Equity

Articles that are relevant to the issue of equity.

Sick People or Sick Societies?

From The Canadian Dimension

 

Note by HealthWrights staff

 

This article focuses on the situation in Canada, but the conclusions it arrives at are of universal significance. A major finding that is well documented is that health correlates strongly with inequity as such -- and not just with the absolute level of material well-being. Clearly then, health is a political issue. As Rudolph Virchow said, back in the middle of the 19th century, “medicine is a social science and politics is nothing but medicine writ large. If medicine is to fulfill her great task, then she must enter the political and social life. Do we not always find the diseases of the populace traceable to defects in society?”


The Article

The words “health care” and “crisis” have become inseparable in any discussion about health policy in Canada. Stories about long waiting lists for surgery, interminable delays to see specialists, spiralling costs and the spectre of a two-tier system flood our media. With baby boomers reaching their senior years, things are only going to get worse. As numerous studies and Royal Commissions have pointed out, there’s much that can be done to make the system more efficient and responsive. But unless we do more in the way of prevention, the system threatens to collapse under its own weight.

Our healthcare system is more aptly named our sickness care system. It does a pretty good job of treating illness, but when it comes to prevention, it’s mostly up to us: don’t smoke, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, keep physically active, take time to relax. It’s hard to avoid the messages that bombard us from the media and our doctors that our health is our responsibility. Healthy lifestyles are no doubt good for us, but it turns out that the social conditions in which we live and work are more important in determining our health than either the health care system or our personal habits.

It’s hardly a new idea. Back in the mid-19th century, the Council of Berlin asked the brilliant German pathologist Rudolph Virchow to investigate a typhus epidemic in Upper Silesia. He reported back that the problem was caused by “mismanagement of the region by the Berlin Government.” Among his recommendations were full democracy for Upper Silesia, a shift in the burden of taxes from the poor to the rich, universal education, and the separation of church and state. Needless to say, the members of the Berlin Council were not pleased. They claimed that Virchow’s report wasn’t a scientific document at all, but was rather a political tract. To which Virchow retorted, “medicine is a social science and politics is nothing but medicine writ large!” He added, “If medicine is to fulfill her great task, then she must enter the political and social life. Do we not always find the diseases of the populace traceable to defects in society?”

Indeed, some of the greatest gains in health have come from laws addressing those defects; laws banning child labour, setting minimum wages, creating the 40-hour work week, establishing social safety nets, and mandating universal access to education. None of these reforms were passed in the name of health, but all have contributed enormously to our health and longevity. Unfortunately, our political leaders today are as reluctant as the Berlin councillors to recognize the connection between social conditions and health, preferring instead to blame the victim. To drive home the point, the diseases that plague North Americans today have been labelled lifestyle diseases. Heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes and even cancer have been blamed on our wayward habits — too many fatty foods and sweets, too much alcohol, too little exercise. But a large body of research over the last 30 years has confirmed the importance of the social realm in determining our health.

 

he heart of the matter

Leonard Syme is considered the father of the discipline known as the social determinants of health. He’s an epidemiologist at the University of California at Berkeley who has spent much of his career exploring the causes of heart disease. For the last half century, the reigning theory has been the diet/heart hypothesis — the idea that a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol raises blood cholesterol levels, which, in turn, leads to heart disease. The diet/heart hypothesis is received wisdom in both lay and medical populations, yet Syme says there’s not a shred of evidence to support it. After doing an exhaustive search of the medical literature, he failed to find a single study proving that the amount of fat in your diet has anything to do with either serum cholesterol or heart disease.

In a groundbreaking study in the 1970s, Syme and his colleagues followed a group of Japanese men who migrated from Japan to California. They found a staggering five-fold increase in heart disease rates among the California migrants. Their first assumption, given the diet/heart hypothesis, was that adoption of a fatty Western diet was the main culprit. Yet, according to Syme, “the Japanese in California did eat a more Western diet than they did in Japan, but that didn’t in any way explain the five-fold increase.” In fact, the increase couldn’t be fully explained by any of the usual risk factors, including diet, smoking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. What the researchers did discover, to the surprise of all, was that those men who retained “traditional Japanese ways,” who kept strong ties with the Japanese community, attended Japanese churches, went to Japanese doctors, lawyers and the like, had only one fifth the heart disease rates of their counterparts who integrated more fully into American life, despite the fact that both groups were eating a more fatty diet. In trying to understand why, Syme made several trips to Japan and interviewed hundreds of people. Wherever he went, he says, people kept telling him, “the real problem is that Americans are so lonely.” The Japanese migrant study spawned a whole new line of research demonstrating that social support and human connectedness are more important in determining people’s health than any of the usually cited risk factors.

Preventing diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the disease that’s most directly linked to people’s personal behaviours. It’s also the fastest growing chronic condition in Canada and threatens to overwhelm our health care system. According to Richard Glazier, a family physician and senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, with a proper diet and sufficient exercise, the disease is highly preventable. Yet, despite years of advice about healthy lifestyles, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is only getting worse. To come to grips with the problem, Glazier and fellow physician Gillian Booth headed a 2007 study mapping the incidence of diabetes in the City of Toronto. They weren’t surprised to find that diabetes rates were highest amongst low-income groups and recent immigrants, but what did surprise them was how the incidence varied by neighbourhood. The suburbs and outlying areas had far higher rates than many downtown neighbourhoods, even though these housed some of the lowest-income groups and highest concentrations of recent immigrants. On further investigation, they found that the areas with the highest diabetes rates had very poor access to healthy food, fewer amenities like parks, community centres and bike paths, poorer access to public transportation and greater dependence on cars. Those factors, combined with low income and a food system that makes junk food cheaper than healthy alternatives, have created a perfect storm when it comes to type 2 diabetes. According to Glazier, addressing what he calls “upstream factors” would do far more to prevent the disease than focussing exclusively on diet and exercise.

The social gradient in health

The biggest upstream factor when it comes to health is income. It’s been known for as long as we have had records that those at the top of the social ladder are healthier and live longer than those at the bottom. In Canada, there’s a four-and-a -half-year gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest quintiles for men, and a two-year gap for women. If you look at premature deaths before age 75, the gap is considerably bigger. The poor bear a greater share of the burden of virtually every disease and condition, from heart disease, diabetes and cancer to addictions and mental health problems. It makes intuitive sense that this would be so. The poor live in substandard housing and blighted neighbourhoods, can’t afford healthy food, are more likely to drink and smoke, and live stress-filled lives with little economic security. But research over the past 30 years has shown that it’s not just a matter of a gap between the poor and everyone else. In every society that’s been studied there’s a social gradient in health; for almost every disease and disorder, the higher you are on the social ladder, the healthier and longer-lived you’re likely to be.

According to Richard Glazier, in Canada “even those earning over $100,000, who live in wonderful homes, take expensive vacations and can afford healthy food, don’t do as well as the super rich.” For some diseases, he says, the gap between the middle and upper income groups is as big as that between the middle classes and the poor. While researchers don’t know exactly what’s causing the gradient, Glazier says there’s obviously something beyond diet and exercise that is affecting us all to varying degrees. He believes it has to do with our level of psychosocial stress, which in turn is affected by the amount of control we have over our lives, the amount of social support we have to buffer whatever stresses we encounter and how we feel about ourselves and our place in society. These are all strongly related to our position in the social hierarchy.

Inequality matters

Social hierarchies will always be with us, so it’s unlikely we’ll ever completely eliminate the social gradient in health. But we can do something about its steepness. In their 2009 book The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, British epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson and co-author Kate Pickett analyzed health and social data for 22 of the world’s developed countries and from the 50 American states. Their findings were consistent and stunning. On almost every measure of human health and well-being, from life expectancy, infant mortality, obesity and mental illness to teenage birth rates, addictions and homicides, they found that more equal societies performed better than less equal ones. What’s more, the gradient in health was steeper. Even those at the top of the economic ladder were worse off in more unequal societies than their counterparts in more equal societies. Wilkinson and Pickett stress that the differences between countries have nothing to do with absolute levels of income. What the data shows is that, once a country reaches a certain level of development, what matters is not how rich the country is, but how equal it is.

The US, one of the world’s richest countries and also one of the most unequal, scored at or near the bottom of the scale on almost every indicator Wilkinson and Pickett examined, while Japan and the Scandinavian countries, which are among the world’s most equal countries, did best. As usual, Canada was somewhere in the middle.

Although the US has the world’s highest per-capita spending on health care, it ranks 50th in global life expectancy. Within the country, there’s an enormous gap in life expectancy between the rich and poor. The gap is as large as 20 years between rich whites living in Maryland and poor blacks living just 20 miles away in Washington, DC. That’s one year of life for every mile.

While the dismal mortality rates among the US poor can be attributed, in part, to people’s personal behaviours, the gap has everything to do with the conditions under which people live and work. According to a report by the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, “Unequal distribution of health-damaging experiences is not in any sense a ‘natural’ phenomenon, but is a result of the toxic combination of poor social policies and programs, unfair economic arrangements and bad politics.”

But those variables are amenable to change. Nancy Krieger, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, investigated changes in the rate of premature mortality and infant death in the US from 1960 to 2002. She found that inequities shrank from 1966 to 1980, at the same time as socio-economic disparities in the US were declining. She credits the creation of Medicaid and Medicare, community health centres, the US war on poverty and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since the 1980s with the advent of neoliberalism, the mortality gap has steadily widened, in tandem with the growth in income inequality.

Similar changes have taken place in Britain. Not coincidentally, the health gradient got steeper during the Thatcher years, which were accompanied by social cutbacks, employment insecurity and a growing income gap between rich and poor. According to Michael Marmot, Director of the International Institute for Society and Health at University College, London and head of the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, there was a five-and-a-half-year difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest men in 1970. By the end of the Thatcher years, that had grown to a nine-and-a-half-year difference.

Why greater inequality leads to worse health

As Marmot says, it’s not how much you have that counts, it’s what you can do with what you have. If a society provides social security, education, health care, transportation, recreational opportunities, child care, parental leave and so on, than income doesn’t matter that much. But if you have to buy all those things yourself, income makes a huge difference. The less you have, the greater your stress load. And yet, as societies become more unequal, those with the power to influence public decisions are less likely to support investment in the public sphere. Alex Himelfarb, former Clerk of Canada’s Privy Council, puts it this way: “When inequality grows too great, you cannot find a public interest, because people’s experience of society is so diverse.” As a result, the rich secede from the public sphere and support declines for everything from public infrastructure and education to social security and health care.

The growth of income inequality has other insidious effects which undermine people’s health. The widening of the gap between the rich and the rest of us exacerbates the consumer anxiety that is so pervasive in our culture. As the rich get richer, they spend more; they build bigger mansions, install fancier kitchens and throw more elaborate parties. Cornell University economist Robert Frank says this ups the ante for everyone and sets up what he calls a series of spending cascades. The average house size in the US is now 50 percent larger than it was 30 years ago. The average wedding costs $28,000 compared to $11,000, adjusted for inflation, in 1980. But while incomes for the top 1 percent have soared, incomes for the vast majority have stagnated or declined. For the middle classes, the pressure to “keep up” has meant going ever deeper into debt, and with more debt comes more anxiety and stress.

For the poor, the pressures of growing inequality are even worse. As the standards rise for what constitutes a good life, the poor are increasingly left behind. As Michael Marmot says, “if those lower down on the income scale can’t fully participate in what it means to be part of society, that creates a huge amount of stress. If your neighbour’s kid has the latest sneakers and goes on skiing holidays, you want that for your kid too — you want to be a full social participant.”

Where does Canada stand?

In 1974, former Liberal Minister of Health Marc Lalonde published a report titled A New Perspective on the Health of Canadians. It was the first public document in any country to emphasize that the major determinants of health lay outside the health care system. Since then, Canada has been a leader in the field of social determinants of health. Academics and health policy analysts have held major conferences and published scores of papers dealing with everything from the importance of early childhood education, to the need to rebuild our cities and fix our broken food system, to the need to give workers more control in the workplace, to the impacts of poverty and isolation in old age. The evidence is compelling, yet for the last three decades government policy has moved in precisely the opposite direction. Since the mid-1980s, following the election of Brian Mulroney and the imposition of his neoliberal agenda, social programs have been slashed and income inequality has grown. Fully one third of all economic growth in Canada has gone to the top 1 percent, while wages and incomes for the majority of Canadians have stagnated. At the same time, life has become far less secure for the majority of Canadians as job security vanishes, pensions come under fire and the social safety net weakens. The Harper government’s attack on unions and its planned cuts to Old Age Security will only worsen these trends.

A World Health Organization document on the Social Determinants of Health states that “if policy fails to address the links between social inequality and health, it not only ignores the most powerful determinants of health in modern societies, it also ignores one of the most important social justice issues.” By working toward a more fair and just society our health will follow. So too might our happiness.

-Jill Eisen is a freelance writer and documentary radio producer, primarily for CBC Radio’s Ideas program.

The Global 1%: Exposing the Transnational Ruling Class

Note by HealthWrights Staff

bart-simpson_pea-brain_x-rayX-ray of Bart Simpson's pea-brainDictionary.com defines "conspiracy" in this manner:

 

1. the act of conspiring.

2. an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.

3. a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose: He joined the conspiracy to overthrow the government.

4. an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.

5. any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.

 

In the Dictionary.com thesaurus a briefer definition is presented:

 

secret understanding, often with intent to defraud

 

We often hear the suggestion that "conspiracy theories" are the product of the over-active imagination of various lunatic fringes. Perhaps some of them are. But what if the major events in the world today are in fact being directed by a conspiracy?

 

If we look at the various definitions above we see that three key elements define the concept: group planning, secretiveness, and evil or unlawful intentions. I would suggest that the article below provides hard evidence that the actions of the small elite that now runs the world, judged by these criteria, qualifies as a conspiracy.

 

 The Article

Global Research, August 14, 2012

Project Censored

This study asks: Who are the the world’s One percent power elite?

And to what extent do they operate in unison for their own private gains over benefits for the 99 percent?
We examine a sample of the 1 percent: the extractor sector, whose companies are on the ground extracting material from the global commons, and using low-cost labor to amass wealth. These companies include oil, gas, and various mineral extraction organizations, whereby the value of the material removed far exceeds the actual cost of removal.We also examine the investment sector of the global 1 percent: companies whose primary activity is the amassing and reinvesting of capital. This sector includes global central banks, major investment money management firms, and other companies whose primary efforts are the concentration and expansion of money, such as insurance companies.

Finally, we analyze how global networks of centralized power—the elite 1 percent, their companies, and various governments in their service—plan, manipulate, and enforce policies that benefit their continued concentration of wealth and power. We demonstrate how the US/NATO military-industrial-media empire operates in service to the transnational corporate class for the protection of international capital in the world.

The Occupy Movement has developed a mantra that addresses the great inequality of wealth and power between the world’s wealthiest 1 percent and the rest of us, the other 99 percent. While the 99 percent mantra undoubtedly serves as a motivational tool for open involvement, there is little understanding as to who comprises the 1 percent and how they maintain power in the world. Though a good deal of academic research has dealt with the power elite in the United States, only in the past decade and half has research on the transnational corporate class begun to emerge.[i]

Foremost among the early works on the idea of an interconnected 1 percent within global capitalism was Leslie Sklair’s 2001 book, The Transnational Capitalist Class.[ii] Sklair believed that globalization was moving transnational corporations (TNC) into broader international roles, whereby corporations’ states of orgin became less important than international argreements developed through the World Trade Organization and other international institutions. Emerging from these multinational corporations was a transnational capitalist class, whose loyalities and interests, while still rooted in their corporations, was increasingly international in scope. Sklair writes:

The transnational capitalist class can be analytically divided into four main fractions: (i) owners and controllers of TNCs and their local affiliates; (ii) globalizing bureaucrats and politicians; (iii) globalizing professionals; (iv) consumerist elites (merchants and media). . . . It is also important to note, of course, that the TCC [transnational corporate class] and each of its fractions are not always entirely united on every issue. Nevertheless, together, leading personnel in these groups constitute a global power elite, dominant class or inner circle in the sense that these terms have been used to characterize the dominant class structures of specific countries.[iii]

Estimates are that the total world’s wealth is close to $200 trillion, with the US and Europe holding approximately 63 percent. To be among the wealthiest half of the world, an adult needs only $4,000 in assets once debts have been subtracted. An adult requires more than $72,000 to belong to the top 10 percent of global wealth holders, and more than $588,000 to be a member of the top 1 percent.  As of 2010, the top 1 percent of the wealthist people in the world had hidden away between $21 trillion to $32 trillion in secret tax exempt bank accounts spread all over the world.[iv] Meanwhile, the poorest half of the global population together possesses less than 2 percent of global wealth.[v] The World Bank reports that, in 2008, 1.29 billion people were living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 a day, and 1.2 billion more were living on less than $2.00 a day.[vi] Starvation.net reports that 35,000 people, mostly young children, die every day from starvation in the world.[vii] The numbers of unnecessary deaths have exceeded 300 million people over the past forty years. Farmers around the world grow more than enough food to feed the entire world adequately. Global grain production yielded a record 2.3 billion tons in 2007, up 4 percent from the year before—yet, billions of people go hungry every day. Grain.org describes the core reasons for ongoing hunger in a recent article, “Corporations Are Still Making a Killing from Hunger”: while farmers grow enough food to feed the world, commodity speculators and huge grain traders like Cargill control global food prices and distribution.[viii] Addressing the power of the global 1 percent—identifying who they are and what their goals are—are clearly life and death questions.

It is also important to examine the questions of how wealth is created, and how it becomes concentrated. Historically, wealth has been captured and concentrated through conquest by various powerful enities. One need only look at Spain’s appropriation of the wealth of the Aztec and Inca empires in the early sixteenth century for an historical example of this process. The histories of the Roman and British empires are also filled with examples of wealth captured.

Once acquired, wealth can then be used to establish means of production, such as the early British cotton mills, which exploit workers’ labor power to produce goods whose exchange value is greater than the cost of the labor, a process analyzed by Karl Marx in Capital.[ix] A human being is able to produce a product that has a certain value. Organized business hires workers who are paid below the value of their labor power. The result is the creation of what Marx called surplus value, over and above the cost of labor. The creation of surplus value allows those who own the means of production to concentrate capital even more. In addition, concentrated capital accelerates the exploition of natural resources by private entrepreneurs—even though these natural resources are actually the common heritage of all living beings.[x]

In this article, we ask: Who are the the world’s 1 percent power elite? And to what extent do they operate in unison for their own private gains over benefits for the 99 percent? We will examine a sample of the 1 percent: the extractor sector, whose companies are on the ground extracting material from the global commons, and using low-cost labor to amass wealth. These companies include oil, gas, and various mineral extraction organizations, whereby the value of the material removed far exceeds the actual cost of removal.

We will also examine the investment sector of the global 1 percent: companies whose primary activity is the amassing and reinvesting of capital. This sector includes global central banks, major investment money management firms, and other companies whose primary efforts are the concentration and expansion of money, such as insurance companies.

Finally, we analyze how global networks of centralized power—the elite 1 percent, their companies, and various governments in their service—plan, manipulate, and enforce policies that benefit their continued concentration of wealth and power.

The Extractor Sector: The Case of Freeport-McMoRan (FCX)

Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) is the world’s largest extractor of copper and gold. The company controls huge deposits in Papua, Indonesia, and also operates in North and South America, and in Africa. In 2010, the company sold 3.9 billion pounds of copper, 1.9 million ounces of gold, and 67 million pounds of molybdenum. In 2010, Freeport-McMoRan reported revenues of $18.9 billion and a net income of $4.2 billion.[xi]

The Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia, employs 23,000 workers at wages below three dollars an hour. In September 2011, workers went on strike for higher wages and better working conditions. Freeport had offered a 22 percent increase in wages, and strikers said it was not enough, demanding an increase to an international standard of seventeen to forty-three dollars an hour. The dispute over pay attracted local tribesmen, who had their own grievances over land rights and pollution; armed with spears and arrows, they joined Freeport workers blocking the mine’s supply roads.[xii] During the strikers’ attempt to block busloads of replacement workers, security forces financed by Freeport killed or wounded several strikers.

Freeport has come under fire internationally for payments to authorities for security. Since 1991, Freeport has paid nearly thirteen billion dollars to the Indonesian government—one of Indonesia’s largest sources of income—at a 1.5 percent royalty rate on extracted gold and copper, and, as a result, the Indonesian military and regional police are in their pockets. In October 2011, the Jakarta Globe reported that Indonesian security forces in West Papua, notably the police, receive extensive direct cash payments from Freeport-McMoRan. Indonesian National Police Chief Timur Pradopo admitted that officers received close to ten million dollars annually from Freeport, payments Pradopo described as “lunch money.” Prominent Indonesian nongovernmental organization Imparsial puts the annual figure at fourteen million dollars.[xiii] These payments recall even larger ones made by Freeport to Indonesian military forces over the years which, once revealed, prompted a US Security and Exchange Commission investigation of Freeport’s liability under the United States’ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

In addition, the state’s police and army have been criticized many times for human rights violations in the remote mountainous region, where a separatist movement has simmered for decades. Amnesty International has documented numerous cases in which Indonesian police have used unnecessary force against strikers and their supporters. For example, Indonesian security forces attacked a mass gathering in the Papua capital, Jayapura, and striking workers at the Freeport mine in the southern highlands. At least five people were killed and many more injured in the assaults, which shows a continuing pattern of overt violence against peaceful dissent. Another brutal and unjustified attack on October 19, 2011, on thousands of Papuans exercising their rights to assembly and freedom of speech, resulted in the death of at least three Papuan civilians, the beating of many, the detention of hundreds, and the arrest of six, reportedly on treason charges.[xiv]

On November 7, 2011, the Jakarta Globe reported that “striking workers employed by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold’s subsidiary in Papua have dropped their minimum wage increase demands from $7.50 to $4.00 an hour, the All-Indonesia Workers Union (SPSI) said.”[xv] Virgo Solosa, an official from the union, told the Jakarta Globe that they considered the demands, up from the (then) minimum wage of $1.50 an hour, to be “the best solution for all.”

Workers at Freeport’s Cerro Verde copper mine in Peru also went on strike around the same time, highlighting the global dimension of the Freeport confrontation. The Cerro Verde workers demanded pay raises of 11 percent, while the company offered just 3 percent.

The Peruvian strike ended on November 28, 2011.[xvi] And on December 14, 2011, Freeport-McMoRan announced a settlement at the Indonesian mine, extending the union’s contract by two years. Workers at the Indonesia operation are to see base wages, which currently start at as little as $2.00 an hour, rise 24 percent in the first year of the pact and 13 percent in the second year. The accord also includes improvements in benefits and a one-time signing bonus equivalent to three months of wages.[xvii]

In both Freeport strikes, the governments pressured strikers to settle. Not only was domestic militrary and police force evident, but also higher levels of international involvement. Throughout the Freeport-McMoRan strike, the Obama administration ignored the egregious violation of human rights  and instead advanced US–Indonesian military ties. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who arrived in Indonesia in the immediate wake of the Jayapura attack, offered no criticism of the assault and reaffirmed US support for Indonesia’s territorial integrity. Panetta also reportedly commended Indonesia’s handling of a weeks-long strike at Freeport-McMoRan.[xviii]

US President Barack Obama visited Indonesia in November 2011 to strengthen relations with Jakarta as part of Washington’s escalating efforts to combat Chinese influence in the Asia–Pacific region. Obama had just announced that the US and Australia would begin a rotating deployment of 2,500 US Marines to a base in Darwin, a move ostensibly to modernize the US posture in the region, and to allow participation in “joint training” with Australian military counterparts. But some speculate that the US has a hidden agenda in deploying marines to Australia. The Thai newspaper The Nation has suggested that one of the reasons why US Marines might be stationed in Darwin could be that they would provide remote security assurance to US-owned Freeport-McMoRan’s gold and copper mine in West Papua, less than a two-hour flight away.[xix]

The fact that workers at Freeport’s Sociedad Minera Cerro Verde copper mine in Peru were also striking at the same time highlights the global dimension of the Freeport confrontation. The Peruvian workers are demanding pay rises of eleven percent, while the company has offered just three percent. The strike was lifted on November 28, 2011.[xx]

In both Freeport strikes, the governments pressured strikers to settle. Not only was domestic militrary and police force evident, but also higher levels of international involvement. The fact that the US Secretary of Defense mentioned a domestic strike in Indonesa shows that the highest level of power are in play on issues affecting the international corporate 1 percent and their profits.

