Striking at the Root of Evil

by Duane Bristow

as inspired by Larry Lessig

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." - Henry David Thoreau

If your annual household income is $50,000 then 66% of households earn less than you do.
99% of households earn less than $386,000
90% of households earn less than $108,000
50% of households earn less than $ 33,800

If inequality had not increased since 1980:
a household earning $50,000 today would be earning $64,000
a household earning $30,000 today would be earning $40,900
a household earning $140,000 today would be earning $139,000
a household earning $1,200,000 today would be earning $597,000

In a random survey 19% of people reported that they are in the top 1% of earners.

The census bureau estimates have the US total population at about 311 million.

So there are 3,110,000 people in the top 1%.

But there are almost 60 million people who think they are in this select group simply because they don't have any idea how rich the rich actually are.


How Rich is Rich?

Excerpts from a column by Bruce Watson - August 23, 2011

Today, millionaires aren't all that rare: America has more than 8.4 million of them. And billionaires -- a designation that was almost nonexistent a few short decades ago, now number more than 400 in the U.S.

At the end of World War II, when the highest income tax bracket -- 94% -- effectively created a salary cap. Anyone making more than $250,000 was basically giving the top slice of their earnings to the government.

In 1951, the top tax rate began at $200,000 -- the 2011 equivalent of $1.7 million. In 1971, when the top tax rate fell to 70%, it hit earners who made $100,000 or more -- the equivalent of today's $595,000. And today's top rate starts at a comparatively meager $373,651.

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama came under fire when he suggested setting the entry point for the highest tax bracket at $250,000. In the grand scheme, this move would have been largely symbolic: For the tiny fraction of workers who make between $250,000 and $373,651, it would have increased taxes on the top portion of their income by a minuscule 2%. Even so, it infuriated Obama's critics, who saw it as a move to brutalize the 1.8% of Americans who make a quarter million dollars or more per year.

For much of the last 70 years, the highest tax percentage has been dropping, as has the cut-off line for the top tax bracket. While people in the lower income brackets have seen slight cuts in their tax rates, the top-level earners have watched their taxes plummet.

Wall Street Journal reporter Robert Frank uncovered a surprising factoid: The richest 1% of Americans -- those who make $1.1 million or more per year -- often worry about becoming destitute.

Excerpts from a column by John Yemma - October 7, 2012

Above annual earnings of $75,000, money does not produce commensurate happiness. Chasing higher and higher income actually decreases your quality of life.

"The price of anything," that guru of simplicity, Henry David Thoreau, wrote, "is the amount of life you exchange for it."

More money makes you happy only if you use it to buy yourself time or experiences or spend it on others.


James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers #52 on the legislative branch of government:

As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people. . . . The federal government which ought to be dependent on the people alone.

Funders determine who can run for political office. So when the people vote, they vote to select one of the two candidates already selected by the funders. This is not government by the people. This is government by the elite.

0.26% of the people or about 809,000 people gave $200 or more to political campaigns

0.05% of the people or about 156,000 people gave the maximum amount to a campaign.

0.01% of the people or about 30,000 people gave over $10,000.

0.000042% or 132 people gave 60% of all super pac money.

26 people funded over half of all super pac money.

One of these 26 was Sheldon Adelson who makes $7 billion per year or 3.3 million per hour based on a 40 hour work week. He gave over $5 million to Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign in 2012 and ended up spending over $150 million fruitlessly to try to defeat Barack Obama in the presidential race. He said that this spending was spurred chiefly by his fear that a second Obama term would bring "vilification of people that were against him." Adelson was facing Justice Department investigations concerning possible bribery and money laundering charges. His personal wealth has been estimated at $20.5 billion.

Also in 2012, Buddy Roemer, who had been Governor of Louisiana, a four term member of The U.S. House of Representatives, chairman of the board of a trade company for six years and then an investor and bank president decided to run for the Republican nomination for President. He said he would accept no donations over $100 and no super pac funds so that he would be free to lead without being beholden to funders. He was shut out of the Republican primary debates and also out of running with other parties. He was not considered a legitimate candidate because he failed to raise $500,000 in campaign funds in 90 days.

So money chose the candidates.

The top 1% of the population owns 43% of the total financial wealth of the nation.

The next 4% owns 29% of the total financial wealth.

The next 15% owns 21% of the total financial wealth.

This leaves 7% of the total financial wealth for the other 80% of us.

Money determines who the candidates are.

There are about 210 million eligible voters in the U.S. who think they select the people who will run their government. But they only get to vote for the candidates who have already been effectively selected by 26 to 132 people.

30 to 70% of politicians' time is spent fund raising to get reelected.

This means they must obey the wishes of their funders.

So these 26 to 132 people who finance elections effectively run the United States.

