For the super-rich hoity-toities of our land, the democratic populism arising among the hoi polloi is unpleasant, messy, and…well, so common. Instead of that, they sniff, America should be ruled by an “ism” of their invention: plutonomism.

Yes, it’s an actual word, derived from “plutocracy.” It was coined in 2005 by a team of “global investment strategists” at Citigroup, the Wall Street financial giant. While populism is based on the egalitarian principle of the common good, plutonomism unabashedly espouses the virtue of “the rich getting richer.”

In a 2006 memo to Citigroup’s wealthy clients, lead “strategist” Ajay Kapur declared: “Our thesis is that the rich are the dominant drivers of demand” in the United States and other “plutonomies.” How does a country become a plutonomy? One essential factor, he wrote, is “favorable treatment by market-friendly governments [to allow] the rich to prosper.” Another is to have corporate CEOs who “lead the charge” on globalization and automation to transfer more of the nation’s wealth into corporate profits “at the expense of labor.”

Kapur, who has since left Citi to toil for hedge funds, noted that the wealthiest one percent of Americans–whom he calls “the plutonomists”–had benefited disproportionately from recent increases in worker productivity, and he happily forecast that “global capitalists are going to be getting an even greater share of the wealth pie over the next few years.”

Gosh, in this happy world of plutonomics, does anything ever go badly for the rich? Well, it’s possible, he admits, because the ever-widening rich-poor wealth gap could lead to a populist backlash. After all, he warns, even in the United Plutonomy of America, the “one person-one vote” system still exists.

Of course, the plutonomism movement is working furiously to replace that with “one dollar-one vote.”

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Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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