Public opinion is strongly against Freeport in Indonesia. On August 8, 2011, Karishma Vaswani of the BBC reported that “the US mining firm Freeport-McMoRan has been accused of everything from polluting the environment to funding repression in its four decades working in the Indonesian province of Papau. . . . Ask any Papuan on the street what they think of Freeport and they will tell you that the firm is a thief, said Nelels Tebay, a Papuan pastor and coordinator of the Papua Peace Network.”[xxi]

Freeport strikers won support from the US Occupy movement. Occupy Phoenix and East Timor Action Network activists marched to Freeport headquarters in Phoenix on October 28, 2011, to demonstrate against the Indonesian police killings at Freeport-McMoRan’s Grasberg mine.[xxii]

Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) chairman of the board James R. Moffett owns over four million shares with a value of close to $42.00 each. According to the FCX annual meeting report released in June 2011, Moffett’s annual compensation from FCX in 2010 was $30.57 million. Richard C. Adkerson, president of the board of FCX, owns over 5.3 million shares. His total compensation in was also $30.57 million in 2010 Moffett’s and Adkerson’s incomes put them in the upper levels of the world’s top 1 percent. Their interconnectness with the highest levels of power in the White House and the Pentagon, as indicated by the specific attention given to them by the US secretary of defense, and as suggested by the US president’s awareness of their circumstances, leaves no doubt that Freeport-MacMoRan executives and board are firmly positioned at the highest levels of the transnational corporate class.

Freeport-McMoRan’s Board of Directors

James R. Moffett—Corporate and policy affiliations: cochairman, president, and CEO of McMoRan Exploration Co.; PT Freeport Indonesia; Madison Minerals Inc.; Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans; Agrico, Inc.; Petro-Lewis Funds, Inc.; Bright Real Estate Services, LLC; PLC–ALPC, Inc.; FM Services Co.

Richard C. Adkerson—Corporate and policy affiliations: Arthur Anderson Company; chairman of International Council on Mining and Metals; executive board of the International Copper Association, Business Council, Business Roundtable, Advisory Board of the Kissinger Institute, Madison Minerals Inc.

Robert Allison Jr.—Corporate affiliations: Anadarko Petroleum (2010 revenue: $11 billion); Amoco Projection Company.

Robert A. Day—Corporate affiliations: CEO of W. M. Keck Foundation (2010 assets: more than $1 billion); attorney in Costa Mesa, California.

Gerald J. Ford—Corporate affiliations: Hilltop Holdings Inc, First Acceptance Corporation, Pacific Capital Bancorp (Annual Sales $13 billion), Golden State Bancorp, FSB (federal savings bank that merged with Citigroup in 2002) Rio Hondo Land & Cattle Company (annual sales $1.6 million), Diamond Ford, Dallas (sales: $200 million), Scientific Games Corp., SWS Group (annual sales: $422 million); American Residential Cmnts LLC.

H. Devon Graham Jr.—Corporate affiliations: R. E. Smith Interests (an asset management company; income: $670,000).

Charles C. Krulak—Corporate and governmental affiliations: president of Birmingham-South College; commandant of the Marine Corp, 1995–1999; MBNA Corp.; Union Pacific Corporation (annual sales: $17 billion); Phelps Dodge (acquired by FCX in 2007).

Bobby Lee Lackey—Corporate affiliations: CEO of McManusWyatt-Hidalgo Produce Marketing Co.

Jon C. Madonna—Corporate affiliations: CEO of KPMG, (professional services auditors; annual sales: $22.7 billion); AT&T (2011 revenue: $122 billion); Tidewater Inc. (2011 revenue: $1.4 billion).

Dustan E. McCoy—Corporate affiliations: CEO of Brunswick Corp. (revenue: $4.6 billion); Louisiana-Pacific Corp. (2011 revenue: $1.7 billion).

B. M. Rankin Jr.—Corporate affiliations: board vice chairman of FCX; cofounder of McMoRan Oil and Gas in 1969.

Stephen Siegele—Corporate affiliations: founder/CEO of Advanced Delivery and Chemical Systems Inc.; Advanced Technology Solutions; Flourine on Call Ltd.

The board of directors of Freeport-McMoRan represents a portion of the global 1 percent who not only control the largest gold and copper mining company in the world, but who are also interconnected by board membership with over two dozen major multinational corporations, banks, foundations, military, and policy groups. This twelve-member board is a tight network of individuals who are interlocked with—and influence the policies of—other major companies controlling approximately $200 billion in annual revenues.

Freeport-McMoRan exemplifies how the extractor sector acquires wealth from the common heritage of natural materials—which rightfully belongs to us all—by appropriating the surplus value of working people’s labor in the theft of our commons. This process is protected by governments in various countries where Freeport maintains mining operations, with the ultimate protector being the military empire of the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Further, Freeport-McMoRan is connected to one of the most elite transnational capitalist groups in the world: over 7 percent of Freeport’s stock is held by BlackRock, Inc., a major investment management firm based in New York City.

The Investment Sector: The Case of BlackRock, Inc.

Internationally, many firms operate primarily as investment organizations, managing capital and investing in other companies. These firms often do not actually make anything except money, and are keen to prevent interference with return on capital by taxation, regulations, and governmental interventions anywhere in the world.

BlackRock, based in Manhattan, is the largest assets management firm in the world, with over 10,000 employees and investment teams in twenty-seven countries. Their client base includes corporate, public, union, and industry pension plans; governments; insurance companies; third-party mutual funds; endowments; foundations; charities; corporations; official institutions; sovereign wealth funds; banks; financial professionals; and individuals worldwide. BlackRock acquired Barclay Global Investors in December of 2009. As of March 2012, BlackRock manages assets worth $3.68 trillion in equity, fixed income, cash management, alternative investment, real estate, and advisory strategies.[xxiii]

In addition to Freeport-McMoRan, BlackRock has major holdings in Chevron (49 million shares, 2.5 percent), Goldman Sachs Group (13 million shares, 2.7 percent), Exxon Mobil (121 million shares, 2.5 percent), Bank of America (251 million shares, 2.4 percent), Monsanto Company (12 million shares, 2.4 percent), Microsoft Corp. (185 million shares, 2.2 percent), and many more.[xxiv]

BlackRock manages investments of both public and private funds, including California Public Employee’s Retirement System, California State Teacher’s Retirement System, Freddie Mac, Boy Scouts of America, Boeing, Sears, Verizon, Raytheon, PG&E, NY City Retirement Systems, LA County Employees Retirement Association, GE, Cisco, and numerous others.

According to BlackRock’s April 2011 annual report to stockholders, the board of directors consists of eighteen members. The board is classified into three equal groups—Class I, Class II, and Class III—with terms of office of the members of one class expiring each year in rotation. Members of one class are generally elected at each annual meeting and serve for full three-year terms, or until successors are elected and qualified. Each class consists of approximately one-third of the total number of directors constituting the entire board of directors.

BlackRock has stockholder agreements with Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation; and Barclays Bank PLC and its subsidiaries. Two to four members of the board are from BlackRock management; one director is designated by Merrill Lynch; two directors, each in a different class, are designated by PNC Bank; two directors, each in a different class, are designated by Barclays; and the remaining directors are independent.

BlackRock’s Board of Directors

Class I Directors (terms expire in 2012):

William S. Demchak—Corporate affiliations: senior vice chairman of PNC (assets: $271 billion); J. P. Morgan Chase & Co. (2011 assets: $2.2 trillion).

Kenneth B. Dunn, PhD—Corporate and institutional affiliations: professor of financial economics at the David A. Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University; former managing director of Morgan Stanley Investment (assets: $807 billion).

Laurence D. Fink—Corporate and institutional affiliations: chairman/CEO of BlackRock; trustee of New York University; trustee of Boys Club of NY.

Robert S. Kapito—Corporate and institutional affiliations: president of BlackRock; trustee of Wharton School University of Pennsylvania.

Thomas H. O’Brien—Corporate affiliations: former CEO of PNC; Verizon Communications, Inc. (2011 revenue: $110 billion).

Ivan G. Seidenberg—Corporate and policy affiliations: board chairman of Verizon Communications; former CEO of Bell Atlantic; Honeywell International Inc. (2010 revenue: $33.3 billion); Pfizer Inc. (2011 revenue: $64 billion); chairman of the Business Roundtable; National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee; President’s Council of the New York Academy of Sciences.[xxv]

Class II Directors (terms expire in 2013):

Abdlatif Yousef Al-Hamad—Corporate and institutional affiliations: board chairman of Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (assets: $2.7 trillion); former Minister of Finance and Minister of Planning of Kuwait, Kuwait Investment Authority. Multilateral Development Banks, International Advisory Boards of Morgan Stanley, Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., American International Group, Inc. and the National Bank of Kuwait.

Mathis Cabiallavetta—Corporate affiliations: Swiss Reinsurance Company (2010 revenue: $28 billion); CEO of Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. (2011 revenue: $11.5 billion); Union Bank of Switzerland-UBS A.G. (2012 assets: $620 billion); Philip Morris International Inc. (2010 revenue: $27 billion).

Dennis D. Dammerman—Corporate affiliations: General Electric Company (2012 revenue: $147 billion); Capmark Financial Group Inc. (formally GMAC); American International Group (AIG) (2010 revenue: $77 billion); Genworth Financial (2010 assets: $100 billion); Swiss Reinsurance Company (2012 assets: $620 billion); Discover Financial Services (2011 revenue: $3.4 billion).

Robert E. Diamond Jr.—Corporate and policy affiliations: CEO of Barclays (2011 revenue: $32 billion); International Advisory Board of the British-American Business Council.

David H. Komansky—Corporate affiliations: CEO of Merrill Lynch (division of Bank of America 2009) (2011 assets management: $2.3 trillion); Burt’s Bees, Inc. (owned by Clorox); WPP Group plc (2011 revenue: $15 billion).

James E. Rohr—Corporate affiliations: CEO of PNC (2011 revenue: $14 billion).

James Grosfeld—Corporate affiliations: CEO of Pulte Homes, Inc. (2010 revenue: $4.5 billion); Lexington Realty Trust (2011 assets: $1.2 billion).

Sir Deryck Maughan—Corporate and policy affiliations: Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (2011 assets: $8.6 billion); former CEO of Salomon Brothers from 1992 to 1997 a Chairman of the US-Japan Business Council; GlaxoSmithKline plc (2011 revenue: $41 billion); Thomson Reuters Corporation (2011 revenue: $13.8 billion).

Thomas K. Montag—Corporate affiliations: president of Global Banking & Markets for Bank of America (2011 revenue: $94 billion); Merrill Lynch (division of Bank of America, 2009; 2011 assets management: $2.3 trillion); Goldman Sachs (2011 revenue: $28.8 billion).

Class III Directors (terms expire in 2014):

Murry S. Gerber—Corporate affiliations: executive chairman of EQT (2010 revenue: $1.3 billion); Halliburton Company.

Linda Gosden Robinson—Corporate affiliations: former CEO of Robinson Lerer & Montgomery; Young & Rubicam Inc.; WPP Group plc. (2011 revenue: $15 billion); Revlon, Inc. (2011 revenue: $1.3 billion).