These people who run our government have different views of how the government should be run. But they all have one thing in common. That one thing is that they are much richer than most of the rest of us in this country. This means they will have a tendency to enact policies that they think will protect and increase their wealth and social position at the expense of the rest of us.

If the politicians solve problems then there is less incentive for those in power to give to their election campaigns.

So the politicians, if they want to remain in office, must do what the funders want but they must convince the funders that they cannot solve problems completely because if they did they could no longer raise money. It is essential for this system that there are two sides each of which can blame the other for the problems of the country to convince the funders that they must be reelected. It would be counter productive for the politicians to cooperate to solve problems because that would hurt fund raising efforts.

The message always is that you should be afraid and I am good and am on your side and I and those like me are the only thing standing between you and the certain destruction that would be caused by letting those on the other, evil, side enact their policies. So you must give as much as possible to my campaign.

After their service in government about 50% of politicians become lobbyists with an average salary increase of 1,452%.


People believe that we have a representative democracy because we are taught this in school and we are taught to be patriotic which is defined as supporting the present power structure and believing what we have been told.

If we really had a representative democracy we would be governed by elected representatives who were our peers, people who had families and jobs and careers just like the rest of us and who were elected for a short period of their lives to help govern us. Instead government is by a class of career politicians who are mostly millionaires or multi-millionaires.

After the Civil War a class of people developed who were rich enough to influence and buy government by financing politicians. They were called "Captains of Industry" or "Robber Barons" or such titles. They were mainly in the railroad and steel and finance and later in the oil sectors of the economy. They were driven by greed and ego and they accumulated wealth and power and mismanaged the economy until they caused the great depression of the 1930s after smaller warning depressions in the late 19th century. After that debacle their power was reined in somewhat by populist government and by acts like the progressive income tax and the inheritance tax and the social security act.

After World War II the same thing began to happen again and escalated during and after the Reagan Administration. This time it was banking and insurance and energy and defense contractors and pharmaceuticals among others. This time the economic collapse occurred in 2008.

The reason this occurs is because we have a government based not on the votes of people in a democracy but on the influence of money in buying those votes and thus in controlling government. The cure for this condition lies in setting up a system of limiting politicians to one term in office and preventing monetary influence by outlawing influence, not only in gifts and bribes while running for office or while in office but also outlawing any payments to politicians or employment of politicians after they leave office. This would mean that they would have to be paid a salary by the taxpayers for the rest of their lives after they left office. It would also mean that their campaigns for office would have to be financed solely by the public once they had collected a sufficient number of voter's signatures on a petition to qualify them as viable candidates.

The problem with implementing this system, of course, is that this change would have to get the support of politicians who are now the same ones benefiting from the present system. That is very unlikely.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people."

Dwight D. Eisenhower

People in the world can be thought of as the top 1% of 1% in terms of wealth and power who control the distribution of wealth and power and the 1% who mostly benefit from that arrangement and the 99% who are exploited to transfer wealth and power to the oligarchy. The 99% are allowed to keep some wealth and are taught to believe that they have a large portion of all the wealth and power so that they will be satisfied enough with the existing structure that they will not revolt and upset the apple cart. The problem is that the oligarchy, due to ego and greed, tends to want to take even more for themselves and further impoverish the 99% and sometimes they overstep and the 99% begin to see that the emperor has no clothes. This can lead to an upset of the social order.

The question then becomes, what determines which individuals are to be in the oligarchy and which are to be in the exploited classes. One obvious determinant is DNA or inheritance. So position can be attained due to an accident of birth. Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Some are able due to a combination of luck and skill, usually intelligence but sometimes just hard work, to cross class lines and reach the upper strata. The fiction is that this route is available to all. Although it is available, very very few have even the remotest chance of attaining it. The lower 99% probably think their chance of changing economic classes is about 10% when it is actually an insignificant chance. Of course that same mindset is what makes lotteries work. They also think that tripling or quadrupling their annual income or their net worth will put them in the ruling class. It won't and they don't realise this because they have no conception of how large the wealth and influence of the top 1% of the top 1% actually is.

The Oligarchy that controls the government and the wealth of the United States is not a conspiracy as many argue. It's right out in the open. It's just a collection of people in business and politics and the military and the media who recognize that their interests are better served by cooperation than they would be by competition. It's just as the Captains of Industry at the end of the 19th century found that price fixing and monopolies made them more money than competition did. Most of the people who are part of the Oligarchy don't even realize it exists. They think that they are just a bunch of smart people making decisions that are the best for the country because they know that what is in their best interests is also in the best interest of the country. That is because, as far as they are concerned, they are the country.

The Republicans and the Democrats often disagree about what is in the best interests of the country but their policies always tend to preserve the status quo. There hasn't been a federal law in the last sixty years that decreased either the government's or big corporations' power and influence.

for more information see these videos:
Larry Lessig - Politics in Lesterland
and
Dependent Upon the People Alone by Blake Wright


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