Charting the American Oligarchy – How 0.01% of the Population Contributes 42% of All Campaign Cash

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This is an economic fight, but this is also a political fight. The biggest financial institutions aren’t just big – they wield enormous political power. Last December, Citibank lobbyists wrote an amendment to Dodd-Frank and persuaded their friends in Washington to attach it to a bill that had to pass or the government would have been shut down. And when there was pushback over the amendment, the CEO of JPMorgan, Jamie Dimon, personally got on the phone with Members of Congress to secure their votes. How many individuals who are looking for a mortgage or a credit card could make that call? How many small banks could have their lobbyists write an amendment and threaten to shut down the US government if they didn’t get it? None. Keep in mind that the big banks aren’t trying to make the market more competitive; they just want rules that create more advantages for themselves. The system is rigged and those who rigged it want to keep it that way.

– From Senator Elizabeth Warren’s excellent speech: “The Unfinished Business of Financial Reform”

This is probably one of the most important posts I’ll write all year. The reason is because in order to displace the current paradigm, the public needs to deeply and intellectually understand exactly where the real cancer resides.

I never liked the saying: “We are the 99%.” While admittedly catchy and effective as a slogan, I think it is ultimately divisive and counterproductive. The reason I say this is because the statement itself alienates much needed allies for no good reason.

In a country with a population of 320 million, the 1% represents 3.2 million people, which is a pretty big number. While the 1% certainly have far superior material lives compared to the 99%, that doesn’t mean a particularly large percentage of them are thieves, cronies or oligarchs. In fact, it behooves people interested in transitioning to another paradigm to court as many of them as possible to the cause. It is very useful to have well meaning people with resources and connections on your side. To blithely assume there aren’t plenty of potential allies from a pool of 3.2 million is committing strategic suicide. Indeed, John Hancock came from one of the wealthiest families in the American colonies in the run up to the Revolution, yet he isn’t remembered by history for his family’s tremendous wealth, but for his signature:

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The moment you proudly espouse, “I am the 99%,” you are being tribal and open yourself up to irrational thought. You are essentially saying 3.2 million of your countrymen and women are in some way the enemy merely because of their income. You are lumping a lot of very decent — albeit wealthy — people inappropriately into the oligarch bucket. While many of them are indeed oligarch wannabes or their well paid henchmen, many of them are not. You create a barrier between yourselves and them. This works to make many of the 1% reflexively align with each other when they should be aligning with you. It’s a pretty stupid strategy to alienate millions of people you know nothing about.

The root of the problem is the oligarchy, run by, well, oligarchs. Here is how I defined the term in the post: Inside the Mind of an Oligarch – Sheldon Adelson Proclaims “I Don’t Like Journalism.”

In a nutshell, while many oligarchs are extremely wealthy (or have access to extreme wealth), not all people with extreme wealth are oligarchs. The term oligarch is reserved for those with extreme wealth who also want to control the political process, policy levers and most other aspects of the lives of the citizenry in a top-down tyrannical and undemocratic manner. They think they know best about pretty much everything, and believe unelected technocrats who share their worldview should be empowered so that they can unilaterally make all of society’s important decisions. The unwashed masses (plebs) in their minds are unnecessary distractions who must to be told what to do. Useless eaters who need to be brainwashed into worshipping the oligarch mindset, or turned into apathetic automatons incapable or unwilling to engage in critical thought. Either outcome is equally acceptable and equally encouraged.

So oligarchs are the problem, but there aren’t 3.2 million of them. In case you missed it the first time around, I discussed this in the post, Where Does the Real Problem Reside? Two Charts Showing the 0.01% vs. the 1%. In that piece, I highlighted the following chart, which showed how the 1% has more or less been treading water while the wealth of the 0.01% has exploded in recent years:

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While that chart is disturbing in its own right, over the weekend, I came across another one that simply blew me away. It was from Palo Alto based political data compiling company CrowdPac, and it showed the percentage of political contributions emanating from the 0.01% of income earners. Here is what it showed:

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You’ll notice a couple of trends from the chart above, but one that is crystal clear is that although the trend has been higher for decades, it hit escape velocity since the bailouts (and the Citizens United decision). These two things resulted in an increased concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the oligarchy (the bailouts), and provided an avenue for this wealth and power to be wielded (Citizens United). The bailouts did very little to help the American economy, but served as a mind-boggling windfall for the plutocracy.

