By Joshua Hoffman & Keyan Bliss
What is it like to be a billionaire in the United States? According to billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins, wealth is a burden made "unbearable" by people of lesser incomes when they demand equality. That was the narrative published by the corporate news machine at the Wall Street Journal
Taking time away from maintaining the world's largest luxury yacht
, Perkins compared progressive movements seeking social and economic justice to the horrific persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany. Sensible people were quick to denounce such ludicrous comparisons with the Holocaust. But Perkins' fellow oligarchs continue endorsing the narrative of a "hard-working" class of wealthy people "under siege" by a "lazy" class of poor people. According to billionaires like Sam Zell
and Wilbur Ross
, they are being targeted by poor people "jealous" of what they have and incapable of working as hard as they do.
The myth of the downtrodden super-rich is not just the delusion of a few old white men. Wealthy people are often so isolated
from the rest of us, many of them have forgotten how rich they really are
. So when the general public speaks out against social or economic inequality, plutocrats like Perkins perceive this as unjust "villification
" of a wealthy class deserving of their fortune. Their perception is unequivocally false
, but it creates real
consequences for everyone else.
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When plutocrats are threatened by progressive demands for equality, they react quickly to defend the inequality maintaining their wealthy status. This defensive attitude can be seen when they double down on their outrageous narratives
, emboldening them to express their sense of entitlement. According to men like Perkins, our electoral system "should be like a corporation
" where millions of dollars paid in taxes entitles him to millions
There is a stark difference between the political goals of the wealthy and the common interests of everyone else
. The Supreme Court made this difference clear in Citizens United
, declaring the political spending of corporations to be "protected speech" under the First Amendment. This decision effectively awarded the wealthiest Americans another exclusive privilege no ordinary person can match: unrestricted spending through artificial entities they
control. Their use of "corporate persons" has flooded our local, state, and federal elections
with increasing expenditures to both political parties, drowning out the collective voice of the people.
This historical precedent of corporate personhood and money as speech cannot silence us forever. Now more than ever, Americans demand a government equally representative of everyone regardless of race, class, gender, or income. The 'We the People amendment
' would end the practice of the super-rich using their corporations as "people" by prohibiting the spending of money as protected speech.
Comments like those of Perkins, Zell, and Ross are illustrative of their desperation to maintain their own status. Plutocrats will say anything--make up any outlandish excuse--to distract us from the genuine problem of social and economic inequality. In the words of one protester: "We don't mind that you're wealthy, we mind that you stole our democracy."
Joshua Hoffman is a former communications intern at Move to Amend. Keyan Bliss is a member of the Move to Amend National Leadership Team. He can be reached at Keyan|AT|movetoamend.orgEmail address.
The Move to Amend Coalition is a grassroots campaign to amend the Constitution to state that artificial entities such as corporations, unions, and non-profits do not have inherent rights under the Constitution, and that money is not free speech so (more...