The Great, the Good, and the War Against the Constitution

Why the superrich support tax-and-spend Democrats.

Ever since at least the New Deal, Republicans have been portrayed as the Party of the Rich, whereas the Democrats love to wrap themselves in the mantle of caring for the little man.

If this stereotype was ever true, it certainly isn't today.  Think through the generally wealthy industries, and you find overwhelming support for Democrats.  The firmament of Hollywood stars is famously a liberal preserve; Wall Street has become the same, with George Soros only the most renowned.

Since at least 2007, Democrats have represented a majority of America's wealthiest congressional districts.  Although Mr. Obama certainly collected a large amount via small online donations, he wasn't shy about chasing the big money with great success.

Fair enough.  Politicians are naturally going to go wherever money can be found, and Democrats have just as much right to do that as anyone else.  The real question, though, is: why would the wealthy donate to a Democratic Party dedicated to making them less wealthy?

In his campaign, Mr. Obama promised to lower taxes for 95% of America.  True or not, that's certainly an effective way to win votes from the lower classes - but if you are yourself among that 5% he targeted, wouldn't you want to run the other way?  For many years, the Democrats have hammered at Bush's "tax cuts for the wealthy;" if you are the wealthy, wouldn't that make you love him?

But no - the more Republicans cut taxes on the rich, the more the rich turn around and invest the savings in electing Democrats.  It defies rational belief.

Well, it defies belief, that is, only if you are looking at the bottom line of the dollar figures.  The truly rich, however, are not.

Wealth Beyond The Dreams of Avarice

It's often said that America is the wealthiest society in all of human history, but it is all but impossible for the ordinary American to truly understand what that means.  The vast majority of Americans live out our entire lives, from birth to death, in material comfort.  We have plenty of food, usually of a sort we like; we have adequate and often luxurious housing; we can choose clothes to suit our tastes from day to day; and, in almost all fundamental ways, we can have pretty much anything we need.

Absolute poverty, in the sense of starving to death as happens routinely in Africa to this day, and in every society in history up until the Industrial Revolution, is extinct in the U.S.  America's poor certainly suffer a poverty of spirit and a deficit of liberty, but you don't find Americans starving in the gutter or freezing in the snow - ever - because they flat-out cannot get food or shelter.

For all our wealth, though, surprisingly few Americans think of themselves as rich.  That's because, thanks to modern transportation and communications, we are all quite well aware of people far better off than we.

You may have a perfectly adequate, comfortable car, superior in every way to King Henry VIII's carriage; but Pierce Brosnan drives an Aston Martin.  You may be able to easily afford to fly to Florida for a family vacation, at a speed and safety King Solomon could not even imagine - but Oprah rides a private jet, and Mel Gibson has his own personal island.

We could go on in this vein for some time - and that's what makes America totally unique.  For all of history, a given country or society has had one person - the king - who might be able to afford anything he pleased, and often even he couldn't.

Queen Elizabeth's nobles' palaces were nothing compared to hers, and they knew it - yet the Queen herself, as appreciative as she no doubt was of her privilege, knew her luxuries didn't hold a candle to Spain's King Philip of Aragon.  As comparatively rich as the Queen was, she had not the funds to have everything her heart desired, a limitation of which she was painfully aware.

In America today, we not only have people who truly can afford anything they want, we have tens of thousands of people in this category!  We've all seen those forwarded emails showing how it's not worth Bill Gates' while to count a stack of hundred-dollar bills, since his wealth increases by more than the value of the bills he's counting in the time it takes to count them.  There is literally no material thing Bill Gates could possibly want to purchase that he doesn't already have - or could get with a simple phone call.

Mr. Gates is an extreme example, but there are thousands of Americans almost as rich.  The "richest of the rich," around 15,000 families, receive $9.5 million or more in income per year - enough to qualify you as super-rich by any measure.

What do they do with all this money?  Obviously they invest most of it, but when you're that rich, what is there left to do?

You already have a private jet - or several.  You already own homes anywhere you'd like to stay, but you can only sleep in one place at a time.  You already have all the jewelry you please; America doesn't go for the Hindu-princess look where you can't see the girl for the finery.

Yes, there are one-of-a-kind items that only one person can own, like Rembrandt paintings.  But mostly those have been scooped up by museums.

