Our Political Masquerade

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"When a plutocracy is disguised as a democracy, the system is beyond corrupt.” ― Suzy Kassem

After a recent discussion with friends about Trump, I started thinking about those who have been awarded a cabinet or cabinet-level post in his new administration and find that I'm amazed that the only apparent common denominator and 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-milionaires 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 citizens think - for even one minute - 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 a Teddy Roosevelt (despite his family wealth), Wilson or a Truman over what we have now, and cabinet members who had at least a rudimentary understanding of the department they head.



Dino Manalis Added Apr 20, 2017 - 7:20pm
Good for them!  Congratulations!  May they succeed in America's success!  We're counting on them!
George N Romey Added Apr 20, 2017 - 8:01pm
Yes rich people can go into government to give back and make a difference.  However, I doubt the cabinet Trump has put together has that motivation.  Being successful in business does not make you a success in national government.  Its an entirely different arrangement.
But by now anyone with a few brain cells in their head has figured out who government is for and its not the ordinary guy. Trump will be no more successful than Obama in restoring the middle class. It's not the priority of Washington and Trump doesn't have the political savvy to out trick the deep state.
Like I say, second verse same as the first.
Patrick Writes Added Apr 20, 2017 - 9:26pm
Really good post. Twas ever thus, though. 
Overturn Citizens United would be step 1 to restoring some sanity. It takes a lot of money to get elected to the federal government. 
Jeffry Gilbert Added Apr 21, 2017 - 3:19am
Most people don't understand that the rich are no different than the poor
Nonsense. For the rich EVERYTHING is not enough. Their DNA mutated into something not human. 
Populist Billionaire? People really are that daft. Talk about oxymoron. 
Thailand fell for a so-called populist billionaire in 1998 and the country is still suffering badly today for it. 
Interestingly the same deep state that supported the now convicted criminal on the run from justice Thai billionaire gives the appearance of disliking the current occupant of 1600. That should tell those capable of critical thinking a thing or two. 
William Hill Added Apr 21, 2017 - 11:45am
Dino - They have already succeed in America's success. I don't hold that against them, I only hope that every American can succeed as well and that one of the government's purposes, under our Constitution, is to "promote the general welfare" of all citizens, not just the wealthy or influential. Whether or not Trump and Company will work in the intetests of all - and not just some - is yet to be seen, but I will be surprised if it does.
John G. - The consensus of presidential scholars is that Truman was a very good president. Of course, you are free to disagree. But it would be more adult and constructive if you explain why you disagree instead of name-calling and using vulgarity. Besides, whether Truman was a good or bad president is beside the point, the discussion is about whether or not our country is, in fact, a plutocracy and not a democracy. I welcome any cogent thoughts on that, if you have any.
George N Romey Added Apr 21, 2017 - 11:58am
Jeffry is onto something. For the super rich its not about the money, its the game. Its the game of constantly one upping your peers.  If your counterpart at Company X gets a second yacht but you don't in this little exclusive circle you are the loser.  Its all about gathering and garnering wealth and toys.  This is very different than the rich from 40 years ago.  Sure they loved their wealth and it made for a very, very good life but the "contest" and "game" aspect wasn't present.

This why a CEO will fire thousands sending them to their financial grave, literally while collecting an even bigger paycheck.  We are nothing more than the human sacrifices to support their contests.
In medieval times young girls were sacrificed to appease the gods.  Today its the ordinary man and the "gods" are the economic "bloodsucking" class. 
When people drone on about "pro growth policies" I have to laugh.  For corporations "pro growth" means more stock buybacks, more acquisitions and mergers and higher C level pay.  It does not in any sense of the word hiring for full time good paying jobs.
One day soon all of this will come to a crash halt.  The smart ones will have physical assets to see them through, the dumb ones will see their paper wealth evaporate over night.  It happened in 1929 and will happen again in 2017 or 2018.  The stupidity of man constantly repeats itself throughout history. 
Bill H. Added Apr 21, 2017 - 8:25pm
I think many of us know that Trump is in for it for himself. He will reward his cronies to try and look a bit cool, but many of us know exactly what he is up to.
Even if he is impeached, he will come out of this looking like Bill O'Reilly times 1000 (or more). And Ivanka Trump will be selling her designs world wide.