Government For Sale

Are monopolies illegal? I ask this question because the answer depicts how this country views capitalism through a moral lens. The answer is, yes and no. Intending to operate a monopoly is illegal: engaging in predatory practices that stifle competition, manipulate prices, and keep others out of the marketplace, but if you have a monopoly simply because the market has decided that you deserve one (think of the first iPhones), then that is above the law.

Our core belief is that everyone in this country is deserving of equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome, and we want to assume that capitalism should determine who is smart and who is poor.

The thing is, to those at the top of the financial food chain, monopolies are pretty freaking awesome. They buy you mansions, and cars, and wave runners, and governments, and hey, did I mention the wave runners?

So in the interest of self-preservation (because this is what drives the majority of human action or inaction), these guys (and some gals, but mostly guys. Old, white, guys) spend vast amounts of money in areas that will help them keep their power. And there is one entity who is very much in the corner of those who already have power: the federal government.

This chart is a perfect metaphor for our current economic and political state of affairs.

Total Assets Held By Fed

The Fed is (and has been) flooding $85 billion (with a B!!!) dollars a month into the financial markets in what is called a “quantitative easing” program (the 500 most valuable publicly traded companies reflect the relative “success” of that program since they have some of the largest stakes in the financial markets). I think a much better name for it would be a “propping up the zombie stock market” program. And who has money in the financial markets?

Not you and I. At least not serious money. Only a quarter of households with retirement plans were willing to take above-average investment risk in 2011, and only 46% of American families own stocks. The super rich are the ones who are riding the S&P 500 to big profits. In fact, they’re taking home a greater share of the national income than they have since the 1920’s.

Keep in mind that these two graphs only go up to 2008, when the stock market was worth around half its current value. Our legalized casino has rebounded from its crash, and has surpassed its pre-crisis highs. Plus, this is only one area where the aid (or non-aid, if you get my drift) of the federal government can, and has generated millions and billions of dollars for a small cabal of powerful individuals.

Just look at our historically low tax rates for top earners (and this just measures their marginal tax rate, it doesn’t include their effective tax rate after all the tricks and loopholes have been taken advantage of by those who can afford armies of accountants).

And then there are taxes... It's a great time to be rich in America because taxes on the highest earners are close to the lowest they've ever been

Income inequality has gotten to this dire point because small groups of very rich people have poured enough money into the coffers of various politicians in order to influence them to pass legislation that gives them a competitive advantage, and allows them to take a greater share of profits in their industry, and most of these profits are not going to the workers (AKA most of the country). Which gets to a larger problem with modern American capitalism: profit for its shareholders is the only objective of a company.

This primary objective must be accomplished at all costs, including their employees…who they view as costs. Don’t believe me? I’m sure that you can come up with anecdotal evidence of great companies who care a lot about their people. Plenty certainly do exist. But the general trend is very clear: labor is getting fucked over.

Now let's look at wages... While productivity has increased, inflation-adjusted wages have been flat for fifty years

Our constitution states that our representatives exist to serve the people, but if our representatives need a certain amount of money to even run in an election, then their primary responsibility is to their donors. Without them, a politician won’t even get the opportunity to convince the people of their legitimacy. The populace is then presented with a false choice every two years (yes my young comrades, we actually have elections every TWO years; if more of us realized this, we wouldn’t have to deal with as much of the crazy in our government).

The super rich control a great deal of wealth in this country, and have used much of their resources to fill the coffers of various politicians over the years. I’ve seen enough Breaking Bad to know that if you and I were laundering money for Mexican drug cartels, the federal government would come down on us like a ton of bricks, but when HSBC does it (among many other illegal things), they just get fined 17% of one year’s profits and nobody goes to jail. It’s pretty simple, these financial elites have bought themselves a separate set of rules.

If I haven’t thoroughly convinced you that certain people are above the law in this country, then maybe our Attorney General can.

Look, we’ve basically given 3 million different variations of this guy the keys to our government and the economy. We can either do something about it, or we can sit back and hope that he chooses to stop spending his $30 million a month trying to screw us over. Either way, the outcome of our situation lies in our hands.

Jacob Weindling
Pure bred Coloradan with a dash of Masshole (go UMass). Sports and politics junkie. If I've learned one thing in life to this point, it's that stupid loses more games than smart wins.
Jacob Weindling
Jacob Weindling

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