The United States Is Not a Democracy: Michael Gould-Wartofsky on How the 1% Has Rigged the Game

mister-moneybagsBy Elaine Magliaro

Michael Gould-Wartofsky is the author of the book THE OCCUPIERS: The Making of the 99 Percent Movement, which was recently released by Oxford Press. Gould-Wartofsky is a PhD candidate in Sociology at New York University, holds a BA in Government from Harvard University–and was one of the first social scientists on the ground at Occupy Wall Street on Sept 17, 2011. He has written for The Nation, Monthly Review, Salon, and Mother Jones.

This morning, Gould-Wartofsky published an article at Salon title This is not a democracy: How the 1 percent rigged the game. The subtitle of his piece is Money is speech, dollars have more influence than people — it’s time to be honest about the plutocracy we live in. I think many people who frequent Flowers for Socrates will be interested in reading the article.

Gould-Wartofsky said there are no easy fixes within the framework of our present political system, “in which the market is king, money is speech and dollars speak louder than words.”

NOTE: I’ve posted a couple of excerpts from and a link to the article below the fold.


A little over 30 years ago, before most of us millennials were born, President Ronald Reagan prophesied that what alternatives there were would be consigned to the “ash-heap of history” by the “march of freedom and democracy.” With the fall of the Berlin Wall, global capitalism would emerge triumphant, presaging, in the immortal words of Francis Fukuyama, “the end of history as such: that is…the universalization of Western liberal democracy.”

Four years ago this month, the partisans of freedom and democracy were on the march once more, from the streets of Cairo to the Wisconsin state capitol. Within months, youthful protesters would occupy the squares of a thousand cities, demanding “real democracy now” and declaring an end to the end of history. The occupations would become focal points for an emerging opposition to the politics of austerity and restricted democracy.

As it happened, it was not the Communist Party, but the Tea Party and the party of Wall Street that would stand in their way. Reagan’s logic, it seemed, had been turned on its head. Capitalism no longer stood for democracy. On the contrary, capital could not stand democracy.

From the financial crisis of 2008 to the present era of political paralysis, the path to democratic reform has been blocked at every turn. Between Wall Street and Washington, Congress and the courts, statehouses and city halls, the will of the many has been subordinated to the will of the few (as it has been, sadly, for much of our history as a nation).


The class bias of American politics has not only cost us our democracy. It has also cost us our jobs, our health and our security. For years, the recovery was crippled by the politics of austerity, as a bipartisan coalition took a butcher’s knife to the public sector, and as balanced budgets took precedence over basic needs. The public option was taken off the table before the public even had a chance to debate it. Financial reform was gutted, then gutted again by unreformed bankers, together with their armies of lobbyists and their allies in the legislature.


Click here to read This is not a democracy: How the 1 percent rigged the game.



The 1 percent’s sickest scheme: Wall Street slicksters market themselves as cool — and the media lets them
Wall Street moneymen loot companies and destroy jobs, but need to see themselves as liberators. The press lets them by Steve Fraser (Salon)

The 1 percent’s immigration con: How big business adds to income inequality, pits workers against each other
Doctors, lawyers and Wall Street are doing great. Blue-collar America, less so. That must guide immigration reform by Philip Cafaro (Salon)

Why income inequality is America’s biggest (and most difficult) problem
It’s time to take take America’s wealthiest down a peg — but how? by Sean McElwee (Salon)

Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1% by Joseph Stiglitz (Vanity Fair, May 2011)

It’s the Inequality, Stupid: Eleven charts that explain what’s wrong with America by Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot (Mother Jones, April/May 2011)

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14 Responses to The United States Is Not a Democracy: Michael Gould-Wartofsky on How the 1% Has Rigged the Game

  1. Depressingly accurate.

  2. Elaine M. says:


    That it is…sad to say.

  3. Elaine M. says:

    Fewer Labor Unions Means More Income Inequality

    Lower rates of workers belonging to unions are strongly associated with more income going to the wealthiest, according to a new paper from International Monetary Fund (IMF) economists Florence Jaumotte and Carolina Osorio Buitron.

    The authors write, “[W]e find strong evidence that lower unionization is associated with an increase in top income shares in advanced economies during the period 1980–2010.” In particular, they found that the decline in unionization explains about half of the rise in incomes for the richest 10 percent and about half of the increase in the Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality. It’s also associated with less redistribution of income between the best off and the least well off.

