Well, you say we should leave aside the theory of democracy and focus on the political reality. But that’s wrongheaded since not every democratic republic is swamped with knaves and rascals for politicians as is the US. Our political class reflects who we are as a society since we put them there and have the power to boot them out.
Look at the Scandinavian social democracies. Their greater welfare states and more egalitarian use of their tax dollars are based on who they are as peoples. Scandinavians today aren’t as individualistic, puritanical, tribal, greedy, and xenophobic as Americans. So the corruption of the American political class represents the sickness of American society.
I agree wholeheartedly, then, that raising taxes and delivering those funds to anything like the current crop of neoliberal politicians in Congress would be an egregious act of national self-destruction. Naturally, those aristocrats would first have to be kicked out of office in toto. A social revolution, however, would be required for that to happen.
We’re seeing hints of that very revolution, with the widespread support for populists like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. That mass resentment and distrust of the American establishment have largely been wasted, though, since Trump obviously had no inclination or competence to fix anything, and the neoliberals carried the day in the Democratic Party, as they have since Bill Clinton.
Now, if you’re speaking more generally in saying we should trust corporations and free markets more than governments, because the latter have done more damage, that would be a flawed comparison, because the two often intermingle, as should be expected in a “free market” that tends to produce a plutocracy. The robber barons controlled the political parties. The lobbyists write the laws. There’s a revolving door between the public and private sectors. Gingrich rigged Congress to force the representatives to beg the private sector for money (as spelled out in the documentary, “The Swamp”).
Thus, blaming one or the other makes little sense when they’re working together as a cabal. Likewise, blaming the American establishment alone is foolish when its frauds reflect the weaknesses of late-modern American culture (consumerism, tribalism, fundamentalism, anti-intellectualism, paranoia, etc.). The problem is societal and cultural.
Nothing large-scale will change for the better unless new generations emerge which can somehow bypass the malignance and decrepitude of their elders, such as by becoming more cosmopolitan thanks to the global proliferation of info on the internet.