Our Political Masquerade

“When a plutocracy is disguised as a democracy, the system is beyond corrupt.”

― Suzy Kassem

As I sit and read the daily news, learning who has just been awarded a cabinet post in the new administration, I sit amazed that the only common denominator and apparent criteria to an appointment is net worth. And the appointees are – or are almost – to a man (woman) without any schooling, training or experience in the agency or department to which they’ve been selected to manage. It’s as if the ability to make (or inherit or marry into) great wealth is equatable to good governance. To me it’s onions to apples.

The definition of a plutocracy is, “a government…in which the wealthy class rules.” A democracy is defined as a government by “common people…as distinguished from any privileged class…with respect to their political power.” Students of government know very well that America is not – never has been – a democracy; the United States is a republic, where the citizens democratically elect representatives, who are charged with governing in the best interests of all the people.

In the last election, we Americans elected representatives to a Congress (House and Senate) whose combined members have a minimum net worth of $2.1 billion — an average of $3.9 million per lawmaker – arguably the most wealthy congress ever. And each member, nonetheless, will receive a salary of $174,000 per year (plus benefits).

We elected a president who personally is worth $3.7 billion – the wealthiest president ever (who, nonetheless, will receive an annual salary of $400,000 plus benefits) – who has appointed, and the Senate has confirmed (strictly along party lines), 26 cabinet (and cabinet level) members whose combined worth exceedes $14 billion – an average of $538 million per member – the most wealthy cabinet ever – who, nonetheless, will each be paid $191,300 per year (plus benefits).

And all the justices of the Supreme Court are multi-milionairs who, nonetheless, are salaried at $213,900 a year (plus benefits).

That, my friends, is a plutocracy, a government by the privileged, the wealthy. We’ll have to wait and see if it will be a government just for the wealthy or if it will do anything of substance for the 43 million Americans who live in poverty, who make $20,000 a year or less, and the disappearing middle class whose mid-level earns an average around $45,000 a year.

Trump bragged that he wanted “people who made a fortune” in his cabinet. Said and done. And their combined wealth is more than the combined wealth of the bottom one-third of all Americans, many who voted for him. 

Why is beyond my ken, except that many people believe (wrongly) that the rich must be smarter than the rest of us. Do they believe that just because someone is successful in one area that they will be able to be successful in another? Why would a businessman (or a career politician) know anything about the science of climate change, or the intricacies of healthcare? They wouldn’t, so why put someone in charge of running an agency who has no knowledge or understanding of its work, except for the effect it has on corporate profits? Do those benighted citizens think – for even one minute, if they think at all – that these democratically elected and appointed million/billionaires will govern in their – the average working stiff’s – best interest and not in the wealthy’s best interests?

There. I’ve gone and done it for sure (but, really, it was just a matter of time), I’ve just offended the almost one-half of all my fellow citizens who voted them into office. 

I believe, hope and pray, that within a short time – certainly by the end of 4 years – they will realize they voted wrongly, that the government they put in office will renege on all the populist promises it made while campaigning – or, if kept, will disproportionately benefit the super-rich and not them – and wish they’d voted differently (not that the alternative was exceptionally better – the true champion of the average man never made it to the ballot).

Most people don’t understand that the rich are no different than the poor, both want more than they have, the difference being that the poor can only hope and dream where the rich can make it happen. Wealth breeds wealth. And it’s human nature to take care of yourself first, then those like you, and – if anything is left (oh, sure!) –  everybody else.

I pray I’m wrong and that this collection of uber-rich – Trump and his people – will do good things that benefit every class of citizen.

But the habit of profiteering is a hard one to break. Forgive me if I suspect a self-serving monetary, hidden agenda in favor of Corporate America.

I opened this post with the definitions of plutocracy and democracy. America has almost always been a plutocracy, masquerading as a democracy, beginning with the wealthly land owners of Washington and Jefferson, the successful businessmen like Adams and Harding, to the inherited family wealth of the Roosevelts and Kennedy. Only occasionally have there been more-like everyday people before they held political office, like Woodrow Wilson (historian, professor) or Truman (haberdasher), both of whom who governed with the average citizen in mind.

And history has shown that with the exception of Harry Truman (ranked as one of our better presidents), businessmen have ranked among our worst presidents. Time will tell if The Donald will fare better.

But I’d prefer we had aTeddy Roosevelt (despite his family wealth), Wilson or a Truman over what we have now, and a cabinet less politicized, members who had at least a rudimentary understanding of the department they head.

– Bill

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