Oligarchy’s Sibling Rivals: the U.S. and Russia

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The New York Times, now evidently dedicated to siding with Washington in its sanctions effort against Russia, is publishing a collection of articles under the logo “Putin’s Way,” explaining:

Articles in this series are examining how President Vladimir V. Putin’s system of personalized state-sponsored capitalism allows him to wield power at home and abroad.

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Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, sibling rivals.

For example, on Sunday, Nov. 2, the Times ran a damning article detailing Putin’s manipulation of the Russian school textbook industry. The Russian government has purged “hundreds of textbooks that [14 million] Russian schoolchildren had relied upon for years,” basically leading to thought control of the young and endangering the economic lives of small publishers.

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But one major book publisher has remained virtually untouched: Enlightenment, chaired by one of Putin’s inner circle. The company recently signed a deal with Microsoft “to help it provide Windows-based tablets to Russian schools.” This, despite the sanctions, a telling fact in itself of who sanctions help and hurt.

But the Times article’s most telling paragraph, and not just for Russia, was one summarizing Putin’s power over the economy:

Enlightenment’s story also traces, in miniature, the arc of the Russian economy over the last quarter-century, from Soviet state ownership, to privatization, to what might be called the theater of state-sponsored private enterprise that flourishes today under Mr. Putin. In theory, market competition exists. In reality, the Kremlin and its functionaries have divvied up the nation’s strategic industries among a small and malleable circle of allies. They command some of the nation’s largest energy companies, control banks and much of the news media, and, increasingly, have a footprint in smaller sectors, like book publishing, that are nonetheless important to Mr. Putin’s political control.

It’s that paragraph’s section beginning with “In theory…” that’s particularly telling, because that description of a small circle controlling energy, banks, news media, and increasingly smaller sectors, happens to mirror the United States. The two major powers, now at odds over who will benefit from the global economy and control of energy sources in Eurasia, are essentially sibling rivals in economic oligarchy.

Indeed, two American political science professors earlier this year released a study determining that the U.S. is no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy. That study, penned by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin Page, stated:

…we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened…

 

… In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule—at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover … even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

This is why Peculiar Progressive has concentrated columns on the five vital realities politicians won’t discuss, but — along with Wall Street and the military-industrial complex — will manipulate. And why we refer to the Millionaire President and Millionaire Congress, because when Big Money controls Washington, then the democracy is dissolved. As it obviously also is in Russia, though both Moscow and Washington claim they continue to grow democracies, while, in fact, they don’t.