John S. Varley—Corporate affiliations: CEO of Barclays (2011 revenue: $32 billion); AstraZeneca PLC (2011 revenue: $33.5 billion).

BlackRock is one of the most concentrated power networks among the global 1 percent. The eightteen members of the board of directors are connected to a significant part of the world’s core financial assests. Their decisions can change empires, destroy currencies, and impoverish millions. Some of the top financial giants of the capitalist world are connected by interlocking boards of directors at BlackRock, including Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, PNC Bank, Barclays, Swiss Reinsurance Company, American International Group (AIG), UBS A.G., Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, J. P. Morgan Chase & Co., and Morgan Stanley.

A 2011 University of Zurich study, research completed by Stefania Vitali, James B. Glattfelder, Stefano Battiston at the Swiss Federal Institute, reports that a small group of companies—mainly banks—wields huge power over the global economy.[xxvi] Using data from Orbis 2007, a database listing thirty-seven million companies and investors, the Swiss researchers applied mathematical models—usually used to model natural systems—to the world economy. The study is the first to look at all 43,060 transnational corporations and the web of ownership between them. The research created a “map” of 1,318 companies at the heart of the global economy. The study found that 147 companies formed a “super entity” within this map, controlling some 40 percent of its wealth. The top twenty-five of the 147 super-connected companies includes:

1. Barclays PLC*

2. Capital Group Companies Inc.

3. FMR Corporation

4. AXA

5. State Street Corporation

6. J. P. Morgan Chase & Co.*

7. Legal & General Group PLC

8. Vanguard Group Inc.

9. UBS AG

10. Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.*

11. Wellington Management Co. LLP

12. Deutsche Bank AG

13. Franklin Resources Inc.

14. Credit Suisse Group*

15. Walton Enterprises LLC

16. Bank of New York Mellon Corp

17. Natixis

18. Goldman Sachs Group Inc.*

19. T Rowe Price Group Inc.

20. Legg Mason Inc.

21. Morgan Stanley*

22. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc.

23. Northern Trust Corporation

24. Société Générale

25. Bank of America Corporation*

* BlackRock Directors

Notably, for our purposes, BlackRock board members have direct connections to at least seven of the top twenty-five corporations that Vitali et al. identify as an international “super entity.” BlackRock’s board has direct links to seven of the twenty-five most interconnected corporations in the world. BlackRock’s eighteen board members control and influence tens of trillions of dollars of wealth in the world and represent a core of the super-connected financial sector corporations.

Below is a sample cross section of key figures and corporate assets among the global economic “super entity” identified by Vitali et al.

Other Key Figures and Corporate Connections within the Highest Levels of the  Global Economic “Super Entity”

Capital Group Companies—Privately held, based in Los Angeles, manages $1 trillion in assets.

FMR—One of the world’s largest mutual fund firms, managing $1.5 trillion in assets and serving more than twenty million individual and institutional clients; Edward C. (Ned) Johnson III, Chairman and CEO.

AXA—Manages $1.5 trillion in assets, serving 101 million clients; Henri de Castries, CEO AXA, and Director, Nestlé (Switzerland).

State Street Corporation—Operates from Boston with assest management at $1.9 trillion; directors include Joseph L. Hooley, CEO of State Street Corporation; Kennett F. Burnes, retired chairman and CEO of Cabot Corporation(2011 revenue: $3.1 billion).

JP Morgan/Chase (2011 assets: $2.3 trillion)—Board of directors: James A. Bell, retired executive VP of The Boeing Company; Stephen B. Burke, CEO of NBC Universal, and executive VP of Comcast Corporation; David M. Cote, CEO of Honeywell International, Inc.; Timothy P. Flynn, retired chairman of KPMG International; and Lee R. Raymond, retired CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation.

Vanguard (2011 assets under management: $1.6 trillion)—Directors: Emerson U. Fullwood, VP of Xerox Corporation; JoAnn Heffernan Heisen, VP of Johnson & Johnson, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Mark Loughridge, CFO of IBM, Global Financing; Alfred M. Rankin Jr., CEO of NACCO Industries, Inc., National Association of Manufacturers, Goodrich Corp, and chairman of Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

UBS AG (2012 assets: $620 billion)—Directors include: Michel Demaré, board member of Syngenta and the IMD Foundation (Lausanne); David Sidwell, former CFO of Morgan Stanley.

Merrill Lynch (Bank of America) (2011 assets management: $2.3 trillion)—Directors include: Brian T. Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America; Rosemary T. Berkery, general counsel for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch (formerly Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc), member of New York Stock Exchange’s Legal Advisory Committee, director at Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association; Mark A. Ellman, managing director of Credit Suisse, First Boston; Dick J. Barrett, cofounder of Ellman Stoddard Capital Partners, MetLife, Citi Group, UBS, Carlyle Group, ImpreMedia, Verizon Communications, Commonewealth Scientific and Industrial Research Org, Fluor Corp, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs Group.

The directors of these super-connected companies represent a small portion of the global 1 percent. Most people with assets in excess of $588,000 are not major players in international finance. At best, they hire asset management firms to produce a return on their capital. Often their net worth is tied up in nonfinancial assets such a real estate and businesses.

Analysis: TCC and Global Power

So how does the transnational corporate class (TCC) maintain wealth concentration and power in the world? The wealthiest 1 percent of the world’s population represents approximately forty million adults. These forty million people are the richest segment of the first tier populations in the core countries and intermittently in other regions. Most of this 1 percent have professional jobs with security and tenure working for or associated with established institutions. Approximately ten million of these individuals have assets in excess of one million dollars, and approximately 100,000 have financials assets worth over thirty million dollars. Immediately below the 1 percent in the first tier are working people with regular employment in major corporations, government, self-owned businesses, and various institutions of the world. This first tier constitutes about 30–40 percent of the employed in the core developed countries, and some 30 percent in the second tier economies and down to 20 percent in the periphery economies (sometimes referred to as the 3rd world). The second tier of global workers represents growing armies of casual labor: the global factory workers, street workers, and day laborers intermittently employed with increasingly less support from government and social welfare organizations. These workers, mostly concentrated in the megacities, constitute some 30–40 percent of the workers in the core industrialized economies and some 20 percent in the second tier and peripheral economies. This leaves a third tier of destitute people worldwide ranging from 30 percent of adults in the core and secondary economies to fully 50 percent of the people in peripherial countries who have extremely limited income opportunities and struggle to survive on a few dollars a day. These are the 2.5 billion people who live on less than two dollars a day, die by the tens of thousands every day from malnutrition and easily curible illnesses, and who have probably never even heard a dial tone.[xxvii]

As seen in our extractor sector and investment sector samples, corporate elites are interconnected through direct board connections with some seventy major multinational corporations, policy groups, media organizations, and other academic or nonprofit institutions. The investment sector sample shows much more powerful financial links than the extractor sample; nonetheless, both represent vast networks of resources concentrated within each company’s board of directors. The short sample of directors and resources from eight other of the superconnected companies replicates this pattern of multiple board corporate connections, policy groups, media and government, controlling vast global resources. These interlock relationships recur across the top interconnected companies among the transnational corporate class, resulting in a highly concentrated and powerful network of individuals who share a common interest in preserving their elite domination.

Sociological research shows that interlocking directorates have the potential to faciliate political cohesion. A sense of a collective “we” emerges within such power networks, whereby members think and act in unison, not just for themselves and their individual firms, but for a larger sense of purpose—the good of the order, so to speak.[xxviii]

Transnational corporate boards meet on a regular basis to encourage the maximunization of profit and the long-term viability of their firm’s business plans. If they arrange for payments to government officials, conduct activities that undermine labor organizations, seek to manipulate the price of commodies (e.g. gold), or engage in insider trading in some capacity, they are in fact forming conspiratorial alliances inside those boards of directors. Our sample of thirty directors inside two connected companies have influence with some of the most powerful policy groups in the world, including British–American Business Council, US–Japan Business Council, Business Roundtable, Business Council, and the Kissinger Institute. They influence some ten trillion dollars in monetery resouces and control the working lives of many hundreds of thousands of people. All in all, they are a power elite unto themselves, operating in a world of power elite networks as the de facto ruling class of the capitalist world.

Moreover, this 1 percent global elite dominates and controls public relations firms and the corporate media. Global corporate media protect the interests of the 1 percent by serving as a propaganda machine for the superclass. The corporate media provide entertainment for the masses and distorts the realities of inequality. Corporate news is managed by the 1 percent to maintain illusions of hope and to divert blame from the powerful for hard times.[xxix]

Four of the thirty directors in our two-firm sample are directly connected with public relations and media. Thomas H. O’Brien and Ivan G. Seidenberg are both on the board of Verizon Communications, where Seidenberg serves as chairman. Verizon reported over $110 billion in operating revenues in 2011.[xxx] David H. Komansky and Linda Gosden Robinson are on the board of WPP Group, which describes itself as the world leader in marketing communications services, grossing over $65 billion in 2011. WPP is a conglomerate of many of the world’s leading PR and marketing firms, in fields that include advertising, media investment management, consumer insight, branding and identity, health care communications, and direct digital promotion and relationship marketing.[xxxi]

Even deeper inside the 1 percent of wealthy elites is what David Rothkopf calls the superclass. David Rothkopf, former managing director of Kissinger Associates and deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade policies, published his book Superclass: the Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, in 2008.[xxxii] According to Rothkopf, the superclass constitutes approximately 0.0001 percent of the world’s population, comprised of 6,000 to 7,000 people—some say 6,660. They are the Davos-attending, Gulfstream/private jet–flying, money-incrusted, megacorporation-interlocked, policy-building elites of the world, people at the absolute peak of the global power pyramid. They are 94 percent male, predominantly white, and mostly from North America and Europe. These are the people setting the agendas at the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, G-8, G-20, NATO, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. They are from the highest levels of finance capital, transnational corporations, the government, the military, the academy, nongovernmental organizations, spiritual leaders, and other shadow elites. Shadow elites include, for instance,  the deep politics of national security organizations in connection with international drug cartels, who extract 8,000 tons of opium from US war zones annually, then launder $500 billion through transnational banks, half of which are US-based.[xxxiii]

Rothkoft’s understanding of the superclass is one based on influence and power. Although there are over 1,000 billionaires in the world, not all are necessarily part of the superclass in terms of influencing global policies. Yet these 1,000 billionaires have twice as much wealth as the 2.5 billion least wealthy people, and they are fully aware of the vast inequalities in the world. The billionaires and the global 1 percent are similar to colonial plantation owners. They know they are a small minority with vast resources and power, yet they must continually worry about the unruly exploited masses rising in rebellion. As a result of these class insecurities, the superclass works hard to protect this structure of concentrated wealth. Protection of capital is the prime reason that NATO countries now account for 85 percent of the world’s defense spending, with the US spending more on military than the rest of the world combined.[xxxiv] Fears of  inequality rebellions and other forms of unrest motivate NATO’s global agenda in the war on terror.[xxxv] The Chicago 2012 NATO Summit Declaration reads:

As Alliance leaders, we are determined to ensure that NATO retains and develops the capabilities necessary to perform its essential core tasks collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security—and thereby to play an essential role promoting security in the world. We must meet this responsibility while dealing with an acute financial crisis and responding to evolving geo-strategic challenges. NATO allows us to achieve greater security than any one Ally could attain acting alone.

We confirm the continued importance of a strong transatlantic link and Alliance solidarity as well as the significance of sharing responsibilities, roles, and risks to meet the challenges North-American and European Allies face together . . . we have confidently set ourselves the goal of NATO Forces 2020: modern, tightly connected forces equipped, trained, exercised and commanded so that they can operate together and with partners in any (emphaisis added) environment.[xxxvi]

NATO is quickly emerging as the police force for the transnational corporate class. As the TCC more fully emerged in the 1980s, coinciding with the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), NATO began broader operations. NATO first ventured into the Balkans, where it remains, and then moved into Afghanistan. NATO started a training mission in Iraq in 2005, has recently conducted operations in Libya, and, as of July 2012, is considering military action in Syria.

