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America: A Constitutional Oligarchy

images (1)America is in a profound sense of constitutional crisis even if the public isn’t acting like it. A constitutional crisis is a situation where the existing constitution is incapable of solving modern problems. The American constitution, as currently written, must be changed to address a number of problems that have reached epic proportions.

Oligarchy means we are not a democratic-republic.

“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence,” Martin Gilens Professor at Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University wrote in a study, titled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.”

In plain English, organized wealthy interests dominate the public policy agenda. This suggests that the legislative and executive branches of government are no longer avenues for political change. This is compounded by the remaining branch of government affirming the tilt towards wealthy citizens.

In recent decisions such as Citizen’s United and McCutcheon, the Supreme Court has expanded upon its precedent in Buckley v. Valeo that money equals speech and that wealthy individuals may donate unlimited sums of money to outside political groups and as many candidates up to the individual contribution limit that remains set. The court has decided, that despite the findings suggesting otherwise, there is no threat of quid pro quo corruption within the policy making process. If we agree with this statement on face value, the Supreme Court has chosen to ignore the very real indirect quid pro quo that unrestricted campaign finance has the ability to bring about.

The ability to finance a campaign is tantamount to winning an election. A study by Jasper McChesney from United Republic, a non-profit organization raising awareness of the influence of campaign financing on electoral outcomes, discovered the candidate who raised more money won 90% of the time in the 2012 election. The average winning campaign spent $2.3 million dollars.


Campaign financing is required to pay all important campaign staff, consultants, and infrastructure costs. Those staffers who win elections go on to a six figure salaried position with great benefits. This is the quid pro quo. Those who donate enough money can literally make a career happen for a politician and any number of political industry professionals. Perhaps this is the reason most members of Congress are millionaires?

Regardless, even if campaign finance restrictions were put back in place, the Gilens-Page study suggests that during periods of campaign finance restrictions, Congress still placed the interests of organized wealth ahead of the interests of the average voter.

The war on the poor is a war on all of us

Oligarchy is the politics of preserving an uneven distribution of wealth. The uneven distribution of wealth is not inherently a problem as some wealth inequality is likely inevitable. The problem with oligarchy lies in the establishment of a two-tiered system of citizenship.

Before I detail what a two-tiered system of citizenship looks like. Here are some quick facts about the average American worker.

Worker productivity has nearly doubled while wages stagnated. The rich are hoarding corporate profits.

Average wealth per adult has declined over the last decade while the rich continue to get richer.

The average American has less wealth than their foreign counterparts.

As union membership declines, the rich grab a greater share of wealth.

The average American has more debt than wealth.

American’s have lower economic mobility than their foreign counterparts.

The average American worker is losing in comparison to the wealthy. This is the true net negative effect of oligarchy. A two-tiered system of citizenship means there are indentured servants and wealthy citizens. The wealthy generated the vast majority of their wealth through investing mechanisms. The problem is that the vast majority of investments are automated computerized algorithms based on variables and information the public is not privy to, created by some highly paid mathemagician that claimed that the leveraging of all assets in existence produces more wealth for them. They are numbers in the columns of computerized databases. They made it up and are paying less taxes on it than the average worker does on their hourly wages.

images (4)In fact, as wealth becomes more centralized, economies become more unstable. The middle class is no longer capable of affording goods and services from combined industries that drive economic growth. This includes but is not limited to; housing, automobiles, air travel, medical and pharmaceutical care, cell phones, computers, and other electronics. The root cause of the collapse of 2008 isn’t any of the policy excuses offered by both ends of the political spectrum and everyone in between. It was because the middle class couldn’t afford the terms and conditions of loans generated by made up algorithms. The financial collapse plundered 10.2 trillion dollars in household and shareholder wealth. These firms then were infused with an unprecedented taxpayer funded cash infusion, plus given secret loans and guarantees to cover their corrupted balance sheets. Meanwhile, they were permitted to evict and foreclose on millions of families so they could sell the homes for profit again. None of these people were indicted for violations of securities law or the Fair Housing Act.

The Republican party is the most vocal supporter of the war on the poor. As part of the dying southern strategy, the party has chosen to demonize working and unemployed people as lazy, self-entitled, parasites, and valorized the wealthy as job creators. Their budget priorities represent an elimination of any social safety net to give the working poor the boot that so often accompanies the invisible hand. While also setting their targets on public sector unions, the last stronghold of political power that favors workers. They want only a strong military and police state to remain.

Meanwhile, the Democrats, have remained ineffectual at best and sell outs at worst. They passed a health care bill written by a conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, allowed banks to remain ‘too big to fail,’ and failed to do anything meaningful for workers like the Employee Free Choice Act, stop the foreclosure crisis, or pass immigration reform. I will go on record and state that the Democrats lost 2010 primarily because they went for a health care bill when they should have gone for immigration.

America has a one party political system. The oligarchy party with two different branches putting on a circus so that the vast majority doesn’t start asking the right questions.

If our interests are not being voiced in Congress then doesn’t that constitute taxation without representation?

If the executive, legislature, and courts prevent any serious challenges to the harmful centralization of wealth, then doesn’t that mean we have a constitutional crisis?

If our country imprisons more people per capita and quantitatively than any country in the world, where they are worked as slaves, how are we any different than our declared enemies?

If our nation is populated by people with more debt than net worth, then are we not a nation of indentured servants?

If our government can spy on, indefinitely detain, torture, and kill without judicial review, then are we not an authoritarian nation?

If these are the facts, what are we going to do about it?

images (5)The constitution is America’s political religion and this political religion needs a reformation. It is a social contract to enable the politics of oligarchy. If the vast majority of us aspire to something more than indentured servitude to credit and financial firms, then we must demand that our dignity be enshrined in a new bill of rights.

Zach Freels
Zach Freels is an educator and global justice advocate. He has published more than two dozen textbooks on the subject of dialogic communication and advocacy training. He graduated with cum laude honors from Northern Arizona University in Political Science and Speech Communication. His current professional interests are in field organizing, youth leadership development, and social enterprise. He is also an outdoor enthusiast and aspiring photo essayist.

One thought on “America: A Constitutional Oligarchy

  1. I see a change coming and it may even turn out to be a bit violent. You just can’t make this many people poor while you flaunt your ill gotten gains. People are finally waking up to the fact they have a lot more to fear from politicians, bankers and CEOs than they do gays, illegal immigrants and minorities. I see a new populist movement in our future because something has to give.

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