Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton silhouetted by a stage light as she speaks at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, August 8, 2012. (Photo: Reuters/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool)

Hillary Clinton Is Trying Really Hard to Repel Progressives

Jake Johnson

If you're looking for Hillary Clinton, Amy Chozick and Jonathan Martin observed in Sunday's edition of the New York Times, the best place to start is usually among "the country's most moneyed enclaves," where the former Secretary of State has been busy partying with Jimmy Buffett and ensuring her donors that "she would approach business leaders more like Mr. Clinton did during his administration, which was widely considered amicable to the private sector."

Throughout the build-up to the general election in November, Clinton has been forcefully criticized for her unwillingness to hold a press conference. But her attendance at high-dollar fundraisers, at which photos with the candidate can cost up to $10,000, has been impeccable.

"In the last two weeks of August," Chozick and Martin note, "Mrs. Clinton raked in roughly $50 million at 22 fund-raising events, averaging around $150,000 an hour, according to a New York Times tally."

Clinton assured young progressives during her unexpectedly competitive primary battle that she would fight for their interests: Although there may exist a philosophical divide in terms of the most effective path, she argued, the destination — for herself, Senator Bernie Sanders, and the millions pushing for foundational shifts in the balance of power in the United States — is the same.

But now that the primary fight is far behind her, she is doing what, as Thomas Frank puts it, "Democrats always do": Veering sharply rightward. Far from a promise to put first the needs of the most vulnerable, Clinton has instead frequently deployed what Daniel Denvir has called "the class equivalent of 'All Lives Matter,'" promising to represent "the struggling, the striving, the successful," no matter their official political affiliations.

Such rhetoric, while ostensibly a call for unity, is a common smokescreen, one often used to obscure the fact that the same powerful interests continue to dictate the policy direction of the nation.

But Clinton's platform — intended to appeal to all audiences, to the warmongers and the peace activists, to the poorest and the wealthiest — is hardly an abandonment of recent Democratic tendencies. It is, in fact, firmly in step with the ideological shifts that have taken place within the party over the last several decades.

"A movement once fleshed out in union halls and little magazines shifted into universities and major press, from the center of the country to its cities and elite enclaves," summarizes Emmett Rensin. "Minority voters remained, but bereft of the material and social capital required to dominate elite decision-making, they were largely excluded from an agenda driven by the new Democratic core: the educated, the coastal, and the professional."

Bill Clinton's presidency represented the first real triumph of the so-called New Democrats, a coalition that urged liberals to move away from their traditional alliance with labor and to cultivate a party more appealing to the interests of capital. President Obama, for his part, gladly carried the torch. And now Hillary Clinton is consolidating power by casting an even wider net, capturing reactionary billionaires and, on an almost daily basis, celebrating the endorsement of yet another Republican hawk.

The emergence of Donald Trump didn't spark these trends; he has merely intensified them, making the Democrats' job of welcoming into their coalition the wealthy constituencies alienated by his demagoguery and racism all the more seamless.

But as Thomas Edsall has observed, such a coalition — made up of both Wall Street financiers and minimum-wage workers — is by its very nature "unruly"; something has to give.

"Insofar as the Democratic Party is no longer a class-based alliance with common economic goals," Edsall writes, "how can it resolve the conflicts between its more privileged and less privileged wings?"

If recent history is any guide, Democrats will, by default, favor the interests of the powerful, the affluent, and the successful over those of everyone else.

With this context in mind, the fact that Hillary Clinton has, over the last several months, "almost exclusively been fielding the concerns of the wealthiest Americans" while paying relatively little attention to low-income communities is entirely predictable.

And the fact that she is alienating progressives — or just blithely taking them for granted — seems to be of little concern: Indeed, Clinton's enthusiastic celebration of the support of odious billionaires like Michael Bloomberg and war criminals like Henry Kissinger — whose official endorsement she has reportedly been seeking — along with her selection of an anti-labor running mate and a pro-business transition team chair, indicates that she is content to continue her rightward sprint, hoping to pick up "moderate Republicans" to make up for voters she may lose along the way.

Even if Clinton defeats Trump by a comfortable margin, those hoping for anything resembling a "progressive mandate" — one that would hold Clinton's "feet to the fire" on such issues as wealth and income inequality, the minimum wage, deep poverty, climate change, American imperialism, and corporate trade pacts — are likely to be disappointed.

Disappointment, though, is often a product of false expectations. The important point is that we should not expect much more from the Democratic Party, a party in which, as Nathan Robinson puts it, "predatory lenders and workplace harassers are welcome, so long as they share the goal of making Hillary Clinton the President of the United States of America."

In their classic study examining the "right turn" of the American political establishment, Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers argue that, ultimately, policy decision-making comes down to the interests of the investors, those who funnel money into the political system expecting results in return, not the interests of the population as a whole. Today's political realities match, with a striking degree of accuracy, this analysis.

They also offered a prediction: As the GOP becomes more extreme, Democrats will "attempt to put together a coalition of business interests" along with "professionals, and other upper-income Americans who cannot accept Republican policies."

Democrats could, of course, aggressively pursue an ambitious agenda that would mobilize disaffected communities and have a transformative impact on the lives of those harmed by the spoils of globalization and corporate plunder.

"The reason they do not do this," Ferguson and Rogers write, "is not because they do not know how, but because they do not want to. And they do not want to because such a mobilization would require that the people mobilized actually be offered something, and elite Democrats have very little that they want to give. While they would like to defeat the Republicans, they are not about to subsidize a broad popular coalition inimical to their own economic interests."

In an interview with Vox's Jeff Stein, Kirk Voorhees, a truck driver and Bernie Sanders supporter from New Jersey, effectively summarized the above conclusion in the form of a question, one that has been asked, in different ways, by many others: "I find it hard to believe she'll do anything for me after taking all this money from these special interest groups. Why will she turn on those people when it's so easy to turn on us?"

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Jake Johnson

Jake Johnson

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Catastrophic and Irreparable Harm' to Wolves Averted as Wisconsin Judge Cancels Hunt

"We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy," said one conservation expert.

Brett Wilkins ·

West Virginia Constituents Decry 'Immorality' of Joe Manchin

"West Virginia has been locked into an economy that forces workers into low-wage jobs with no hope for advancement, and after decades of this our hope is dwindling," said one West Virginian. "The cuts that Sen. Manchin has negotiated into the agenda hurt our state."

Julia Conley ·

'Texans Deserved Better Than This': Supreme Court Leaves Abortion Ban in Place

The nation's high court set a date to hear a pair of legal challenges to the "horrific" restrictions.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Like It Never Happened': Federal Judge Tosses Trump Attack on Clean Water Rule

Denying a Biden administration request to temporarily retain the rule, the judge reestablished "the careful balance of state and federal power to protect clean water that Congress intended when it wrote the Clean Water Act."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo