FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Power of Plutocracy

by ROB URIE

Last Tuesday, Mayday, 2012, tens of thousands from Occupy Wall Street and a coalition of unions and immigrant rights groups marched in New York, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major cities to protest economic inequality and to celebrate other possibilities. The dominant theme of these marches and rallies was economic justice, with a significant proportion of marchers expressing their desire for an alternative to capitalism.

Despite being four years into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, America, by aggregate measures, is about as rich as it has ever been. Per capita GDP has declined, but not nearly in proportion to the degree of economic misery being experienced by a large number of us. Our problem is that a small group of corporate executives and bankers have taken a wildly disproportionate share of what America produces and left only crumbs for the rest of us.

This epic of financial capitalism has produced little real wealth but it has been an effective tool for shifting existing wealth from those who produced it to a small group of plutocrats via a state / financial nexus. The only proposed solutions emanating from the plutocrat / state are for more of the same policies that have destroyed the American economy, polity and culture. The sad truth is that the economic elite benefit from our declining wages and the looting of our social resources in direct proportion to what we lose. The economic elite has launched a class war against us and they have indicated every intention of seeing it continue.

Current circumstances are understood in a general sense by most of us and in some great detail by a significant number. Legal scholars and current and former criminal prosecutors have identified a large number of actionable financial, war and environmental crimes committed by the financial and political elite that have gone un-prosecuted and unpunished. A social division exists where the rich and the politically connected have impunity for theirs crimes while the police and the surveillance state are used as tools of social control and political repression against the rest of us. Were redress available through the established order, criminal prosecutions of culpable elites would already have taken place.

Meanwhile, a set of concrete economic proposals that would immediately improve the lives of those most affected by the current economic crisis, as well those of the long-term dispossessed, exists without being enacted and with no impetus for enacting them from either major political party. These include:

(1)  A government works program that would guarantee a job to every person who can work and who wants a job

(2)  Medicare for all that would guarantee access to healthcare for all citizens regardless of their ability to pay

(3)  Expanded programs of food security that would guarantee healthy, adequate and nutritious food for everyone in America

(4)  Free access to public education for every American from pre-school through graduate school including trade school education that would feed the trades and the government works program

(5)  Increased funding for the arts that would revive American culture and shift the cultural focus from joyless striving to facilitating a creative, peaceful and nurturing world.

These programs would immediately put America back to work in socially useful and productive endeavors. These programs would stop the downward economic spiral that capitalist policies have produced and the newly employed would pay into social programs creating a new virtuous set of economic relationships.

Enacting these programs would require undoing the existing economic / political order that has created current conditions and that is determined to continue on the path that has led most of us to economic ruin. The political capture the existing plutocracy has achieved must be ended for meaningful change to occur. The power of the plutocracy lies in income inequality—political capture has been purchased with economic capture. Economic disparity is at the root of current conditions. This economic disparity derives from specific economic policies designed to bring it about and not from any process of nature. Economic disparity can begin to be rectified through a set of polices that include:

(1)  Set maximum total compensation for corporate executives at 3X the total compensation of the lowest paid workers.

(2)  Restore progressive taxation to 90+% of income that includes a wealth tax charged for the provision of programs to maintain social well being and stability (e.g. those listed above).

(3)  Fund political campaigns with public money alone and enact laws against private funding of political campaigns

(4)  Open the political process by including any candidate who can get 5,000 signatures of support in any campaign for national political office

(5)  Require that equal time be given to each of these candidates and require that media companies provide extensive platforms for political debate in exchange for the licensing privileges that they already enjoy

(6)  Review all government contracts to private industry and redirect contracts according to principles of maximizing social well-being, international peace and the nurturing of a peaceful, creative culture. Find new employment for those displaced in this process in the government works program if private jobs don’t exist for them.

(7)  Immediately end all military aggression overseas, bring the troops home to guaranteed jobs and redirect all military resources to productive use while maintaining the minimal structure necessary for mutual defense.

(8)  Immediately limit permissible banking activities to the straightforward provisioning of credit to unaffiliated creditworthy borrowers and place displaced bankers in government works programs if private employment is not available

These proposals are designed to provide a starting point for political dialogue. They are not the collective views of Occupy Wall Street or any group mentioned in this piece. With this understood, there already is a set of concrete proposals on the table from the plutocracy and their political servants. It includes the continued consolidation of wealth, endless war, increasing environmental destruction, increasing surveillance, control and political repression of the populace and the continued promotion of joyless consumption as the purpose of life. That is their vision. What then is ours?

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist in New York

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is published by CounterPunch Books.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail