How many of you have been approached by friends or coworkers with an opportunity you simply couldn’t pass up? All you have to do, they say, is throw a party or two, recruit some others and sit back and watch the checks roll in. Eventually, you’ll be able to quit your job, they say. Eventually, you’ll have limitless riches while those below you do all your work. Whether it be cosmetics, cleaning products, vitamins or jewelry, it’s irrelevant. The promises are great, but most likely, when all is said and done, you’ll end up with nothing but a little product, an emptier wallet and maybe even a few less friends. Someone, though, got a little richer because of you. And that’s why the promise lives on.
Many people call this type of marketing a pyramid scheme, and they aren’t too far off. The difference, however, is that a pyramid scheme offers no product. It offers nothing but dreams, hype and mostly empty promises. Pyramid schemes, the type that offer no soap, no candles, no kitchen knives, no lingerie, no lipstick, are illegal. Unless, you are talking about our entire economic system.
Call it trickle down. Call it Reaganomics. Call it Neoliberalism, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that Republican promise for more than the last three decades has been that if you work hard enough to put money in the pockets of those above you, you will one day become rich. Ignored in that philosophy is the fact that universal wealth is impossible. Ignored is the fact that we will always need people to clean toilets or pick crops. Ignored is the fact that money is finite. If everyone had millions, we would simply run out, inflation would be rampant and the value of the dollar would plunge.
We’ve always had the haves and the have nots, and we always will, but the difference now is that the haves have it all and the gap between the two has become a Grand Canyon sized chasm. The haves have enough money for generations of their heirs to squander, but more importantly, they have the power than you and I once had. They have the ability to elect Congressmen, Senators and Presidents with money alone. They have the ability to write and enact the laws that will protect their own wealth at the expense of ours.
The injustice of the supremely wealthy is not that they drive better cars or live in better homes. The injustice of the supremely wealthy is that they became supremely wealthy at the expense of millions of Americans. The injustice of the supremely wealthy is that thanks to new rules, such as Citizen’s United, they are able to change the rules in a way that will benefit just a handful of Americans and drive millions into poverty or permanent serfdom. The injustice of the supremely wealthy is that they have millions of Americans conned into the idea that they too can be supremely wealthy if they simply apply themselves by working harder to make the supremely wealthy even more wealthy…a pyramid scheme.
Nowhere was the reality of our economic system as a pyramid scheme more alive than at a private billionaire retreat in California last weekend. The Huffington Post reported:
At a private three-day retreat in California last weekend, conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch and about 250 to 300 other individuals pledged approximately $100 million to defeat President Obama in the 2012 elections.
A source who was in the room when the pledges were made told The Huffington Post that, specifically, Charles Koch pledged $40 million and David pledged $20 million.
The fact that the wealthy conservative donors pledged $100 million for the 2012 elections shows how intent they are on trying to get Obama out of office — and previews how intense, and likely nasty, the general election will be.
There are limits on how much an individual can give to a political candidate. Therefore, much of the money pledged at the recent gathering will likely go to super PACs or nonprofits that can spend and accept unlimited amounts of funds. GOP primary voters have already gotten a glimpse of how the political system looks with super PACs around: record amounts of money spent on a large number of negative ads in the early primary states.
Who remembers “Swiftboating?” In 2004, a group of billionaires bought our Presidential election by convincing a large enough portion of the public that a war hero, John Kerry, was a traitor. Since then, the floodgates have opened. Believe it or not, the organization that sponsored the Swiftboat campaign, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, worked inside a somewhat regulated system. Well, those regulations are now all but gone. As Stephen Colbert has effectively illustrated with his own SuperPAC, there are now almost no laws or regulations controlling the spending that will propel those friendly to billionaires into office and those not so friendly to billionaires out of office.
For those who are convinced that President Obama is “Exactly Like The Rest,” one should look at where the greediest of the greedy, such as the Koch Brothers, spend their money. There’s a reason why they are spending so much to get him out of office. If you truly believe that Obama’s agenda is to protect the current power structure, last weekend’s secret retreat would have had a very different outcome.
Watch for the ads that will come from the top of the pyramid. Watch for them trying to convince the average voter that protecting the wealth of the top is in the voters’ own interest. Watch for them telling us that riches can be ours, as long as their income tax is low enough, unions are destroyed and everything is privatized.
It is possible to reverse the current trend. It is possible for more power to come from the base of the pyramid, but that sort of change has to happen within Congress and within the Supreme Court. The reelection of President Obama is imperative to ensure a more balanced Supreme Court. The cynical progressive base must vote, if only to ensure a more egalitarian Congress.