As Monsieur Piketty has so eloquently helped us understand, oligarchy and dynastic wealth are taking over our society. And lots of Americans may very well remain blind to that fact until our democracy has been completely hollowed out and transformed into something very much different from what people commonly suppose it to be.
As ever more of the nation's wealth and income is being vacuumed up and/or systematically siphoned into the accounts of dynasties and oligarchs, this transition is actually being facilitated by our government. The result: an ever smaller middle class in the US, as former members are forced into poverty or near-poverty, by ever lower wages and an ever increasing scarcity of decently paid jobs.
Vacuumed up and siphoned off? How?
For starters, consider the banksters as well as the government stooges who help them. A recent news report tries to make a good case that the prosecution of banksters was only about budgets, ambitious prosecutors etc. It mentions Eric Holder only once, in the very last paragraph, and then as someone who merely "laments" the situation.
Not a word about how he came from a gold-plated Wall Street law firm, to which he expects to return when he tires of public service -- nor any word about his specialty in that firm: Defending the very banks of which he is now tasked with overseeing the prosecution!
Not a word, either, about the robo-signings, by the tens of thousands, that cannot in any way be excused as difficult to prosecute, and that should certainly not be excused as "recklessness rather than criminality" -- not when banksters deliberately stole the property of tens of thousands of innocent home owners, many of whom were not even behind on their mortgage payments!
And nothing whatsoever about the enormous amounts of campaign cash that banksters and other Wall Street fat cats passed to key political campaigns, in return for which they were granted (by gov't stooges) not merely immunity from prosecution, but impunity from any accountability whatsoever . . so that even now, as they continue to ransack the public till, almost all their profits now come from quantitative easing, in which the Fed creates money out of thin air and gives it to the largest financiers to spend as they see fit, which serves mostly to reward criminal-class executives with ever more astounding bonuses and stock options, taxed at a rate that doesn't even pay the transaction costs. And then Jamie Dimond has the gall to complain that he is not sufficiently respected for his high-minded public service, and Lloyd Blankfein says he, personally, is "doing God's work" -- this after both men have been given: a) scores of millions to maintain their obscenely extravagant lifestyle, b) absolute immunity from prosecution, and c) the guaranteed continuation of their historically criminal institutions.
Not one word, either, about the LIBOR scam, which bankrupted innumerable small towns and municipalities and further enriched our new plutocrats by billions if not trillions; nothing whatsoever about the deep-level corruption in Congress that enabled this enormous, world-class, and unprecedented grand larceny. Phil Gramm, who, at midnight, pushed through the immunity from regulation (of these newly designed instruments of financial thievery), is not even mentioned, even though his wife Wendy works on Wall Street, the scene of the crime.
Nor is there even a suggestion that the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (originally passed to facilitate Mafia prosecutions, and almost immediately turned into an all-purpose instrument for repressing the progressive side of politics), might be usefully applied to what are, without any doubt whatsoever, thoroughly corrupt banking organizations.
In short, a long apologetic that lacked even the appearance of investigative journalism.
* * *
For most of our lives (as Thom Hartmann recently pointed out), we've been taught that hard work pays off. Problem is, most of the super-rich didn't make their money by working hard -- at least not at any job that actually makes an actual contribution to society. According to a new analysis by Paul Buchheit of UsAgainstGreed.org, those at the top now make most of their money by betting, in one form or another, against the American people,. For example, this growing sector of our wealthy elite makes a fortune on such things as speculating on rising food prices, which means that they profit by making it harder for people around the world to afford to eat.
They also have a history of betting against mortgages (specifically, mortgage-backed securities or 'packaged' mortgages). Why did they do this? It was so that they could make big profits when many Americans could no longer afford to stay in their homes -- a situation that they very perceptively saw coming. Then, once these unfortunate Americans were forced out of their homes, private equity firms swooped in, bought up the foreclosures, and rented these houses back to many of the very same people that had been swindled out of their homes.
The super-rich rake in ever more, by gambling on Wall Street, screwing over Main Street, and paying off the politicians that make it all possible. The only hard work these billionaires face is walking the fine line between their so-called 'investing,' and the easily identified (and therefore prosecutable) activities like the more common forms of bribery, fraud, and front-running the stock market.
Our nation used to genuinely value hard work, and that work was rewarded with a better life and brighter future -- for everyone who put forth the necessary effort. But for the last three decades, the super-rich have ever more completely rigged the system, while at the same time managing to convince the gullible majority that they're just not working hard enough -- in spite of the fact that our productivity has risen markedly over those same three decades. Therefore the time has come for us to stand up, speak out, and fix this broken system, which bribed politicians have saddled us with -- and do it while we still have the chance. Working hard and playing by the rules is no longer enough; we also need to fight to achieve a political-economic system that "pays off" for more folks than just those in the top 1%.
With respect to all this, Paul Krugman and Bill Moyers point to revolutionary developments in our society, of which most people are still unawares, but which are outlined in the revolutionary new book mentioned at the outset of this article. As already stated, this book has mainly to do with: a) this upwardly directed wealth redistribution, b) the corresponding rise of dynasties and oligarchy, and c) our disappearing democracy. Author Thomas Piketty is telling us, quite convincingly for those who will listen, that we are on a fast road not just to an ever more unequal society, but to an oligarchy on steroids, i.e. a society that will be ever more undemocratic and ever more dominated, in every way, by inherited (and increasingly dynastic) wealth.