Plutocracy Rising 

The United States of 158 families

How many people are in your family? The whole family, not just your wife and kids.

Depends on how far you reach, right? You'd probably say your brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, but would you count your grandma's cousins back in Iowa, along with their kids, grandkids and great-grandkids?

I'm sure you wouldn't. Not unless they were all included in some sort of family foundation, trust or other financial structure set up to see to it that everyone gets a piece of the family fortune. Assuming there's a family fortune, that is.

In this context, by family I mean one that has a compelling reason—other than feeling fondness toward one another—for staying familial. Of course, one of the most compelling reasons to stay familial, especially with rich relatives, is that your own financial situation might be relative to just how familial you are to them, yes? My guess is—having no personal experience with rich relatives—the richer they are, the more familial you would like them to be.

With that in mind, I'll ask again: How many people are in your family? (And if you're not part of a super rich clan, I'm frankly not interested in your answer. I'm sure you have a very fine family. But honestly, if it isn't one of those 158 families that have contributed over half of all the money that has so far gone into the 2016 presidential race, the point I'm driving at has nothing to do with you and your loved ones. Not unless you're one of those nervous Americans who believe this country of ours doing a full gainer into the shallow end of the plutocracy pool.)

I looked into a couple of families known for their extraordinary generosity when it comes to supplying politicians with seemingly limitless contributions. First, the Waltons, the richest family in America. The late patriarchs Sam and Bud did quite well with a little joint called Wal-Mart. Their heirs, of whom I count 21, are worth a combined total of $149 billion, as estimated by Forbes. (If you don't think that's a lot of money, consider this: $149 billion is more than 50 times the yearly budget for the state of Idaho.)

The second richest family in America are the Kochs: $86 billion. (This does not include the other two Koch brothers, Frederick and William, about whom we don't hear much because after a grueling family feud, they were bought out by the two brothers about whom we do hear much. However, I would be surprised to learn Fred and Bill were left in such dire straits that they're working in Wal-Marts as greeters.)

Owners of and heirs to the Koch fortune, as near as I can determine, number only seven—Charles and David, wives and three kids. (In a way, the Kochs are individually richer than the Waltons, as 21 into $149 billion comes out to a piddling $7-plus billion each, while if the Koch money were divvied out equally, they would each have more than $12 billion.)

Another super-duper rich person well known for his passion for collecting politicians is Sheldon Adelson, thought to be worth just shy of $30 billion. Sheldon has a wife and two grown children. If we average out the number of people with a thumb in the financial pies of the Waltons, Kochs and Adlesons, we have 10.66 thumbs per family. To be on the safe side—because surely there are some super-duper rich families with larger broods than the Kochs and Adelsons—let's up that to a hypothetical, and easy to multiply, 20.

(Are you following me? I sure as hell hope so, because that plutocracy I mentioned is coming at us like a Manhattan-sized asteroid, and we don't have a lot of time for you to fact check my math on this.)

OK then, the 158 families who have thrown in half of all the 2016 campaign money thus far are definitely not hypothetical, as reported two weeks ago by The New York Times. Nor is the $176 million they've thrown. Of all the money spent so far to influence who will be governing us, half of it has come from 3,200 Americans—most probably less than that—and the rest of it came from the rest of us.

All of the rest of us... approximately 320,000,000 of us... we have donated $176 million, and approximately 3,200 of them have donated another $176 million.

What's worse—much worse—is if you are like me, to donate much more than a couple hundred bucks in an entire election cycle is like squeezing blood from your own tiny turnip. Yet to people whose discretionary spending is counted in 10 or 11 figures, what's another $176 million? And another? And another?

(The Kochs alone have pledged $400 million to the 2016 race, and even though that sum may be proportional to them what you and I spend on potato chips over a year's time, it's still a f***ing lot of money. And keep in mind, this is political influence they are buying, not potato chips.)

If there was nothing we could do to right this wrong turn in the heading of America, there would be no point to wallow in despair; we could simply wave goodbye to any semblance we have of a democracy and carry on as well as second-class citizens might expect.

It has come to this largely because of one diabolical law—that bastard Citizens United decision. Thankfully, what can be decided can be undecided.

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