· NY, NY
Congress has always been a plaything of the wealthy but even more so in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Economic growth was robust in the Gilded Age, when income inequality in this country was extreme and government was very corrupt (Tammany Hall anyone?). The only salient difference I can see between now and then was that the elites who had co-opted government built things of real worth to the American economy–railroads, steel mills, oil refineries, coal mines, consumer goods, cars and car components. Elites today, on the other hand, build things that resemble rent-seeking more than industrial build-up–derivatives, credit-default swaps, hedges, and the like. Even elites that do make stuff–like Steve Jobs with his iPhones and iPads–make most of the stuff outside this country. Facebook only hires thousands at most, and it doesn't build anything that can actually improve the material standard of living (it's debatable whether mining for data and advertising more efficiently by getting people to divulge their personal lives is of any real value to infrastructure or mass job creation). It's the nature of wealth creation that makes this sudden turn in the U.S. worrisome, not the fact that the system has been co-opted for the benefit of the elite (which has already happened numerous times in the past, to no discernible detriment to the overall economy).
(The people will wait until things get out of hand and then protest. The protests will get out of control and unlike Libya; the elites will get immediate justice from an angry poor.)