Monday, June 12, 2017

The United States Oligarchy

Updated November 2019

The 2016 election was a wakeup call for millions of American voters; all is not particularly well in the political theatre in the world's sole remaining superpower.  An interview on the Thom Hartmann program with a former United States president concisely shows us what is wrong.  

Let's open with a definition of the word "oligarchy" from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

:  government by the few - The corporation is ruled by oligarchy.

:  a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes a military oligarchy was established in the country; also  :  a group exercising such control - An oligarchy ruled the nation.

:  an organization under oligarchic control - That country is an oligarchy.

Now, let's look at an excerpt from the interview:

Here's the transcript:

"HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems a violation of principles of democracy. … Your thoughts on that?

CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system.  Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president.  And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members.  So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.

HARTMANN: It's a sad commentary on things.  It's going to take a political movement to change this, isn't it?

CARTER: Well, I think it's going to take either a horrible, disgraceful series of acts in our country that turn the public against it and eventually maybe even the Congress and the Supreme Court, that would be the main thing.  At the present time, the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves because somebody who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.
While we have long thought of post-Soviet Russia as a nation that was under the control of the USSR's oligarchs, particularly when it came to its economy, it appears that the United States is headed down the same path."

From Open Secrets, here is a summary of the 2016 election donations.  In total, the five presidential candidates that finished the race raised over $1.5 billion with $615 million raised by supporting super PACs.  Here is a graphic showing the totals by candidate:

Here is a listing showing the money raised by the candidates that dropped out of the presidential race:

Let's focus on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Hillary Clinton raised $300.11 million from large individual contributors or 75.1 percent of her total of $399.67 million in individual contributions.  Donald Trump raised $46.87 million from large individual contributors or 35.4 percent of his total of $132.23 million in individual contributions.

Looking at total donations (i.e. including federal candidates, parties, political action groups, 527 organizations and Cary committees) here is a list of the top 50 individual contributors during the 2016 cycle:

To put these numbers into perspective, a median American household in 2015 earned $55,775.  It would take a median household 74 years to earn what the 50th top donors, Clifford and Laurel Asness, donated to the conservative political cause.

Former President Carter's musings about the current oligarchy that now controls the American political agenda could not be more accurate.  The U.S. political and court system has allowed the wealthy few to control the fate of the many.


  1. Very informative. Thank you. Ex-president Carter doesn't mind speaking out the truth.

  2. " Donald Trump raised $46.87 million from large individual contributors or 135.4 percent of his total of $132.23 million in individual contributions."
    35,4 percent is correct.Otherwise interesting article.