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$230,000 For a Guard Dog: Why the Wealthy Are Afraid Of Violence From Below

As inequality in the US grows, the ultra-rich are pouring their spare cash not just into private jets, but into private security. Think there's a connection?

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We've seen revolution in Tunisia and Egypt, attempts in Libya, Syria, Yemen, unrest in Greece and Spain, student protests in England, and here at home the occupation of the capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. While nothing yet in the U.S. has approached the level of organized attacks on the wealthy by the have-nots, since the financial crash even the hint that perhaps private jet owners could pay a few more dollars in taxes has been decried as class war. A few protests that actually dare approach the doorsteps of the bankers appear to be all it takes to stoke paranoia among the super-rich.

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Warren Buffett, the world's third-richest man, said in 2006, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Buffett had done the math and realized that he paid far less, as a fraction of his income, than the secretaries in his office.

While the Democrats have compromised again and again on economic issues that might have brought real relief to the unemployed, the Tea Party continued to direct all of its anger, its threats, its waving of guns in the direction of the man in the White House and his allies. The billionaires who poured cash into the Tea Party got their money's worth by deflecting outrage onto the president.

And we have seen violence, though not violence aimed at the rich. We saw a man fly a plane into a Texas office building in anger at the IRS and a foiled attempt to shoot up the liberal Tides Foundation and the California ACLU.

The Tea Party also helped sweep in politicians who've made the situation steadily worse. With no one left to protect the working class, inequality continues to grow. The New York Times noted that many of the “new economy”'s low-wage jobs are not sufficient to provide for a person, let alone a family, and yet those jobs are 73 percent of those added in recent months.

Matthew Stoller pointed out that the austerity measures being championed by the new right-wing governors like Florida's Rick Scott (but embraced by Democrats as well) are going to make it worse here at home before it gets better:

...these economic theories aren’t about efficiency, they are about a value system. Scott is arguing for a low trust low cost world, with no education, no regulatory standards, and low quality output. This is the dominant strain of thinking among American elites. It’s not just Rhode Island, where the teachers are literally all under threat of being fired (and where in 2010 Obama apparently sought to win the future by applauding this firing of teachers). In New York, Democratic Governor and prospective 2016 presidential candidate Andrew Cuomo is gleefullyslashing huge chunks of education and health care rather than retain a mild tax on the wealthy. This is a great way to increase crime, disease rates, and social disorder resulting from inequality.

The simple fact is that inequality is a recipe for insecurity, especially when coupled with desperation. Somewhere, the rich know this. It's no accident that the rise in incomes at the top and the drop in income at the bottom has been accompanied by a boom in private security. Not everyone, like Warren Buffett, asks “How can this be right?” but a $230,000 guard dog suggests a deep awareness of the unfair system from which the rich have profited.

And yet as our society transforms from a welfare state into a laissez-faire paradise (and especially as budget cuts come down on fire and police), we are likely to only see more of this kind of thing. Mike Konczal pointed out: