M.I.T. Professor Emeritus and pseudo-intellectual gate keeper Noam Chomsky describes what he calls the democratic deficit—the difference between the will of the people and the policies they actually get:
“American democracy is what we call a “guided democracy” [a term usually reserved for] countries that we don’t like, like Iran. So in Iran…the candidates are vetted by the clerical leadership. Guardian council decides who can run.
We’re pretty much the same. Here candidates are vetted by corporate interests. The way it’s done is, that unless you have huge corporate financing and support, you just can’t run. Obama won over McCain, primarily because the financial institutions liked him better, so [they] poured money into his campaign much more than McCain. And if you check funding and polls, you find that the advertising and so on, in fact carried him over the edge.
And that’s true all the way along. Elections are basically bought.
Congress, for example, has very low ranking among the population; it’s in the teens sometimes. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of incumbents win. What does that tell you? It tells you people are voting for candidates that they don’t like, because they don’t have any choice. These are fundamental defects in the democratic system. It’s a huge “democratic deficit,” as it’s called and it shows up. There’s a very sharp division between public policy and public attitudes on a host of major issues.
In fact, both political parties are well to the right of the population on a great number of critical issues and the population feels they can’t do anything about it. So, for example, last polls I saw about this, about eighty percent of the population said the government doesn’t work for the people—it works for a few big interests looking out for themselves. Well, that’s eighty percent of the population, but if you had asked the next question…well, what are you going to do about it? People probably would have said, well, I can’t do anything. There’s no way to do anything about the fact that the government’s in the pockets of the rich and a few big interests—corporate interests primarily.
That feeling of helplessness, impotence, everything is run by somebody else, I can’t do anything about it—that reflects a democratic deficit. These are enormous problems with the way the democratic system functions. There’s something similar in most places, but the United States is pretty extreme in this regard, among the industrial democracies.”
Recall for a moment the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United in January 2010, which “gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other political tools, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates…in a nutshell, the high court’s 5-4 decision said that it is OK for corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate” (Read more: The ‘Citizens United’ decision and why it matters). Citizens United contributes to the democratic deficit, because little guys like me don’t have the money to buy elections. Today, corporations are people and money is how corporations exercise their freedom of speech.
Enter Tom Perkins, an American venture capitalist and founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Silicon Valley’s top venture capital provider. KPCB primarily invests in IT and biotech firms, including Amazon.com, Google and Genentech. Venture capitalists are typical wealthy individuals who provide private money to start-up ventures or small companies that lack access to public funding. In addition to returns on their investment, they often seek to own large percentages of the firms in which they invest to be able to guide the direction of the company. Money and control is what the venture capitalist lives for.
Mr. Perkins recently wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal that was published on January 24:
Regarding your editorial “Censors on Campus” (Jan. 18): Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”
From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these “techno geeks” can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a “snob” despite the millions she has spent on our city’s homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.
This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent “progressive” radicalism unthinkable now?
The attempt to draw an analogy between the violence of the Kristallnacht and the “hatred of the successful one percent” in the U.S. today is absurd. Unlike the Jews, the one percent are not an ethnic group, nor are they members of the same religion (although they do worship the same G.O.D. = Gold, Oil and Dollars). The hatred of the one percent is the result of people losing their homes, losing their savings, being unable to send their children to college and having no choice but to work low-wage, often part-time jobs with no benefits. It is the result of the real-world consequences experienced by the victims of the ownership class, whose money goes to buy elections, pay off judges, politicians and police so that economic policies, regulations and laws not only benefit the 1%, they do so at the expense of the 99%.
HSBC, England’s largest bank, has been caught laundering money for terrorist organizations and drug cartels. Has a single HSBC executive or employee gone to jail for this? No. In fact, despite being caught and paying a ridiculously low fine, HSBC is still doing it. Contrast this with the case of Charlie Shrem, CEO of the BitInstant bitcoin exchange. He was arrested on money laundering charges related to online illegal drug dealing. Apparently, if you are HSBC or JP Morgan, you get a free pass. But if you are a bitcoin exchange, which is perceived as a threat to traditional banking, no such get out of jail free card is offered. HSBC wants to control your money. Bitcoin is designed to give you control over your money. It is obvious which system is being protected by the one percent. Compared to bitcoin, the vast majority of illegal drug transactions in the U.S. are conducted with U.S. dollars. They aren’t trying to ban cash—or are they? Read how we are sleepwalking toward a cashless society.
In fact, most Wall Street banks and financial institutions, when caught committing fraud or breaking the law, are simply able to pay a fine to the SEC without admitting guilt, and a promise not to do the bad thing again. Would you or I get that same chance? Not only are the banks too big to fail, they are too big to jail.
Maybe Mr. Perkins is on to something. People are angry, and increasingly, desperate. After all, we didn’t vote to deregulate the banking industry in the 1990s, elect to use predatory subprime loans to pump up the real estate market in the early 2000s, or authorize Congress to use tax payer money to bail out the banks and Wall Street fraudsters who caused the ongoing global financial crisis. Yet it is the 99% who are now suffering the consequences of the actions of people like Mr. Perkins and his 1% cronies. To claim that the 1% is unfairly persecuted and hated for their success is a slap in the face to everyone who lost their job, lost their home, lost their retirement and saw their dreams for their children crumble to dust before their very eyes.
As long as people continue to feel that there is nothing they can do about government, or politics or the economy, the pressure will continue to build and people like Mr. Perkins will be increasingly relegated to a life behind gates and security cameras, forced to travel to and fro with a Blackwater (or whatever they call themselves now) private security entourage in tow. When people get pushed to their limit, with their backs in a corner, fight or flight is the natural response. The wider the democratic deficit, the more likely it is his ridiculous analogy could become reality. Yet in this day and age of drones, all-encompassing spying, tracking and monitoring, private security firms and militarized police, how likely is it that an enraged populace could even plan an attack against Mr. Perkins and his ilk, much less carry it out?
The only glimmer of hope in all this is that Mr. Perkins’ letter indicated he is, at least, aware of the inequality that exists in the U.S. today, and apparently it worries him. But not too much. Only to the extent that it might flare up and trash his mansions, his private jets, his private schools, his member-only clubs and his investments. Most thinking Americans are angry about inequality, about fraud, corruption and lies that go unpunished, about a government that doesn’t reflect the will of the people. But to imply that the villagers are ready to torch the castle is laughable. People want relief, not more nightmare. His letter is a thinly veiled attempt at demonizing the have-nots by accusing them ex ante of the kind of fascism exhibited by the corporate interests that he has chosen himself to represent.
The financial weapons of mass destruction wielded by the 1% leave no broken glass on the street, only people. Hundreds if not thousands are already being arrested and incarcerated everyday. We already have concentration camps, they have signs over them that read Wal-Mart and McDonalds. Mr. Perkins can sleep easy tonight, the barbarians aren’t interested in storming the gate. They are happily distracted by celebrity spectacle, mindless entertainment, digital gadgets, sports, video games, drugs and alcohol. Everything is going according to plans.