There are roughly 250 million adults in America, so 0.01% of that is about 25,000 people. I would argue even this number is too high. In fact, I want to find out information about what percentage of political contributions come from the 0.001%. That number will probably get us much closer to the root of the problem. It is far more possible and efficient to closely monitor 2,500 people as opposed to 25,000. After all, 25,000 people don’t regularly call Congress and get the specific legislation they want passed. 25,000 people don’t have a direct line to the Federal Reserve, but people like Jamie Dimon do, and it is these people we must watch like hawks. If we can zero in on the 2,500 wealthiest people, we can also efficiently pick out the worst offenders, as opposed to just demonizing people based on wealth, even within the 0.001%. You can’t easily separate the good from the bad with a sample of 25,000 people, but you can with 2,500 (and that smaller group has much more pull anyway).

Far fewer people are calling the shots in America than you could ever imagine, and we must zero in with laser like precision on them, as opposed to alienating 3.2 million people. A more accurate slogan would be: “We are not the Oligarchy.” 

For related articles, see:

Portrait of the American Oligarchy – The Very Troubling Income and Wealth Trends Since 1989

When Asked if the U.S. is a Capitalist Democracy or Oligarchy, Janet Yellen Can’t Answer…

New Report from Princeton and Northwestern Proves It: The U.S. is an Oligarchy

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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17 Comments

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  1. Quoting Senator Elizabeth Warren is a joke…right? She is a defender of the criminal FED…she is a Trojan horse for the Banksters…

    • Michael Krieger

      Absolutely not a joke, and based on the quickness of your comment, I can assume you didn’t read the whole speech. Read it and then talk to me. It’s actually very good.

  2. “We are not the Oligarchy.” More accurate, but not as catchy (as I am sure you would admit). How about, “We are not the assholes”.

  3. mike i read the speech and , i think you should be careful about putting your faith in elizabeth warren rather than in her ideas.

    anyone seeking political office must contend with the fact the united states is a televion mass media country where voters are mostly idiots because our whole country has been intentionally dumbed down.

    an ambitious person is not always a trustworthy one regardless of their speeches.

    do you recall obama’s speeches in 2008 on the campaign trail. he was like a rockstar willing to say anything to get in office, and because people hated bush so much they fell hook line and sinker for obama .

    the reality is that even if warren were president, and even if she were the legit person she says she is,

    1) what could she really accomplish on her own against the banks. this is the 19th century and Andrew Jacksonian will not fly against a u.s. government with over 5 millilon federal employees and hundreds of spying bureaucracies.

    2) kennedy was assasinated by the same interests that remain in power over the country. they could assasinate another president. hinkckley attempted to assasinate reagan and was never placed in jail ever. why?

    don’t put your trust in warren , rather her ideas. for that matter, please don’t defend politicians in general in so far as they seek office. after all they are just representatives of human beings. the questoin is————which human beings have good will and good ideas and good intentions. forget asking which politicians have them, ask which PEOPLE have them.

    increasingly , the ‘99%’ is self sabotagingly broken up into foolish factions of people with bad ideas. 10% are hardcored stalinists that want more gulags and no private property. 10% are suicidal . 10% are x,y,z,. the 99% buzzword was what is was. i’m not going to hate on ows, but i’m glad you yourself are giving pause to sloganeeringism that passes for thoughtful and useful ideation.

    the framers of the DOI as you point out were stewards of their society. they were not generally the 99% but they were part of the group of human beings with good ideas regardless of their class status.

    • Michael Krieger

      You have had issues putting words into my mouth in the past, and you’ve done it again.

      Not only did I never “put my faith” into Elizabeth Warren, she wasn’t even mentioned in the post at all other than to quote her speech and highlight Jamie Dimon calling members of Congress, which was a key point of the post.

      Stick to the facts and don’t put words in my mouth. This site has always been, and continues to be, about ideas not false political saviors.

  4. It seems to me the focus is on the wrong problem. The reason the people that have the money donate to politicians is that they know they can buy protection from competition via the politicians. If the government had significantly less influence on daily life there would be no reason for people to donate. The oligarchs donate to get government to keep the status quo. WalMart supported Obamacare because they knew that such a large mandate would insure that no new competition would be able to develop in their space.

    Warren is another millionaire who got where she’s at via fraud (Native American? yea, right) and government intervention. If she had to make it in the private sector I doubt anyone would have heard of her.

