Forget the five people you meet in heaven, here are the five people running the US election system these days.

We know how the super PACs have come to dominate the presidential campaign, but a closer look at financial-disclosure numbers shows how just a tiny handful of billionaires are dominating those super PACs. An analysis of January’s campaign-disclosure filings reveals that 25 percent of all the money raised for the presidential race that month came from just five donors. That select group gave $19 million to various super PACs, often in support of more than one Republican candidate. Those numbers come from both The Washington Post and USA Today, though neither gives a complete list of those five top donors of 2012.

Ari Berman has us covered. The list includes Harold Simmons, who has given to Perry, Romney and Gingrich this year; Sheldon Adelson and his wife, who are keeping Gingrich on life support; and Santorum pals Foster Freiss and William Dore. Also in the mix is billionaire investor Peter Thiel, a Romney angel.

If you want to extend the circle out to, say, 200 people, a report from Demos shows that about that many have contributed 80% of all SuperPAC money. These are the SuperPACs that have been a major determining factor in the GOP primary, and which swung many Congressional elections in 2010. This equals .000063 of the electorate.

I respect the arguments that Citizens United didn’t cause this all by itself. We had a messed-up election system before that Supreme Court ruling. But there has unquestionably been a cultural shift in recent years, with far more outright purchases of elections, using massive numbers. I would argue that the rise follows the rise in political economy of a select few. As the 1% spends to write the laws, they gain more power and a certain invincibility. So they can use that power on elections with relative impunity. One hand washes the other.

For the time being, in the U.S. our corporate and governmental system backed surprisingly by the Supreme Court has become a plutocracy, designed to prolong, protect and intensify the wealth and influence of those who already have the wealth and influence. What the Occupy movement indicates is that a growing number of people have begun to recognize this in spite of the efficiency of capital’s propaganda machines. Forty years of no pay increase in the US after inflation for the average hour worked should, after all, have that effect. The propaganda is good but not that good.
People now see it is a system for the rich only,” Jeremy Grantham, Financial Times. (via bostonreview)


So I had to keep looking for a further explanation of what’s going on with BoA.

Here’s what I got:

Bank of America, which today reported a big bottom line loss net of one-time beneficial items, did something quite tricky and extremely devious last month: it shifted anywhere up to the total of $53 trillion of the total derivatives it held as of June 30 (as Zero Hedge previously reported) on its books at Q2 from the Holding Company, which was downgraded last by Moody’s from A2 to Baa1 (the third-lowest investment grade rating) to its retail bank, which was downgraded to the far more palatable A2 (from Aa3). The reason for the transfer? Bank customers who were uneasy with the fact that suddenly the collateral backstoping the operating entity handling their counterparty risk was downgraded to just above junk, demanded that said counterparty risk be mitigated by the bank’s $1 trillon in deposits. In other words, as Bloomberg first reported when it broke this story, anywhere up to the full $53 trillion (we don’t know for sure how much so we assume the worst case) is now fully and effectively backstopped explicitly by the bank’s $1,041 trillion (as of September 30) deposits. Pardon’s we meant the people’s deposits: the same deposits which caused the bank’s website to be inoperative for several days in a row after it was rumored that there was an electronic run on the bank. Why? Just so Bank of America can appears whatever remaining clients it has so they decide not to take their business to another derivative counterparty. And who is exposed to this latest idiocy? Why you. But that’s not all: the FDIC, which is the entity backstopping the deposits in a worst-case scenario, is not happy with this move for obvious reasons. Yet even it is hopeless to override the Fed, which as Bloomberg reports, “has signaled that it favors moving the derivatives to give relief to the bank holding company.” And so, once again, we see just how much more important to the Federal Reserve are interests of US taxpayers and savers, over those of the banks that effectively run the Fed.