By Will Durst
In the bad old days, medieval German lords figured out how to pocket some quick coin by charging a toll on the primitive paths meandering across their lands. The money wasn’t used to improve the roads or better the lives of the peasants or clean the rivers their pigs pooped in but rather to heighten the piles in their treasury. Even back then, you just couldn’t have enough pewter candlesticks.
These were the first robber barons. Literally. Rich people whose sole pursuit was to survive to become richer people. A criminal aristocracy. A term history has proved redundant.
During the Gilded Age, the flushest 1% of the country held one-third of the national income. In the 1920s, this figure ramped up to two-fifths. Molehills compared to today’s mountainous wealth, where the richest 400 American families control more money than the poorest 165 million of their fellow citizens put together. And if all 165 million were knelt end to end, those 400 families would have footrests from any compass point.
Six members of the Walton family have accrued as much money as the bottom 41% of all Americans. Now, how hard would it be for them to cover the healthcare of Walmart employees? They’d still be worth as much as the bottom 34%. How many pewter candlesticks does one family need? You’d think they could get them wholesale.
In decision after decision, the Supreme Court has equated money with free speech. Which would be great if it meant the more we spoke, the more we’re worth. But alas, no. That’s not the deal. Pretty much the opposite, come to think of it.
Rich people have exploited these high court rulings like foxes given skeleton keys to the Tyson chicken empire. Any politician who espouses lowering taxes on the rich and blunting the powers of the poor gets backed. With unlimited sums. Of course, the poor have free speech too, but we might as well be whispering downstage at a Metallica concert.
A plutocracy is a society where the rich make the rules—quickly becoming our norm. The ninth richest man in the world, Sheldon Adelson, focuses on politicians whose Israeli policies most closely mirror his. That’s it. One issue. In 2012, he gave $90 million to various GOP presidential candidates. And in the next election cycle, he is reportedly ready to triple that number, recently holding auditions in Las Vegas for his own personal presidential candidate American Idol. Once again—not Clay Aiken.
The most Darth-like of the new robber barons are the Koch brothers (rhymes with rock), David and Charles, each richer than Adelson. These self-made inheritors of a vast oil empire are responsible for jumpstarting the Tea Party and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and are now handpicking candidates all over the country—pouring in vast amounts of money to get them and their skewed legacies elected. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is one of the first-generation Kochbots. And a bit glitchy.
If so desired, the Koch family could spend a billion dollars a year for the next 85 years buying politicians. Bankrupting the rest of us through Kochbot-legislated tolls on the primitive paths meandering across Koch-owned lands. Especially egregious when all lands are Koch owned. Get ready for the American Kochocracy.
©2014 Will Durst
Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed political comic. Visit www.willdurst.com to find about more about his new one-man show “BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG” and the documentary film 3 Still Standing and to access a calendar guide to his personal appearances.