Plutocracy Now!

The United States today qualifies as a plutocracy – on a number of grounds, and it is having a profound impact on the media, education and think tanks–indeed on the whole of society, says Michael Brenner. 

By Michael Brenner

Plutocracy literally means rule by the rich. “Rule” can have various shades of meaning: those who exercise the authority of public office are wealthy; their wealth explains why they hold that office; they exercise that authority in the interests of the rich; they have the primary influence over who holds those offices and the actions they take.

These aspects of “plutocracy” are not exclusive. Moreover, government of the rich and for the rich need not be run directly by the rich. Also, in some exceptional circumstances rich individuals who hold powerful positions may govern in the interests of the many, for example Franklin Roosevelt.

The United States today qualifies as a plutocracy – on a number of grounds. Let’s look at some striking bits of evidence. Gross income redistribution upwards in the hierarchy has been a feature of American society for the past decades. The familiar statistics tell us that nearly 80 percent of the national wealth generated since 1973 has gone to the upper 2 percent and 65 percent to the upper 1 per cent. Estimates for the rise in real income for salaried workers over the past 40 years range from 20 percent to 28 percent. In that period, real GDP has risen by 110 percent – it has more than doubled.

To put it somewhat differently, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the top earning 1 percent of households gained about 8 times more than those in the 60 percentile after federal taxes and income transfers between 1979 and 2007 and 10 times those in lower percentiles.

In short, the overwhelming fraction of all the wealth created over two generations has gone to those at the very top of the income pyramid.

That pattern has been markedly accelerated since the financial crisis hit in 2008. Between 2000 and 2012, the real net worth of 90 percent of Americans has declined by 25 percent. Meanwhile, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates et al, i.e. the wealthiest 1 percent of the world’s population, now own more than half of the world’s wealth (according to a Credit Suisse report in Nov. 2017). Croesus is green with envy.

Not By Accident

Theoretically, there is the possibility that this change is due to structural economic features operating nationally and internationally. That argument won’t wash, though, for three reasons.

Plutocrat Bezos at the Pentagon with then Defense Secretary Ash Carter, May 2016. (Wikimedia Commons)

First, there is every reason to think that such a process has accelerated over the past nine years during which disparities have widened at a faster rate. Second, other countries (many even more enmeshed in the world economy) have seen nothing like the drastic phenomenon occurring in the United States. Third, the readiness of the country’s political class to ignore what has been happening, and the absence of remedial action that could have been taken, in themselves are clear indicators of who shapes thinking and determines public policy.

In addition, several significant governmental actions have been taken that directly favor the moneyed interests. This includes the dismantling of the apparatus to regulate financial activities specifically and big business generally.

Runaway exploitation of the system by predatory banks was made possible by the Clinton “reforms” of the 1990s and the lax application of those rules that still prevailed. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, let’s recall, went so far as to admit that the Department of Justice’s decisions on when to bring criminal charges against the biggest financial institutions will depend not on the question of legal violations alone but would include the hypothetical effects on economic stability of their prosecution. (Those adverse effects are greatly exaggerated).

Earlier, Holder had extended blanket immunity to Bank of America and other mortgage lenders for their apparent criminality in forging through robo-signing of foreclosure documents on millions of home owners. In brief, equal protection and application of the law has been suspended. That is plutocracy.

Moreover, the extremes of a regulatory culture that, in effect, turns public officials into tame accessories to financial abuse emerged in stark relief at the 2013 Levin Committee hearings on J P Morgan Chase’s ‘London Whale” scandal. Morgan officials stated baldly that they chose not to inform the Controller of the Currency about discrepancies in trading accounts, without the slightest regard that they might be breaking the law, in the conviction that it was Morgan’s privilege not to do so.

Senior regulators explained that they did not see it as their job to monitor compliance or to check whether claims made by their Morgan counterparts were correct. They also accepted abusive treatment, e.g. being called “stupid” to their face by senior Morgan executives. That’s plutocracy at work. The Senate Finance Committee hearing drew only 3 senators – yet another sign of plutocracy at work. When mega-banks make illicit profits by money laundering for drug cartels and get off with a slap on the wrist, as has HSBC and others, that too is plutocracy. FDR, it rightly is said, saved American capitalism. Barack OBAMA saved predatory financial capitalism.

When the system of law that is meant to order the workings of society without reference to ascriptive persons is made malleable in the hands of officials to serve the preferred interests of some, it ceases to be a neutral instrument for the common good. In today’s society, it is becoming the instrument of a plutocracy.

The financial behemoths and big business in general can count on sympathetic justices to bail them out when cornered by prosecutors. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, was making an earnest attempt to call to account several predators when the New York Supreme Court pulled the rug out from under him. Their generous interpretation of the dubious Supreme Court decision on wrongful trading cases upheld the overturning of the conviction of Michael S. Steinberg, the highest-ranking officer of notorious hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors. Bharara was obliged to drop seven outstanding cases against the Wall Street biggies.

