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Is America Still a Democracy?

Updated on February 6, 2017

Are we still a democracy or are we headed towards an oligarchy or plutocracy form of government? As you can see from the timeline below, we have made many amazing accomplishments, over many decades functioning as a democratic form of government.

Source

Oligarchy or Plutocracy?

  • An oligarchy is form of government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.
  • A plutocracy is a form of government in which a small group of wealthy people exercise control over the masses for their own gain.


Source

As this pie chart shows, there are 400 of the wealthiest people in the United States that own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the nation. That is an average of 3.4 billion for each person. The source for this is Forbes 400.

Source

This chart shows that six members of the Walton family, the owners of WalMart, owns the same amount of wealth as the bottom 40 percent of America, which is 89 billion dollars.

This chart shows from 1980 to 2005, 80 percent of all new income created went to the top one percent. In 2010, that number jumped to 93 percent.

Source

This chart shows the top 1 percent in the country own 40 percent of all the wealth. The middle 59 percent own less than 29 percent of the wealth. While the bottom 40 percent own three tenths of 1 percent of the wealth.

Source

This chart shows the six largest financial institutions have combined assets greater than nine trillion dollars which is more than 2/3 of the Gross Domestic Product. These institutions produced half of the mortgages in this country and two thirds of the credit cards. Three of the top four are larger today than they were when they were bailed out four years ago, because they were too big to fail.

Citizens United and the Super-Rich

Citizens United was the icing on the cake when it comes to the Supreme Court rullings. It gves enormous new political power to the wealthiest people in the country. It allows corporations and the super-rich, without disclosure, to spend as much money as they want on candidates and elections. See my hub on Citizens United for more information.

In a sense, the Supreme Court said to billionaires, "You own and control the economy, you own Wall Street, you own the coal companies, you own the oil companies. Now for a very small percentage of your wealth, we're going to give you the opportunity to own the United States government."

There are at least 23 billionaire families who have contributed $250, 000 or more into the political process up until now.

PACs, Super PACs and the Super-Rich

A PAC is a Political Action Committee. A Super PAC is a PAC on steroids. It is used to advocate for a candidate. if a non-profit, tax exempt organization is formed and they engage in political activities, but it is not their primary function, they can give unlimited amounts of money to create ads as long as the ad does not say to vote for or against a specific candidate. Further,they are not required by law to disclose the source of the funds. See my hub on PACs and Super PACs for more information.

Helping to fund super PACs were the 112 mega-donors, or related groups of donors, giving more than $500,000. Of those 112, twenty-six include members of the elite Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans.

Conclusion

I have given you the information to show how the distribution of wealth is being transferred to the top one percent. I know this is the capitalist way and I don't have a problem with people being successful. But it is what they have done with those earnings to buy control of this country to further their own gains that bothers me. We no longer have an America as Lincoln said "of the people, by the people, for the people." So are we headed towards an Oligarchy or a Plutocracy? I'll let you be the judge.

Update 3/6/2013

Below is a link to a video that gives a dynamic representation of the inequality that exists in America. It shows what the perceived ideal is and what the real inequality is.

What do you believe?

Do you believe the U.S. is headed towards an Oligarchy or Plutocracy or both?

See results

Sources of Information

  • Salon.com

  • Think Progress.org

  • Washington Post.com

  • DailiyKos.com
  • Politizane

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    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      More like a criminal enterprise, in my opinion. Above the law, because they make the laws. Deadly and amoral.

      I know this sounds silly, but on the show The Soprano's, Tony Soprano made a speech perfectly encaptulating what America is all about. He says they started the Mafia because they just wanted a piece of what the old families got......the Duponts and the Rockefellers and the Shiffs...etc.

      It always was an oligarchy. Always had second class citizens. Some wealthy people always side with the masses and try and change it, but the oligarchs always win.

      As long as they sell the "dream" of getting rich and having the world at your feet....we are dupes to their game.

      Until now, that is. Game over. New era coming in!

    • maxoxam41 profile image

      Deforest 4 years ago from USA

      With diagrams, people who have difficulty understanding the news, who have difficulty reading, the people (the ones who vote against their interests) may this time understand better what is at stake! Although my doubts are sincere and profound! I've decided for a limited time not to proclaim myself in the name of the people! Not worthy!

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      lovemychris: I just think it's getting worse. Thanks for dropping by.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      maxoxam41: As they say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. I just gave them a lot of pictures. I hope this helps. Thanks for your comments.

