Friday, December 12, 2014

The United States Plutocracy - A History

This is not the first time that the United States has descended into plutocracy - government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy.

18th Century - Rise of Aristocracy
At its founding the United States was a democratic aristocracy, voting rights were restricted to property owners but within that elite class the greater good of the nation at large predominated.  The election of Andrew Jackson marked the growth of people power where aristocratic standing no longer guaranteed political power and rugged Americanism was more valued than genteel breeding.

19th Century - First Plutocracy
It was in the decades after the Civil War that things shifted again, this time to a pure Plutocracy. The rise of robber barons like Jay Gould, John Rockefeller, and J. P. Morgan saw a breed of Americans who didn't give a shit about the welfare of the nation and sought only personal wealth.

They manipulated markets, bribed politicians, and developed monopolies that allowed them to exploit workers with starvation wages and bleed small businesses by fixing prices. They owned the media and so could censor most of their corrupt practices. They considered legislatures, judges, and even presidents as investment property to be used to expand their wealth.

The years between 1870 and 1900 was known both as the Gilded Age, for the gaudy wealth of this handful of highly successful thieves, and the Long Depression because the rest of the nation suffered 23 years of deprivation unmatched until the 1930's.

Trust Buster Teddy Roosevelt dealt a severe blow to the plutocrats during his presidency although subsequent presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge tried to restore the plutocrats to their former power. What finally crushed the American Plutocracy was the Great Depression.
The business of America is business. ~ Calvin Coolidge, 1925

20th Century - Democracy's Golden Age
The Great Depression saw banks go bust, losing depositors money in the process, business shut their doors throwing millions out of work that had paid less than 25 cents an hour. The myth that American plutocrats kept the country strong was broken. What followed under Franklin Roosevelt were minimum wage laws, child labor laws, bank regulations, and Social Security. Each of these was fruitless opposed by the plutocrats.

By the 1950's the tax on plutocrats had reached 90% and the United States economy was prospering like it had never before. The Middle Class thrived and America became the envy of the world. While American prosperity waxed and waned throughout the rest of the century the seeds of its demise was the election of Ronald Reagan. The marginal tax rate had been cut to 70% in the 1960's and that had led to the recession of the 1970's. Reagan slashed taxes on plutocrats allowing for the growth of multibillionaires. This trend accelerated under the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama.

21st Century - Plutocracy Triumphant
Today, legislatures, judges, even presidents are wholly owned subsidiaries of American plutocrats. Plutocrats write legislation.  Plutocrats openly buy judges. Presidential candidates make pilgrimages to individual plutocrats like they were holy sites. Plutocrats don't give a shit about the country, they are only interested in what will give them more power and make them more money.

The next time someone tells you that the United States of America is a democracy, feel free to spit in their face. The American democratic experiment is dead, killed by the plutocrats who rule the rest of us as serfs.

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