princeton Professor Martin Gilens.

Whether the Republicans or Democrats are in office, the results are little different. The interests at the top of the income distribution will prevail.

Why does the actual vote count for so little?

People vote for individuals, not directly for policies.

They may elect a politician running on a platform for change, but the politician once elected will then vote for the positions of the big campaign donors.

The political outcomes are therefore oriented toward great wealth rather than to mainstream public opinion, the point that Gilens and others have been finding in their detailed research. (See also the study by Page, Bartels, and Seawright).

It’s not easy for the politicians to shun the campaign funds even if they want to. Money works in election campaigns. It pays for attack ads that flood the media, and it pays for elaborate and sophisticated get-out-the-vote efforts that target households at the micro level to manipulate who does and does not go to the polls.

Campaigning without big money is like unilateral disarmament. It’s noble; it works once in a while; and it is extremely risky. On the other hand, taking big campaign money is a Faustian bargain: you may win power but lose your political soul.

Of course there are modest differences between the parties, and there is a wonderful, truly progressive wing of the Democratic Party organized in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but it’s marginalized and in the minority of the party.

So many Democrats have their hand in the fossil-fuel cookie jar of Big Oil and Big Coal that the Obama administration couldn’t get even the Democrats, much less the Republicans, to line up for climate-change action during the first year of the administration.

And how do Wall Street money managers keep their tax privileges despite the public glare? Their success in lobbying is due at least as much to Democratic Party Senators beholden to Wall Street as it is to Republican Senators.

Is there a way out?

Yes, but it’s a very tough path. Plutocracy has a way of spreading like an epidemic until democracy itself is abandoned.

History shows the wreckage of democracies killed from within. And yet America has rallied in the past to push democratic reforms, notably in the Progressive Era from 1890-1914, the New Deal from 1933-1940, and the Great Society from 1961-1969.

All of these transformative successes required grass-roots activism, public protests and demonstrations, and eventually bold leaders, indeed drawn from the rich but with their hearts with the people: Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.

Yet in all of those cases, the mass public led and the great leaders followed the cause. This is our time and responsibility to help save democracy. The Occupy Movement and the 400,000 New Yorkers who marched for climate-change control in September are pointing the way.

Obama-metrics: What to expect?

In the previous two posts I enumerated the promises of Barack Obama campaign promises and how to rebound. Bill Adair (Pulitzer Prize) published the Obama program that included 510 promises. Promises being executed are 240 promises, 86 promises were kept, 26 were compromised, and 62 were blocked by the oppositions.

            Russell Banks reported the restrictions of the US political systems on the initiatives of President Barack Obama campaign program.  The US system is Not democratic for two reasons: First, in a democratic system the leader of the winning party is the leader of the nation and it is the way around in the US except when the President is running for a second term: Once a President is elected then his party appoint him leader of the party. Thus, the President is controlled by the heavy weight politicians and administrators of his party.  Actually, the President is not elected by the majority of popular votes but by the delegates of the States.  There are many instances when the majority of the popular vote was defeated (Bush Junior is the most recent example)

            Second, even if the winning party has majority in the Senate, any text of law needs 60 out of 100 Senators to agree on reading a text.  A Senator from Nebraska has as much power as the one representing New York State. Thus, the President is constantly managing the heavy weight politicians and Senators of his party to passing any law before even negotiating with the opposing party.  Anything in the US to get moving needs frequent popular active pressures on the Senators of the States of both parties to reaching a law favorable to the neediest: a Senator has to realize that financial backing by lobbyists cannot counter balance the angry voters.

            The US is a Republic trying for a century to becoming a plutocracy (run by the heavy weight politicians and lobbyists); the US political system might get there if Obama fails to capitalize on his landslide victory. We can understand why for a century the successive Administrations did their best to alienate people from getting involved in politics by making the political process more complex and by extending activities that shun people away from politics such as sports and entertainments.

            In a bipartite system it is the center that is the determining factors; mainly the economic and internal policies. Obama shifted the center a bit to the left by moving from total privatization concept that began 40 years ago to involving the Federal government.  Obama re-appointed the culprits of the financial disaster such as Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Peter Orszag, and Ben Bernanke; all of whom coming from Wall Street related institutions. For example, the Administration refrained from selecting among the syndicate leaders, militant associations, intellectuals and university professors. It seems that Obama started with a high dose of confidence in the authority of the richest class in matter of financial and economic management.

                        Obama managed to bring public opinion around the classes that need more attention and care or what is more likely, it is the American people that opened Obama eyes to new realities and he grabbed the opportunity. If the public was not convinced that banks, lobbyists, and multinational financial institutions are pure robbers of their public wealth then Obama could not have won with such a landslide.

            So far, Obama was successful in forging ahead and putting in execution many promised reforms of his program announced during his campaign trail by shear momentum: The public that supported him failed to get on the move; thus, Obama had to relent and bend before the opposition public activities before launching new “controversial” initiatives. The new public health program added 30 million more citizens but it is to kick in by 2013.  More citizens are demanding and expecting to witness a Presidential will for stringer regulations and control on the banks and multinational financial institutions.

            Unfortunately, in foreign policies Obama is playing the traditional and exhausting Washington provincial game that requires internal consensus: Obama is resuming the traditional strategy save in his rhetorical ability in the selection of words, tones, and style.

            Obama did not prove to the public that he exercised good imaginative alternatives to redressing the financial and economic crisis.  Obama has to remind the public that he is the victor so that the public may extend him voluntary rights to guide the nation against the many political restrictions that are erected against public opinion pressures.  For the time being, if you inhale deeply then you realize that US policies didn’t make a qualitative dent for long-term reforms.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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