    • Becky Bruce profile image

      Becky Bruce 4 years ago from San Diego, CA

      peoplepower, you've got yourself a new fan! This is one of the topics I am very passionate about. I love how you used the example of the Walton Family against the bottom 40% of our entire population. Having that much money doesn't even improve their quality of life, they could never possibly use it all. Yet, them having it all ruins other peoples lives because there isn't enough for others to get now. Voting up and looking forward to reading more from you!

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Becky Bruce: Nice to hear from you. Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your passion about this topic and your compassion for others. Thanks for the vote.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      I think it seems worse because we are just touching the tip of the iceberg.....it will truly test the maxim: "You can't handle the truth!"

      I mean: What a swindle!!!

      http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_con...

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      lovemychris: I watched the video in the link. It sure makes one wonder if there isn't a conspiracy going on. When that money leaves the country, it is no longer counted as part of the money supply, right? Thanks for the video.

    • Chris Dane profile image

      Chris Dane 4 years ago from Maryland, USA

      You are all heroes. peoplepower73, technicolor truth is always the way to go. And everybody, watch lovemychris's link! It's a must!! I think we won't be hearing much from "conservatives" in the comment section here. "No comment" is Mitt Romney's version of "Yes we can" and I bet the minions follow suit.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      "Although my doubts are sincere and profound! " me too.....these people are still cheered and supported.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/0...

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      "Mr. Cohen is basically accusing the Republicans in Congress of committing economic treason."

      Eggsactly.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      "Under Bush, they had a story about deficits not mattering," says Michael Ettlinger, who directs economic policy at the Center for American Progress. "Then, all of a sudden Obama becomes president, and deficits matter again."

      The 'facts' are that today's Republican Party would rather fatally tank the US economy than see any redistribution of wealth that might benefit the many instead of the very, very few."

      http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-the-...

    • udontnomi profile image

      udontnomi 4 years ago from intense introspection

      I found the charts and diagrams to be very useful as a visual aide to proportions and numbers. What a lot of work it must have been. I think the Democracy started to slip away when Andrew Jackson took office.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      udontnomi: It was fun and a challenge. But I found that it is a neat way to present stuff that has a lot of numbers and metrics in it. I wish Obama would use something like this in his presentations. Welcome to hub pages and thanks for reading this hub.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      lovemychris: I read the first page of your link. There is so much good information, the rest of it like a short book. I'm definetly coming back to read the rest of it. I think a hub can be made out of this

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      lovemychris: I saw Bill Moyer interiew, the former head of the FDIC and she said that the tax structure is set-up to incentivise the big moneyed investors because of the capital gains tax breaks. She said the problem is they are using tax payers and depositers money for high risk investments. Then when they rake in their profits, they send them off shore.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Chris Dane: I think you are right. It will be interesting to see if we get a rise out of them. Thanks for the comments.

    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 4 years ago from Paris via California

      Peoplepower, we all need to see this, I only hope that the people who "really" need to see this actually do... Your presentation packs a wollop. Voted up and all the rest.

    • profile image

      danielabram 4 years ago

      America is not a democracy in the Greek definition of the term. More like a Republic.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      LetitiaFT: I shared it on facebook where I have a lot of conservative friends, but I don't know if they will read it. Thanks for your vote and sharing. I apprectiate it.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      danielabram: In ancient times, the word republic had many definitions, but in modern times a Republic is a country that is not ruled by a monarchy. Therefore America. is a Republic with a democratic form of government, where representation of government is by the people. Thanks for your comments.

    • Nick Hanlon profile image

      Nick Hanlon 4 years ago from Chiang Mai

      Every bill should be subject to an internet bill.Problem solved.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Nick Hanlon: Thanks for reading this hub. I'm not sure I understand your reply. Can you elaborate?

    • rjbatty profile image

      rjbatty 4 years ago from Irvine

      America has never been a democracy but a republic. Pretty big difference.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      rjbatty: I did the research. In ancient times, republics could be defined by many different forms of government. Today, the modern definition of a Republic, is a country that is not ruled by a monarchy. So America can have a democratic form of government and be a Republic as well. The only problem today is even though we have officials that are elected by the people, the government is not represented by the people, but by big monyed interests. They just need us to do the voting. I appreciate your comment.

    • rjbatty profile image

      rjbatty 4 years ago from Irvine

      peoplepower73: I agree with you. I meant that the US is not a democracy because we have an electoral college that supposedly represents the people. However, this can and has been tilted in local and national elections. There are always pockets of society who do not go along with the majority. I think of a democracy as one man one vote, but that's not what we have in the US.

