November 11, 1994
The family today, in no slighter degree than two or three centuries ago in imperial Rome, is supreme in the governance of wealth -amassing it, standing watch over it, and keeping it intact from generation to generation. Because it is (unlike that relatively new device, the corporation) a private entity which in the strictest legality can resist public scrutiny, the family lends itself admirably to alliances of a formal character and serves as an instrument for confidential financial transactions. By definition, the family is a sacrosanct institution, and no agency of government may pry into it without offending inculcated prejudice.... The family itself provides a safe retreat from democratic processes, not outside the law, but above the law.
In my student days I heard a talk by former Vice President Henry Wallace, who was running for president as an independent. I remember him saying "when Chase Manhattan decides who the nominee for president will be..." I thought him much too cynical -but I was very young then. I have since found out that Wallace was a realist and he knew what politics was all about, even though he was unsuccessful in manipulating it.
I have read biographies of both the Kennedy and Rockefeller families, and was amazed to find how much power and influence both families have had in American politics. While the Kennedys used their power in the Democratic party, the Rockefellers influenced both parties very profoundly. It was David Rockefeller's influence that led to JFK's tax cuts for the wealthy, not to mention the fact that the Kennedy family also profited substantially from them.
There has always been a question in my mind as to what kind of people I would like to see running our government. Ideally, I would want people of intelligence and integrity who would have the welfare of the whole nation in mind.
Often we get wealthy people who have their own interest in mind as well as the interests of other well-heeled people. We also get people who are not wealthy, but who are often able to be bought by the wealthy. When a poor boy goes to Washington and he leaves it with a large estate and beaucoup de loot, you know that he didn't acquire it just by saving his pennies. A president's salary is a very good one, but not good enough to become wealthy.
The more I read, the more apparent it becomes that the wealthy John Kennedy and the relatively poor Richard Nixon served the same class of people: the moneyed class. The lower and middle class were catered to because they had the votes and the middle class also pays most of the taxes.
When this country was founded, its architects, and those running it, were propertied and relatively well off. Many had large plantations and slaves.
Some people assume that money often goes with intelligence and ability. But intelligence and ability are not the only qualification for public office. It is more important to me to have public servants who have integrity and a concern for the welfare of all of the people. There are thieves and criminals who also have intelligence and ability.
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