A recent article in the Washington Post described how the current US tax-‘reform’ bill is being shaped; and it describes, basically (at least as far as tax-law changes are concerned), the operation of a US dictatorship by the super-rich.
First of all, however: there is no longer any realistic question as regards whether the US in recent decades has been a dictatorship, or instead a democracy. According to the only scientific analysis of the relevant data, that has been done in order to determine whether the US is a dictatorship or a democracy, the US is definitely a dictatorship that’s perpetrated by the extremely richest against the public-at-large; in other words: the US government functions as an aristocracy, otherwise referred-to as an oligarchy, or a plutocracy, or a kleptocracy; but, in any case, and by whatever name, it’s ruled by a tiny number of the extremely wealthiest and their agents, on behalf of those few super-rich, against the concerns and interests and needs of the public (everyone else). So, instead of being rule by the public (the “demos” is the Greek term for it), it’s rule on behalf of a tiny dictatorial class, of extreme wealth—by whatever name we might happen to label this ruling class.
That study, by professors Gilens and Page, explained that it examined “1,779 instances between 1981 and 2002 in which a national survey of the general public asked a favor/oppose question about a proposed policy change,” and it compared those public-policy preferences, by the public, versus the public-policy preferences regarding those same issues, by the super-wealthiest; and, it found that only the public-policy preferences by the super-wealthiest and their paid agents, made any discernible difference, at all, in the likelihood that a given public policy ultimately became enacted into law, in the United States. Whereas the public-policy preferences of the wealthiest do, at far higher than mere random chances, become enacted into laws, the public-policy preferences of the public are (except in political rhetoric and promises—frauds perpetrated to deceive the public) ignored, in the United States.
Here is an excellent six-minute video describing the methodology and findings in that landmark study, and here is a commentary by former US President Jimmy Carter, in which he says that he knows it’s true. He said this not on the basis of examining thousands of cases and doing the statistical analysis of the data, like Gilens and Page had done, but just on the basis of his observations of how the US federal government has been functioning in recent decades. And, of course, the scientific study is vastly more reliable than is any individual’s mere opinion about the matter.
Furthermore, there is evidence that even in some local or state governments in the United States considerable corruption exists, and therefore an extreme slant prevails in favor of the rich. During June 2016, I headlined about this, “Here Is How Corrupt America Is”, and opened:
The best reporting on the depth of America’s dictatorship is probably that being done by Atlanta Georgia’s NBC-affiliated, Gannett-owned, TV Channel “11 Alive,” WXIA television, its “The Investigators” series of local investigative news reports, which show, up close and at a cellularly detailed level, the way things actually work in today’s America. Although it’s only local, it displays what meets the legal standards of the US federal government in actually any state in the union; so, it exposes the character of the US government, such that what’s shown to be true here, meets America’s standard for ‘democracy,’ or else the federal government isn’t enforcing federal laws against it (which is the same thing as its meeting the federal government’s standards).
The links to three of these local TV news reports will be provided, along with a summary of each of the videos; and then the broader context will be provided, which ties the local picture in with the national, and then the resulting international, picture. So: this will be like a zoom-lens view, starting with three selected close-ups, and then broadening the view to wide-angle, showing the context in terms of which what’s happening in that fine detail (those close-up views) makes sense.
What was exemplified in this reporting by that excellent investigative team could be called “corporate organized-gangsterism,” and this gangsterism was being led by an operation, “ALEC,” that was founded by politicians whose careers are funded by the Koch brothers and some other US billionaires.
Furthermore, as was mentioned briefly at the opening here, a recent issue of the Washington Post’s “PowerPost” section was titled ”The Finance 202: Tax overhaul’s big test comes now,” and it described in detail what was shaping the Trump administration’s tax-overhaul bill. This article reported that the lobbyists were shaping it 100%. It’s a superb nitty-gritty, down among the weeds, description, of the monetary deals, the horse-trading, that were being made, not only for corporations, but for the wealthiest non-business lobbies, including ‘nonprofit’ ones, but almost all of these lobbies, too, depend overwhelmingly upon billionaires for their funding. What’s being carved-up and served, is being carved-up from governments, and being served to the super-rich. (After all: conservatives say “Government bad, business good,” and Republicans are the conservative Party; so, it’s taking from government, and going to business.)
So: is it any wonder why Gilens and Page found what they did? They found that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” (By “mass-based groups” was being referenced what the left often calls “movements” or “grass-roots” organizations. After all, what happened from “Occupy Wall Street”? Nothing. It was a big waste of time and effort. Authentic movements get marginalized, because the billionaires’ ‘news’ media despise them. Fake ones, such as the Kochs’ “The Tea Party ‘movement,’” get weaponized, because the billionaires’ ‘news’media treat them extensively, and often grant them respect. Top-down’s the way, in any dictatorship. That includes in America.)
Here is another excellent video—this one 10 minutes long—summarizing the Gilens and Page study.
The only major difference between Republican politicians and Democratic ones, then, is that whereas Republican ones don’t even need to pretend that they oppose limitless greed (since limitless greed that’s carried out by frauds instead of by outright physical violence—which latter type of coercion is the type that’s employed more by lower-class crooks, anyway, and those are the type of crooks who fill our prisons, not the type who fill our boardrooms—is, essentially, supported by Republicans’ ideology, as ‘being entrepreneurial’ and ‘competitive spirit’), Democratic politicians do need to make that pretense (since their voters are liberals, and liberals don’t share the conservatives’ “Greed is good” libertarian faith). But the outcomes, even when Democrats are in power, are vastly more helpful to the billionaires, than to the public.
Does this mean that Democratic (or liberal) politicians are necessarily more hypocritical than Republican ones are? No. Whereas Democrats pretend to be opposed to the system’s favoring the super-rich, Republicans pretend to be opposed to “sins” and other religion-based shiboleths. Both parties can win and retain power only by deceiving (defrauding) the public, and serving the billionaires, though in different ways—some conservative, and some liberal. Virtually everything else than that service to billionaires (and to centi-millionaires) is just frauds by politicians, because, at least after around 1970, only the richest 1% or (usually far) less are actually being served by the US federal government. It’s not the billionaires that are defrauded by politicians; it is clearly the public that is being defrauded by them.
The public is served only to the extent that the public’s interests are the same as the billionaires’ interests. And the Gilens and Page study found that the public’s policy-preferences are simply ignored—not ignored in the political rhetoric, but ignored in the political outcomes.
The US government, thus, is of a few people (the policymakers), by the billionaires, and for the billionaires. And that’s just an established fact.
This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910–2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.