An American Oligarchy?

by andré douglas pond cummings

America’s middle class is disappearing.  The emergence of Occupy Wall Street highlights a growing oligarchy in American society.  An oligarchy is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.”  While many claim that this phenomenon—disappearing middle class and growing American oligarchy—is not happening, the reality suggests otherwise. Wealth continues to grow in the United States in the hands of a very few, and as it does, the middle-class is simply eroding. The bottom 80% of U.S. households receive less than half of total income paid out to Americans.

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman of The New York Times opines that, even though the Occupy Wall Street movement is correctly portraying the wealth disparity as a 99% to 1% disconnect, wealth concentration in the top 1% is misleading as it is more like the top thousandth (0.01%) of Americans who are seeing their income rise exponentially. From 1979 to 2005, this group, the 0.01%, which includes Wall Street executives, saw an income increase of more than 400 percent! With such a concentration of wealth in a minute number of a select few, Krugman argues that democracy in America is becoming a façade. The American oligarchy is growing more wealthy, influential, and powerful, leaving behind most of America, and thus, threatening America’s real democracy.