Patrick Wolff Soc. 320 Short Assignment #2 Domhoff’s theories have to do with the influence the ultra rich have on America. In his book: Who Rules America, Domhoff lays claim that the rich gain power and prestige and use this along with fiscal backing to run the United States behind the scenes. His book lays out his reasoning behind his claims. Through examples and statistics he defines how and why these people have power. Domhoff’s work focuses on the ultra rich. These are the wealthiest people in the United States. This category is less than a percent of the population. These individuals are considered by Domhoff to be the top social class. A family belonging to this group forms a sort of prestige around them. This is not necessarily where the power is derived from, however this prestige is a key to unlock a new social world full of opportunities. His argument that the relationships formed within the rich class is what gives them their power and control. According to Domhoff the top social class works with each other. His wording was "overlapping membership.” This means that the socially elite are part of many organizations with other rich folks. Some of these organizations are secret societies. Some examples of these would be The Order of the Cincinnati or the Bohemian Club. Through these organizations or secret societies, rich people can get together and express ideas. They can find like-minded folks with the same visions and power as them. Through these close organizations, Domhoff claims, the rich are connected. If their membership is in multiple organizations, then they are tied to more wealthy and powerful people. The power for these groups can grow now that they are under central organizations. Domhoff also talks about power derived from a “corporate community.” The corporate community is almost like a social club. It contains all the business owners of large corporation. All these individuals share a common goal. They wish to expand their businesses and make profits. Based on these similar interests, the corporate community can find ways to work together and meet these goals. Board members at large corporations sit in on other boards. These members now have a say in multiple big businesses. In addition to board member membership, the corporate community own about half of all corporate stock. This means that they own most of these large publicly traded businesses. The collaborative effort amongst the corporate community gives them most of the power over big business. Another group Domhoff explains is the power elite. Many of the people that belong in the upper social class are also in the corporate community. The overlapping of these groups leads to a concentration of wealth, power, and similar ideas. From here the wealthy can form non-for profit organizations. These groups then can use their influences to be a part of the political process. An example of this would be Political Action Committees or P.A.C.S. These packs are often overrepresentative of their wealthy members. From here they can influence what candidates run, have a say in the formation of legislation, and form close relations with government officials. This can be done through monetary funding or the backing of the elites. These non-for profit organizations contribute a lot of money into candidate’s campaigns. The support of these organizations gives candidates or officials an advantage over others. Jamie Johnson’s documentary The One Percent gives a viewer an inside perspective of the upper social class. Johnson is a member of the family that owns Johnson & Johnson. They are one of the richest families in the world. His documentary shows how life is as ultra rich and how it contrasts to the working class. Johnson also explores how these rich families keep their wealth and power to themselves. The documentary gives good examples that can be related to Domhoff’s work. Johnson’s main point of the documentary is to show that there is a major gap between the rich and the poor. According to his research this gap is growing. Essentially, “the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.” This phrase may sound cliché, but this is described by Johnson’s data to be a real concern. His family has an advisor on how to keep the wealth in the family. He is invited to a seminar on the same subject that many wealthy families attend. He then shows the working class in run down neighborhoods and the poverty there. The idea that rich families collaborate to keep wealth shows Domhoff’s point that the upper class works to keep their power. Without this wealth they would not earn as high of status. These families then could not enter secret societies or be owners of businesses. They would then not have their powerful alliances or be able to fund organizations that play a role in politics. If a family dropped in social class many opportunities would evade them. That is why these families see this as a big deal. Some of the lower class individual interviewed in the documentary lay claim that the wealthy are pushing them out of desired neighborhoods. The focus here was in Chicago. Many lower class citizens were being kicked out of public housing to make way for condos. A man interviewed claimed that the upper class influenced politicians to close schools and other public works in the area. This would drive some out. Also there were claims that foreclosures came from the banks controlled by the wealthy. These working class people blamed the upper class or the loss of their neighborhoods. They saw the rich take over the abandoned areas with luxurious condos. It may not be the case that the rich really had a hand in this, but I can see the cause for suspicion. Thomas Shapiro’s writings Race Homeownership and Wealth talks about the differences in wealth among social classes. Shapiro describes wealth as being “the total value of a family’s financial resources minus all debts.” Here he makes the argument that there is a noticeable difference in the levels of wealth between white and African Americans in the United States. One way that a family’s wealth can be determined by the Asset Poverty Line. This is a system used by the government to track families’ wealth across the nation. By using the APL it is possible to calculate how long a family can live off its assets with no monetary income. This line fell at $4,175 for a family of four to survive for three months. Four in every ten families of the world’s wealthiest nations would be considered below this line. Over half of African American families fell below this line. The data above suggests that families are not as wealthy as one may thing. This information was shocking to me. Put into perspective, forty percent of families in wealthy nations could not survive for three months without an income. The number is even higher when focused just on minorities. With this in mind there are the ultra rich folks that are mentioned in Who Rules America. Shapiro is providing us with another example of the gap in wealth that has been created. In his work he also displays how the gap is widened on minorities. The amount of wealth built up by the rich members of society could possibly allow them to survive the rest of their lives while almost half of fellow citizens would make it three months. This really drives home the point that there is a giant gap in wealth. I thought another class reading that related to Who Rules America was Gregory Mantsios’s Media Magic. The media is controlled under only seven different corporations. This means that only a few people control the media that influences the nation. This means that the people in charge of the media are extremely influential and wealthy. I found that this was a way that the wealthy can have influence and power. Mantsios’s work displayed how the poor are portrayed in the media. They are shown as lazy, undeserving, and have unattractive features. By displaying the poor in this way the wealthy make themselves look better. They show that if someone does not work hard or try they will never succeed. It works as propaganda for the rich. The media says that the wealthy earned their money and worked hard to achieve it. The media also downplays the number of people in poverty. They only look at the really poor like the homeless. They do not mention the extremely large population of poor that exist in the U.S. One of Mantsios brings up he question why such a large percent of the population are not receiving media attention. Because of this underrepresentation of the poor, there is little attention paid to them. Middle class people are not aware of the situations the poor face. They just see the negative stereotypes put out by the media and do not really look into the issues. The media gives legitimacy to the rich. By controlling the media the wealthy can spread their moral system and show that hard work leads to riches. This is a perfect example of what Domhoff is saying. The wealthy control the media, thus giving them power that no one else has in the U.S. I believe that there should be a concern about the growing poverty line in the United States. The rich do not spread wealth on their own, as they should. Being from an economics background I do believe in the capitalist system. However, I believe that as companies grow, the benefit of workers should as well. If workers got a higher percent of the companies profits the gap between classes would narrow. I believe that CEOs should receive smaller shares then they do now. Overall I agree that the rich have more power then regular citizens, but the masses have the vote. If things got really out of hand officials could be voted out for not representing the people’s interest. This is where I believe the system checks itself.