Corporate Tax Dodging

There are myriad other examples of complicity between legislators or regulators, on the one hand, and special business interests on the other. Environmental Protection Agency judgments that are reversed under the combined pressure of the commercial interests of affected and beholden politicians is one. The government’s decision not to seek the power to bargain with pharmaceutical companies over the price of drugs paid for with public funds is another. Tolerance for the concealment of offshore profits in the tens of billions is a third. This last is the most egregious.

Taking a bite out of public finances: Apple paid zero taxes.

Some of the most profitable companies pay little or no federal taxes. Apple is outstanding among them – it has paid zero. Facebook and Microsoft follow closely behind. General Electric received a tax refund in 2015 – after revenues of $8 billion. Its global tax rate in all jurisdictions was 3.2 percent.

In California, several corporate giants (including Apple and Genentech) have launched an aggressive campaign in an unprecedented effort to be reimbursed for real estate taxes on the grounds that their assets have been over-assessed – and their profits unfairly cut. The Silicon Valley town of Cupertino hosts the world headquarters of Apple, which built its vast campus there in 2014. It has 13,000 employees. How much does it pay the city of Cupertino for the services provided? $6,000.

Apple has rejected polite suggestions that it might raise that amount on grounds that doing so would be in contradiction of its business model. The threat of packing up and moving the whole shebang to Sheboygan is hardly credible given the multi-billion investment in concrete and glass. Apple’s power to get its way is political and cultural. Cupertino, by the way, was a prosperous town before Apple set up shop there.

Even in Seattle, bastion of progressive politics, Amazon has shown how easily it can intimidate and muscle politicos to do its bidding. A path-breaking corporate tax was enacted in May that would raise $50 million annually to help cover the cost of desperately needed affordable housing programs. It was passed unanimously by the City Council to nation-wide acclaim.

In June it was scuttled by a 7-2 vote. What had happened to produce this ‘epiphany?’ Simple – Amazon announced that it was suspending all expansion plans for Seattle, and were joined by Microsoft, Starbucks and others in a declaration of war against the city. Mayor Jenny Durkin caved in: “We heard you,” she said while waving the white flag and bowing to her masters.

In short, a city besieged by barbarians saved itself by enslaving itself. Thereby, Seattle is little different from an old style corporate run mill town like Bethlehem or Scranton, Pennsylvania. That’s our bright high-tech future under plutocracy.

Please note: Seattle and Silicon Valley are where Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders go to plead for money from hedge fund vultures and IT billionaires to fund their ‘Republican-lite’ ‘reform’ campaigns.

Über Alles

The ethic of corporate entitlement is carried to its extreme by Uber. The company flouts laws and regulations as a matter of course. It exploits its disposable gig workers to build a clientele and then tells local authorities that if they enforce the rules, Uber will leave – and leave angry voters behind. Currently, they are hotly contesting a ruling of the California Supreme Court that its throw-away workers are not “independent contractors.” In its typical aggressive fashion, Uber leaders are buying politicians and stirring its promoters to get a legislative exception. Board member Ariana Huffington, former progressive activist, is in full support. So it goes in a plutocracy.

Relaxed interpretations of the tax laws by the IRS to the advantage of high income persons can be added to the list. So, too, can the give-away to sole source contractors of the tens of billions squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of such direct assists to big business and the wealthy is endless.

The point is that government, at all levels, serves particular selfish interests no matter who holds high positions. While there is some difference between Republicans and Democrats on this score, it has narrowed on most major items to the point that the fundamental properties of the biased system are so entrenched as to be impervious to electoral outcomes. The most revealing experience that we have of that harsh reality is the Obama administration’s strategic decision to allow Wall Street to determine how and by whom the 2008 financial crisis would be handled.

Systemic biases are the most crucial factor is creating and maintaining plutocratic orientations of government. They are confirmed, and reinforced, by the identities and identifications of the persons who actually hold high elected office.

Our leaders are nearly all rich by any reasonable standard. Most are very rich. Trump’s cabinet is dominated by billionaires. Those who weren’t already rich have aspired to become so and have succeeded. The Clintons are the striking case in point. That aspiration is evinced in how they conduct themselves in office.

DeVos: One of several Trump Cabinet billionaires. (Michael Vadon)

Congress, for its part, is composed of two rich men/women’s clubs. In many cases, personal wealth helped win them their offices. In many others, they knit ties with lobbies that provided the necessary funds. Former Senator Max Baucus should have worn a Big Pharma jersey, like soccer players, if truth in advertising rules pertained. Whether they are “bought off” in some sense or other, they surely are often coopted. The most insidious aspect of cooptation is to see the world from the vantage point of the advantaged and special economic interests.

Democrats’ Devolution

The devolution of the Democratic Party from being the representative of ordinary people to being just “another bunch of guys” is a telling commentary on how American politics has degenerated into a plutocracy. The party’s rolling over to accommodate the interests of the wealthy has been a theme of the past decade or longer.

From the Obama White House to the halls of Congress, party leaders (and most followers) have conceded the dominance of conservative ideas about macro-economic strategy (the austerity dogma), about retaining largely untouched the for-profit health care “non-system,” about bailing out the big financial players at the expense of everyone else and the economy’s stability, and about degrading Social Security and Medicare. The last item is the most egregious – and revealing – of our plutocratic ways and means. For it entails a combination of intellectual deceit, blatant massaging of the numbers, and disregard for the human consequences in a time of growing distress for tens of millions. In other words, there is no way to conceal or spin the trade-offs made, who is being hurt and who would continue to enjoy the advantages of skewed fiscal policies.

The most compelling evidence of how the money interests shape American politics is the systematic disregard for the most overt manifestations of predatory capitalism. Consider the tax exemption corporate leaders have granted themselves by devising ingenious ways of incorporating themselves in tax havens (or even no-tax cyber space) where all profits are registered via the manipulation of transfer pricing – as noted above. Yet, there is not a single bit of proposed legislation to remedy this gross misappropriation of wealth being considered by either branch of the United States Congress. It was raised, albeit tangentially and briefly, by only one candidate in the 2016 election – Bernie Sanders.

No one is raising it in this year’s mid-terms. As for the hedge fund/private equity vultures, they were singled out for denunciation by Newt Gingrich – of all people – back in the 2012 Republican primaries against Mitt Romney. It was the main reason for his surprise victory in South Carolina. Then came the much publicized debate in Florida. To everyone’s surprise, Gingrich was completely silent about hedge funds and never mentioned Romney’s career as a hedge fund predator. What happened? The Party heavies made him a proposition he could not refuse: either shut up or you’ll never eat lunch again in Washington. Fold up your lucrative consultancy, turn in your celebrity card, and start getting your new wife accustomed to dinners at Eat & Park.

The Media’s Job 

In 1884 when major media took on the plutocracy before the plutocracy took over the media. (Wikimedia Commons)

There is another, absolutely crucial dimension to the consolidation of America’s plutocracy. It is controlling the means to shape how the populace understands public matters and, thereby, to channel thought and behavior in the desired direction. Our plutocratic guides, prophets and trainers have been enormously successful in accomplishing this. One object of their efforts has been to render the media into either conscious allies or to denature them as critics or skeptics. Their success is readily visible.

Who in the media has challenged the plutocracy serving falsehood that Social Security and Medicare are the main cause of our deficits whose imminent bankruptcy puts in jeopardy the American economy? Who even bothers to inform the public that those two programs’ trust funds draw on a separate revenue source from the rest of the budget? Answer: no one in or near the mainstream media.

Who has performed the most elementary service in pointing out that of all the jobs created since 2009, small as the number has been, 60 percent at least have been either part-time or temporary? Answer: again, no one. Who has bothered to highlight the logical flaws in the market fundamentalist view of the world that has so deformed perceptions of what works and doesn’t work in macro-economic management? Yes, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and a handful of others – although even Krugman’s colleagues writing on business and economics at The New York Times seem not to have the time to read him or else lack the wit to comprehend what he is saying.

Think Tank Takeovers 

A second objective in a similar vein has been to dominate the think tank/foundation world. Today, nearly every major Washington think tank depends on corporate money. Businessmen sit on the boards and shape research programs. Peter G. Peterson, the hedge fund billionaire, took the more direct route of acquiring the International Institute of Economics, renaming it after himself. He then set about using it as an instrument to carry on the campaign against Social Security which has become his life’s work.

Then there is Robert Rubin. Rubin is the distilled essence of financial malpractice, and the embodiment of the government-Wall Street nexus that brought the country to wrack and ruin.  Author of Clinton’s deregulation program while Secretary of the Treasury: later super lobbyist and Chairman of the conglomerated super bank CITI (only made possible by his deregulation) in the years before it was pulled from the brink of bankruptcy by Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner; and adviser to Barack Obama who stocked the new administration with Rubin protégés.  He since has ensconced himself as Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and Director of the highly prestigious, lavishly funded Hamilton Project at Brookings. By happenstance, both organizations late last year featured presentations by Jaime Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, America’s biggest bank. The presentation was billed as a forum for a leading global CEO to share priorities and insights before a high-level audience of CFR members.  This is plutocracy in action.

Education Undermined

The third objective has been to weaken public education. We have witnessed the assault on our public elementary school system in the name of effectiveness, efficiency and innovation. Charter schools are the watchword. Teachers are blamed as the heart of the problem. So privatization, highly profitable privatization, is sold as the solution to save America’s youth in the face of ample evidence to the contrary. Cast aside is the historical truth that our public school system is the one institution, above all others, that made American democracy. It also is a bastion of enlightened social thinking. It thereby qualifies as a target.