True, modern "art" is being created; but when a "great work" can be hung the wrong way round - leading to an argument as to which was the right way because nobody can tell for sure - it's legitimate to ask whether it might, in fact, not be so much of a "great work" after all.  What do you get for the man who has everything?

Chariots, Slaves, and the Souls of Men

As it happens, our Constitution has set aside a whole category of activities which are prohibited to government - and remember, though we talk about "government" as if it is a monolith, it is in reality made up of uncountably many individual human beings who have their own hopes, dreams, desires, and motivations.  The Bill of Rights specifies all manner of activities that our government is simply not allowed to do - from prohibiting the free exercise of religion to abridging the right to keep and bear arms.

These rights were earlier summed up in the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.  [emphasis added]

The Founders did not believe that all men were equal as a practical matter - quite aside from the issue of slavery, they knew perfectly well that not everyone was equally intelligent, lucky, or endowed with skills.  Despite this, they firmly believed that all citizens should stand equal before the law, and that all should have the same rights to the pursuit of happiness - not necessarily obtaining it, but at least to give it a try.

But if you've already obtained every physical luxury that exists and can possess or do anything the law allows, what's left?  Power - and specifically, power over other people.

Think back to the nobles of royal France's ancien regime and the rest of medieval Europe.  What was it about them that inspired the peasantry to such heights of bloodthirsty fury as culminated in the Reign of Terror?

It wasn't their wealth or their comforts, though partying in debauchery while commoners starved in the streets was most unwise from a PR point of view.  It was the petty tyrannies over lives and freedoms of serfs, as represented by the seigneurial privileges.

All throughout the feudal and Renaissance world, nobles had the power to beat and imprison their serfs on the flimsiest pretexts.  The lord had sole right to establish mills and to require all grain grown in his domain to be ground therein subject to his fees; the right to demand labor on road maintenance; rights to establish bridges and roads and to levy tolls on them; authority to forbid tenants from leaving his domain; and countless other irritants great and small.  Commoners were randomly prohibited from wearing certain finery and were forbidden to learn swordsmanship.

Being a noble didn't mean just having money.  It meant far more - it meant power over the minutiae of other people's daily lives, it meant the difference between "citizens" and "subjects."  That's why the Revolutionary French were so insistent on calling each other "Citizen": it represented the equality of rights they had fought for which they had not previously had.  They didn't keep it for very long, but that's another story.

In a free country, nobody has that kind of power.  The police have power over you only if you have broken the law; otherwise you have power over them through the use of your vote and, if needed, angry letters to the newspaper and mayor.  The government interferes in your affairs only as regards filing and paying your taxes, which is done in a transparent and regular way following rules that apply equally to everybody.  Traditionally, Americans could stand with their heads high, knowing themselves to be "the equal of any man and better than most."

Not so much today.  With the growth of government power, there is nobody who has not violated some regulation or other - which, if they happen to offend the wrong person of authority, might bring about their demise as Joe the Plumber learned to his sorrow.

Our hyperactive government now wants to control everything from the car you drive to the toilet you flush - under penalty of law.  How far are we come from the days when people comically agonized about the penalties for removing the tags from their pillows!  It's no joke today.

So, where does that leave our modern rich people who donate vast sums of their money to Democrats who want to extract even vaster sums via taxes?

The donations - and the taxes - are not the price of citizenship.  Nor are they any great shakes to the giver.  As large as they may seem to us mere mortals, they aren't going to cause any real pain to the super-rich, who have most of their money safely stashed in Monaco or some other tax haven anyway.  Nothing Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi does will ever cause George Soros, John Kerry, or the Hollywood elite to be anything other than plutocrats.

Instead, their campaign contributions to Democrats represent a ticket into America's modern nobility - it buys them entree into a class of people distinguished not by their wealth, but by uncommon power to get away with things that would send the little guy to jail.  Being rich alone isn't enough - Leona Helmsley went to jail for tax evasion in spite of being extremely wealthy.

To have real power in our increasingly statist America, you have to be close to the throne - and that entree can be had only in exchange for large and recurring political donations.

Tax Cheats and Coronets

There are only two powers that really matter - immunity from having to follow the law and the ability to tell other people what to do.  The liberal elite have already achieved immunity from having to follow the law, the only goal left for them is getting the right to tell us what to do without having to pay us enough to persuade us to do it.

