Notes from the Oligarchy

Forget the fake news for a second. It’s real enough but the most insidious assaults on democracy come in the form of endless “opinion shapers” and legislation from right-wing think tanks and lobbyists doing the bidding of an American oligarchy.

I just finished reading a piece in CommonWealth which argues that the Fair Share Amendment is liberal-elitist. The author, Josh McCabe of Wellesley College’s Freedom Project, says that by increasing taxes on multi-millionaires the federal SALT (state and local tax) exemption will be triggered, permitting gazillionaires to pay lower federal taxes. McCabe goes on to say that SALT has cost the feds about $100 billion in revenues and states will have to scramble to pay for their own services out of pocket. He asks:

“The amendment means residents of poor states such as Mississippi (ranked 50th in per capita income) will partially subsidize residents of wealthy Massachusetts (ranked third in per capita income). In what sense is it fair to place some of the burden on Mississippi to pay for schools in Wellesley or roads in Andover?

If this sounds almost reasonable on the surface, consider for a moment that the super-rich already pay lower tax rates than wage earners and have many opportunities and legions of tax lawyers helping them to avoid paying their fair share. States like Massachusetts that want to raise taxes to pay for services are simply being smarter and more responsible to their citizens than, say, Mississippi. And Mississippi is already a drain on the rest of the nation, particularly Blue States, receiving $2.02 in federal money for every $1 their citizens pay in taxes. Nice try, though, Mr. McCabe.

Besides following the money it’s always a good idea to see who’s advocating for tax breaks for the super-rich. Predictably, the Freedom Project (as in “freedom” from paying taxes) is dedicated to the free market fundamentalism of Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and Friedrich August von Hayek.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that Wellseley’s Freedom Project is bought and paid for by Charles Koch?

So nice of CommonWealth to give them a free platform.

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And, while we’re still talking about oligarchs: if you were watching the British election and envied the Brits their chance to call an election and throw out the government, you’re not alone.

Impeachment right now seems like the only option open to citizens, but Paul Street’s article Impeach the U.S. Constitution points out that the real problem is our system of government — not factionalism, not Donald Trump.

Yes, the Founding Fathers were either high on crack when they came up with this insane system — or the founding slavemasters were intent on building an oligarchy. Turns out, it was the latter:

I am always darkly amused when I hear one of my fellow Americans call for a return from our current “deep state” plutocracy and empire to the supposedly benevolent and democratic rules and values of the nation’s sacred founders and Constitution. Democracy was the last thing the nation’s founders wanted to see break out in the new republic. Drawn from the elite propertied segments in the new republic, most of the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention shared their compatriot John Jay’s view that “Those who own the country ought to govern it.”

As the celebrated U.S. historian Richard Hofstader noted in his classic 1948 text, “The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It”: “In their minds, liberty was linked not to democracy but to property.” Democracy was a dangerous concept to them, conferring “unchecked rule by the masses,” which was “sure to bring arbitrary redistribution of property, destroying the very essence of liberty.”

Donald Trump is their crowning achievement.