It has become clear that the superclass uses NATO for its global security. This is part of an expanding strategy of US military domination around the world, wherby the US/NATO military-industrial-media empire operates in service to the transnational corporate class for the protection of international capital anywhere in the world.[xxxvii]

Sociologists William Robinson and Jerry Harris anticipated this situation in 2000, when they described “a shift from the social welfare state to the social control (police) state replete with the dramatic expansion of public and private security forces, the mass incarceration of the excluded populations (disproportionately minorities), new forms of social apartheid . . . and anti-immigrant legislation.”[xxxviii] Robinson and Harris’s theory accurately predicts the agenda of today’s global superclass, including

—President Obama’s continuation of the police state agendas of his executive predecessors, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush;

—the long-range global dominance agenda of the superclass, which uses US/NATO military forces to discourage resisting states and maintain internal police repression, in service of the capitalist system’s orderly maintenance;

—and the continued consolidation of capital around the world without interference from governments or egalitarian social movements.[xxxix]

Furthermore, this agenda leads to the further pauperization of the poorest half of the world’s population, and an unrelenting downward spiral of wages for everyone in the second tier, and even some within the first tier.[xl] It is a world facing economic crisis, where the neoliberal solution is to spend less on human needs and more on security.[xli] It is a world of financial institutions run amok, where the answer to bankruptcy is to print more money through quantitative easing with trillions of new inflation-producing dollars. It is a world of permanent war, whereby spending for destruction requires even more spending to rebuild, a cycle that profits the TCC and its global networks of economic power. It is a world of drone killings, extrajudicial assassinations, and death and destruction, at home and abroad.

As Andrew Kollin states in State Power and Democracy, “There is an Orwellian dimension to the Administration’s (Bush and later Obama) perspective, it chose to disregard the law, instead creating decrees to legitimate illegal actions, giving itself permision to act without any semblances of power sharing as required by the Constitution or international law.”[xlii]

And in Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Dennis Loo writes, “The bottom line, the fundamential division of our society, is between, on the one hand, those whose interests rest on the dominance and the drive for monopolizing the society and planet’s resources and, on the other hand, those whose interests lie in the husbanding of thoses resources for the good of the whole rather than the part.”[xliii]

The Occupy movement uses the 1 percent vs. 99 percent mantra as a master concept in its demonstrations, disruptions, and challenges to the practices of the transnational corporate class, within which the global superclass is a key element in the implementation of a superelite agenda for permanent war and total social control. Occupy is exactly what the superclass fears the most—a global democratic movement that exposes the TCC agenda and the continuing theater of government elections, wherein the actors may change but the marquee remains the same. The more that Occupy refuses to cooperate with the TCC agenda and mobilizes activists, the more likely the whole TCC system of dominance will fall to its knees under the people power of democractic movements.

Peter Phillips is a professor of sociology at Sonoma State University and president of the Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored.

Kimberly Soeiro is a sociology student at Sonoma State University, library researcher, and activist.

Special thanks to Mickey Huff, director of Project Censored, and Andy Roth, associate director of Project Censored, for editing and for important suggestons for this article.

Notes

[i] For a more scholarly background on this subject, the following are required reading: C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, New York, Oxford University Press, 1956; G. Willian Domhoff, Who Rules America 6th edition, Boston, McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2009; William Carroll, The Making of a Transnational Capitalist Class, Zed Books, 2010.

[ii] Leslie Sklair, The Transnational Capitalist Class, Oxford, UK, Blackwell, 2001.

, 2000, http://www.theglobalsite.ac.uk/press/012sklair.htm

Tax Havens: Super-rich hiding at least $21 trillion, BBC News, July 22, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18944097

http://www.zerohedge.com/article/detailed-look-global-wealth-distribution.

“World Bank Sees Progress Against Extreme Poverty, But Flags Vulnerabilities,” World Bank, Press Release No. 2012/297/Dec., February 29, 2012, http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:23130032~pagePK:64257043~piPK:437376~theSitePK:4607,00.html.

http://www.starvation.net/.

http://www.grain.org/article/entries/716-corporations-are-still-making-a-killing-from-hunger.

[ix] On the extraction of surplus-value from labor, see Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 3 (New York and London: Penguin, 1991[1894]).

[x] See, e.g., Paul Burkett, Marx and Nature: A Red and Green Perspective (New York: St. Martins, 1999), Chapter 6; for additional information on the Fair Share of the Common Heritage see, http://www.fairsharecommonheritage.org/.

[xi] Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, Notice of Annual Meeting of Stockholders, June 15, 2011, document April 28, 2001, www.ecocumentview.com/FCX_MTG.

“Freeport Indonesia Miners, Tribesmen Defend Road Blockades,” Reuters Africa, November 4, 2011, http://af.reuters.com/article/metalsNews/idAFL4E7M410020111104.

[xiii] “Police Admit to Receiving Freeport ‘Lunch Money,’” Frank Arnaz, Jakarta Globe, October 28, 2011,

http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/news/police-admit-to-receiving-freeport-lunch-money/474747.

“Indonesia must investigate mine strike protest killing,” Amnesty International News, October 10, 2011, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/indonesia-must-investigate-mine-strike-protest-killing-2011-10-10; West Papua Report, November 2011, http://www.etan.org/issues/wpapua/2011/1111wpap.htm.

, | November 7, 2011, http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/business/striking-freeport-employees-lower-wage-increase-demands/476800.

[xvi] Alex Emery, “Freeport Cerro Verde, Workers Sign Three-Year Labor Accord,” Bloomberg News,

December 22, 2011, http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-22/freeport-cerro-verde-peru-workers-sign-three-year-labor-accord.

, December 14, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203893404577098222935896112.html.

March 1, 2012, http://westpapuamedia.info/tag/freeport-McMoRan/.

(Thailand), November 30, 2011, http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/Reasons-to-go-to-Darwin-30170893.html

[xxi] Karishma Vaswani, “US Firm Freeport Struggles to Escape Its Past in Papua,” BBC News, Jakarta,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-14417718.

Phoenix Arizona, October 28, 2011, Youtube report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvJxy2GvOHE.

BlackRock About Us: http://www2.blackrock.com/global/home/AboutUs/index.htm.

[xxiv] Data for this section is drawn for StreetInsider.com.

[xxv] Data for the corporations listed in this section comes fron the annual report at each corporation’s website. Biography information was gained from the FAX annual report to investors and online biographies for individuals wihen available.

, October 26, 2011, http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0025995.

[xxvii] Willian Robinson and Jerry Harris, “Towards a Global Ruling Class? Globalization and the Transnational Capitalist Class, Science and Society 64, no. 1 (Spring 2000).

[xxviii] Val Burris, “Interlocking Directorates and Political Cohesion Among Corporate Elites,” American Journal of Sociology 3, no. 1 (July 2005).

[xxix] Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff, “Truth Emergency: Inside the Military-Industrial Media Empire,” Censored 2010 (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2009), 197–220.

Verizon Financials 2012, http://www22.verizon.com/investor/ Hoovers describes Verizon as, “the #2 US telecom services provider overall after AT&T, but it holds the top spot in wireless services ahead of rival AT&T Mobility.” Hoovers Inc. http://www.hoovers.com/company/Verizon_Communications_Inc/rfrski-1.html.

WPP: http://www.wpp.com/wpp/about/wppataglance/.

[xxxii] David Rothkopf, SuperClass: the Global Power Elite and the World They are Making (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008).

[xxxiii] Peter Dale Scott, American War Machine, Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010). See also Censored Story #22, “Wachovia Bank Laundered Money for Latin American Drug Cartels,” in Chapter 1.

[xxxiv] David Rothkopf, Superclass, Public Address: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 9, 2008.

NATO: Defence Against Terrorism Programme, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/SID-EBFFE857-6607109D/natolive/topics_50313.htm?selectedLocale=en.

, May 20, 2012, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/SID-1CE3D0B6-393C986D/natolive/official_texts_87594.htm.

For an expanded analysis of the history of US “global dominance,” see Peter Phillips, Bridget Thornton and Celeste Vogler, “The Global Dominance Group: 9/11 Pre-Warnings & Election Irregularities in Context,” May 2, 2010, http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/the-global-dominance-group/ and Peter Phillips, Bridget Thornton, and Lew Brown, “The Global Dominance Group and U.S. Corporate Media,” Censored 2007 (New York: Seven Stories, 2006), 307–333.

[xxxviii] Willian Robinson and Jerry Harris, “Towards a Global Ruling Class? Globalization and the Transnational Capitalist Class, Science and Society 64, no. 1 (Spring 2000).

[xxxix] John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (New York: Verso, 2003).

[xl] Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, eds., The Global Economic Crisis (Montréal: Global Research Publishers, 2010).

[xli] Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead Press, 2011).

[xlii] Andrew Kolin, State Power and Democracy (New York: Palgrave MacMillan,c2011), 141.

[xliii] Loo, Globalization, op cit., 357.

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The Shocking, Graphic Data That Shows Exactly What Motivates the Occupy Movement

Note by HealthWrights staff

There are a lot of things wrong with the “trickle down” theory of economics. It is intrinsically unfair. It creates two classes of people who fear and hate each other, which is profoundly unhealthy. It advocates infinite growth in a finite ecology, and thus creates an unsustainable drain on our natural resources. And last, but not least, as is shown by the statistics given in this article, the wealth doesn't even trickle down. The data is in. Trickle down was tried and it was a huge failure.

The Maine Article

Alternet

What are the Occupy Wall Street protesters angry about? The same things we’re all angry about. The only difference is the protestors turned their anger into public action. Occupy Wall Street lit the embers and the sparks are flying. Whether it turns into a genuine populist prairie fire depends on all of us.

Now is not the time for wonky policy solutions, as the media meatheads are calling for. Rather, it’s time to air our grievances as loudly as possible, which is precisely what Wall Street and its minions fear the most. Here’s a brief list of why we should be angry and the charts to back it up.

1. The American Dream is imploding...

graph_1_trickle

The productivity/wage chart says it all. From 1947 until the mid-1970s real wages and productivity (economic output per worker hour) danced together. Both climbed year after year as did our real standard of living. If you’re old enough, you will remember seeing your parents doing just a bit better each year, year after year.  Then, our nation embarked on a grand economic experiment. Taxes were cut especially on the super-rich. Finance was deregulated and unions were crushed. Lo and behold, the two lines broke apart. Productivity continued to climb, but wages stalled and declined. So where did all that productivity money go? To the rich and to the super-rich, especially to those in finance.

2. Our wealth is gushing to the top 1 percent...

graph_2_trickle

Actually the top tenth of one percent. Because of financial deregulation and tax cuts for the rich, the income gap is soaring. Here’s one of my favorite indicators that we compiled for The Looting of America. In 1970 the top 100 CEOs earned $45 for every $1 earned by the average worker. By 2006, the ratio climbed to an obscene 1,723 to one. (Not a misprint!)

3. Family income is declining while the top earners flourish...

graph_3_trickle

As women entered the workforce, family income made up for some of the wage stagnation. But now even family incomes are in trouble. Meanwhile, the incomes of the richest families continue to rise.

4. The super-rich are paying lower and lower tax rates...

graph_4_trickle

To add financial insult to injury, the richest of the rich pay less and less each year as a percentage of their monstrous incomes. The top 400 taxpayers during the 1950s faced a 90 percent federal tax rate. By 1995 their effective tax rate – what they really paid after all deductions as a percent of all their income – fell to 30 percent. Now it’s barely 16 percent.

5. Too much money in the hands of the few combined with financial deregulation crashed our economy...

graph_5_trickle

When the rich become astronomically rich, they gamble with their excess money. And when Wall Street is deregulated, it creates financial casinos for the wealthy.  When those casinos inevitably crash, we pay to cover the losses. The 2008 financial crash caused eight million American workers to lose their jobs in a matter of months due to no fault of their own. The last time we had so much money in the hands of so few was 1929!

