Why are they Oligarchs in Russia but simply Billionaires here? “Oligarchy” from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:
“1: government by the few; 2: a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.”
If someone wanted to be generous to our country, he or she could say that the small group exercising control over the many are not selfish or corrupt. However, it is not difficult to evoke the other side of that coin.
A yawning wealth gap has it’s jaws opened wide. The disparity is combustible and it fuels a class divide and political war that has rendered our cohesion asunder. If it is not narrowed the logical conclusion of such hatreds will arrive.
Wealth inequality is a better indicator of what is happening than simple income differences. Here is a succinct description by Amelia Josephson from SmartAsset (July 2019):
“Take two people, one with a paid-off home worth $200,000 that he inherited, no student debt because his parents paid for college and a salary of $45,000 per year. The other person earns $65,000 per year but rents her home and has student debt of $80,000. Looked at through the lens of income alone, the woman in our example is better off than the man. But when the two situations are looked at through the lens of wealth, it’s clear that the woman’s finances are much more precarious than the man’s and that the man has a higher net worth.”
In other words, net wealth is what we own minus what we owe. In 2019 the median net worth for U.S. household was $121,700. Net worth for Whites is seven times what it is for Blacks, and 3.5 times what it is for Hispanics. The top 10% of U.S. households own 76% of the wealth. Let that sit with you for a moment.
Since 1989, the end of the “Reagan Revolution” (revolution for the super rich as it turns out), the wealth of the top one-percent has grown from 24% of total U.S. wealth to 32%. Meanwhile, in the same period, the ninety-percent’s share of total wealth shrank by 7% down to 28%. Just to make this clear: the bottom 50% of households owns 1% of total wealth in this country while the top 1% owns one third of it.
Now, as to Oligarchs. According to Open Secrets, the median net worth of Congress is just over a million dollars per legislator (compared to $121,700 for all US families, remember). Interestingly, even here the top 10% are three times wealthier than the bottom 90% of lawmakers. In the 2022 mid-terms, twenty-eight Senate candidates have made personal loans to their campaigns totaling $32 million for the group. Only very wealthy candidates could do that.
Wealth controls and rules this nation. Every president from Washington until Buchanan and Lincoln, were multimillionaires (in 2010 dollars). Then after Ulysses Grant the millionaire presidents take over again. Can we imagine an Abe Lincoln getting elected today — even to Congress?
Bring it local. I wonder what the median net worth of our City Council members is? I looked but can’t find it. It would be good to know if Geneva is an Oligarchy, too.