The same goes for the country’s proud network of public universities. From state to state, they are starved for funding and made sacrificial lambs on the altar of the austerity cult.  They, too, are stigmatized as “behind the times,” as no longer doing the job of supplying the business world with the obedient, practical skilled workers it wants. Business schools, long a dependency of the corporate world, are held up as the model for private-public partnership in higher education.  Distance learning, often managed by for-profit “expert” consultants or “entrepreneurs”, is advertised as the wave of a bright future – a future with fewer liberal-leaning professors with fuzzy ideas about the good society. Distance learning is the higher education companion to the charter school fad. Lots of promises, little delivery, but well conceived to advance a plutocracy friendly agenda.

The University of Virginia. (Karen Blaha)

Here, too, boards of regents are led by business men or women.  The abortive coup at the University of Virginia was instigated by the rector who is a real estate developer in Virginia Beach. The chairman of the Board of Regents at the University of Texas system where tensions are at a combustible level is a real estate developer. The chairman at the University of California is CEO of two private equity firms – and the husband of Senator Diane Feinstein. His pet project was to have the moneys of the California teacher’s pension fund (CALPERS) placed in the custody of private financial houses. Two former directors of the fund currently are under criminal investigation for taking very large kick-backs from other private equity firms to whom they directed monies – and which later employed them as ‘placers.’ That’s plutocracy at work.

Money as the Measure of All Things

The ultimate achievement of a plutocracy is to legitimize itself by fixing in the minds of society the idea that money is the measure of all things. It represents achievement, it is the sine qua non for giving people the things they most want. It is the gauge of an individual’s worth. It is the mark of status in a status anxious culture. That way of seeing the world describes the outlook of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.  It is Obama who, at the height of the financial meltdown, lauded Jaime Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO,  as “savvy and successful businessmen.” It is Obama who eagerly became Dimon’s golfing buddy – an Obama who twice in his career took jobs with corporate law firms. It was Bill Clinton who has been flying the world in corporate jets for the past twelve years. It is the two of them who promoted Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles to press for the crippling of Social Security. That’s plutocracy pervading the leadership ranks in both parties of what used to be the American republic.

Perhaps the most extraordinary achievement of the plutocracy’s financial wing has been to convince the political class that its largely speculative activities are normal. Indeed, they are feted as being the economy’s principal reason for growth. Their ruse follows that their own well-being is essential to the well-being of the national economy and, therefore, they deserve privileged treatment.

Subtlety, discretion and restraint are foreign to their buccaneering style with deep roots in the country’s culture and history.  Their behavior is often impulsive and grasping: greedy to display what they can get away with and that  they are top dogs. They are playing with the nation’s wealth to enrich themselves rather than manage an economy.

There is little interest in building anything that might endure – no ‘new order,’ no new party, no new institutions. Not even physical monuments to themselves. Why bother when the existing set-up works so well now to your advantage and your like-minded and like-interested associates who can turn ideas, money and policies in their direction with ease.

Meanwhile the public is blind to how they are being deluded and abused, thanks in large part to a supine news media. Little changes in a country whose civic ideology imbues the populace with the firm belief that its principles and institutions embody unique virtue. Challenging that is a threat to plutocrats and the media and the educational system they run or influence.  

A Wall Street Police State

Wall Street, March 2012. (Michael Fleshman)

One of the most stunning examples of direct plutocratic involvement in the state was Wall Street’s audacity in coopting a part of the NYC Police Department in setting up a semi-autonomous unit to monitor the financial district.

Funded by Goldman Sachs et al, managed in part by private bank employees in key administrative positions, and with an explicit mandate to prevent and deal with any activity that threatens them, it operates with the latest high tech equipment out of a dedicated facility provided by its sponsors. The facility for years was kept “under the counter” so as not to tempt inquisitive parties to expose it. This is the unit that coordinated squelching of the Occupy Movement’s Manhattan demonstrations. It represents the appropriation of a public agency to serve and to serve under private interests.

The post-9/11 hyper-anxiety provided political and ideological cover for a deal devised by Mayor Mike Bloomberg (himself a Wall Street billionaire who went down the line to defend Wall Street against all charges of financial abuse) in collusion with his former associates.  Is this simply Bloomberg exposing NYC’s fiscal dependency on financial sector jobs?

This is the same Bloomberg who killed a widely supported initiative to set a minimum decent wage of $10 an hour with health insurance ($11.50 without) on development projects that receive more than $1 million in taxpayer subsidies. He stigmatized the measure as “a throwback to the era when government viewed the private sector as a cash cow to be milked…. The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR and that didn’t work out so well.” That’s as plutocratic as it gets – and in liberal New York.