6.  We’re turning into a billionaire bailout society...

graph_6_trickle

We bailed out the big Wall Street banks and protected the billionaires from ruin. Now we are being asked to make good on the debts they caused, while the super-rich get even richer, some making more than $2 million an HOUR! It would take over 47 years for the average family to make as much as the top 10 hedge fund managers make in one hour.

7. The super-rich still control politics...

graph_7_trickle

Both political parties are occupied by Wall Street. For nearly an entire generation they have competed with each other to gain campaign contributions in exchange for tax breaks and regulatory loopholes for the richest of the rich. Today’s so-called financial reforms are porous, while the money continues to flow to both parties.

8. Unemployment is a catastrophe...

graph_8_trickle

The reckless gambling on Wall Street tore a hole in the economy sending millions to the unemployment lines. Wall Street caused the enormous spike in unemployment and no one else – not the government, not home buyers, not China.

9. Our prospects for the future are growing dim...

graph_9_trickle

It’s bad enough that unemployment is sky-high. But it’s even worse when you can’t find a job for months, even years. Right now the number of unemployed for 26 weeks or more is at record levels. Many of the long-term unemployed will never work again.

10. The big banks are getting even bigger...

graph_10_trickle

Too big to fail is alive and well. Our nation’s biggest banks are growing larger and larger with no end in sight. Despite what politicians say, the taxpayer will bail out the big banks again. And the big banks know it.

Stand up and be counted!

Americans are a patient people. Mass movements do not form very often. Most of us hoped that after the crash, the big banks would be broken up, the casinos would be shut down and the gamblers would be punished. At the very least, we expected that the elite financiers would pay for the damage they created – the jobs destroyed, the neighborhoods wrecked, the services cut. It didn’t happen. Finally something clicked. A small number of kids stood up and got noticed. And now it’s growing. We see an outlet for our frustration, our justifiable anger, our disappointment in leaders who sold out.

We don’t know where it’s all going. But this is the time to stand up and be counted – literally. The currency of a populist revolt is numbers in the street. Let’s show our anger where it will be seen. And let us take heart from the words of Franklin Roosevelt who during his first inaugural address in 1933, led the first occupation of Wall Street:

Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money.
Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored conditions. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers.
They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
The money changers have fled their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths.
The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money, it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow-men.
Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be values only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit, and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.

Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute and Public Health Institute in New York, and author of The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It (Chelsea Green, 2009).

© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/152811/

The “Global Crises of Capitalism”; Whose Crises, Who Profits?

Introduction by POH staff:

At the present time the world is largely ruled by an international network of very wealthy bankers and multinational corporations. This ruling elite does its planning in an interlocking network of groups and think tanks such as the Bilderberg Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, The Trilateral Commission, and the Skull and Bones Fraternity -- groups that share an overlapping membership. Their policies are implemented by many organizations and governments, but perhaps most notably the United States armed forces, the Federal Reserve, Wall Street, The World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. These people and organizations are not, as some slightly fuzzy headed theorizers speculate, trying to implement a world socialist government -- motivated by questionable "collectivist" ideals. On the contrary, people in the international elite want everything privatized and are motivated by simple greed. They want a merger of government and business, that is ruled by the very wealthy. In other words we are increasingly being ruled by a fascist system. This picture of reality is not a "conspiracy theory" based on some mixture of fact and fantasy. It is the obvious state of affairs, which can be confirmed by data that is easily available to anyone.

 

bloody_us_empireThe Bloody Global EmpireThis group is widening the gap between the rich and the poor, wrecking the world economy, pursuing a policy of endless war, risking a nuclear war, increasing the probability of a variety of global pandemics with its brutal and dangerous methods of growing animals for meat, destroying our agriculture through its reliance on mono-cultures and genetically engineered crops, and bringing us ever closer to ecological collapse through its nuclear and fossil fuel based energy policies. It has not encountered more opposition than it has within the US because it is skillful in muddling the minds of the majority of people with propaganda and mindless diversions. The global elite stands in the way of any real solutions to the critical problems that we collectively face. It is not reformable. It makes no difference who gets elected to be president of the United States. All the contenders are in the pocket of the Global Elite. Our economy works only for the very wealthy, and no minor reforms are going to change this. The system must be replaced by one that will be responsive to the needs of all people and of the earth itself. That is what the following article is about.


The main article:

 

Global Research, February 20, 2012
- 2012-02-19

Introduction

From the Financial Times to the far left, tons of ink has been spilt writing about some variant of the “Crises of Global Capitalism”. While writers differ in the causes, consequences and cures, according to their ideological lights, there is a common agreement that “the crises” threatens to end the capitalist system as we know it.

There is no doubt that, between 2008-2009, the capitalist system in Europe and the United States suffered a severe shock that shook the foundations of its financial system and threatened to bankrupt its ‘leading sectors’.

However, I will argue the ‘crises of capitalism’ was turned into a ‘crises of labor’. Finance capital, the principle detonator of the crash and crises, recovered, the capitalist class as a whole was strengthened, and most important of all, it utilized the political, social, ideological conditions created as a result of “the crises” to further consolidate their dominance and exploitation over the rest of society.

In other words, the ‘crises of capital’ has been converted into a strategic advantage for furthering the most fundamental interests of capital: the enlargement of profits, the consolidation of capitalist rule, the greater concentration of ownership, the deepening of inequalities between capital and labor and the creation of huge reserves of labor to further augment their profits.

Furthermore, the notion of a homogeneous global crisis of capitalism overlooks profound differences in performance and conditions, between countries, classes, and age cohorts.

The Global Crises Thesis:The Economic and Social Argument

The advocates of global crises argue that beginning in 2007 and continuing to the present, the world capitalist system has collapsed and recovery is a mirage. They cite stagnation and continuing recession in North America and the Eurozone. They offer GDP data hovering between negative to zero growth. Their argument is backed by data citing double digit unemployment in both regions. They frequently correct the official data which understates the percentage unemployed by excluding part-time, long-term unemployed workers and others. The ‘crises’ argument is strengthened by citing the millions of homeowners who have been evicted by the banks, the sharp increase in poverty and destitution accompanying job loses, wage reductions and the elimination or reduction of social services. “”Crises” is also associated with the massive increase in bankruptcies of mostly small and medium size businesses and regional banks.

The Global Crises: The Loss of Legitimacy

Critics, especially in the financial press, write of a “legitimacy crises of capitalism” citing polls showing substantial majorities questioning the in justice s of the capitalist system, the vast and growing inequalities and the rigged rules by which banks exploit their size (“too big to fail”) to raid the Treasury at the expense of social programs.

In summary the advocates of the thesis of a “Global Crises of Capitalism” make a strong case, demonstrating the profound and pervasive destructive effects of the capitalist system on the lives of the great majority of humanity.

The problem is that a ‘crises of humanity’ (more specifically of salary ad wage workers) is not the same as a crisis of the capitalist system. In fact as we shall argue below growing social adversity, declining income and employment has been a major factor facilitating the rapid and massive recovery of the profit margins of most large scale corporations.

Moreover, the thesis of a‘global’ crises of capitalism amalgamates disparate economies, countries, classes and age cohorts with sharply divergent performances at different historical moments.

Global Crises or Uneven and Unequal Development?

It is utterly foolish to argue for a “global crises” when several of the major economies in the world economy did not suffer a major downturn and others recovered and expanded rapidly. China and India did not suffer even a recession. Even during the worst years of the Euro-US decline,the asian giants grew on average about 8%. Latin America’s economies especially the major agro-mineral export countries (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, ) with diversified markets, especially in Asia, paused briefly (in 2009) before assuming moderate to rapid growth (between 3% to 7%) from 2010-2012.

By aggregating economic data from the Euro-zone as a whole the advocates of global crises, overlooked the enormous disparities in performance within the zone. While Southern Europe wallows in a deep sustained depression,by any measure, from 2008 to the foreseeable future, German exports, in 2011, set a record of a trillion euros; its trade surplus reached 158 billion euros, after a155 billion euro surpluses in 2010. (BBC News, Feb. 8 2012).

While aggregate Eurozone unemployment reaches 10.4%, the internal differences defy any notion of a “general crises”. Unemployment in Holland is 4.9%, Austria 4.1% and Germany 5.5% with employer claims of widespread skilled labor shortages in key growth sectors. On the other hand in exploited southern Europe unemployment runs to depression levels, Greece 21%, Spain 22.9%, Ireland 14.5%, and Portugal 13.6% (FT 1/19/12, p.7). In other words, “the crises” does not adversely affect some economies, that in fact profit from their market dominance and techno-financial strength over dependent, debtor and backward economies. To speak of a ‘global crises’ obscures the fundamental dominant and exploitative relations that facilitate ‘recovery’ and growth of the elite economies over and against their competitors and client states. In addition global crises theorists wrongly amalgamated crises ridden, financial-speculative economies (US, England ) with dynamic productive export economies ( Germany , China ).

The second problem with the thesis of a “global crises” is that it overlooks profound internal differences between age cohorts. In several European countries youth unemployment (16-25) runs between 30 to 50% (Spain 48.7%, Greece 47.2%, Slovakia 35.6%, Italy 31%, Portugal 30.8% and Ireland 29%) while in Germany, Austria and Holland youth unemployment runs to Germany 7.8%, Austria 8.2% and Netherlands 8.6% (Financial Times (FT) 2/1/12, p2). These differences underlie the reason why there is not a ‘global youth movement’ of “indignant” and “occupiers” .Five-fold differences between unemployed youth is not conducive to ‘international’ solidarity. The concentration of high youth unemployment figures explains the uneven development of mass- street protests especially centered in Southern Europe . It also explains why the northern Euro-American “anti-globalization” movement is largely a lifeless forum which attracts academic pontification on the “global capitalist crises” and the impotence of the “Social Forums” are unable to attract millions of unemployed youth from Southern Europe .They are more attracted to direct action. Globalist theorists overlook the specific way in which the mass of unemployed young workers are exploited in their dependent debt ridden countries. They ignore the specific way they are ruled and repressed by center-left and rightist capitalist parties. The contrast is most evident in the winter of 2012. Greek workers are pressured to accept a 20% cut in minimum wages while in Germany workers are demanding a 6% increase.

If the ‘crises’ of capitalism is manifested in specific regions, so too does it affect different age/racial sectors of the wage and salaries classes. The unemployment rates of youth to older workers varies enormously: in Italy it is 3.5/1, Greece 2.5/1, Portugal 2.3/1, Spain 2.1/1 and Belgium 2.9/1. In Germany it is 1.5/1 (FT 2/1/12). In other words because of the higher levels of unemployment among youth they have a greater propensity for direct action ‘against the system’; while older workers with higher levels of employment (and unemployment benefits) have shown a greater propensity to rely on the ballot box and engage in limited strikes over job and pay related issues. The vast concentration of unemployed among young workers means they form the ‘available core’ for sustained action; but it also means that they can only achieve limited unity of action with the older working class experiencing single digit unemployment.

However, it is also true that the great mass of unemployment youth provides a formidable weapon, in the hands of employers to threaten to replace employed older workers. Today, capitalists constantly resort to using the unemployed to lower wages and benefits and to intensify exploitation(dubbed to “increase productivity”) to increase profit margins. Far from being simply an indicater of ‘capitalist crises’, high levels of unemployment have served along with other factors’ to increase the rate of profit, accumulate income, widen income inequalities which augments the consumption of luxury goods for the capitalist class:the sales of luxury cars and watches is booming.

Class Crises: The Counter-Thesis

Contrary to the “global capitalist crises” theorists, a substantial amount of data has surfaced which refutes its assumptions. A recent study reports “US corporate profits are higher as a share of gross domestic product than at any time since 1950” (FT 1/30/12). US companies cash balances have never been greater, thanks to intensified exploitation of workers, and a multi-tiered wage systems in which new hires work for a fraction of what older workers receive (thanks to agreements signed by ‘door mat’ labor bosses).

