Do We Really Want Illinois to be a Plutocracy?



The New York Times reported  that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s chief political backer, Ken Griffin, made $1.3 billion last year as manager of the hedge fund Citadel Capital. Griffin made as much personally as 26,000 average Americans making the median wage. He made as much as 16,000 civil engineers.

Griffin made $625,000 per hour. By the way, for a portion of this income, he might have benefited from the federal tax law that allows hedge fund managers to pay a maximum of 20 percent tax rate, though his press spokesman claims that he he paid the full rate on all of his 2014 income.

Not only did Griffin donate $2.5 million to Rauner’s campaign for governor. He also contributed millions to right-wing Super-PACs — including one controlled by the notorious Charles and David Koch.

And he contributed $10 million — half of a $20 million campaign war chest — that Rauner plans to use to run opponents against members of the legislature who dare to oppose his policies that are aimed at destroying unions and cutting worker wages and pensions.

But one thing Bruce Rauner forgets in this is Illinois and not Wisconsin which he wants to emulate.


Unfortunately for Rauner and Griffin, ordinary Illinois voters are not so stupid. A recent poll published by Public Policy Polling found that:

  • Only 33 percent of voters in the state agree with Governor Rauner’s agenda on “right to work”, compared to 55 percent who think everyone represented by a union should have to pay something toward negotiating and administering its contracts.
  • By 81 percent to 15 percent, voters oppose Rauner’s attempts to gut the state’s Workers’ Compensation system.
  • 68 percent of voters in the state think that the wage standard should continue to be set locally with a prevailing wage, while only 23 percent think the state should be able to pay below the local prevailing wage.
  • Voters just generally disagree with Governor Rauner’s philosophy toward unions.
  • Only 42 percent think unions have too much power, compared to 56 percent who think they’re necessary to fight for the middle class.


It’s not so easy for people who make as much every minute and a half as a minimum wage worker takes home all year long to convince voters that it’s a good idea to cut the pay of working people. It’s not so easy for people like Rauner and Griffin to literally propose taking food from the mouths of hungry children by cutting the Illinois nutrition program in order to allow the state to cut taxes for the wealthy.

Appearances are not so good. And to top it off, Griffin has a massive personal interest in eliminating the rights of workers — particularly public employees. Griffin’s firm owns Service Master, a company that makes part of its money by privatizing public services.

But Rauner’s monomaniacal obsession with eliminating the rights of ordinary people to engage in collective bargaining over their wages and working conditions comes from something deeper than simple desire to put even more money into the pockets of people like himself and his friend Griffin.

They believe that the rich should have the right to call the shots in society — it’s as simple as that.

Griffin and Rauner believe that America should be a plutocracy.

What is a plutocracy?

A plutocracy is a government that is ruled by the wealthy or controlled by wealthy individuals. The term usually is used pejoratively, because it implies a lack of democratic freedom and social mobility. Many historical governments were plutocracies, controlled by an elite class of wealthy people, and some modern governments have been accused of being plutocracies, including the government of the United States.

The term “plutocracy” comes from the Greek words ploutos, or “wealth,” and kratia, or “ruler.” Many nations have experienced a state of plutocracy at some point, because wealth often comes with immense power, especially during the formative stages of a new country. Some countries that have valuable natural resources, such as oil and precious metals, have also experienced this type of government because the entities that control these resources generally want to maintain conditions that are favorable to them.

An outright plutocracy governed by a handful of wealthy individuals is relatively rare in the modern era. The governments of many nations, however, are heavily influenced by wealth. Wealth can buy political power through lobbying, campaign contributions, bribing and other forms of legal or illegal financial pressure. Many nations have tried to limit the influence of the wealthy through laws controlling things such as campaign finances and lobbying, but these laws can be difficult to define and enforce.




Fortunately ordinary people in America disagree. Most Americans believe that we are the point of the economy — not just some “input of production.” The goal of the economy is not to make a few people fabulously wealthy, it is to produce widely-shared prosperity for everyone who is willing to work hard.

Now they have the audacity to demand that ordinary people who work in public employment and make modest middle class incomes shouldn’t be allowed to combine their political contributions to influence the outcome of elections. But they are happy to allow the super-rich like themselves to control politics with more and more $10 million contributions.



In 2016 we will have a chance to stop the plutocrats like Rauner and Griffin from snatching away that future and returning us to the plutocracy of the Gilded Age. Time for Progressives to saddle up. Failure is simply not an option.