USA, France, Britain, democracies or oligarchies?

This video from the USA says about itself:

Thomas Piketty on economic inequality

23 April 2014

“Every now and then, the field of economics produces an important book; this is one of them”, writes Tyler Cowen in his Foreign Affairs review of Thomas Piketty‘s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. “Piketty’s tome will put capitalist wealth back at the center of public debate, resurrect interest in the subject of wealth distribution, and revolutionize how people view the history of income inequality.” But Cowen deems Piketty‘s main prescription, a proposal for the global taxation of wealth, “an unsatisfying conclusion to a groundbreaking work of analysis that is frequently brilliant — but flawed, as well.”

Justin Vogt, deputy managing editor of Foreign Affairs, recently sat down with Piketty to discuss his analysis of inequality and his controversial policy proposals.

By Eric London:

Social inequality and oligarchy in the US and Europe

21 April 2018

A paper published in March by French economist Thomas Piketty cites data showing that the “democratic” political systems in the US, France and Britain are oligarchies in which all the major parties are tools of the super rich, serving to manipulate the population and crush social opposition from below.

The paper, titled “Brahmin Left vs. Merchant Right: Rising Inequality and the Changing Structure of Political Conflict”, shows that the traditional “left” parties of the political establishment—the Democratic Party in the US, the Labour Party in Britain and the Socialist Party in France—have become the preferred parties of dominant sections of the ruling elite, abandoning any pretense of social reform. Though the study does not explicitly address parties such as the German Social Democratic Party, the Spanish Socialist Party and the Italian Democratic Party, the process Piketty describes is a universal one.

“The general conclusion is clear”, Piketty writes. “We have gradually moved from a class-based party system to what I propose to label a ‘multiple-elite’ party system. Back in the 1950s-1960s, the party system was defined along class lines: the vote for the left-wing parties was associated to both low-education and low-income voters, while the vote for right-wing parties was associated to both high-education and high-income voters.”

These days are gone. Today, the political systems in these three countries have “little to do with the ‘left’ vs. ‘right’ party system of the 1950s-1960s” because the formerly “left” parties now mirror in social composition and program their Republican, Gaullist and Tory counterparts. “Each of the two governing coalitions alternating in power tends to reflect the views and interests of a different elite”, Piketty writes.

The absence of any major party with working class support helps “explain rising inequality”, because there are no mechanisms through which the working class can influence the direction of government policy. This has produced widespread disillusionment in the working class, which Piketty claims is responsible for both the rise of mass abstentionism and the strengthening of right-wing populism

‘Populism’ is the wrong word for far-right politicians like Trump and Marine Le Pen.

“as low education, low income voters might feel abandoned.”

The chart below tracks the difference between the Democratic Party share of voters in the top 10 percent of the income scale versus the Democratic Party share of voters in the bottom 90 percent over time.

High-income vote in the USA, 1948-2017

The chart shows that in the 1940s through the early 1970s, working class voters were far more likely to support the Democratic presidential candidate. This began to shift in the mid-1970s, changing drastically over the course of the Obama presidency and culminating in the 2016 election, in which the Democratic vote share was 10 percent higher among the top 10 percent than it was among the bottom 90 percent.

The following chart breaks down the share of the Democratic vote by income decile over the course of each presidential election from 1948 to 2016. The bright red line, showing the Democratic share in 2016, indicates that almost 60 percent of voters in the top 10 percent, top 5 percent and top 1 percent voted for the Democratic Party, the first time a majority of the wealthy and affluent voted for the Democratic candidate. The Democrats have won more than 40 percent of the wealthy vote only in the 1990s and 2000s. In the 1950s through 1970s, the top 1, 5 and 10 percent supported Republicans by margins ranging from 70 percent-30 percent to 85 percent-15 percent.

Vote for United States Democratic party by income decile, 1948-2016

In France, a similar process is playing out. In the 2017 elections, for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic, voters in the top 10 percent of the income distribution were more likely to support “left” parties (including … Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche).

High-income vote in France

In Britain, the same basic shift is taking place, though the Labour Party’s share among the bottom 90 percent remains about 11 percent higher than among the top 10 percent. However, this figure is down substantially from the roughly 40 percent higher vote share which Labour received among workers in the 1964 and 1966 general elections, won by Labour candidate Harold Wilson. …

Here, it would be interesting to analyze differences in the Labour vote between the time of Tony Blair, of the Iraq war and of increasing inequality, as a Labour politician, Blairite rather than Corbynite, admitted; and the time of Jeremy Corbyn‘s shift to the left.

Under Democratic President Barack Obama, Socialist Party President Francois Hollande and Labour prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, these parties have bombed, invaded or established a military presence in most of the Middle East, Central Asia and large parts of North and Central Africa. Just last week, these parties and their conservative counterparts joined forces to bomb Syria on the basis of a fabricated pretext.

The immense concentration of wealth within each country and worldwide has transformed the governments of the “democratic” imperialist countries into oligarchies that can brook no opposition to their programs of war and social counterrevolution. Such forms of rule are incompatible with basic democratic rights, as evidenced by the Democrats’ oversight of mass surveillance and police violence in the US [and] the Socialist Party’s implementation of a permanent state of emergency in France.

Shares of wealth in the USA

Tony Blair almost managed to kill the British Labour party; until revival by Jeremy Corbyn. However, Blair and his Blairism managed to, probably fatally, injure most social democratic parties on the European continent: France, Italy, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands

US federal, state governments wage war on workers and the poor: here.

How democratic is the USA really? Here.

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