December 23, 2016
“Citing financial inequality, the risks of nuclear arms and the mounting effects of climate change, Brown said, “we’re facing far more than one or two or even thousands of politicians. We’re facing big oil, we’re facing big financial structures that are at odds with the survivability of our world. It’s up to you as truth tellers, truth seekers, to mobilize all your efforts to fight back.”
The above quote from California Governor Jerry Brown just about says it all.
We are living now in a period of oligarchy. Billionaires and powerful vested interests largely call the shots and are able to stack the economic deck in their favor. The steady rise of extreme income inequality over decades of time (a term that can make your eyes glaze over but essentially means the few get most of the pie while the rest of us are invited to the leftover scraps) attest to their undue influence.
“If the world’s billionaires got together to form their own super country, their $7.05 trillion combined net worth would be eclipsed only by the national economic output of China and the United States.” —source: US News
Nowhere is the disparity of the common interest as clearly recognizable as from the threat posed by climate change and the orchestrated campaigns by those who wish to delay or destroy any effective response. Quite literally, the billionaire class* and their unquenchable thirst for “more” inflicts a cancer upon society and lowers the collective fate for future generations.
Think that sounds a bit extreme?
Consider this. Two Princeton researchers issued a 2014 report titled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and average citizens (pdf) that measured the relative power of special interest groups versus the broad public interest. Their report summarizes, in part, as such:
“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”
Democracy is a participatory sport. There is no substitute for an engaged citizenry. Otherwise, as for sport, we’ll know the outcome before the game even begins.
* I get nervous about singling out a class of people—as in this case—the billionaire class. Even though in fairness to this exclusive group, there’s a diverse range of interests (and behaviors) from the Koch Brothers to George Soros to Mark Zuckerberg and Michael Bloomberg who cover the political spectrum from arch conservative to liberal. Regardless, the larger point is that all billionaires (even those who may wish to do good for society) pose an unique threat by virtue of their extreme wealth and capability for undue influence. The adage, absolute power corrupts absolutely applies to wealth, as well. At some point in our future, we will need to address this unhealthy (and dangerous) phenomenon of absolute wealth. Not only does it inevitable lead to concentrations of political power, it takes away from those truly in need. For the record, I harbor no personal envy or jealously toward the billionaire class. I have no contact with them or know first-hand about their lifestyle and lavish existence. I just believe that gorging oneself at the table while the person sitting next to you goes hungry goes beyond poor table manners. Maybe we can decide how much an individual can make in a lifetime and beyond that point (call it, ‘the gold ceiling’) it goes into the general pot to serve the public interest. Broad-based prosperity promotes longterm survival and stability of a people and for civilization. – Fred Gerendasy