Has America Become an Oligarchy?

Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 01:23 am
Hacker and Pierson are far from the only economists and political scientists to recognize a fundamental societal distortion. Larry Bartels, one of America's leading political scientists, also believes America has entered a new Gilded Age. Bartels' 2008 book on the subject, "Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age," has drawn a great deal of attention and even been quoted by President Barack Obama.

"The really dramatic economic gains over the past 30 years have been concentrated among the extremely rich," Bartels writes, "largely bypassing even the vast majority of ordinary rich people in the top 5 percent of income distribution." He doesn't see this fundamental shift in the distribution of wealth as having resulted from market forces or drastic events, such as the financial crisis. Instead, he believes they are "the result of policy choices."

As Bartels explains, much as the economic giants of the Gilded Age developed such enormous influence that they could dictate basic political conditions, today's Wall Street bosses and CEOs have successfully arranged extensive deregulation for their industries. Indeed, he argues that this is the only thing that can explain how hedge fund managers suddenly started making billions of dollars a year. Former Citigroup CEO Sanford Weill, for example, kept a framed pen in his office as a symbol of his influence. It was the pen President Bill Clinton -- at Weill's instigation -- used in 1999 to sign into law legislation repealing the provisions in the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that separated the transactions of investment and commercial banks.

At the same time, Bartels writes, the wealthy receive enormous tax breaks worth hundreds of billions of dollars. In the 1970s, capital gains tax was 40 percent, and the highest income tax bracket paid a rate of 70 percent. Under George W. Bush, these rates dropped to 15 percent and 35 percent, respectively. For example, it emerged a few weeks ago that legendary investor Warren Buffett earned $63 million last year but was only required to pay 17 percent in taxes.


Thus the analysis that I have put up on A2K in multiple places that the US Federal Government is corrupt, and is run by the corporate class. We see the oppression of the people by the government in other areas besides economics though, for instance I have pointed out how this oppression is woven onto our sex law.

The question is: How long can the US withstand this internal tension?

Differences between rich and poor are tolerated as long as the rags-to-riches story of the dishwasher-turned-millionaire remains theoretically possible. But studies show that increasing inequality and political control concentrated in the hands of the wealthy elite have drastically reduced economic mobility and that the US has long since fallen far behind Europe on this issue. Indeed, only 4 percent of less-well-off Americans ever successfully make the leap into the upper-middle class.

"The major difference between this Gilded Age and the last one is the relative absence of protest," historian Gary Gerstle told the online magazine Salon in October. "In the first Gilded Age, the streets were flooded with protest movements."

Manhattan hasn't yet quite reached that point.

The oppressors should not get too comfy, as oppressors the world over are finding out they get over thrown by force of public will. The oppressors of the American people will eventually suffer the same fate...
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Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 10:38 am
Where is Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt when we need him---again?

Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt 1901–1909

On September 6, President McKinley was shot while at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Initial reports in the succeeding days suggested his condition was improving, so Roosevelt embarked on a vacation at Mount Marcy in northeastern New York. He was returning from a climb to the summit on September 13 when a park ranger brought him a telegram informing him that McKinley's condition had deteriorated, and he was near death.

Roosevelt and his family immediately departed for Buffalo. When they reached the nearest train station at North Creek, at 5:22 am on September 14, he received another telegram informing him that McKinley had died a few hours earlier. Roosevelt arrived in Buffalo that afternoon, and was sworn in there as President at 3:30 pm by U.S. District Judge John R. Hazel.

Roosevelt kept McKinley's cabinet and promised to continue McKinley's policies. One of his first notable acts as president was to deliver a 20,000-word address to Congress[51] asking it to curb the power of large corporations (called "trusts"). For his aggressive attacks on trusts over his two terms, he has been called a "trust-buster."

In the 1904 presidential election, Roosevelt won the presidency in his own right in a landslide victory. His vice president was Charles Fairbanks.

Roosevelt also dealt with union workers. In May 1902, United Mine Workers went on strike to get higher pay wages and shorter workdays. He set up a fact-finding commission that stopped the strike, and resulted in the workers getting more pay for fewer hours.

In August 1902, Roosevelt was the first president to be seen riding in an automobile in public.[52] This took place in Hartford, CT. The car was a Columbia Electric Victoria Phaeton, manufactured in Hartford. The police squad rode bicycles alongside the car. (The reference includes a photo of the event.)