No Conspiracy Necessary

Furthermore, the moving parts of plutocracy are not well organized. There is no conspiracy as such. It is the convergence of outlook and self-interests among disparate persons in different parts of the system that has accomplished a revolution in American public life, public discourse, and public philosophy.

Nobody had to indoctrinate Barack Obama in 2008-2009 or intimidate him or bribe him. He came to the plutocrats on his own volition with his mind-set and values already in conformity with the plutocracy’s view of itself and of America. This is the man who, for the first two years of his presidency, repeatedly misstated the coverage of the Social Security Act of 1935 – ignorant and not bothering to find out, or willfully ignorant so as to create a convenient comparison with his fatally flawed health care pseudo-plan. This was the man, after all, who cited Ronald Reagan as a model for what sort of presidency America needed. He has been living proof of how effectively Americans had been brought into line with the plutocratic vision.

This is not to say that the plutocrats’ success was inevitable – or that they were diabolically clever in manipulating everything and everyone to their advantage. There has been a strong element of good fortune in their victory. Their most notable piece of luck has been the ineptitude and shortsightedness of their potential opposition – liberal Democrats, intellectuals, professional asociations and their like.  The plutocrats pursued their goals in a disorganized, diffuse way. However, the absence of an opponent on the contested terrain ensured success.

Not Smart

As for cleverness, the American plutocracy is actually a stupid plutocracy. First, it overreaches. Far better to leave a few goodies on the table for the 99 percent and even a few crumbs for the 47 percent than to risk generating resentment and retaliation.

Since the financial meltdown, financial and business interests have been unable to resist picking the pockets of the weak. Fishing out the small change in the wake of grand larceny is rubbing salt into wounds.  Why fight a small rise in the minimum wage? Why ruthlessly exploit all those temps and part-timers who have so little in the way of economic or political power anyway? Why squeeze every last buck from the small depositors and credit card holders whom you already systematically fleece? In the broad perspective, that sort of behavior is stupid.

To explain it, we must look to the obsession with status of America’s audacious corporate freebooters. These peculiar traits grow more intense the higher one goes in the hierarchy of riches. One is the impulse to show to everybody your superiority by displaying what you can get away with. “Sharp dealing” always has been prized by segments of American society. It’s the striving, insecure man who has to prove to the world – and to himself – that he can act with impunity. He is little different from the hoodlum showing off to his pals and to his moll.

Blankfein with a friend. (John Moore/Getty Images)

These people at heart are hustlers – they crave the thrill of pulling off a scam, not constructing something. Hence, Lloyd Blankfein not showing up for White House meetings yet having Obama thank him for letting the president know, albeit after the meeting already had begun, that Blankfein can’t make it. Hence, Jaime Dimon indignantly protesting his verbal mistreatment by the press, by the White House, by whomever.

Then there is Jack Welch, the titan of American industry who struts sitting down, holding the Guinness record for the most manufacturing jobs outsourced by one company – and yet impudently calling Obama “anti-business” after the president appoints his hand-picked successor, Jeffrey Immelt, to head the White House’s Job Council. Or Bank of America’s faking compliance with the sweetheart deal it got from Obama on the felonious foreclosure scam.

The ultimate episode of egregious lawlessness is the MF Holdings affair – whereby under its chief, former Senator and Governor Jon Corzine, this hedge fund took the illegal action of looting a few billion from custodial accounts to cover losses incurred in its proprietary trading. JP Morgan, which held MF Global funds in several accounts and also processed the firm’s securities trades, resisted transferring the funds to MF’s customers until forced to by legal action. Punitive action: none. Why? The Justice Department and regulatory bodies came up with the lame excuse that the MF group’s decision-making was so opaque that they could not determine whose finger clicked the mouse. Shades of SNL. To pull capers like these and get off scot free without chastisement is the ultimate ego trip.

 Where the Money Is

Willie Sutton, the notorious bank robber of the 1940s, explained his targeting banks this way: “That’s where the money is.” Today’s financial swindlers go after high risk gambles because that’s where the biggest kicks are. That is more important than the biggest bucks – although they add to the thrill. The constant status striver and insecure financial baron is a compulsive gambler. He needs his fixes: of winning, of celebrity, of respect, or deference as transitory as all may be.

American culture provides few insignia of rank. No ‘Sirs,’ no seats in the House of Lords, no rites of passage that separate the heralded elite from all the rest of us. Since oblivion shadows the most famous and acclaimed, they often grasp for whatever is within reach – however ludicrous that might be.   When IR Magazine awarded JPMorgan the prize for “best crisis management” of 2012 for its handling of the London Whale trading debacle, at a black-tie awards ceremony in Manhattan, Morgan executives were there to express their appreciation, rather than hide in shame. The only Wall Street personage who has played the celebrity game without being marginalized in the public mind is Robert Rubin. Through nimbleness and political connection he has semi-institutionalized his celebrity status. Yes, there is former Fed chairman Paul Volcker. But his stature is built on an unmatched record of service to the commonweal and unchallenged integrity. The Blankfeins and Dimons and Welchs and Rubins not only lack the critical attributes – they also  appear to scorn the public, rathe than serve it, which even private financial institutions should do, while still making a decent profit.