The “crises of capitalism” ideologues have ignored the financial reports of the major US corporations.According to General Motors 2011 report to its stockholders,they celebrated the greatest profit ever,turning a profit of $7.6 billion, surpassing the previous record of $6.7 billion in 1997.A large part of these profits results from the freezing of its underfunded US pension funds and extracting greater productivity from fewer workers-in other words intensified exploitation-and cutting hourly wages of new hires by half.(Earthlink News 2/16/12)

Moreover the increased importance of imperialist exploitation is evident as the share of US corporate profits extracted overseas keeps rising at the expense of employee income growth.In 2011, the US economy grew by 1.7%,but median wages fell by 2.7%.Accordingto the financial press”the profit margens of the S and P 500 leapt from

6% to 9% of the GDP in the past three years,a share last achieved three generations ago.At roughly a third, the foreign share of these profits has more than doubled since 2000”(FT 2/13/12 P9.If this is a “capitalist crises”then who needs a capitalist boom ?

Surveys of top corporations reveal that US companies are holding 1.73 trillion in cash, “the fruits of record high profit margins” (FT 1/30/12 p.6). These record profit margins result from mass firings which have led to intensifying exploitation of the remaining workers. Also negligible federal interest rates and easy access to credit allow capitalists to exploit vast differentials between borrowing and lending and investing. Lower taxes and cuts in social programs result in a growing cash pile for corporations. Within the corporate structure, income goes to the top where senior executives pay themselves huge bonuses. Among the leading S and P 500 corporations the proportion of income that goes to dividends for stockholders is the lowest since 1900 (FT 1/30/12, p.6).

A real capitalist crisis would adversely affect profit margins, gross earnings and the accumulation of “cash piles”. Rising profits are being horded because as capitalists profit from intense exploitation , mass consumption stagnates.

Crises theorists confuse what is clearly the degrading of labor, the savaging of living and working conditions and even the stagnation of the economy, with a ‘crises’ of capital: when the capitalist class increases its profit margins, hoards trillions, it is not in crises. The key point is that the ‘crises of labor’ is a major stimulus for the recovery of capitalist profits. We cannot generalize from one to the other. No doubt there was a moment of capitalist crises (2008-2009) but thanks to the capitalist state’s unprecedented massive transfer of wealth from the public treasury to the capitalist class – Wall Street banks in the first instance – the corporate sector recovered, while the workers and the rest of the economy remained in crises, went bankrupt and out of work.

From Crises to Recovery of Profits: 2008/9 to 2012

The key to the ‘recovery’ of corporate profits had little to do with the business cycle and all to do with Wall Street’s large scale takeover and pillage of the US Treasury. Between 2009-2012 hundreds of former Wall Street executives, managers and investment advisers seized all the major decision-making positions in the Treasury Department and channeled trillions of dollars into leading financial and corporate coffers. They intervened financially troubled corporations,like General Motors, imposing major wage cuts and dismissals of thousands of workers.

Wall Streeters in Treasury elaborated the doctrine of “Too Big to Fail” to justify the massive transfer of wealth. The entire speculative edifice built in part by a 234 fold rise in foreign exchange trading volume between 1977-2010 was restored (FT 1/10/12, p.7). The new doctrine argued that the state’s first and principle priority is to return the financial system to profitability at any and all cost to society, citizens, taxpayers and workers. “Too Big to Fail” is a complete repudiation of the most basic principle of the “free market” capitalist system: the idea that those capitalists who lose bear the consequences; that each investor or CEO, is responsible for their action. Financial capitalists no longer needed to justify their activity in terms of any contribution to the growth of the economy or “social utility”. According to the current rulers Wall Street must be saved because it is Wall Street, even if the rest of the economy and people sink (FT 1/20/12, p.11). State bailouts and financing are complemented by hundreds of billions in tax concessions, leading to unprecedented fiscal deficits and the growth of massive social inequalities. The pay of CEO’s as a multiple of the average worker went from 24 to 1 in 1965 to 325 in 2010 (FT 1/9/12, p.5).

The ruling class flaunts their wealth and power aided and abetted by the White House and Treasury. In the face of popular hostility to Wall Street pillage of Treasury, Obama went through the sham of asking Treasury to impose a cap on the multi-million dollar bonuses that the CEO’s running bailed out banks awarded themselves. Wall Streeters in Treasury refused to enforce the executive order, the CEO’s got billions in bonuses in 2011 . President Obama went along, thinking he conned the US public with his phony gesture,while he reaped millions in campaign funds from Wall Street!

The reason Treasury has been taken over by Wall Street is that in the 1990’s and 2000’s, banks became a leading force in Western economies. Their share of the GDP rose sharply (from 2% in the 1950’s to 8% in 2010” (FT 1/10/12, p.7).

Today it is “normal operating procedure” for President’s to appoint Wall Streeter’s to all key economic positions; and it is ‘normal’ for these same officials to pursue policies that maximize Wall Street profits and eliminate any risk of failure no matter how risky and corrupt their practioners.

The Revolving Door: From Wall Street to Treasury and Return

Effectively the relation between Wall Street and Treasury has become a “revolving door”: from Wall Street to the Treasury Department to Wall Street. Private bankers take appointments in Treasury (or are recruited) to ensure that all resources and policies Wall Street needs are granted with maximum effort, with the least hindrance from citizens, workers or taxpayers. Wall Streeters in Treasury give highest priority to Wall Street survival, recovery and expansion of profits. They block any regulations or restrictions on bonuses or a repeat of past swindles.

Wall Streeters ‘make a reputation’ in Treasury and then return to the private sector in higher positions, as senior advisers and partners. A Treasury appointment is a ladder up the Wall Street hierarchy. Treasury is a filling station to the Wall Street Limousine: ex Wall Streeters fill up the tank, check the oil and then jump in the front seat and zoom to a lucrative job and let the filling station (public) pay the bill.

Approximately 774 officials (and counting) departed from Treasury between January 2009 and August 2011 (FT 2/6/12, p. 7). All provided lucrative “services” to their future Wall Street bosses finding it a great way to re-enter private finance at a higher more lucrative position.

A report in the Financial Times Feb. 6, 2012 (p. 7) entitled appropriately Manhattan Transfer” provides typical illustrations of the Treasury-Wall Street “revolving door”.

Ron Bloom went from a junior banker at Lazard to Treasury, helping to engineer the trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street and returned to Lazard as a senior adviser. Jake Siewert went from Wall Street to becoming a top aide to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and then graduated to Goldman Sachs, having served to undercut any cap on Wall Street bonuses.

Michael Mundaca, the most senior tax official in the Obama regime came from the Street and then went on to a highly lucrative post in Ernst and Young a corporate accounting firm, having help write down corporate taxes during his stint in “public office”.

Eric Solomon, a senior tax official in the infamous corporate tax free Bush Administration made the same switch. Jeffrey Goldstein who Obama put in charge of financial regulation and succeeded in undercutting popular demands, returned to his previous employer Hellman and Friedman with the appropriate promotion for services rendered.

Stuart Levey who ran AIPAC sanctions against Iran policies out if Treasury’s so-called “anti- terrorist agency” was hired as general counsel by HSBC to defend it from investigations for money laundering (FT 2/6/12, p. 7). In this case Levey moved from promoting Israels ’ war aims to defending an international bank accused of laundering billions in Mexican cartel money. Levey, by the way spent so much time pursuing Israels ’ Iran agenda that he totally ignored the Mexican drug cartels’ billion dollar money laundering cross-border operations for the better part of a decade.

Lew Alexander a senior advisor to Geithner in designing the trillion dollar bail out is now a senior official in Nomura, the Japanese bank. Lee Sachs went from Treasury to Bank Alliance, (his own “lending platform”). James Millstein went from Lazard to Treasury bailed out AIG insurance run into the ground by Greenberg and then established his own private investment firm taking a cluster of well-connected Treasury officials with him.

The Goldman-Sachs-Treasury “revolving door” continues today. In addition to past and current Treasury heads Paulson and Geithner, former Goldman partner Mark Patterson was recently appointed Geithner’s “chief of staff”. Tim Bowler former Goldman managing director was appointed by Obama to head up the capital markets division.

It should be abundantly clear that elections, parties and the billion dollar electoral campaigns have little to do with “democracy” and more to do with selecting the President and legislators who will appoint non-elected Wall Streeters to make all the strategic economic decisions for the 99% of Americans. The policy results of the Wall Street-Treasury revolving door are clear and provide us with a framework for understanding why the “profit crises” has vanished and the crises of labor has deepened.

The “Policy Achievements” of the Revolving Door

The Wall Street-Treasury conundrum (WSTC) has performed herculean and audacious labor for finance and corporate capital. In the face of universal condemnation of Wall Street by the vast majority of the public for its swindles, bankruptcies, job losses and mortgage foreclosures, the WSTC publically backed the swindlers with a trillion dollar bailout. A daring move on the face of it; that is if majorities and elections counted for anything. Equally important the WSTC dumped the entire “free market” ideology that justified capitalist profits based on its “risks”, by imposing the new dogma of “too big to fail” in which the state treasury guarantees profits even when capitalists face bankruptcy, providing they are billion dollar firms. The WSTC dumped the capitalist principle of “fiscal responsibility” in favor of hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the corporate-financial ruling class, running up record peace time budget deficits and then having the audacity to blame the social programs

supported by popular majorities. (Is it any wonder these ex-Treasury officials get such lucrative offers in the private sector when they leave public office?) Thirdly, Treasury and the Central Bank (Federal Reserve) provide near zero interest loans that guarantees big profits to private financial institution which borrow low from the Fed and lend high, (including back to the Government!) especially in purchasing overseas Government and corporate bonds. They receive anywhere from four to ten times the interest rates they pay. In other words the taxpayers provide a monstrous subsidy for Wall Street speculation. With the added proviso, that today these speculative activities are now insured by the Federal government, under the “Too Big to Fail” doctrine.

Under the ideology of “regaining competitiveness” the Obama economic team (from Treasury, the Federal Reserve, Commerce, Labor) has encouraged employers to engage in the most aggressive shedding of workers in modern history. Increased productivity and profitability is not the result of “innovation” as Obama, Geithner and Bernache claim; it is a product of a state labor policy which deepens inequality by holding down wages and raising profit margins. Fewer workers producing more commodities. Cheap credit and bailouts for the billion dollar banks and no refinancing for households and small and medium size firms leading to bankruptcies, buyouts and ‘consolidation’ namely, greater concentration of ownership. As a result the mass market stagnates but corporate and bank profits reach record levels. According to financial experts under the WSTC “new order” “bankers are a protected class who enjoy bonuses regardless of performance, while relying on the taxpayer to socialize their losses” (FT 1/9/12, p.5). In contrast labor, under Obama’s economic team, faces the greatest insecurity and most threatening situation in recent history: “in what is unquestionably novel is the ferocity with which US business sheds labor now that executive pay and incentive schemes are linked to short term performance targets” (FT 1/9/2012, p. 5).

Economic Consequences of State Policies

Because of the Wall Street “ takeover” of strategic economic policy positions in Government we can now understand the paradox of record profit margins in the midst of economic stagnation. We can comprehend why the capitalist crises has, at least temporarily, been replaced by a profound crises of labor. Within the power matrix of Wall Street-Treasury Dept. all the old corrupt and exploitative practices that led up to the 2008-2009 crash have returned: multi-billion dollar bonuses for investment bankers who led the economy into the crash; banks “snapping up billions of dollars of bundled mortgage products that resemble the sliced and diced debt some (sic) blame for the financial crises” (FT 2/8/12, p.1). The difference today is that these speculative instruments are now backed by the taxpayer (Treasury). The supremacy of the financial structure of the pre-crises US economy is in place and thriving … “only” the US labor force has sunk into greater unemployment, declining living standards, widespread insecurity and profound discontent.

