Members of outlaw motorcycle gangs used to call themselves “one-percenters,” meaning they were in the tiny minority of Americans who are unabashed sociopaths. However, when we hear “one-percenters” these days, the reference usually is to establishment types who are obscenely wealthy and powerful and, arguably, much more sociopathic than outlaw bikers.
Here is economist Joseph Stiglitz describing the odious gang of one-percenters that runs our country:
The Supreme Court, in its recent Citizens United case, has enshrined the right of corporations to buy government, by removing limitations on campaign spending. The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent. When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift – through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price – it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.
Stiglitz ends his piece on an optimistic note. He reminds readers that one-percenters, in various countries and eras, often forget “their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.” They become too complacently greedy and eventually spark a populist backlash. In contemporary America, the backlash may have begun with the Occupy Wall Street movement.