The plutocrats’ compulsive denigration of the poor and the dispossessed is perhaps the most telling evidence of status obsession linked to insecurity borne of their often ill-gotten gains. That is at the core of their social personality.  They seem to find it necessary to stigmatize the everyone not in their class as losers. Those at the lower end are condemned as as moral degenerates – drug addicts, lazy parasites – rather than victims of their financial system.  This attitude is in part to highlight their superiority and in part to blur the human consequences of their rapacity.  Behavior of this kind is the antithesis of a cultivated image of the statesman of commerce – even though they are paying a price in public esteem despite the media’s attempts to maintain their elevated status. 

American plutocrats have a deep craving to believe in their own virtue – and to have others recognize it, despite the facts.  Their perverse pride in beating the system does not tarnish how they regard their behavior. Blankfein said: “I have been doing the Lord’s work.”

Dimon swaggers through the Council on Foreign Relations or Brookings with the huddled masses in his audience beaming their adulation as they bask in his fame and thirst for his wisdom on the great affairs of the world. Would he give his views on whether the BRICS can rig the LIBOR rate with the connivance of the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve – or ignore regulatory reporting rules when they threaten to reveal a madcap scheme that loses $6 billion?

The Widespread Effect

Plutocracy in the current American style is having pernicious effects that go beyond the dominant influence of the rich on the nation’s economy and government. It is setting precedents and modeling the unaccountability and irresponsibility that is pervading executive power throughout the society. Three successive presidential administrations and two decades of rogue behavior by corporate elites have set norms now evident in institutions as diverse as universities and think tanks, the military and professional associations – even private clubs. The cumulative result is a widespread degrading of standards in the uses and abuses of power.

Plutocracy raises social tensions. Logically, the main line of tension should be between the plutocrats and the rest of us – or, at least, between the plutocrats and all those with modest means. But that is not the case in the United States. While it is true that there were bitter words about Wall Street moguls and their bailouts during the first year or so after the financial collapse, it never became a main line of political division.

Today, outrage has abated and politics is all about austerity and debts rather than the distribution of wealth, and the power that goes with it.The deep-seated sense of anxiety and grievance that pervades the populace manifests itself in outbreaks of hostile competition among groups who are in fact all victims themselves of the plutocrats’ grabbing most of the country’s wealth – leaving the rest of us to fight over scraps. So it’s private sector employees pitted against government employees because the latter have (some) health insurance, some pension and some security relative to the former who have been shorn of all three. It’s parents worried about their kids’ education against teachers. Both against cash-strapped local authorities. Municipalities vs states. It’s the small businessman against unions and health insurance requirements. It’s doctors against patients against administrators. It’s university administrators against faculty and against students, and faculty against students competing for much-reduced appropriations. It’s all of those against boards of regents and state governors.

Nearly everyone is frustrated by the ever-sharpening contrast between hopes and aspirations and darkening realities of what they might expect for themselves and their children. Meanwhile, the folks at the top wait confidently and expectantly above the fray that they have engineered – ever ready to swoop down to strip what remains by way of privatized public assets, no-bid contracts, tax and regulatory havens, commercially owned toll roads, student loan monopolies, rapacious buying of foreclosed properties with federal incentives, and myriad tax breaks.

 President Obama used his State of the Union Address of 2017 to send the message loud and clear. “Let me put colleges and universities on notice” he warned, “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.” He thereby set forth a line of reasoning that put him on the same wavelength as Rick Perry because the reality is the exact opposite. It is because public funding has gone down by 2/3 over the past few decades that colleges and universities are obliged to raise tuition – despite flat-lining faculty and staff salaries.   This is the essence of intellectual conditioning to the plutocracy’s self-serving dogma and the suborning of public authorities by the plutocracy. Beyond capture, it is assimilation.

Does this sort of perverse pride go before the fall? No sign of that happening yet. Plutocracy in America is more likely to be our destiny. The growing dynastic factor operating within the financial plutocracy militates in that direction. Wealth itself has always been transferred from one generation to another, of course; reduced inheritance taxes along with lower rates at upper income brackets generally accentuate that tendency. With socio-economic mobility in American society slipping, it gains further momentum.

