Plutocracy is a word I never thought I would use to define America. But today, that definition is more apt than ever. The coronavirus epidemic has exposed the truth that the corporate oligarchs are firmly in charge of our fates and will be until the eventual collapse of our democracy.
A pandemic is the perfect cover for a plutocracy to flex its monetary muscle and, additionally, for the government’s surveillance state to intensify its intrusive snooping. “Contact tracing” might soon come to mean something non-medical in nature.
Under the corrupt leadership of Donald Trump’s personal litigator and fixer Attorney General Bill Barr, one can only imagine the glee that our government has as it tightens its grip on everything from the US Postal Service (warning to Amazon and Washington Post’s owner Jeff Bezos), to the control of much-needed ventilators and personal protective equipment (based on which governor lavished the most praise on Trump), to the distribution of tax breaks and bailouts to the people who need them the least – you know, the one-percenters that party and schmooze at Mar-a-Lago while donating big bucks to the Republican National Committee.
In the first stimulus bill, a mere $1,200 apiece was trickled down to the millions of Americans now out of work and on the verge of eviction and starvation. However, billions were doled out to the few corporate oligarchs whose previous profits went to stock buybacks and to sate the bulging bellies of their overpaid CEOs.
Watch as those same oligarchs will not hesitate to call in the mortgages and other debts the rest of us hold. In other words, they will be grabbing back those $1,200 checks, money that came not from Trump, but the taxpayers themselves.
The Putin Roadmap
If one needs a roadmap of where this nation might be headed look no further than Russia, ruled since 2000 by apparent president-for-life billionaire Vladimir Putin. Journalist Catherine Belton’s forthcoming book, Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West, is chillingly prescient.
Parallels between Russia’s fall from tentative baby steps toward a free market economy to a thoroughly unlawful state takeover of the country’s key industries by Putin looks eerily similar to the dark path on which President Trump and his merry band of nepotistic cronies and lackeys are leading us. Note how many billionaires are in Trump’s cabinet.
Belton, a former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, reviews how, in the wake of Boris Yeltsin’s failed economy, Putin seized the assets of Russia’s Yukos Oil Company from oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was thrown in prison on fictional fraud and tax evasion charges.
Putin did this in the name of restoring a level playing field for Russians. In reality, all Putin did was transfer wealth from Khodorkovsky and other oligarchs to himself and his loyal KGB gangster pals. This might explain how Putin, who is paid $139,000 a year, has a net worth of between $70 and $200 billion, depending on which source you ask.
I am not suggesting that Trump will take over the assets of Exxon-Mobil, Microsoft, or Amazon any time soon (although he is trying to shrink Amazon’s bottom line and, by association, the Washington Post’s by forcing higher postage rates), but Trump and Barr’s effort to appoint conservative judges, rewrite judicial decisions, and control the courts and the American legal system to achieve his political means are beginning to look eerily similar to his mentor Putin.
Regarding Putin’s moves, Belton writes,
“The takeover of the court system had begun with whispers and accusations that judges were taking bribes from the Kremlin’s opponents. The judges would seek to counter such allegations and display their loyalty by producing verdicts exactly in line with the Kremlin’s orders, in a pattern that harked back to Soviet times, when colleagues had spied and reported on each other, when everyone was under suspicion and closely watched… now the country was falling back into the times when everyone was divided between ‘us and them…’”
As we observe almost daily now, Attorney General Barr has abandoned his sworn Constitutional duty to represent American citizens and, instead, has supplicated himself to the dysfunctional whims of a vengeful president.
We have seen this in the misrepresentation of the Robert Mueller report’s findings, the interference in the Roger Stone case, and, most recently, in the dropping of charges against convicted and confessed liar Michael Flynn.
These moves should send coronavirus-like chills through each and every American. The growing chasm between the rich and everyone else widens with each legal maneuver, tax break, and corporate bailout negotiated by Trump and his billionaire cohorts.
The backroom deals should also remind us that, except for dying in wars perpetuated by the upper caste and dutifully paying our fair share of taxes, we of the lower and middle class are as expendable as Kleenex. And isn’t that the real goal of a plutocracy?Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.