And Furthermore….

The McCutcheon decision, with its political privileging of the very wealthy, should focus our attention on the realities of the American economic landscape.

Thomas Piketty’s new book–which has been hailed as an “instant economic classic”– does just that. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Piketty asks whether we can stop the relentless accumulation of wealth by the richest few, and if so, how.

As Eduard Porter summarized Piketty’s core message in the Times, “the economic forces concentrating more and more wealth in the hands of the fortunate few are almost sure to prevail for a very long time.” Piketty says that as the return to capital exceeds economic growth, an ever larger share of national income goes to the owners of capital, the managers of capital and to their heirs, and he warns that economics cannot reverse this. Policy–political action–will be required.

Unfortunately, in the wake of Citizens United and McCutcheon, the wealthy–who already had far more political clout than the rest of us–seem likely to continue calling the policy shots.

In a thoughtful essay in The Nation, Ari Berman explains why policy change will be so difficult: the Court has made it easier for the wealthy to influence elections at the same time it has made it harder for poor folks to vote.

These are not unrelated issues—the same people, like the Koch brothers, who favor unlimited secret money in US elections are the ones funding the effort to make it harder for people to vote. The net effect is an attempt to concentrate the power of the top 1 percent in the political process and to drown out the voices and votes of everyone else.

Berman calculates that 322,000 average Americans would have to give an equivalent share of their net worth to match Sheldon Adelson’s $91.8 million in Super Pac contributions. And he points out that, since Shelby County  (the voting rights case), eight states that had been covered under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act have passed or implemented new voting restrictions (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina), and other states have been encouraged to follow suit.

According to the New York Times, “nine states [under GOP control] have passed measures making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013.”

So–more ways for the “haves” to “express themselves.” Fewer avenues for participation or influence by the rest of us.

Can we spell oligarchy?


  1. Between the Robert Court and our nations unwillingness to deal with global climate change, I just think we are screwed. For the first time, I don’t see how we recover.

  2. The most alarming factor is that concentration of wealth and property in the hands of a very few is nothing new to this earth. The advent of some semblance democratic economic equality on this planet can be mostly confined to a very short span of history; 1950-1980, an era inconsequential in the annuls of time. It appears we are bound to a continual struggle of the haves and the have nots. Yet, the causes are not at all complicated: in so long as we are divided, we are defeated. Religion, sex, race, patriotism and age. Tools for prying us apart. Tools we use against one another for the benefit of the rich who don’t recognize these tools. Thus you can see Bush hugging Hussein without losing a GOP vote. Yet, it is not likely that mankind will change. It is difficult to convince one to learn swimming while the boat still floats.

  3. Excellent observations, Earl. The have-nots outnumber the haves by a vast majority but have segregated themselves into the very groups you list; religion, sex, race, patriotism and age. If only we would/could organize into one cognizant group, we could tromp the butts of the haves into the polluted ground they cause with their greed. But, it is like reading “The Prophet”, a beautiful but unrealistic picture of reality.

  4. Even the candidates benefitting from big money contributors complain about the need to constantly beg in order to fund ever more expensive campaigns. Hardly anyone likes to feel like they’ve been bought and paid for.

  5. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy – Reagan Administration and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. Has this to say – “As I have pointed out for a decade, the “New Economy” jobs that we were promised in exchange for our manufacturing jobs and tradable professional service jobs that were offshored have never shown up. The transnational corporations and their hired shills among economists lied to us.”

    Further he mentions – “Without growth in consumer income, there is no growth in aggregate consumer demand. Offshoring jobs also offshores the income associated with the jobs, resulting in the decline in the domestic consumer market. The US transnational corporations, pursuing profits in the short-run, are destroying their long-run consumer base. ” The US, once a land of opportunity, has been transformed into an aristocratic economy in which income and wealth are concentrated at the very top. The highly skewed concentration at the top is the result of jobs off shoring, which transformed Americans’ salaries and wages into bonuses for executives and capital gains for owners, and financial deregulation, which produced financial collapse and the Federal Reserve’s bailout of “banks too big too fail.”

    Many of us see the string the 1% writing the laws, the 1% supplying the funding to elect politicians that represent the 1%. I feel at a loss of what to do at times.

    I have decided to join a group to urge Senator Bernie Sanders to run for President in 2016, which is the best I can think of at this point. I do not want another Clinton, or Bush.

  6. We often hear about (and have experienced to a degree) “runaway inflation”. The Climate scientists are talking about a scary scenario, “runaway Greenhouse”, which some believe has already arrived. Now comes “runaway 1%”. None of these runaways are going to a good place, but they will eventually clash, whether we are around to see it or not, but if I were to put money on it, I would say “nature bats last”.

  7. And furthermore, and in the mean time, all the collective monies between the Koch Brothers and George Soros cannot insure safe travels to a group of IU medical students to Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya.

    Copied and pasted from IU email sent on 4/3/14: “Recent bomb attacks in Mombasa and Nairobi in the past three days were by Al Shabab and/or Al Queida.
    Bob Einterz reports that the Kenyan Gov. has stepped up security in the country including in Eldoret and specifically at the Moi hospital out of concern for threats there. I have seen reports about armed escorts for fuel tankers at an Eldoret depot and on the highway that passes through the city. The FBI is working with Kenyan military to locate cars laden with explosives. One seized car had enough explosives to take down a large building.

    AMPATH has suspended project travel to Kenya. According to Einterz, project personnel
    already there are being advised to stay put for the time being because transiting through Nairobi may be more dangerous than staying in Eldoret.

    Absent marked improvement in this situation, I will not approve any IU sponsored travel to Kenya.”

  8. That’s a bit too much adventure for those students and their families, all of whom have probably chewed their fingernails to the quick. If the Koch brothers had accompanied them, they would have had lots of protection.

  9. The only Supreme Court judge ever to be impeached in the history of this country was Samuel Chase in 1804. Impeachment was for letting his partisan (Federalist) leanings affect his court decisions (does this have a familiar ring?). He was later acquitted by the Senate. Does this give you an idea of what our chances are for changing decisions of SCOTUS when we cannot rid the court of judges who ignore the Constitution and Amendments to sell our voting rights and elections to the highest bidder?

  10. Sanders is good but wouldn’t Liz be a surer shot? Just as Primo said in the courthouse scene in Casino. “Andy’s father had been a ‘stand up guy’, even a Marine, but why take the chance?” So they whacked him. Sanders is a Washington insider from long times. Liz just got there on a lark and MAY not be so corrupted. Look how much we anted up for Obama. So, why take the chance? Run Liz, run!

  11. Liz would be another Teddy Roosevelt, which is just what we sorely need. She has guts, she’s smart and she knows exactly what to do. She would bring in the same kind of people, which could be a wonderfully stunning and refreshing event. If she had a cooperative Congress, she could make this into a pretty decent place. I’m no David Koch, moneywise, but I would be happy to send my pennies her way.

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