Monday, September 6, 2010

Democracy part 2: Are We Living in a Plutocracy?

Plutocracy: (n.) Government by the wealthy. <usage> a country or society governed in this way; an elite or ruling class of people whose power derives from their wealth.

In my last post I was trying to get at the question of whether we really get to choose our leaders (democracy) or whether they are financially chosen (plutocracy)? Here's more for consideration:

Where do politicians get their money? Well, it's complicated - really complicated. Rather than write a long boring post describing the intricate details, I'll just summarize. There have been all sorts of legislation and reforms over the years designed to curb corruption and the plutocratic tendencies of American politics. This is good since it does limit fat-cat contributions, but make no mistake, the wealthy are still the primary players in financing campaigns. Here's the main sources:

1. The candidates themselves. Most people in the upper levels of government are multi-millionaires and they spend a ton of their own cash to get or keep their office.
2. Other rich people. Theoretically, an individual can only give $2,400 to an individual candidate, but there are loopholes - there are about a gazillion organizations out there known as political action committees that the individual can legally funnel money through so that their contribution comes out closer to $70,000.
3. The above mentioned PACs. Funded by the wealthy (private and corporate).
4. National, State, and Local parties. Likewise funded.
5. Straw donors. This is the illegal option. I'm guessing it happens frequently. A straw donor scheme is basically an inverted pyramid scheme in which someone gives lots of other people money to give the candidate in order to get around campaign contribution limits.

I don't know about you but I'm leaning toward plutocracy. I shall continue my rant in the next post...

Part 3

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