Conclusion: The Case Against Capitalism and for Socialism

The profound crises of 2008-2009 provoked a spate of questioning of the capitalist system, even among many of its most ardent advocates (FT 1/8/12 to 1/30/12) criticism abounded. ‘Reform, regulation and redistribution’ were the fare of financial columnists. Yet the ruling economic and governing class took no heed. The workers are controlled by door mat union leaders and lack a political instrument. The rightwing pseudo populists embrace an even more virulent pro capitalist agenda, calling for across the board elimination of social programs and corporate taxes. Inside the state a major transformation has taken place which effectively smashed any link between capitalism and social welfare, between government decision-making and the electorate. Democracy has been relaced by a corporate state, founded on the revolving door between Treasury and Wall Street, which funnels public wealth to private financial coffers. The breach between the welfare of society and the operations of the financial architecture is definitive.

The activity of Wall Street has no social utility, its practioners enrich themselves with no redeeming activity. Capitalism has demonstrated conclusively, that it thrives through the degradation of tens of millions of workers and rejects the endless pleas for reform and regulation. Real existing capitalism cannot be harnessed to raising living standards or ensuring employment free of fear of large scale, sudden and brutal firings. Capitalism, as we experience it over the past decade and for the foreseeable future, is in polar opposition to social equality, democratic decision-making and collective welfare.

Record capitalist profits are accrued by pillaging the public treasury, denying pensions and prolonging ‘work till you die’, bankrupting most families with exorbitant private corporate medical and educational costs.

More than ever in recent history, record majorities reject the rule by and for the bankers and the corporate ruling class (FT 2/6/12, p. 6). Inequalities between the top 1% and the bottom 99% have reached record proportions. CEO’s earn 325 times that of an average worker (FT 1/9/12, p.5). Since the state has become the ‘foundation’ of the economy of the Wall Street predators, and since ‘reform’ and regulation has dismally failed , it is time to consider a fundamental systemic transformation that begins via a political revolution which forcibly ousts the non-elected financial and corporate elites running the state for their own exclusive interests. The entire political process,including elections, are profoundly corrupt: each level of office has its own inflated price tag.The current Presidential contest will cost $2 to $3 billion dollars to determine which of the servants of Wall Street will preside over the revolving door.

Socialism is no longer the scare word of the past. Socialism involves the large-scale reorganization of the economy, the transfer of trillions from the coffers of predator classes’ of no social utility to the public welfare. This change can finance a productive and innovative economy based on work and leisure, study and sport. Socialism replaces the everyday terror of dismissal with the security that brings confidence, assurance and respect to the workplace. Workplace democracy is at the heart of the vision of 21st century socialism. We begin by nationalizing the banks and eliminating Wall Street. Financial institutions are redesigned to create productive employment, to serve social welfare and to preserve the environment. Socialism would begin the transition, from a capitalist economy directed by predators and swindlers and a state at their command, toward an economy of public ownership under democratic control.

James Petras
' most recent book is The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counter Attack (Clarity Press 2012) 2nd edition.

James Petras is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

9 Pictures That Expose This Country's Obscene Division of Wealth

http://www.alternet.org/story/149918/

 

Many people don’t understand our country’s problem of concentration of income and wealth because they don’t see it. People just don't understand how much wealth there is at the top now. The wealth at the top is so extreme that it is beyond most people’s ability to comprehend.

If people understood just how concentrated wealth has become in our country and the effect is has on our politics, our democracy and our people, they would demand our politicians do something about it.

How Much Is A Billion?

Some Wall Street types (and others) make over a billion dollars a year – each year. How much is a billion dollars? How can you visualize an amount of money so high? Here is one way to think about it: The median household income in the US is around $29,000, meaning half of us make less and half make more. If you make $29,000 a year, and don’t spend a single penny of it, it will take you 34,482 years to save a billion dollars. . . . (Please come back and read the rest of this after you have recovered.)

What Do People Do With SO Much?

What do people do with all that money? Good question. After you own a stable of politicians who will cut your taxes, there are still a few more things you can buy. Let’s see what $1 billion will buy.

Cars

maybach 

This is a Maybach. Most people don’t even know there is something called a Maybach. The one in the picture, the Landaulet model, costs $1 million. (Rush Limbaugh, who has 5 homes in Palm Beach, drives a cheaper Maybach 57 S -- but makes up for it by owning 6 of them.)

Your $1 billion will only buy you a thousand Maybach Landaulets.

Here are pics of just some of Ralph Lauren’s collection of cars. This is not a museum, this is one person’s private collection. You don't get to go look at them.

Luxury Hotels

mardan

burj

This is the Mardean Pace Hotel in Turkey, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

Here is a photo gallery of some other expensive hotels, where people pay $20-30,000 per night. Yes, there are people who pay that much. Remember to send me a postcard!

A billion dollars will buy you a $20,000 room every night for 137 years.

Yachts

Le Grand Bleu - $90 million.

Some people spend as much as $200 million or more on yachts.

You can buy ten $100 million yachts with a billion dollars.

Private Jets

Of course, there are private jets. There are approx. 15,000 private jets registered in the US according to NBAA. (Note: See the IPS High-Flyers study.)

gulfstream

This is a Gulfstream G550. You pick one up for around $40 million, depending. Maybe $60 million top-of-the-line.

Your billion will buy you 25 of these.

Private Islands

If the rabble are getting you down you can always escape to a private island.

This one is going for only $24.5 million – castle included. You can only buy 40 of these with your billion.

Mansions

mansion 

This modest home (it actually is, for the neighborhood it is in) is offered right now at only about $8 million. I ride my bike past it on my regular exercise route, while I think about how the top tax rate used to be high enough to have good courts, schools & roads and counter the Soviet Union and we didn't even have deficits.

I ride there but that neighborhood is not like my neighborhood at all. While there is one family in that house, I live closer to the nearby soup kitchen that serves hundreds of families. One family in a huge estate and hundreds at a soup kitchen roughly matches the ratio of wealth concentration described below.

Here are a few nearby homes up for sale.

You can buy 125 houses like this one with your billion.

Luxury Items

watch

Here is an article about ten watches that are more expensive than a Ferrari.

The one in this picture costs more than $5 million. You can buy 200 of these with your billion.

Medieval Castles

castle

Just for fun, this is Derneburg Castle. Do you remember the big oil-price runup a few years ago that too the price of a gallon at the pump up towards $5? One speculator who helped make that happen got a huge bonus paid with government bailout money. He owns this castle. He has filled it with rare art. You can’t go in and see any of the rare art.

Click here to see the layout in an aerial view. That’s as close as you're going to get, peasant.

Let's Go Shopping

So you say to yourself, "I want me some of that. I’d like to place the following order, please."

  • One Maybach Landaulet for $1 million to drive around in. (Actually to be driven around in.)
  • One $100 million yacht for when I want to get seasick.
  • One Gulfstream G550 private jet for $40 million.
  • One private island for $24.5 million (castle included) for when I want to escape the masses.
  • One $8 million estate for when I have to go ashore and mingle with the masses (but not too close.)
  • One $5 million watch so I can have one.
  • Total: $178.5 million.

 

My change after paying with a billion-dollar bill is a meager $821.5 million left over. I might be hard up for cash after my spending spree, but I can still stay in a $20,000 room every night for 112 and 1/2 years.

So, as you see, $1 billion is more than enough to really live it up. People today are amassing multiples of billions, paying very little in taxes and using it in ways that harm the rest of us.

How Extreme Is The Concentration?

Now you have a way to visualize just how much money is concentrated at the very top. And the concentration is increasing. The top 1% took in 23.5% of all of the country’s income in 2007. In 1979 they only took in 8.9%.

It is concentrating at the expense of the rest of us. Between 1979 and 2008, the top 5% of American families saw their real incomes increase 73%, according to Census data. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth (20% of us) saw adecrease in real income of 4.1%. The rest were just stagnant or saw very little increase. This is why people are borrowing more and more, falling further and further behind. (From the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)

Income VS Wealth

There are a few people who make hundreds of millions of income in a single year. Some people make more than $1 billion in a year But that is in a single year. If you make vast sums every year, after a while it starts to add up. (And then there is the story of inherited wealth, passed down and growing for generation after generation...)

Top 1% owns more than 90% of us combined. "In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available from the Federal Reserve Board, the richest 1% of U.S. households owned 33.8% of the nation’s private wealth. That’s more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90 percent." (Also from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)

400 people have as much wealth as half of our population. The combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans in 2007: $1.5 trillion. The combined net worth of the poorest 50% of American households: $1.6 trillion.

wealth1

Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:

ownership 

The top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%.

Worse Than Egypt

In fact our country's concentration of wealth is worse than Egypt. Richard Eskow writes,

Imagine: A government run by and for the rich and powerful. Leaders who lecture others about "sacrifice" and deficits while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. A system so corrupt that rich executives can break the law without fear of being punished. Increasing poverty and hardship even as the stock market rises. And now, a nation caught between a broken political system and a populist movement that could be hijacked by religious extremists at any moment.

Here's the reality: Income inequality is actually greater in the United States than it is in Egypt. Politicians here have close financial ties to big corporations, both personally and through their campaigns. Corporate lawbreakers often do go unpunished. Poverty and unemployment statistics for US minorities are surprisingly similar to Egypt's.

The Harmful Effect on The Rest Of Us

This concentration is having a harmful effect on the rest of us, and even on the wealthy. When income becomes so concentrated people who would otherwise think they are well off look up the ladder, see vastly more wealth accumulating, and think they are not doing all that well after all. This leads to dissatisfaction and risk-taking, in an effort to get even more. And this risk-taking is what leads to financial collapse.

Aside from the resultant risk of financial collapse, the effect of so much in the hands of so few is also bad psychologically. People need to feel they earned that they have earned what they have, and develop theories about why they have so much when others do not. Bizzare and cruel explanations like Ayn Rand's psychopathic theories about "producers" and "parasites" take hold. Regular people become little more than commodities, blamed for their misery ("personal responsibility") as they become ever poorer.

Teddy Roosevelt, speaking to the educators about "False Standards Resulting From Swollen Fortunes," warned that while teachers believe their ideals to be worth sacrifice and so do non-renumerative work for the good of others, seeing great wealth makes people think that obtaining wealth is itself a lofty ideal,

The chief harm done by men of swollen fortune to the community is not the harm that the demagogue is apt to depict as springing from their actions, but the effect that their success sets up a false standard, and serves as a bad example to the rest of us. If we do not ourselves attach an exaggerated importance to the rich man who is distinguished only by his riches, this rich man would have a most insignificant influence over us.

Societies that are more equal do better. In the book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett make the case that great inequality harms us physically as well as spiritually, and the these harmful effects show up across society. The book examines social relations, mental health, drug use, physical health, life expectancy, violence, social mobility and other effects and show how inequality worsens each.

Influence Buying

There is a problem of the effect on our democracy from the influence that extreme, concentrated wealth buys. In the book Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson make the case that the anti-democracy changes we have seen in America since the late 1970s that led to intense concentration of wealth and income are the intentional result of an organized campaign by the wealthy and businesses to use their wealth to, well, buy even more wealth.

The secretive Koch brothers are said to have a net worth of $21.5 billion each and are particularly influential. They financed the Tea Party movement and along with big corporations and other billionaires they financed the massive assault of TV ads in the midterm elections that helped change the makeup of the Congress. And now Congress is paying them back,

Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration's proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group's separate advertising and grassroots activity during the 2010 campaign.

... Republicans on the committee have launched an agenda of the sort long backed by the Koch brothers. A top early goal: restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Kochs' core energy businesses.

We Must Address This

We owe it to ourselves to come to grips with this problem. We owe it to democracy to begin taxing high incomes and inheritance again. We owe it to future generations to use a temporary wealth tax to pay off the debt.

Resources

The Working Group on Extreme Inequality explains why inequality matters in many more ways, and is well worth clicking through to study. They also have a page of resources for study with links to other organizations. Also, spend some time at Too Much, A commentary on excess and inequality because it is "Dedicated to the notion that our world would be considerably more caring, prosperous, and democratic if we narrowed the vast gap that divides our wealthy from everyone else." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a Poverty and Income area of research with good resources. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has a research section on Inequality and Poverty.

 

Dave Johnson blogs at Seeing the Forest and is a fellow at the Commonweal Institute.

View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/149918/
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