We saw this phenomenon amply illustrated while Mr. Barack Obama was trying to fill his cabinet.  Try as he might, he couldn't find an honest cabinet secretary to save his life.  Virtually every one of his nominees had declined to pay taxes due, had serious ethical conflicts of interest, was under investigation for corruption, or some other major criminal issue.

What's worse, none of them suffered when their peccadilloes were brought to light - they were literally above the law.  At worst, they simply handed over the funds they should have long ago paid unasked and moved slickly through the rest of the confirmation process without breaking a sweat.  Those of the electorate who were paying attention couldn't help but get the impression that powerful Democrats don't think the law applies to them - and for good reason: it doesn't.

We could go on for pages detailing the sitting Democratic politicians who show disdain for the laws the rest of us follow.  This is not to say that Republicans are immune from corruption; far from it.  It's endemic on the left, however, because most of our national elites really do view themselves as better people and really do view their ends as justifying their means.  Hypocrisy is not just an occasional vice, it's a way of life: from Al Gore to Charlie Rangel, leaders on the left demand that all Americans except themselves sacrifice their liberties and luxuries on command.

With Mr. Obama's latest foray into government ownership of auto manufacturing, we begin to smell the possibility - what a shock! - of Republican-owned car dealerships shut down in favor of Democratic-owned dealers.  What could be a bigger power trip than that sort of monarchical authority carried out nationally in true Chicago style?

There's a word for governments with this kind of power: fascism.  Fascist economics doesn't believe in state ownership of everything, the way Communism and extreme socialism do.  A fascist nation still has private companies and wealthy individuals.

The wealth and power of those companies merge with the power of the state, however, until the effect is the same as the government running everything.  Those lucky elites who are in on the game wind up with more power by being the close friends and supporters of the ruler than they ever had as a mere ordinary rich person atop a private company.

German industrialists had the power to round workers up into concentration camps and force them to work without any pay at all; government-favored Chinese companies do the same thing today with political prisoners.  Quite aside from the financial gain, imagine the ego-boosting power trip of being able to do that!  We're a long way from that point, to be sure; but isn't the ability to get a less-politically-connected business competitor summarily and arbitrarily shut down a frightening step on the road to tyranny?

That is why the super-rich support the extreme left, even against what appear to be their own economic interests.  They have gotten so rich, so far surpassing even the kings of old, that their personal bank accounts don't matter anymore.

They don't want the marble palaces, the works of art, the ermine robes and gilded crowns; they already have as much of that as their hearts desire.  Instead, they seek what the kings of old did have, and which our Founders risked their lives to prevent any American from ever having over any other: the powers of nobility.

The only thing standing in their way is the Constitution.  Is it any wonder that our ruling elites tear it to shreds at every opportunity?

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments
Generally speaking I find most of the articles here to be informed and thought provoking, however, as with this one, as accurate as it is in most respects, you often seem to resort to partisan sniping. I am by no means a Democrat or do I find anything they offer in the way of solutions to be worthy of consideration, but where was all this social analysis of the elites when it was the KBRs and Haliburtons feeding at the public trough? When, in addition to the privilege of not paying taxes th elites were lining up to cheer the slaughter of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan? The problem is not that corrupt people are draw to power--that's human nature--but the tremendous concentration of power in DC which every administration, both Republican and Democratic have worked tirelessly to increase while forcing the taxpayers to fund it. If you think that is what the people want there is a good test to confirm it. Make income taxes totally voluntary and eliminate sovereign immunity at all levels of government. If the people really want what both parties are selling they will happily pay for it voluntarily. Both parties promise their constituencies that they will benefit from their party's polices at someone else's expense and they have a standing army of armed agents to enforce the redistribution. Take away the compulsion and you will see how much the ordinary person really wants to have their lives controlled by the Welfare/Warfare state. The problem is not who controls the reigns of power, but that the reins are there for the most shrewed, amoral and corrupt to grab it the first place.
June 1, 2009 7:30 PM
Regarding sniping at Halliburton, Scragged was not publishing back then. You make two points that are spot on:

"The problem is not that corrupt people are draw to power--that's human nature--but the tremendous concentration of power in DC which every administration, both Republican and Democratic have worked tirelessly to increase while forcing the taxpayers to fund it."


"The problem is not who controls the reigns of power, but that the reins are there for the most shrewed, amoral and corrupt to grab it the first place."

