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The American Aristocracy

Among my many Medium readings, there is one article that best explains the current state of the USA (and other western nations):

This article is about a three-quarter-hour read. So I will just quickly summarize it for you.

The author describes the American Aristocracy. They are not billionaires. Nor are they overtly influential or powerful.

They are the professionals: engineers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, dentists, professors, high-ranking civil servants, managers, and other occupations we call “careers.” Moderately successful businesspeople and artisans also belong to the 9.9%. These citizens are educated, hardworking, and skillful. They have creative occupations, which give them higher-than-average incomes. While they don’t have yachts and 10-acre mansions, they are not lacking for material means.

I’m not sure where the author got his 9.9% figure from. But I find it interesting that 9.9% is not too far away from 13%, one of the Orwell Ratios that I wrote about earlier:

So why is this 9.9% called an aristocracy?

According to this The Atlantic author, this demographic sets up its progeny into belonging to this demographic. The article goes into many social analyses of how the 9.9%’s children are almost guaranteed to belong to the 9.9% by the time they are 30 years old. As well, the author explains how difficult it is for the children outside the 9.9% to work their way into this demographic. In essence, the USA and other western nations have systems in place so that a certain higher economic class can pass their opportunities and prosperity to their progeny—just like the aristocratic families of feudalist Europe. In other words, there is little class mobility in today’s USA—up or down.

Ostensibly, the Democrats are about giving political favors to the lower classes. But let’s look at recent history. Let’s look at the opportunity the Biden Administration had this past year to address the social issues that were front and center:

1. Raise minimum wage to $15.00 an hour

2. Reduce student debt.

3. Move Obamacare more toward single-payer, health-care systems like other western countries.

4. Higher taxes for the wealthy and corporations

With my basic understanding of the political process, I see all of these ideas could have been put forth as a bill. Even an omnibus bill with these four items.  Put the bill on the docket, have some discussion and committee hearings, shepherd it through to a vote. If the bill passed into legislation, that would have been great for those people affected. If the bill failed, then it would become an effective campaign message for the next election. For example, let the opposition legislators who voted against a $15 minimum wage explain why it’s a good thing for low-wage workers not to get a living wage.

If the goal was for the Democrats to win the next elections, these bills were no-brainers for good political strategy. It would not have mattered whether the bills passed or not. It would not have mattered if bipartisan support happened or not. It would not have mattered if there were two rogue Democrat senators. Win, lose, or draw, the Democrats still win. Yet the Democrats did not put these issues on the legislative tables.

I will be the first to say that things are usually more complicated in politics than what they seem. So my judgment from the outside of power is probably faulty in some way I cannot yet see. So I do look for good reasons for things I disagree with. In this case, I still cannot understand why these social ideas were withheld from legislative deliberation and decision.

But here is what I do understand:

1. The 9.9% are not working for less than $15.00 an hour.

2. The 9.9% have their kids getting through college with no or little debt.

3. The 9.9% are reasonably insured for health care costs.

4. The 9.9% are at a marginal tax rate they feel is too high.

Without saying a word, the 9.9% seemed to have deflected legislation that really does not benefit them.

We complain about the billionaires, with the flamboyant lifestyle and political influence they buy. We complain about the very noisy Trump base, bringing its collective version of the Dunning-Kruger Effect into the realm of public decision making. And yet, we say so little about the 9.9%, who seem to have political influence that far outstrips the size of that demographic.

It was three years ago that I read that article in The Atlantic. Maybe I am starting to understand its significance. Who is really pulling the strings, anyways?

Published on Medium 2022

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