It may seem odd to speak of the plutocracy as endangered. Surely it has established itself in every important political arena. Wealth is concentrated in a small fraction of the populace, the cosseting of whom with the Bush tax cuts plunged us into the great recession. Yet while the rest of the populace was suffering, the rich just got richer. In 2009 and 2010, years in which millions were unable to find work, the top one percent reaped 93 percent of the “recovery” income, and corporations are making more than they ever did. And the Republicans can still propose even further cuts in the taxes of “job creators” whose only job creation has been for their own lawyers and lobbyists.
Modern political activity is driven by an incessant and corrosive search for funds, the top priority of all current or would-be members of Congress, state legislators, and executive office holders. The Supreme Court has intensified this gnawing need by protecting huge and secret sources of unregulated funding. The principal source of countervailing funds has been, for the Democrats, the public-service labor unions. But the wave of 2010 state legislative elections has damaged, perhaps fatally, that source. Since the election of Scott Walker in Wisconsin—whose power is now strengthened by his survival in this week’s recall election—the membership of the important AFSCME union (the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) has shrunk by half. Democratic candidates are forced to mimic the obsessive need to raise funds, in a contest where they are heavily outgunned. So, hasn’t the plutocracy already won?
Not yet. There is help racing up over the horizon. The US Census for the year ending in July 2011, showed that white births in America were for the first time a minority compared to those of “minorities” (blacks, Hispanics, Asians). The state legislators seated by the 2010 elections have been fighting this drift with draconian immigration measures and new voter ID laws aimed at blacks and Hispanics, the young and the elderly. This slashing of the voter rolls may give them the edge of victory in 2012. But time is not on their side. It will get harder and harder to disqualify a growing majority of voters from non-plutocratic ranks.
That is why this election matters so much. It can give the plutocrats a seal on their accomplishments. New appointees to the Supreme Court can support drastic reduction of labor rights, voting rights, citizen rights. Further protections for corporate and lobbying power can be fixed by national and state legislators in laws difficult to undo or dislodge. The whole corporate superstructure of our economy can be made “too big to fail,” beyond retrospective regrets or futile tinkering. Finally, the plutocrats given power in 2012 can use their great ally, war or the threat of war. If, as Randolph Bourne said, “war is the health of the state,” it is doubly the health of a plutocratic state.
because, if they win, there may be no going back. (emphasis added, cbg)
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