BINGO. The whole reason the Constitution was written the way it was, as this article mentions, is precisely to PREVENT too much power from being concentrated at the center - which, as you point out, has taken place regardless under administrations of both parties.

If you take a look at Scragged's archives, you'll find we were none too fond of the Republican candidate in the last election any more than we were with the Democrat. You might find this article interesting:
June 1, 2009 7:36 PM
OK, I take the sniping comment back. I only discovered Scragged a few months ago--much to my joy. I am guilty of venting a bit of the frustration I feel every time I hear people blaming everything on the Democrats when the Republicans where doing the same thing for the past 8 years.

Keep up the good work--Mickey Mouse, indeed.
June 1, 2009 8:19 PM
I think 'sniping' is very much the appropriate term. There is only one sentence in this entire article suggesting that corruption of the elite also happens in the Republican party. But this sentence:"This is not to say that Republicans are immune from corruption; far from it" is preceded by "Democratic politicians show disdain for the laws" and a followed by "It's [Corruption] endemic on the left". It's a not-so-subtle way to seem balanced while avoiding to have to question our own position.

The point about Halliburton--which lets be serious, is a MUCH bigger issue than Al Gore keeping his SUV on idle-- is a good point. "Scragged was not publishing back then." But there are plenty of examples of current instances of corruption in the Republican party (for example: the tiny issues of war crimes and torture being swept under the table).

Finally, there is something intrinsically wrong with the notion that people cannot vote against their own self interest (in this case the ultra-rich voting democrat). There was a day when some plantation owners voted against slavery. I'm not saying that the ultra-rich today are voting out of care for others, but I don't claim to know their motivations.
But the philosophical question that this article brings up is: do you vote for your own self-interest or vote for the interest of your country (and everyone is it)?
June 7, 2009 1:35 PM

"for example: the tiny issues of war crimes and torture being swept under the table"

Three terrorists - ever - were waterboarded. Who was tortured? We know that waterboarding isn't torture so you must have something else in mind.
June 7, 2009 3:14 PM
I don't want this to turn into a discussion about torture, and I should probably not have brought it up. If you believe that waterboarding is not torture, I recommend that you do like the conservative radio host Mancow and actually try it (

In any case my point is that corruption of the elite is not a partisan issue, which this blog seems to suggest ("Powerful Democrats don't think the law applies to them - and for good reason: it doesn't").
June 7, 2009 4:38 PM
We have discussed the issue of "torture" in another article, David, and if you'd like to discuss it over there please do.

Regarding Mancow, several commentators (INCLUDING on the left, who agree with you that waterboarding is torture) have evidence that Mancow's experience was faked and is indicative of nothing.

Corruption of the elite is not a partisan issue, insofar as it's true that there are scumbags on both sides who belong in jail. However, as a general rule, Democrats seek to expand the reach and power of government; Republicans, less so. It's wrong for either, but there's a clearly visible matter of degree.

Regardless of your opinion as to Bush's foreign policy, there can be no question that the conduct of a war is the one thing the Constitution places 100% in the hands of the federal government, and almost entirely in the hands of the President. If Congress did not like what he was doing, they had full authority to defund the war or impeach, neither of which they chose to do - in a bipartisan way, under majorities of first Republicans and then Democrats.
June 8, 2009 8:12 AM
Fascism is the collaboration of government and business. It is clear that the government wants the financial support of business, but what is it that business wants from government. The answer is limited competition. This limited competition comes from excessive and oppressive government regulation.

A small business cannot afford compliance so it either operates under the table or goes out of business. An example, the congress has now passed a law requiring not only will children's toys be made lead free, but the manufacturer must pay for testing that there is no lead in the toy. Those cute little dolls your sister used to make and sell down at the corner shop are now illegal.

Big business didn't want to waste a crisis when they could get government to do their bidding. And that in my humble opinion is why big business will always be on the contributing side of those who write the laws of our land.

And, when we loose the middle class (made of professionals and small businesses), we will loose our constitution. Rome fell because the rich took over Italy, and filled their farms with slaves. Slaves couldn't (wouldn't) protect Rome from those who would pillage.
September 14, 2009 11:42 AM
Sir: it is too late to comment adroitly, but i welcome your frankness..
i will peruse as the moment allows...
March 17, 2010 12:31 AM
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