Reynolds is an ordained minister, a columnist for TheRootDC and the author of six books, including “Out of Hell and Living Well, Healing From the Inside Out.” She is a former editor and columnist for USA Today.
So welcome to Romneyville, an evolving plutocracy where the super-rich have convinced itself by birthright or wealth-right it is their
manifest destiny to govern the rest of us by their self-indulgent rules. Through outright insults or innuendoes they clearly have divided the nation into makers vs. takers, the counted vs. the discounted, the greater beings and the lesser beings and those not worth bothering with at all.
Romney’s inelegant language concludes that 47 percent of his fellow Americans are not worth bothering with because they don’t pay federal income taxes. That was not a gaffe, nor a misspoken phrase. It is a state of mind that sees the non-rich as belonging on the wrong side of the tracks and the government as the personal valet of the rich to transfer wealth by limiting the survival resources of the so-called weak and unfit — a cross between laissez faire and social Darwinism.
It is obnoxious that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made such selfish comments at a $50,000- a- plate dinner, an amount three times as much as millions of the working poor net in a year, if they are lucky enough to still have a job. Moreover, the secretly recorded event was held at the tony Bridgehampton mansion of Marc Leder, who, like Romney, is known for heading a private-equity firm with a reputation for taking over businesses, squeezing profits through closures which send workers into the unemployment lines, where they join the ranks of those criticized by the Romney crowd for not working.
I find it galling that Romney’s crowd — who have played such a role in tanking the economy through lobbying for de-regulation, fueling the subprime housing crisis, the breaking up of corporations and outsourcing of businesses — get on their high horses and label us as a lesser species that somehow enjoy being dependent and needing help — not for buying more yachts or private planes — but for basic food, shelter and employment.
Why can’t this crowd understand that millions of those who they berate have made extraordinary contributions to this country? Included in their unworthy “47 percent” are soldiers whose pay is exempted from federal income taxes while serving in, or hospitalized after serving in, active combat zones. Some are students who are future taxpayers, those who work every day but don’t make enough money to pay federal taxes and seniors living on limited incomes.
I have worked two or three jobs since I was 16 and worked my way through college to earn three degrees. So at 70, I receive Medicare and Social Security, something I have paid into through payroll taxes for 50 years. I still work and constantly seek more work to fill in a substantial gap that Social Security does not cover. I volunteer and serve without pay for many social causes. It is disheartening to see how Romneyville paints people like me as undeserving moochers.
I am angry not at the rich for being rich, but for the disdain people like Romney and sidekick Paul Ryan hold for those not in their country-club existence and their insistence of punishing the needy. How else do you explain their zeal to kill Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which could be the difference between life and death for those who couldn’t afford health care? They act like arsonists who burn down your houses and scold the occupants for being homeless, which eerily describes how a plutocracy operates. While the Right defines the Left as socialists, the Left must examine the workings of a plutocracy.
In a 2010 lecture at Boston University, journalist Bill Moyers described how a plutocracy is choking out democracy. He said that certain conservative groups have created a “shadow party” determined to be the real power in Washington, just like Rome’s Opus Dei in Dan Brown’s ”The DaVinci Code.” In this shadow party, the plutocrats reign. We have reached what Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, calls “the perfect storm that threatens American democracy: an unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money, flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that’s raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work. We’re losing our democracy to a different system. It’s called plutocracy.”
Moyers said the fraction of one percent of Americans who now earn as much as the bottom 120 million Americans includes the top executives of giant corporations and those Wall Street hedge funds and private-equity managers who are buying our democracy.
What can make us whole again? Moyer warned: “Our government is being bought. Until we get clean money we’re not going to get clean elections, and until we get clean elections, you can kiss good bye government of, by and for the people. Welcome to the plutocracy.”
The problem with a plutocracy, the one percent does not have a welcome mat out for the 99 percent or the 47 percent, the rebuked and the scorned outsiders. No one concedes power without a demand, abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said. So it is up to the 1 percent to find a way to crash the party.