The "one percent" are not the true elites....
Economist Irwin Stelzer identifies in the Weekly Standard the broader political class exempting themselves from laws that bind the citizenry. At PJM Richard Fernandez offers a compatible assessment. At NRO Kevin Williamson sheds added light on the noxious mix of politics and enrichment. Examples he cites:
A professor of poverty and left-wing activist at the University of North Carolina School of Law is paid $200,000 per annum to teach a single class; anti-inequality crusader Elizabeth Warren was paid $350,000 per annum to teach a single class and thinks deeply about the plight of the little guy in her $1.7 million Cambridge mansion. The city of Bell, Calif., was nearly bankrupted by the very generous salaries its political class secured for themselves: nearly $800,000 per annum for the chief executive of the modest Los Angeles suburb, on his way to collecting a $1 million annual pension. (Several Bell leaders were later charged with misappropriating millions of dollars’ worth of public money for their own benefit.) Philadelphia was paying the feckless chief executive of its violent and defective government schools some $350,000 a year before the mayor got around to firing her, but not before the city wrote her a check for nearly $1 million to make her go away — and then she filed for unemployment benefits. A Philadelphia police lieutenant on an $87,000 annual salary takes home nearly $200,000 after nearly a hundred grand in “overtime” kicks in. The head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal enterprise, was paid nearly $6 million in 2013; the agency’s chief financial officer and chief lawyer were paid $2.1 and $1.9 million, respectively, that same year. The school superintendent in Lubbock, Texas, is paid nearly a quarter-million dollars a year.
Williamson explains that whereas private firms must produce products or provide services that customers decide they want, government need not do so when setting gatekeeper rules as to who may enter the market, all for a price of entry, often including money. He captures the ugly side of this:
Our political bureaucracies are grasping and vicious, and some of the larger of them are dominated by people who are, if we’re being frank, not especially bright. No society can long thrive by making its creators and innovators subservient to its pimps and thieves. But agencies with the power to tax or the power to pay themselves out of taxes have the power to command, and, human nature being what it is, it is not surprising that their executives use that power to extort for themselves extraordinary levels of compensation (occasionally through criminal means, as in the Bell case), even as they bore us all to death talking about the sacrifices they have endured on behalf of their careers in “public service.”
He further notes that governments "pay their employees and executives inflated salaries out of money collected at gunpoint through the tax system." Occasionally, as happened recently in Washington, D.C., whose local government is a continuous mockery of sound governance, the federal judiciary invalidates burdensome local licensing regulations.
WaPo columnist Ruth Marcus, a fair-minded progressive (hard to find), tartly chastises one of the senior members of the ruling elite: Hillary Rodham Clinton:
Actually, you have two money problems. The first is how you talk about it. The second is how you collect it — or, to be more precise, the fact that you’re still frenetically collecting it.
Let me be clear at the outset: The issue isn’t that you’re rich, or even that you and your husband became rich after leaving office. American voters don’t have a problem with wealthy candidates or even wealthy ex-presidents and ex-officials.
They have a problem with wealthy candidates who are whiny and/or defensive about their wealth; who are greedy and/or ostentatious in their acquisition and display thereof; or whose wealth makes them, or makes them appear to be, out of touch with the concerns of everyday people. Your difficulties, at the moment anyway, appear to be chiefly in the first two categories: defensiveness and greed.
Marcus aptly nails Hillary for her "not truly well off" remark despite her family fortune estimated at $150 million (Chelsea, the poor relation: est. $15 million):
And for goodness’ sake — truly well-off? hard work? You are truly well-off by anyone’s definition of the term. And hard work is the guys tearing up my roof right now. It’s not flying by private jet to pick up a check for $200,000 to stand at a podium for an hour....
In the midst of a book tour (and with the ample cushion of a multimillion-dollar advance), you don’t need to be hustling for another $200,000 or so from the United Fresh Produce Association and Food Marketing Institute. On the verge of a potential presidential bid, please feel free to say yes to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas if you want to speak there. But you don’t have to hit its foundation up for a $225,000 fee, even one you plan to donate to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
And then there is America's newest royal princess: Chelsea Clinton, whose career accomplishments include getting a cushy NBC job for $600,000-- $200,000 more than the president makes--and marrying a Goldman Sachs hedge-fund plutocrat who purchased a $10.5 million NYC co-op. Williamson spears CC's pretensions perfectly:
Of course Chelsea Clinton does not have the sense or the good taste to be embarrassed when talking about her blasé attitude toward money: Money is invisible to her for the same reason that water is invisible to a fish — she’d notice it if it weren’t there, and flap like a desperate landed mackerel until she’d secured her next big payday.
Elites in Wall Street, in close crony capitalist cahoots with politicians, largely escaped punishment for misdeeds that helped create the 2008 financial crisis. Oh, and the First Couple has spent $44 million on taxpayer-paid vacations during their 5-1/2 years.
Bottom Line. It is not the one percent who rule; rather it is the elite one percent of the one percent who rule--and above them yet are super-shakers--modern royalty--the one percent of the one percent of the one percent.
The one percent number 3 million regular wealthy, who are on paper rich but live lives not that different from the middle class, albeit an existence considerably more comfortable. The true elite class is much smaller--more like 30,000, which is one percent of the one percent. And above them is the royal class, with political, economic & social power so vast as to make even the 30,000 look like minnows: the anointed "300" supreme ruling class, the one percent of the one percent of the one percent.
These latter two classes are drawn from senior politicians, Wall Street titans & top traders, high-profile CEOs, venture-capital kings, top athletes, entertainment celebrities, a tiny coterie of megastar supermodels & associated fashionistas, chattering-class elites in media & publishing.
Increasingly the US of A is looking not just like a "winner-take-all" society, but a "zero-sum" society. Instead of a rising tide lifting all boats, crony capitalism run rampant is making super-success increasingly an insider's preserve.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Economy, Conservative Politics