The Triumph of the Oligarchs
May 31, 2014 § 1 Comment
In case you missed the story in Politico, I call your attention to Ken Vogel’s story entitled “Big money, the Koch Brothers and Me”. Here is a link
I’m not sure why I want to share this story. Maybe I want some company in my misery. It describes a problem but suggests no solution. It made an impression on me because it includes a quote from Barack Obama which amounts to the surrender of his hope for the future of our democracy. If you think I’m being too dramatic, just read his statement.
If he’s right, and he knows something about political money and the art of raising it, we are facing a government operated within limits imposed by a group of about 200 very rich people. It’s true that they do not share a common set of attitudes, nor do they agree on a common set of policies. The problem is , according to Obama’s stated opinion, they collectively have the power to choose the officials who govern our country.
I can think of two analogous examples of what this kind of government looks like: Rome during the glory days of its empire, when the Roman Senate effectively chose and controlled its leaders. The other example is the Mafia, which built an empire modeled on the Roman system. Both exercised power based on loyalty imposed by force but, generally not by brutal force so much as loyalty based on a sense of shared pride and trust in overwhelming power. The governed gave up their individual ability to make choices in exchange for the benefits of protection and sustenance doled out by their rulers.
This bargain was dramatically portrayed in some opening scenes of one of the Godfather movies. Don Vito Corleone leaves his daughter’s wedding celebration to hear a request for help and protection. He agrees to solve the problem, but tells the petitioner, “I may, or may not ask for a favor from you at some time in the future.”
The similarity between this scene and the explicit or implicit arrangement between politicians and their multimillionaire donors seems to me to be obvious, although the word “bribery” is never used to describe it.
I’m not going to quote the article. It is not long. I hope you will read it and consider it to be as disturbing as I do.