Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


May 22, 2013

An American tragedy?

CROSSVILLE — I knew a bond trader. Not well, but well enough to pity the man. Money was his only measure of worth. On a good day (if he made a lot of money), he was ecstatic. On a bad one, he was morose. He could be pleasant in conversation at times, but now and then he would appear clueless about the broader range of human experience. Although he was rich (by my standard, at least), there was something shallow and tawdry about his life.

It stands to reason that the accumulation of vast amounts of wealth requires a bit of unhealthy obsession coupled with a general disregard for the rest of society. This is why the public needs to remind the wealthy, every now and then, that their eccentric behavior will only be tolerated if they can demonstrate some value to the rest of us.

According to Pew Research, from 2009 until 2011 (most recent data available), the net worth of the top 8 million U.S. households rose by 28 percent (with most of the increase going to the tippy-tippy top). You might not have noticed this astounding economic boom, though. The rest of us saw a 4 percent decline in net worth. Lately, wealth has been gushing from most of the country up to people like the bond trader.

With their wealth, the richest few control our government. Bribery isn’t new, but it was once illegal. Now, in a SuperPAC, the wealthy can legally spend as much money as they want on political advertising, as long as they don’t directly coordinate with the official campaign (wink,wink).  In 2010, they spent $63 million. In 2012, they raised and spent over ten times as much, and 90 percent of the money (three quarters of a billion bucks) came from only 1,300 players. We know this because SuperPACs are required to disclose their donors.

Dark Money “public interest” organizations spent even more in 2012 and are worse than SuperPACs. They reveal neither how much money they raise nor who donated. By law, however, they can’t be “political.”   Thus, Karl Rove’s “Crossroads GPS” and Tea Party organizations are non-political, according to their IRS filings. Billionaires can donate to these organizations (as well as some new Democratic groups) without fear of disclosure. It’s harder to tell, but billionaires now probably dominate funding in these groups as they do in SuperPACs

The last time the financial elite held such a stranglehold on both the nation’s wealth and its political system was during the “Progressive Era.” Sadly, Progressives saw but failed to break the stranglehold of wealth in the early 1900’s. The Great Depression finally brought the ultra-rich closer to heel, but almost tore the country apart. 

In 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a final, scathing indictment of his characters that represented established wealth in The Great Gatsby.   “They were careless people, …they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness …. and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” 

Our civil society cannot afford to let these careless, shallow, self-centered people run amok again. They have corrupted our representative government, leaving a mess that needs to be mopped up.

• • •

This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. “We the People” is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in “We the People” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, editor, at

Text Only
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014