Blog Archives

Plutocracy: shadowing lives in Britain and America

 

Yeomin Yoon, a professor of finance based in America, responded to an ‘expert analysis’ in the Financial Times, pointing out that it did not address the principal reason citizens are angry with global financial capitalism, “as demonstrated by the Occupy Movement”. 

He states that this shadow in America today is due to the expanding political influence and anticompetitive practices of powerful interest groups since the so-called Reagan/Thatcher Revolution led to a “dramatic reversal of income and wealth distribution and, ultimately, the rebirth of plutocracy in America and beyond”. 

Powerful industries: pharmaceuticals, media, defence equipment and financial services with exploding executive remuneration 

As the FT’s John Kay wrote in an earlier article, Powerful interests are trying to control the market: ”The outcomes can be seen in the growth of Capitol Hill lobbying and the crowded restaurants of Brussels; in the structure of industries such as pharmaceuticals, media, defence equipment and, of course, financial services; and in the explosion of executive remuneration.” 

Shadowlands where billionaires like Warren Buffett pay less tax (as a percentage of their income) than their secretaries 

Professor Yoon realises that ordinary citizens “want to know why they should be subject to tax systems where billionaires like Warren Buffett pay less tax (as a percentage of their income) than their secretaries”. 

But does the ultimate power lie with people, not the bond market? 

He believes that if politicians fail to address these issues, as Michael Ignatieff warned, people, not the bond market, have the ultimate power: “If they believe you are on their side, you can succeed. If they believe you are not on their side, you will fail and they can make your country ungovernable.” 

A later contribution by John Slinger: “Placing the interests of the markets above those of the people is how we got into this mess. Repeating this pattern as the solution to the crisis is doomed to failure and is an insult to the notion of democracy as the rule of the people”. 

Essay by Charles Eisenstein: OCCUPY WALL STREET

EXTRACTS

Ultimately, we are protesting not only on behalf of the 99% left behind, but on behalf of the 1% as well 

99% Now awakeNo one deserves to live in a world built upon the degradation of human beings, forests, waters, and the rest of our living planet.

The truth is dwindling rain forests, spreading deserts, mass tree die-offs on every continent; looted pensions, groaning burdens of student debt, people working two or three dead end jobs; children eating dirt in Haiti, elders choosing between food and medicine… the list is endless, and we will make it no longer possible to hold it in disconnection from the money system. That is why we converge on Wall Street, and anywhere that finance holds sway.

We protest not only at our exclusion from the American Dream; we protest at its bleakness. If it cannot include everyone on earth, every ecosystem and bioregion, every people and culture in its richness; if the wealth of one must be the debt of another; if it entails sweatshops and underclasses and fracking and all the rest of the ugliness our system has created, then we want none of it.

Speaking to our brethren on Wall Street, no one deserves to spend their lives playing with numbers while the world burns. Ultimately, we are protesting not only on behalf of the 99% left behind, but on behalf of the 1% as well.

We could make lists of demands for new public policies:
  • tax the wealthy,
  • raise the minimum wage,
  • protect the environment,
  • end the wars,
  • regulate the banks.
But what needs attention? The power structures, ideologies, and institutions

While we know these are positive steps, they aren’t quite what motivated people to occupy Wall Street. What needs attention is something deeper: the power structures, ideologies, and institutions that prevented these steps from being taken years ago; indeed, that made these steps even necessary. Our leaders are beholden to impersonal forces, such as that of money, that compel them to do what no sane human being would choose.

Disconnected from the actual effects of their policies, they live in a world of insincerity and pretense. It is time to bring a countervailing force to bear, and not just a force but a call.

Our message is, “Stop pretending. You know what to do. Start doing it.” Occupy Wall Street is about exposing the truth. We can trust its power. When a policeman pepper sprays helpless women, we don’t beat him up and scare him into not doing it again; we show the world. Much worse than pepper spray is being perpetrated on our planet in service of money. Let us allow nothing happening on earth to be hidden.