  5. Paul Volcker Invests in Foreign Banks as He Lectures on U.S. Bank Reform

    Volcker’s views on financial reform must be seen against the backdrop of Volcker’s myriad conflicts and ties with the global ruling elite.

    His non-profit organization, The Volcker Alliance, has multiplied its income by a factor of 30 in one year.

    From 2012 to 2013, The Volcker Alliance went from $500,000 in contributions to over $15 million. It fails to list its donors on its public IRS 990 tax form. And then there is the matter of Volcker’s personal investments in unseemly foreign bank deals alongside global banks that are serially charged with breaking the law.

    Reports from the myriad books and reports in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and New York Times, each divulging a few more names of those entities that invested alongside Paul Volcker in the Shinsei deal, suggests a coziness not heretofore understood between Volcker and the Wall Street elite. Investors included David Rockefeller, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Grupo Santander, GE Capital, Mellon Bank, ABNAmro, Gap’s controlling Fisher family, and AIG.

    Volcker is also affiliated with organizations perceived by the public to represent the interests of the global elite. Volcker serves on the Executive Committee of the Trilateral Commission, founded by David Rockefeller. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Group of 30, a body of international bankers and central bankers. Volcker also serves as a Global Counselor at the Conference Board, a group representing 1200 businesses around the globe, among numerous other affiliations.

    http://wallstreetonparade.com/2015/04/paul-volcker-invests-in-foreign-banks-as-he-lectures-on-u-s-bank-reform/

  6. Elizabeth Warren, Hypocrite, Supports Ex-Im Bank
    The woman best known for demonizing big businesses nevertheless wants to maintain an outlandishly generous subsidy package for them.

    • Michael Krieger

      Relax. I disagree with Warren on a lot, including not supporting “Audit the Fed.”

      However, this post isn’t about Warren. It is about identifying the oligarchy and forging alliances. The quote at the top was there to highlight Jamie Dimon calling Congress to get horrible crony legislation passed. It also linked to a speech, but why you would focus on the quote and not the content and message of the post itself is beyond me.

  7. Elizabeth Warren And Sherrod Brown Fight Fed Audit, Foreclosure Transparency – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/17/elizabeth-warren-rand-paul-federal-reserve_n_6699820.html

    • Michael Krieger

      You’ve made your view on Warren clear for everyone to see, and that’s great, but I wrote an entire post that had nothing to do with Warren, so let’s focus on that.

  8. She (Warren) is the typical Bankster distraction because Hillary is so rapacious and vile…that even the sheeple can’t stand her…

  9. I appreciate your critical thinking and writing. Thanks for doing it. You make a very good point regarding the 99% slogan. Unfortunate it caught on, plays right into the divide and conquer, stategy of the elite. Reminds me me of the J Gould quote when he was asked if he feared a revolt said something like, No, I will just hire half the pheasants to kill the other half. Great idea to focus on the 2500 that funnel the resources and control the government. Sure would like to know who calls Jamie Diamond and tells him what to do and who to call. Great point that there very well will be some allies in that 3.2 million people. It’s going to take a revolt to wrest power away from the psycopath elites but if people like you can expose the influence of the 2500 maybe it will be less violent. Keep on keeping On!

  10. I have written this before so those of you who have read it bare with me.

    Put your Congressional Members/President contact information into your phone. At least once a week there is something nefarious brewing on the hill you should voice your concern about. With these numbers at your fingertips you can make a call to all three in 6-8 minutes.

    Every week you should be demanding CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM. This mantra should be heard so often from us they are forced to act. Let’s face it the only thing that keeps the professional campaigners in office instead of critical thinkers is deep pockets.

    I read that people buy weapons and stockpile food but what about using words first? If we do not attempt to retake our government with a cohesive voice first then we are no better than them. Their answer to everything is violence.

    The people should be chanting CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM until self preservation sets in with the entrenched on the hill. We can do this but they must hear from you. Believing there is nothing you can do is exactly the mind set they want. Apathy is out- Activism is the new sexy.

    • OK, so we get CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM. What does that mean? Most likely it means government supported (read: taxpayer supported) campaigns. Who benefits from such a system? Those in power who know how to work the system. Those who want to use government to mold the country into their vision of utopia.

      No thanks. Public financing is a one-way street to Serfdom.

  11. Fool!

    This nation was built by wealth land owners. Ben Franklin to name one.

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