Something approaching a caste identity is forming among the financial elites – as personified by Dimon who is the third generation of Wall Street stockbrokers and financial managers in his family. His father was an executive director at American Express where the young Dimon joined forces with Sandy Weill.  As a revealing coda to this generational tale, Dimon, last year, hired his 81-year old father to work for JP Morgan Chase. His father’s first-year salary was $447,000; slated to rise to $1.6 million – now that the apprentice has some work experience under his belt, presumably.  A sense of limits is not part of the financial plutocracy’s persona.

Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. mbren@pitt.edu

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85 comments for “Plutocracy Now!

  1. September 12, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    WHO HAS THE POWER TO LOCK UP THE BILDERBERG GROUP, ANSWER NO ONE, STOP THE CHARADE….

    • robert e williamson jr
      September 13, 2018 at 4:16 pm

      WE DO!

      Mike Painton, I’m soon to turn 70 years young and I’m not about to stop being critical of lies. To those of you have given up I have little to say except the meek will not inherit the earth. Throw your hands up and surrender, I doubt you will be missed.

      Or I guess you could go have lunch with Frank Carlucci. Oh, sorry I forgot he died this summer with all those billions he couldn’t take with him. I doubt he will be missed much either.

      The larger portion of the population of the U.S. are in that group of 18-40 years of age. With whites becoming less and less in that majority. My generation has totally screwed up America. We knew damned well what we were doing or hiding from that reality. The younger people of the U.S. and the world had best be getting desperate because their situation is that dire.

      Mike when do the super wealthy elitist, SWETS ever have enough billions? Never ! Get this through your head, they have a sickness. It is called greed and is directed only to the pursuit of more wealth and power. You want to talk charade, talk to them.

      Liberty, to a rational creature, as much exceeds property, as the light of the sun does that of the most twinkling star: but you put them on a level, to the everlasting disgrace of civilization.

      Joseph Brant, Mohawk circa 1805 on the white mans values.

  2. robert e williamson jr
    September 10, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    A short response to Anonymous 9-9-2018 11:15pm. It is not “happening” it has always been this way. The better question is why does it continue? And I have a very simple answer. Because we have not stopped it from happening. Believe it or not. Get the book The Theft of Ohio and learn for yourself. It’s the white man’s “INK OF BLACK MAGIC”, reference to the written treaties only whites could read and understand. Especially the treaties that kept changing during the 1783-1795 period. Walker the author of THE THEFT OF OHIO does not explain how this happened he documents what happened. The truth is the truth.

    During the 1800’s Washington D.C. gave the railroad barons eight miles of land, on either side of the track they laid heading west. such a deal. Remember those robber barons? That was the plutocracy at work then.

    In addition, follow the money in Jane Mayers book Dark Money. You will discover just how right I am. What she describes the, plutocracy as it moved forward in history and directed business and government from the 1930’s to the present day. The SCOTUS has rubber stamped the rights of the corporate world onto ballot and the corruption that unlimited money in politics brings is just the latest proof of the plutocracy ruling.

  3. Anonymous
    September 9, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    The question is, why is this happening? What are the historical, systemic forces that produce plutocracy?

    The answer is that these are a result of the capitalist system, which subordinates all aspects of social life to the profit interest of a tiny fraction of society, the ruling class. There is no way to address the concentration of political power without addressing the concentration of economic power.

    Also, Obama didn’t give the state of the union address in 2017… Trump did.

  4. Carey
    September 9, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    Thank you for this perceptive comment.

  5. Ciclismo
    September 8, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    Rentier-ocracy is the real problem. Our masters dont even perform any work* on the human farms, that is for highly paid servants whose livelihood is predicated on loyalty to the masters. At least consistancy is maintained where the servants also have an inverse correlation of pay to work* in their hierarchy.

    * – value creation or manifestation, not merely labor

  6. Nop
    September 8, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    This article is excellent beyond my ability to extol.

  7. September 8, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    “The deep-seated sense of anxiety and grievance that pervades the populace manifests itself in outbreaks of hostile competition among groups who are in fact all victims themselves of the plutocrats’ grabbing most of the country’s wealth – leaving the rest of us to fight over scraps.”

    This to me is the most important paragraph in a great article…and where I think the solution is hidden…and not just saying because I got my MSW at Pitt. ;)

    I have long thought the culture wars in this country serve as a distraction to recognizing our common enemy. What if poor white rednecks recognized their common interests with the poor urban black community? And to many of my “progressive” friends who hate the Trumpists so much…when I ask for them to empathize with Trump voters and try to understand WHY they voted for him…I instantly am alienated. We have to start viewing every arguement we wage against a fellow 99%er as one that if not deliberately manufactured, certainly serves the interest of our opressors. So for me instead of judging Democratic voters screaming about Russia, I have to remember that they are just victims of a very sophisticated propaganda campaign of distraction waged by the intelligence complex in concert with the MSM. We have to constantly redirect our own and each others attention upward when identifying the problem. To your Clintonite friend, when they blame you for Trump, you can say “o.k., another way to say that is that Clinton did not inspire progressives to vote for her…and why is that” We have to become more aware of our culture of victim blaming and pay attention to how this plays out in our daily discourse. And remember that we are all in this hell bound hand basket together.

