US senator and a candidate in the 2020 US presidential election, Bernie Sanders believes the American society is “oligarchic” where majority of wealth is accumulated by a handful of affluent elites.
In a Twitter post Thursday, the US senator from Vermont said the “top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 92%”, while acknowledging the reality of “living in an oligarchic society”.
“Over the last 30 years, the top 1%'s wealth has increased by $21 trillion while the bottom half's declined.” He wrote. “Is that the kind of country we are satisfied with?”
The reality now is that we are living in an oligarchic society.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 7, 2021
The top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 92%. Over the last 30 years, the top 1%'s wealth has increased by $21 trillion while the bottom half's declined.
Is that the kind of country we are satisfied with?
The discourse over US being an “oligarchy” has gained momentum in recent years with multiple studies revealing that a small group of politically-connected elites hold majority of wealth and exercise complete control over policy making.
A recent Pew Research Center survey carried out in 16 nations and regions, mostly US allies, revealed the predominant belief that the United States no longer constituted a good example for democracy.
In Canada, some 69% felt this way, compared with 14% who felt that the "democracy in the US is a good example for other countries to follow," and another 14% felt that it "has never been a good example for other countries."
These opinions echoed across the Atlantic to Europe, where the sentiment that the US today is not a model democracy was held by 57% in the Netherlands, 56% in Sweden and the United Kingdom, 54% in Germany, Belgium and Spain, 53% in France, 49% in Italy and 45% in Greece, where, as in France and Germany, 27%—the highest response recorded—felt the US had never served as a democratic model.
The most comprehensive survey on the subject, however, came in 2014 by two prominent US political scientists, who argued that the influence of economic elites and big businesses is heavy in the US.
“Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence,” the study noted.
Widening wealth gap
It is a known fact that the four richest people in the US - Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg - own more than the bottom half of the country combined.
Despite the pandemic and economic downturn, the total wealth of America’s richest increased significantly over the past year, according to data compiled by Forbes for its annual billionaires list.
Many economists have warned that the pandemic has widened America's wealth gap, exacerbating income inequality and reinforcing America’s image as an oligarchic society.
The widening economic divide has also manifested itself in politics, as many experts have pointed out.
Marianne Williamson, a Newsweek columnist and author, in a recent article wrote that the US government has become “a system of legalized bribery, as the undue influence of money, mainly corporate money, has corrupted our democracy.”
“There's a word for a situation in which a small group of people control most of the resources and exercise most of the power in a country: oligarchy,” she wrote.
“More and more Americans on both the left and right now realize that our democracy has turned into an oligarchy. Our government's ability to truly serve its people has been kneecapped, so that the private interests of a relative few will best be served; this has created not simply an aberrational chapter of our history, but a seemingly entrenched system of economic injustice,” she added.
She said while the oligarchic takeover of the US government started in 1980, former President Donald Trump's administration represented the “culmination of oligarchic rule.”
“The massive transfer of wealth into the hands of 1 percent of Americans has been going on for 40 years, a march of malfeasance that began with the Republicans but which no Democratic president stopped,” Williamson wrote.
“Nothing short of a fundamental interruption of that march will end the economic tyranny by which giant corporate entities–from health insurance companies to Big Oil to defense contractors and more–use the U.S. government as little more than a cash cow to increase their short-term profits,” she added.