Becoming an Oligarchy

As wealth disparity has grown, civil rights have shrunk and the murders of unarmed black and brown people by law enforcement officers have risen. An early step in this...
Photo by jason train via flickr

As wealth disparity has grown, civil rights have shrunk and the murders of unarmed black and brown people by law enforcement officers have risen.

An early step in this process occurred under Reagan. In 1981, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, an act forbidding US military from policing Americans, was amended. The Cooperation Act of 1981 allows for the transfer of military training and weaponry to federal, state and local police agencies.

By the mid-80’s, the share of national wealth owned by the bottom 90% of the US population had peaked at 36%.

In 1992, George H.W. Bush’s ‘weed and seed’ initiative expanded law enforcement budgets for weaponry across the country. Both Clinton and Bush the lesser exploited disasters to expand the military’s role in domestic public order.

From 2002 to 2011 the Department of Homeland Security disbursed $35 billion in grants to state and local police for the purchase of heavy weapons used by paramilitary police units. More police departments began developing their own paramilitary and SWAT squads. Veterans from the wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq were finding work in law enforcement.

In 2008 there was an economic crash. By 2010 the bottom 90% had plunged from a family average of $128,000 in 2006, to around $82,000. Help to the bottom 90% was not about recovery, just halting the descent.  By 2012 the top 1% of Americans had nearly returned to their previous high of over $140,000 per family.

In 2012, $546 million worth of military surplus materials were transferred to law enforcement agencies under the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program.
That same year, the bottom 90% of Americans owned 23% of the wealth of the US.

Between 2004 and 2008, Oakland, California suffered 45 officer-involved shootings.  37 of the victims were African-Americans. None were white. No officers were charged. From 2006 to 2012, there was an average of 96 cases annually of white police officers killing black civilians.

By September 2015, 776 people had been killed by the police nation-wide.

It takes more than equipment to conduct an occupation. It takes training.

The Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs (JINSA), a neoconservative, pro-Israeli think tank, claimed it had brought over a hundred federal, state and local law enforcement officials to Israel as part of its Law Enforcement Exchange Program. They also claim to have trained eleven thousand additional law enforcement officers across the US since 2002.

By 2012, roughly 1/3 of our national wealth had been transferred to the top 1%.  This chasm of wealth distribution hasn’t been seen since the Roaring 20s. As changes were felt, gated communities and private security forces rose. Correspondingly, so did police killings and oppression in the poor parts of town as the police became more of an occupation force and less of a community resource.  When you read the words on the side of a police car that proudly boast, “to protect & serve”, ask yourself who is being protected, who is being served, and why.

Additional Sources: Project Censored 2015 © Huff & Roth.

Rebel Fagin writes for the Sonoma County Peace Press and Global Critical Media Literacy Project (



Rebel Fagin is a writer who has been politically active in Sonoma County since the 1970’s. He writes regularly for the Sonoma County Peace Press and the Global Critical Media Literacy Project ( He has a book documenting nearly forty years of street activism in Sonoma County called Tales from the Perpetual Oppositional Culture – a Journey into Resistance. He lives in Santa Rosa, California and is active with many activists’ organizations.
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