Friday, December 17, 2010

The Road to Oligarchy

When you spend a lot of time studying a subject, or follow events closely, you may assume that the issue at hand has become common knowledge, or at least has the attention of most sentient beings. I learned long ago, and still have to remind myself, that this is usually not the case. Recently I was again surprised by a poll that showed that 94% of Americans do not know who John Boehner is. This is a man who is constantly in the news, and in front of a camera. People will learn more than they wanted to know when he becomes Speaker of the House in January.

For the same reason, I have to assume not many have kept up with this country's slide into oligarchy. The evidence is there, and so is the reportage. It is not comforting.

For a small sampling, see Robert Freeman's article, It's Official: Rich Declare War on the Middle Class. As Freeman relates, "... all of the income and wealth gains for middle Americans from the “golden years” between 1945 and 1975 have now been wiped out.  Or more accurately, have now been transferred to the very rich."

Andy Kroll's How the Oligarchs Took America notes how thoroughly conservative elites have captured institutions, including the court system, the media, and the minds of many Americans since Ronald Reagan (greed is good). He also refers to an excellent new book that happens to be on my ever-growing reading list, Winner-Take All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. As Kroll relates,
Unlike so many pundits, politicians, and academics, Hacker and Pierson resist blaming the usual suspects: globalization, the rise of an information-based economy, and the demise of manufacturing. The culprit in their crime drama is American politics itself over the last three decades. The clues to understanding the rise of an American oligarchy, they believe, won’t be found in New York or New Delhi, but on Capitol Hill, along Pennsylvania Avenue, and around K Street, that haven in a heartless world for Washington’s lobbyists.

And for an analysis on how our warrior class has assisted the transfer of wealth, see Gilbert Mercier's cheerily entitled The American Empire is Collapsing and Americans Will be the Last to Know. My only quibble is that many Americans do know (there I go again), but we are at a loss as to what we can do.

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