Can Democracy and Billionaires Coexist? Not on This Planet.

“…the nation’s richest families consider democracy just another commodity they can buy.”

by Sam Pizzigati at Inequality: One person, one vote. The classic essence of democracy. But what if that one person happens to be a fabulously rich? Does that one person actually have just “one” vote? Can we have anything approaching democracy when some among us are sitting on fortunes grander than the rest of us can even imagine?

Americans have been actively debating questions like these for almost a century and a half, ever since we entered the era that Mark Twain quite artfully tagged the “Gilded Age.” We never totally ended that gilded epoch. But we came close. By the 1950s, Americans of massive means faced tax rates as high as 91 percent on their income over $200,000, the equivalent of about $2.4 million today.

In those same years, the wealth America’s wealthiest left behind when they entered the great beyond faced an estate tax top rate that could go as high as 77 percent. Wealthy married couples here in 2024, by contrast, can totally exempt as much as $27.22 million from any federal estate tax.

Our wealthiest today have good reason to be high-fiving these wealth-enhancing new tax realities. Top 1 percenters are now grabbing 21 percent of our nation’s income, over double the top 1 percent income share in 1976.

Back in that same 1976, the always helpful World Inequality Database reminds us, the 40 percent of Americans in the nation’s statistical middle held just over a third of America’s wealth, 33.7 percent. The top 1 percent’s considerably smaller share that year: 22.6 percent. Today’s story? Our richest 1 percent hold just about 35 percent of our nation’s wealth, our middle 40 percent less than 28 percent.

More here.