It can be perpetuated for a while longer, perhaps, but only at great and growing cost. We, the 99%, are paying that cost right now, and as the environment and the social fabric decay, the 1% will soon feel it too. We want those who operate and serve the financial system to wake up and see before it is too late.

The god they serve, the financial system, is a dying god

We can also point out to them that they sooner or later they will have no choice. The god they serve, the financial system, is a dying god. Reading various insider financial websites, I perceive that the authorities are flailing, panicking, desperately implementing solutions they themselves know are temporary just to kick the problem down the road a few years or a few months.

The strategy of lending even more money to a debtor who cannot pay his debts is doomed, its eventual failure a mathematical certainty. Like all our institutions of exponential growth, it is unsustainable. Once you have stripped the debtor of all assets – home equity, savings, pension – and turned every last dollar of his or her disposable income toward debt service, once you have forced the debtor into austerity and laid claim even to his future income (or in the case of nations, tax revenues), then there is nothing left to take. We are nearing that point, the point of peak debt.

The money machine, ever hungry, seeks to liquidate whatever scraps remain of the natural commons and social equity to reignite economic growth. If GDP rises, so does our ability to service debt.

But is growth really what we want? 

  • Can we really cheer an increase in housing starts, when there are 19 million vacant housing units on the market already?
  • Can we really applaud a new oil field, when the atmosphere is past the limit of how much waste it can absorb?
  • Is more stuff really what the world needs right now?

Or can we envision a world instead with more play and less work, more sharing and less buying, more public space and less indoors, more nature and less product?

At risk of revealing the stars in my eyes, let me call it a revolution of love

What else but love would motivate any person to abandon the quest to maximize rational self-interest? Love, the felt experience of connection to other beings, contradicts the laws of economics as we know them. Ultimately, we want to create a money system, and an economy, that is the ally not the enemy of love. We don’t want to forever fight the money power to create good in the world; we want to change the money power so that we don’t need to fight it. I will not in this essay describe my vision – one of many – of a money system aligned with the good in all of us. I will only say that such a shift can only happen atop an even deeper shift, a transformation of human consciousness.

Happily, just such a transformation is underway today. We see it in anyone who had dedicated their lives to serving, healing, and protecting other beings: people, cultures, whales, children, ecosystems, the waters, the forests, the planet. 

Read the whole essay here.

There are so many losers and the winners are now unable to hide from their anger

Today the BBC reports “worldwide protests against austerity and what protesters call corporate greed.”

 

Veterinary surgeon Alex Briault will fully understand the protests. In the Veterinary Times, Vol. 41 – No. 18 – May 09, 2011, he wrote: 

We can’t have a win/lose gameplan – there are going to be so many losers that the winners are going to find it increasingly difficult to hide from their anger. 

He writes about fellow vet Bruce Crowther who works part-time for the Fairtrade Foundation as: “Someone who has seen the effects of the existing, neoliberal capitalist venture, and is doing something to soften the unceasing blows it inflicts on the world’s poor.” 

Very different are those involved in that system:

“With thoughts only of maximizing the money they can extract for themselves, through hubris, ignorance and by exploiting the byzantine lack of transparency in the system, bring the whole confidence trick to the edge of collapse, and insist on being rescued.

“Within months, those same people are receiving egregious rewards for…who knows what?” 

Calling the system comprising bankers, financiers and politicians a Mafia 

Alex Briault: 

“How to justify calling the system comprising bankers, financiers and politicians a Mafia? Here’s how.  If we don’t co-operate, rather than threatening us with a swim with the fishes, they threaten to take themselves away (to run with the tigers? – I think they may find those Asian Tigers have their own competitive financiers). With these menaces, they demand payments via the tax system for protection – from financial insecurity? There is no accountability – it is the victims who have to pay for their mistakes through public spending cuts, while they squirrel away their loot in tax havens.                                                                                                                                               

“They parasitize the system of which they claim to be a cornerstone. Murderous? Not deliberately, but so long as funding is diverted from global health budgets, education, agriculture, veterinary services, lives are being lost as a result of their selfish gambling. Accounts of the psychology of real mafia bosses describe despotic psychopaths unreachable by reason. Fred the Shred may not have been a despotic psychopath, but for him and people like him reason extends to the bottom line and no further.” 