  4. Mike Spindell says:

    Guld-Wartofsky lays it out perfectly. I enjoy when some ideas that I’ve written about are presented by a scholar who knows how to express them far better than me. i.e.

  5. Bone suckin sauce says:

    What do you expect? America was founded on enlightenment principles by a bunch of bee smart and successful people.

  6. Bone suckin sauce says:

    Socialism does not need to be adopted in every land, we need some milk cows. For milk and then beef when they can no longer produce good milk.

  7. Bone suckin sauce says:

    Let the capitalists have their country and let us use it for the benefit of all as we have been doing. A good thing it is to have a world policeman and a willing provider of foreign aid. It allows the other countries to provide for their people without those additional monetary burdens.

  8. “Let the capitalists have their country and let us use it for the benefit of all as we have been doing.”

    You must live in Norway. If you don’t, you should know there is a difference between “journalism” and “fiction”. Also, the primary job of our government is providing for the general welfare of our citizens, not the citizens of other countries. Yeah. I know. That Constitution can be a real pain in the ass when you’re trying to act as apologist for corporatists and fascists.

  9. Bone suckin sauce says:

    You should not burden yourself with quaint notions of individualism, we are all citizens of the world. As such it is quite selfish to focus on your own citizens when there is so much human suffering in this world.

    What is your country of 320 million? The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and your country accounts for less than 5percent of the population. Your constitution is of little concern to the multitudes in other countries who live in dire straights.

    We are coming for your wealth, your constitution isn’t going to stop us.

  10. bigfatmike says:

    ” America was founded on enlightenment principles by a bunch of bee smart and successful people.”

    Today’s capitalist have forgotten what Henry Ford understood. Capitalism works best when income is distributed.

    The top few percent have negotiated deals that take so much from the lower 80%, or so, that there is not enough demand to run the factories. Capitalism is struggling now precisely because the top few percent have been so successful at the expense of the middle class. Much more success at the top and we won’t need them or their factories.

    If capitalists were truly enlightened they would understand the system works best when workers have the economic power to negotiate for a living wage and good benefits. There is pretty good evidence that the elite’s free market, take everything tactics have lead to the economic stagnation that lowers growth and makes us all worse off.

  11. bigfatmike says:

    “We are coming for your wealth, your constitution isn’t going to stop us.”

    I don’t see that at all.

    We do have good evidence that the elites have influenced trade agreements that put US workers in competition with workers of developing countries with much lower standards of living. As a result competition among workers, the elites benefit through lower wage and benefit costs.

    There is nothing inevitable or free market about the changes that have affected workers and unions over the past few decades. These are choices made to benefit a few at the expense of those with less economic and political power.

  12. Your predicate assumptions are still fail, sauce. Those assumptions are:
    1) That socialist states exist in a parasitic relationship with free market capitalists states. They do not. Many socialist states participate in world trade either through state run companies that sell on the open market or from private companies that exist in their jurisdiction but do not fall under domains deemed socialized in the best interests of all citizens (note: this does not apply to all socialist economies – there are many forms of socialism but most rely upon some market component).
    2) That the role of American government in looking to promote the general welfare is a duty owed to citizens of other countries. The duty of the American government is owed to the citizens of the U.S. first and foremost.
    3) That the damage that free market (read: laissez-faire) capitalism will do to both the environment and society doesn’t factor into the survivability of the species let alone a given nation-state. It does.
    You have mistaken me for someone who doesn’t understand the various forms of socialism, their relative benefits, negatives and costs, or that I’m someone interested in exporting the Constitution of the United States to other countries. Actually, a lot more democratic socialism here would fix a lot of the problems the growing fascist oligarchy (and their love of the laissez-faire) is creating. Laissez-faire capitalism is not protected by the Constitution. The Constitution is silent on economic models and policies. The only forms that are prohibited are forms like Communism or other command economies (such as monarchical states where all property belongs to the crown) and that is only by the implication of recognizing a right to personal property. While that right is not absolute, it is Constitutionally protected, thus creating a de facto prohibition on economic models that do not recognize personal property.

    Or would you like to play “socialist boogey man” some more?

  13. One lives to be of adorable service. :mrgreen:

    Or something like that.

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