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Government for the few, by the few

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In the year since President Donald Trump took office, cries of kleptocracy have grown louder.

Consider the evidence: Lobbyists buy $100,000 memberships at his golf clubs for face time. Foreign regimes redirect business to his hotels, such as the $270,000 spending spree by Saudi Arabia at Trump’s DC outpost. Business deals in endemically corrupt countries, such as the Philippines, bind his empire (held not in a blind trust, but by his sons) to questionable foreign entanglements.

Despite this, the United States is not a kleptocracy – literally, a rule by thieves – but rather, it has become a plutocracy, where wealth buys political power. That trend began before Trump, but the phenomenon is now on steroids. It threatens to erode U.S. democratic institutions and U.S. global influence.

One percent of American citizens now control more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. Since 2012, the majority of congressional members are millionaires. Those who don’t start out rich can easily become so. The lobbying industry that began to grow in the 1970s now welcomes 38 percent of all Republican senators and 25 percent of Democratic senators after they retire, as well as over a quarter of the most powerful members of the House.

With an average Senate campaign now costing almost $20 million and even House seats averaging about $1.5 million, personal wealth and rich friends are important. But the need to spend vast amounts of their time cultivating donors affects who law makers spend their time with, whose concerns they hear, and whose........

© Japan Today