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Monday, September 3, 2012

The Revolting Rich

Review of "Revolt of the Rich" Article By Mike Lofgren • August 27, 2012 in, of all places, The American Conservative : writes:

"It was 1993, during congressional debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement. I was having lunch with a staffer for one of the rare Republican congressmen who opposed the policy of so-called free trade. To this day, I remember something my colleague said: “The rich elites of this country have far more in common with their counterparts in London, Paris, and Tokyo than with their fellow American citizens.”"

He notes that at the time he heard this it seemed novel, but now it is not so surprising. I spent time hanging around academics as the "husband of" and if academic types find more in common with each other than those outside their fields, it shouldn't be surprising that the wealthy; who spend time at the same resorts, and places as each other, should be like this. But as he notes:

"That was only the beginning of the period when the realities of outsourced manufacturing, financialization of the economy, and growing income disparity started to seep into the public consciousness."[Article]

Mike Lofgren then says something interesting:

"There have been numerous books about globalization and how it would eliminate borders. But I am unaware of a well-developed theory from that time about how the super-rich and the corporations they run would secede from the nation state."[Article]

This may be something different from what the prophets wanted. The prophets were thinking that the rich and globalization would bring the world together. But our wealthy get their power from factions, from controlling resources, and they are never going to consent to run those resources in the common interest. No, Lundren puts his finger on it. The wealthy have decided to create an identity and power outside the nation state. They've become nullifiers, bushwackers and filibusterers. Lundgren writes:

"I do not mean secession by physical withdrawal from the territory of the state, although that happens from time to time—for example, Erik Prince, who was born into a fortune, is related to the even bigger Amway fortune, and made yet another fortune as CEO of the mercenary-for-hire firm Blackwater, moved his company (renamed Xe) to the United Arab Emirates in 2011. What I mean by secession is a withdrawal into enclaves, an internal immigration, whereby the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot."[Article]

Essentially they've made the whole world a colonial Empire. Never mind the wars and insurrections -- those are business opportunities. They can rule from behind the scenes. Both revolutionaries and dictators need their money, and will do their bidding. And they can make money as long as they can make deals. The world has become their Colony, and governments their subjects:

"Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension—and viable public transportation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?"[Article]

This explains the reckless stone faced impunity with which they are trying to take over our country from top to bottom. The gloves are off. Why fear Marxists when the Marxist wealthy are in their country clubs? The modern wealthy are "in the country but not of it;" Zen and the art of multi-billion deals. The result is the rise of an aristocracy that just plain doesn't give a snit about you or me:

"In both world wars, even a Harvard man or a New York socialite might know the weight of an army pack. Now the military is for suckers from the laboring classes whose subprime mortgages you just sliced into CDOs and sold to gullible investors in order to buy your second Bentley or rustle up the cash to get Rod Stewart to perform at your birthday party. The sentiment among the super-rich towards the rest of America is often one of contempt rather than noblesse."

But of course it is "we rabble" who are to blame:

"Stephen Schwarzman, the hedge fund billionaire CEO of the Blackstone Group who hired Rod Stewart for his $5-million birthday party, believes it is the rabble who are socially irresponsible. Speaking about low-income citizens who pay no income tax, he says: “You have to have skin in the game. I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”"

But of course the wealthy have it setup so they are exempt from that requirement.

"millions of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes do pay federal payroll taxes. These taxes are regressive, and the dirty little secret is that over the last several decades they have made up a greater and greater share of federal revenues. In 1950, payroll and other federal retirement contributions constituted 10.9 percent of all federal revenues. By 2007, the last “normal” economic year before federal revenues began falling, they made up 33.9 percent. By contrast, corporate income taxes were 26.4 percent of federal revenues in 1950. By 2007 they had fallen to 14.4 percent. So who has skin in the game?"

The result is Islands of privilege with no willingness to share powers or shoulder any share of the common burden. Nothing common about these folks!

"Yet for the president’s heresy of advocating that billionaires who receive the bulk of their income from capital gains should pay taxes at the same rate as the rest of us, Schwarzman said this about Obama: “It’s a war. It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” For a hedge-fund billionaire to defend his extraordinary tax privileges vis-à-vis the rest of the citizenry in such a manner shows an extraordinary capacity to be out-of-touch. He lives in a world apart, psychologically as well as in the flesh."

And that is what we are up against:

"The super-rich have seceded from America even as their grip on its control mechanisms has tightened. But how did this evolve historically, what does it mean for the rest of us, and where is it likely to be going?"

For those of you like me, who love the history of these things:

Further reading:

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