    • profile image

      Ginger Ruffles 4 years ago

      Important hub, thanks for writing it. I don't think most American's realize how we are devolving into a plutocracy...if we are not already there.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      rjbatty: I'm almost convinced that it doesn't matter who is in office. We are at the point in our society where the government has been bought out by the plutocracy. They need us to get the votes o further their agenda. They do that by brainwashing the populace with propaganda on both sides. Thanks for your comments.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Ginger Ruffles: I know, I feel the same way. I think our only way out of this is to inform and educate the people. it will be difficult, but the more people who understand, the better off we will be as a nation. I appreciate you dropping by.

    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Jillian Barclay 4 years ago from California, USA

      What a great article! You have a new fan, Peoplepower!

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Jillian Barclay: Well thank you. I'm glad you liked the article. Creating the pie charts was a challenge, but also fun. And thanks for being a fan mine.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

      From what I understand, in the last 10 years the wealthiest American's lean to the liberal end of the political spectrum. If this is true why isn't the wealth being more evenly distributed?

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      wba108@yahoo.com: I don't know if that is true. Have you done the research? I would think wealthy people tend to be more on the side of conservatives because tend to have a symbiotic relationship with big moneyed interests. While liberals are more among the poor people. Thanks for reading the hub.

    • profile image

      Cyndi 4 years ago

      Although the proposed direction this country is headed according to this article, is spot-on, we have never been a "democracy". America is and always has been, a republic. We only have a democratic voting system, not a democratic-style government. If that was the case, EVERY law or bill would go up for a vote to the people, not to their elected representatives. Just a little clarification, nothing more. Thanks!

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Cyndi: Thanks, I appreciate the clarification. I looked up the difference and democracy is rule by majority of the people while a republic is rule by law, i.e, the constitution. However, we have a government that is represented by the people (I hope), but ruled by the constitution. Thanks for dropping by.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      I have added an excellent YouTube presentation that shows what the perceived ideal wealth inequality is and what the real inequality is in America. To say the least, it is mind boggling when seen graphically.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Some great books there too peoplepower....hopefully won't hurl after watching the presentation.....truly makes one sick to think about.

      all the un-necessary suffering.......

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Highway Robbery.....nothing more to call it!

      Re-Distribution all the way to the tippy top!!

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      lovemychris: I take it, you saw the video?

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Yes, I saw it people.....and it truly makes me sick to my stomache. When I think of all the hurt that goes on so people like Romney and Adelson can skip out on paying their fair share of taxes......I could punch a wall.

      Thank God there are people here...plenty of them, who see what is going on....it is nothing less than Grand Theft.

      The fact that they can do it: knowing children are going without food BECAUSE of it.....

      Mom and dad make 1968 wages, and pay 2013 prices.

      geeeeee, whose benefit is that?

      Lowest taxes since Eisenhower......but they make 2013-style bonus.

      golllyyyyy--who's that for?

      And why? Because people buy into their hype: "You can do it too!"

      Well, WHO would want to?

      I would never in a million YEARS want to be a ceo eating steak---knowing that my employee's kid is going hungry...because I, as a ceo, make 380 times the $$.

      That hard-working, loyal employee is simply a means to an end...money in the Swiss bank.

      and who allows this crap to continue? we do!

      USA USA USA

      it's bullsh*t.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      lovemychris: Don't hold back...let it all out...I hope you feel better. Here a a link to a very profound statement by E.J. Dionne: http://bit.ly/WTF1kc

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      The Tea Party has the brain power of a bag of nails.

      Trickle down...let's try it again

      and again

      and again

      and again

      and again...

      30+ years of it, hasn't worked yet: except for the top 0.0003%...

      now, how's that any way to run a country?

      It's not. And that's the point.

      They want a Robber Baron heaven...and not for the 1st time.

      It's always the same crap.

      Sucka-Show: You can do it too!!!

      "There's room at the top they are telling you still. But first you must learn how to smile as you kill."-John Lennon.

      "smiling faces, sometimes...pretend to be your friend.."-- Undisputed Truth

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      you offered, so I'll take :-)

      Here is a prime example of their bag-o-nails mentality:

      when confronted with the fact that we subsidize billion dollar companies....they never stop to think: maybe that company should take some out of their billions of profits to pay more.

      No, it's always: we ceo's will take a huge salary and bonus, and ask the tax-payers to subsidize our workers, or our research: whatever it is....they have a very entitled mentality, and they have more money than god already.

      Sickness of the mind. Brainwashing.