His wide-ranging article which ends with some instances of good alternative proposals can be read here.

“A small degree of shame would be helpful at this point”

Tom Underwood from Chicago writesA small degree of shame would be helpful at this point”

The Occupy Wall Street movement is not class warfare: “It’s one thing for the masses to not understand the value of what you do. It’s quite another for them to feel that their money is being taken to help keep you propped up. A small degree of shame would be helpful at this point.”

And in Britain!

US tax giveaway: UK tax avoidance, result: 99% suffer as 1% profit

Banners: ‘Millionaires should pay their share’ 

In America yesterday, the International Business Times reports that a well-disciplined coalition of community groups allied with Occupy Wall Street to hold a rally in front of the apartments of billionaires including Rupert Murdoch, Koch Industries vice president David Koch and New York Private Bank & Trust CEO president Howard Milstein.

They carried oversized cheques showing how much less the wealthy will pay when New York’s 2% ‘millionaires’ tax’ expires at the end of the year. 

One organiser, Doug Forand, said: “99% of the residents of New York are going to suffer from this tax giveaway so the one per cent who already live in absolute luxury can put more money in their pockets.” 

Escaping tax may be legal but it’s unfair  

An ironic slogan

Today ActionAid research released this Tuesday reports that 98 of the FTSE 100 companies have subsidiaries located in tax havens.

The protest-ridden London G20 summit in April 2009 ended with the ‘leaders’ declaring that they would  take action against tax havens but the BBC website publishes Action Aid’s dramatic graphic itemising current practice. 

David McNair, senior economic justice adviser at the charity Christian Aid, says: “We are facing austerity, governments are cutting basic services,” he says. “If companies are getting away with escaping tax, this may be legal but it’s unfair.” 

Ban Ki-Moon: prophetic words: growing social unrest, weakened governments and angry publics 

Before the 2009 G20 meeting, Radio France Internationale reported that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrote an article in the Guardian arguing that more than just economics is at stake and warning that unless decisive action is taken, the crisis could lead to “growing social unrest, weakened governments and angry publics who have lost all faith in their leaders and their own future”.

Will focussing on Amanda Knox keep ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests off the public horizon?

Is so much TV and radio attention being directed to Amanda Knox in an attempt to order to bury the far more globally significant news of the ongoing and well-supported Occupy Wall Street protests in New York.

To date the BBC World Service reports that more than 700 people from the movement have been arrested on New York’s City’s Brooklyn Bridge. 

 Yesterday, the Guardian reported that the call by Adbusters has now led people to take to the streets in Boston, Los Angeles, St Louis and Kansas City, with similar events planned in 147 cities. 

Why should this news be ‘buried’? 

At a time of profound economic uncertainty following the collapse of many Western banks and recent stock market falls, many with a high stake in maintaining the status quo fear that analyses like that of ­Immanuel Wallerstein, emeritus professor and senior sociologist at Yale are correct.

Is this unrest a move toward replacing an economic system in crisis?

Professor Wallenstein spoke on Russia Today

. . . what we are seeing is the structural crisis of the system. The structural crisis goes on for a long time. It really started more or less in the 1970s and will go on for another 20, 30, 40 years. It is not a crisis of a year or of a short moment, it is the major structural unfolding of a system. 

“And we are in transition to another system and, in fact, the real political struggle that is going on in the world that most people refuse to recognize is not about capitalism – should we have or should we not have it – but about what should replace it.”

 What will the next move be?