Recent discussions on HF lead me to believe that lots of folks have wildly different ideas about how the United States is governed and the extent of inequality in this country. One poster tells us: "Only children would continue mindlessly believing that presidents are something more than figureheads owned by money...Trump will do exactly what he is told to do, just like Obama." Along the same lines, another said of Al Gore:"there's no way he would ever have become president if he didn't intend on satisfying corporate America's wishes. Our choices for president are limited on the basis of whether or not they will do this." Also, "I see the candidates as sled dogs vying for number-one position in the pack. There are perks that come with being lead-dog, but the dogs are controlled by the sled-driver, and the dogs know it. Part of their job, for which they are rewarded, is to play their parts in the play that the public has come to believe is reality." On the other hand, we learn from another poster that the United States is becoming too democratic and that it is supposed to be a "republic not a democracy." Then we are told that:"We are being oppressed. The wishes of the American people have no clout whatsoever. It's all about the wishes of the donors. And none of the donors want what we want. They just want more money, and that money will come from the American taxpayer. They will put us down and rob us, no matter who is in the White House." And "Basically social mobility has pretty much stagnated in the US meaning that if you were born poor you are likely to die poor and if born rich you’ll die rich." But another responds: "Seems rather sociopathic to me to tell disadvantaged people there is no hope for them. But I guess that's what the left wants; a disadvantaged class they can exploit for votes for generations to come." So I thought it might be useful to take these sound bites and look at them in greater depth and more critically. Are U.S. leaders just puppets in a marionette show run by an elite operating behind the curtain? Is the notion that the gap between haves and have nots in this country is widening and ossifying "sociopathic"?