The super-rich are seceding from America.


The smartest explication of Occupy Wall Street came just last month, almost a year after the protests began, and appeared, ironically, in The American Conservative. In a supremely cogent article called “Revolt of the Rich,” former Republican congressional staffer Mike Lofgren not only gets to the bottom of what motivated OWS but explains why Mitt Romney always appears so disconnected from the nation of which he is technically a citizen.

The super-rich, Lofgren says, are seceding from America:

“What I mean by secession is a withdrawal into enclaves, an internal immigration, whereby the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it…Perhaps that explains why Mitt Romney’s regular-guy anecdotes always seem a bit strained.”

Breaking the plutocracy would require two things: the rich to pay more taxes, and the influence of money on the government to be heavily curtailed. But with candidates and the government already beholden to the plutocrats and corporations, how can politicians be induced to levy those higher taxes? The Occupy movement was a cry out against precisely this situation, and how ironic that it was billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg wielding the power to put an end to it.

How interesting, too, that a candidate who’s been sailing along for months on adequate if grudging support finally ran into a serious roadblock because of a statement he made about how he actually sees the world! This goes way beyond Mitt Romney or any one election. It appears that the super-rich really do see everyone else as government-dependent moochers, even as they ignore their own pitifully low tax rates and the corporate welfare that supercharges their companies’ profits.

Is it wrong to generalize from the viewpoint of one fabulously wealthy presidential candidate? My own personal encounters with the very wealthy do jibe with what Romney revealed. Merely having a conversation with them about the things that concern most of us is impossible. When the day-to-day challenges of working people – budgeting to pay household expenses; the state and cost of public transportation; financial worries arising from health problems, etc. – simply don’t exist for you, they naturally disappear from your consciousness. The rich really are different.

What is the way out of this, short of imposing the sort of socialist dystopia the paranoid-rich imagine some of us want? No one wants that, believe me, at least no one with even a tenuous connection to the mainstream, and certainly not our excruciatingly middle-of-the-road president. Given this utter failure of communication, I don’t know the answer.