By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The Breakup: The real threat to America
Patricia Hewitt
Patricia Hewitt

Patricia Hewitt

Local columnist

Recently, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was found to be the beneficiary of extravagant vacation trips provided by a wealthy friend. We’re not talking about just a luxury hotel visit. These trips, which went on for decades, included private jets, super yachts, ultra exclusive venues, and all the other perks a billionaire can offer. Further, Justice Thomas admitted that his benefactor became his friend only after he ascended to the Supreme Court.

Justice Thomas stated that, when originally offered this largesse, he checked in with more experienced judicial appointees and was told that there’s no reason to turn any of these gifts down, since they were personal and therefore, were not reportable. He has since declared he will report all such gifts. One has to wonder why he felt it necessary to keep quiet? Why not share the fact that he has risen to the heights of the judicial system in our country and therefore, is reaping the rewards of his hard work? If these were indeed personal, then this was an opportunity to validate his impartiality while celebrating his personal accomplishments.

I believe the answer lies in the real threat to America - Kleptocratic Oligarchy. Put simply, this is a term meaning that individuals in positions of political power enable their own enrichment at the expense of their constituencies. In our post-Trump age, it means that government is explicitly for sale. I’m not naïve enough to think that this recent example of questionable (at best) ethics is an isolated case. Where there is power and money, corruption soon follows.

If there are weak rules or laws that prevent such corruption, then it is left up to the individual to make a judgement call. And if the public green light has been given to reap the rewards of one’s position in the ruling class, then there is little motivation to say, no thank you.

I find it fascinating that those who stridently declare their moral authority over everything from personal bodily functions to parental rights to family life are quiet when it comes to these frequently opaque benefits of power. How tempting it must be to receive such lavish attention. To be lured into the seduction of other powerful people. To be given the opportunity to ensure that your business or personal interests are the ones favored and protected.

What is the result of our government awash in lobbying money and billionaire gifting? Increasingly, it’s that the experiences of most Americans aren’t understood by the ruling class. The lifestyle of a multi-millionaire is many miles away from the lifestyle of the typical middle or lower class American. They can’t empathize with what it feels like to live paycheck to paycheck. Or face huge unexpected medical bills when they or their family suffer an emergency. Or being forced to stay home and not earn money their family needs because the cost of childcare outweighs their earning potential. These are real problems faced every day that never touch the monied class in our country.

But the worse outcome is that, little by little, these real problems of our society are routinely ignored or understated by the representatives that we ourselves elect. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore what the majority of the population needs or wants, but rather, what the ruling class believes is in their best interest. From trickle-down economics to tax cuts for the wealthy to backward-looking social policy, our own version of a Kleptocratic Oligarchy wishes to control all of it. And further, to claim that any other position is somehow socialist, communist, or otherwise antithetical to what they believe is the only true American way of life. Dear readers, it is time for us to make up our own minds about whether this shadow system of government is good for our country using the facts sitting right in front of us.

If Justice Thomas actually took the vacations he previously talked about, such as riding around the country in an RV and sleeping in Walmart parking lots, he would hear from people that live a very different version of his American way of life. And they would have just as much to say as his billionaire friend.

Hewitt is an almost-retired professional living in Richmond Hill and an active member of the Bryan County community. She can be contacted at

Sign up for our E-Newsletters