In 1905, he issued a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which allows the United States to "exercise international policy power" so they can intervene and keep smaller countries on their feet.

Roosevelt helped the wellbeing of people by passing laws such as The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and The Pure Food and Drug Act. The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 banned misleading labels and preservatives that contained harmful chemicals. The Pure Food and Drug Act banned food and drugs that are impure or falsely labeled from being made, sold, and shipped. Roosevelt was also served as honorary president of the school health organization American School Hygiene Association from 1907 to 1908, and in 1909 he convened the first White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children.

The Gentlemen's Agreement with Japan came into play in 1907, banning all school segregation of Japanese, yet controlling Japanese immigration in California. That year, Roosevelt signed the proclamation establishing Oklahoma as the 46th state of the Union.

Building on McKinley's effective use of the press, Roosevelt made the White House the center of news every day, providing interviews and photo opportunities. After noticing the White House reporters huddled outside in the rain one day, he gave them their own room inside, effectively inventing the presidential press briefing. The grateful press, with unprecedented access to the White House, rewarded Roosevelt with ample coverage.

He chose not to run for another term in 1908, and supported William Taft for the presidency, instead of Fairbanks. Fairbanks withdrew from the race, and would later support Taft for re-election against Roosevelt in the 1912 election.

List of federal judges appointed by Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt appointed a record 75 federal judges. Roosevelt appointed three Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1902), William Rufus Day (1903), William Henry Moody (1906). In addition to these three, Roosevelt appointed 19 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, and 53 judges to the United States district courts.

Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 10:43 am
Where are leaders of any stripe when we need them?
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Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 10:55 am
The greatest irony I've seen here at a2k Hawkeye is although I agree with on the statement that the US is an oligarchy or a plutocracy I believe you have foolishly drunk the Kool-Aid to think the Tea Party is genuine in it's pursuit to save the country from "our oppressors" when EVERY move they propose is a basic tenet to strengthen the status quo. Clearly you are too blinded by your personal selfishness and greed to see and feel the rain falling on your head from your Tea Party overlords.

Governments exist for a reason. Progressive governments exist and should continue to exist in order to protect it's citizens from the raiding and looting hordes of the multibillion dollar conglomerates and banking institutions who themselves exist in order to set up a select small population into extreme wealth and power.
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2011 11:11 am
I am not of the Tea Party, I am a radical leftist formerly a revolutionary currently a socialist. It could be argued that a better word is collectivist...I strongly support libertarian political actions because I want to see individuals once again free enough from government oppresion that they can choose to come together in collective effort. What we have now is a sham socialism impossed by a government which is owned by the coporate class, whos only mission is to grab more wealth.
Reply Sun 30 Oct, 2011 12:35 am
We are free from government oppression. Now if we can free ourselves from our billion dollar overlords perhaps we can enjoy real freedom and get rid of our bought politicians.
Reply Sun 30 Oct, 2011 11:28 pm
i'd settle for a harry truman.

the last 4 presidents are from harvard or yale, just about everyone on the supreme court is from new york and a jew or a catholic

this is the modern equivalent of the ptolemies, who kept it all 'in the family'

wall street has no difficulty co-opting this hotHouse 'leadership' class

check out ron suskind's talk about his new book eviscerating the obama character and admin., which squandered an enormous opportunity for structural change. lack of guts seems to be the verdict. the speechifier had more brains than heart.

the whole damn thing, from new york to washington and back up to boston, is a big, nasty, corrupt mess.

more power to the kids saying what most of the rest of us have figured out, too, but are lucky enough to have jobs to go to.

so, the short answer is: YES
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Reply Wed 20 Sep, 2017 05:52 pm
I know as Americans we are used to thinking in terms of the U.S.A. as opposed to seeing things as worldwide concerns. But it (the Oligarchy) is not limited to or restricted to the U.S.A. The 1% affects the state of affairs worldwide. In effect, they represent a form of monopoly upon our wealth & resources. We need to enact new laws to protect US from the 1%. Or we may have to face revolution as our only option to free ourselves and take our world back.
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Reply Wed 20 Sep, 2017 06:00 pm
He (Teddy Roosevelt) was noted to have expressed concerns about this very subject. There is a lot that has happened since his time and a lot of it has been done behind the scenes where it has been hardly been noticed. A few researchers have investigated some of these changes and those with vested interests. The Oligarchy actually existed before America was discovered.
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