A Republican friend sent me an article yesterday from the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Truth About the ‘One Percent’” by James Piereson from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
My friend is reading my book, ONE PERCENT SOLUTION—which lampoons established notions about the ‘One Percent,’ winner-take-all economic policies, and dysfunctional government—and he wanted me to have additional information outlining his conservative view point.
The first thing that struck me was the title. Whenever anyone begins their argument with the words “The Truth” about so-and-so, red flags should go up. This article was no different. Basically, Mr. Piereson misses the point completely about the “crusade” (as he calls it) and the “questionable claims” he feels are being unfairly leveled against the One Percent. This is not, as he maintains, an issue intended to distract people’s attention, or merely highlight Wall Street shenanigans, or gripe about capital-gains tax rates and exorbitant CEO salaries. These are all symptoms, not causes, of what is happening in the US today.
This “crusade” he contemptuously speaks of is about fundamental democratic principles, the building of a fair and responsible society, and the rightful governance of that society. This crusade has been on-going for 10,000 years, since the domestication of animals and agriculture led to the production of surplus wealth. Since time immemorial, back to the Pharaohs, the Emperors, the Kings and Queens, and now economic Oligarchs, a small group of people have always endeavored to concentrate wealth and power into the hands of an elite few, so that they might keep the world’s riches for themselves. It’s an old game that will never let up. All we can do is try to be vigilant to it, fight against it however we can, and hopefully win a decisive battle now and then, but the crusade will always go on.
The most amazing thing about what is happening today is how many people there are in America (my friend being one of them) who ardently believe that this grab for power and wealth is not happening, who believe that somehow things are different today than it has been for millennia. It is not.
Obviously some societies are better than others at keeping this abusive tendency in check; and a real democratic society is most likely the best of them, which is why it is constantly under threat. Although America has never yet fully lived up to the meaning of its creed—We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal—we have generally been steadily marching toward it, with laggards grudgingly being dragged along behind.
But now, with the nation’s wealth steadily being concentrated more and more into the hands of fewer and fewer still, coupled with recent actions like the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United—ending campaign-funding limitations and electoral paper-work that tracks where money comes from and goes—we are now poised to go backwards. Now wealthy individuals can give politicians as much money as they wish, in complete secrecy, without limitation, however they choose, for any purpose desired, thus allowing a torrent of cash to flow unimpeded through the political system, greasing the cogs of government to buy any coveted policy one wishes and can afford, based on the criterion of economic clout, rather than a one-person, one-vote system. Other steps underway in various State Legislatures which make it harder for people to vote, or force them to stand in line for hours to cast a ballot, are other egregious examples of moneyed power trying to disenfranchise voters and weaken our democratic system.
This crusade is not a literal fight against a specific one percent of the population, as some seem to think; it is a fight of principle against those who believe that economic wealth and power gives them the right, and ability, to corrupt the democratic process in order to get what they want, while subverting the will of the people. It is a fight in defense of real Democracy. It is the fundamental principle upon which this nation was founded. It is a crusade articulated 238 years ago by men more eloquent than me.