      COMPLETE antithesis of what the Constitution and the Bill of Rights stands for.

      They should call it the United States of whiny rich men.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      lovemychris: O.K. now do you feel better?

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Excellent presentation of the facts that hopefully will get some attention. We need to get big money out of our government - get rid of lobbyists and get real campaign finance reform. I can't believe that we can't change this deplorable situation, but maybe I'm naive. Voted up, useful and interesting - and sharing.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      You've certainly put a lot into this! Your charts are excellent. Little by little the rich...citizens, companies, whatever...are taking over this country. Though we complain and supposedly vote against such things, I think we are losing ground fast. As the Middle Class disappears there will be no way to stop money...until the revolution ;)

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Well, the revolution won't come by OWS. The minute they quoted MittRomney in a tweet...that was the end of it: they are compromised.

      I think it will come by people in gvt. who know what is and has been going on for a long, long time.

      And those of us out here who support them.

      But they will need an army as big as the money-bags have.....and they will have to do it not for money, but for the common good.

      I still think this is possible.

      This is what I've been waiting for.

      and yes: it does help to get it out peoplepower...thank you!

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      mperrottet: Thank you for your votes and sharing. We can only hope for the changes that you talk about. But I think our government has been bought out by the big money interests. Thanks again for stopping by.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      tillsontitan: I think about half of the people in this country vote in the best of the country, but I think the other half unwittingly votes against their own best interest without even realizing it. It's because they have been brainwashed by the propaganda. Thanks for your votes and sharing and thanks for stopping by.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      lovemychris: I think it will have to come from something like a grass-roots movement that is almost like a well organized revolution. Sometimes I write replies to comments and I never send them because it makes me feel better to just express myself. Thanks again for your comments.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      It's a great hub people...my pleasure.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      lovemychris: Thanks, let's continue to get the word out!

    • lovemychris profile image

      Yes Dear 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      RBReich:

      Republicans complain incessantly "uncertainty" holding back U.S. economy. But source of uncertainty is GOP: debt ceiling, cliff, sequester..

      *******

      They are deliberately preventing our recovery....there should be legal action taken on that, imo.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 3 years ago from Placentia California

      I have complied with Hub Pages Style tip:

      "Uh-oh! It looks like you have a large number of Amazon or eBay products grouped together. We recommend placing one relevant product next to the text where the product is mentioned."

    • Ben Freedom profile image

      Benjamin K. Freedom 3 years ago from USA

      No. Thanks to the Supreme Court selling us out to corporations for the cost of a few speaking engagements, this is now the United Corporations of America and it is only a matter of time before they enslave us all.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 3 years ago from Placentia California

      Ben: I don't believe in conspiracy theory, but I do think the moneyed interest including the banks are trying to eliminate the middle class. They have bought our congress on both side of the aisle. Thanks for dropping by.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      According to the definitions of oligarchy and plutocracy, the differences are only those of semantics; in practice, there is little if any difference between the two!

      The uber-rich, however, are so very short-sighted in their greed. It does not seem to occur to them that as they strip the wealth away from the masses to themselves, that they are also eliminating their customers. For once the middle class is fully destroyed, and all have become poor, struggling merely to survive, they who do the wealthy think is going to buy their goods designed for those with 'disposable incomes?' Surely, there are not enough of them to merely feed off each other, and keep their cash flow going.

      No, when and if that day comes, they will fall, and fall hard. As my husband has pointed out many times: if things continue on the current path, the USA will become the fastest rise and fall of any superpower in history.

      I'm glad I'm old enough that I probably won't see that day; but I am sad for my grandchildren.

      Voted up, useful and shared.

    • profile image

      Sooner28 3 years ago

      If American was a democracy, there would be no war or poverty, and anyone who happened to be a minority (homosexual, African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, etc) wouldn't be seen as inferior.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 3 years ago from Placentia California

      DzyMsLizzy: Thanks again for dropping by. You and your husband makes some very good points. We need a strong middle class to keep the economic engine running. Trickle down economics doesn't work.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 3 years ago from Placentia California

      Sooner28: Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate your comments.

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 3 years ago

      America has never been a Democracy but it needs to become one. It claims to be a Republic but we are actually an Oligarchy and no different then Rome when it had a Senate. Until we take the money out of Politics nothing will change.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 3 years ago from Placentia California

      Sanxuary: Thanks I appreciate your comment.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 22 months ago from Placentia California

      This hub was not featured, so I added a poll to it and it is now featured. Even though I wrote two years ago, it is still relevant and I'm sharing. it.

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