    • ciclismo
      September 8, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      Everything is divide and rule. Stop falling for it. Politicians in a democracy are figureheads, the job is not to wield power but to distract from it. Start paying attention to power, not the illusion of it.

      • Homer Jay
        September 8, 2018 at 8:12 pm

        “Stop falling for it” this is essentially the main point of what I said. Are you refuting or supporting??

        • Ciclismo
          September 16, 2018 at 8:54 am

          haha… supporting, albeit from the asberger spectrum section of the choir. It was meant to reinforce your post, rather than counter. Most people dont realize what the true purpose of government is in reality, prefering to believe the illusion of serving the public.

  8. Deschutes
    September 8, 2018 at 6:13 am

    So to sum the article up: America is a plutocracy, things are going to get much worse–and you can’t do jack shit about it. In other news, blue is a color…water is wet…..etc

    Gee, thanks Mr. Brenner!

    • SteveK9
      September 8, 2018 at 2:39 pm

      Was thinking the same. Sometimes I scroll down to the bottom of the article to see if there are going to be any signs, or suggestions of what might be done to reverse this. Something left out of this article is that the portion of the plutocracy that derives its power and wealth from war or the threat of war (and that is a sizable portion), is pushing a totally dishonest and frankly traitorous conflict with Russia. Russia is the one country in the World that can, with no doubt whatever, burn the US to ashes from one end to the other. This is another example of stupidity and pushing too far, as they will die as well. I sometimes believe that the only thing forestalling a catastrophe, is that Russia is currently led by the greatest statesman in the World today. He must balance surrender against the lunatics running our country. A very difficult job indeed.

      • PJB
        September 11, 2018 at 6:41 am

        Russia is actually a country where the reverse is happening – wealth is steadily being transferred to the people.

        The average wage is about 5-fold what it was when Putin took over from the disastrous Yeltsin after the 1990s ‘shock doctrine’ capitalist splurge that created the Russian oligarchs as an elite for the global transnational corporate elites to deal with. The 1990s saw living standards and life expectancy plummet in Russia, while the numbers in poverty rose from 4 million to 74 million.

        Putin made the oligarchs pay their taxes or they went to jail. He nationalised the oil/gas industry and poured the proceeds into rebuilding the Russian state and nation’s infrastructure, education, health and yes – military. That’s why he has stunningly high popularity ratings with the common Russian people.

  9. gratefulreader
    September 7, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Beyond the long-established institutional and assimilating powers that damp down potential for a meaningful rebellion, think about acceleration of tech-powered and centrally-owned (and controlled) requirements of existence: the electronification of currency and and information (consolidated into the hands of a few) literally affect our use of and access to everything. Then consider monopolistic laws (IP, patents, resource rights, etc.) that make even doing things for oneself illegal (think patented seeds), coupled with panopticon surveilance + panopticon enforcement (drones). It’s like feeling safe while swimming above a sink hole — you might think you’re OK, but don’t stop paddling.

  10. Deniz
    September 7, 2018 at 11:52 am

    While there is much to this that I agree with, I dont agree with the author’s understanding of the US Tax System.

    We have the most sophisticated and complex tax code in the world. It is designed that way to make US companies globally competitive while still collecting a competitive percent of taxes. By and large, it does a pretty good job. The author talks about transfer pricing and tax havens, in fact, Trump’s tax effectively shut down the use of tax havens by imposing a minimum tax on all profits retained offshore. In other words, it no longer makes sense to create an offshore intellectual property holding company. Companies should just keep their profits in the US and pay the minimum or reduced tax.

    I see 3 major issues in the tax system:

    1 > The repeal of the Estate Tax. The Estate tax was designed to ensure that we would not have political dynasties like the Bushs, Clintons, Koch brothers running our country. We absolutely need to bring this tax back. The tax loopholes are also rife in the estate tax system, this is where reforms need to take place.
    2 > Enforcement – Republican control of Congress has gutted the IRS. The IRS no longer has the personnel necessary to unwind sophisticated tax structures and properly service US taxpayers in an ever more complex system. They also don’t have the power to go after our plutocrats, who will show up with dozens of attorneys and accountants and have the capacity to fight the IRS for a very long time. Once money hits a rich man’s pocket, you are not gong to ever see it again as it is much easier to target a defenseless middle-class taxpayer with limited legal resources. The problem then is not that Trump reduced the corporate tax rate, there is no need for double taxation, all taxes should be collected at the individual level at progressive rates. The issue is that if you dont collect taxes at the corporate level, you are never going to get from our plutocrats.
    3> Foreigners – Outside of Europe and Canada, taxes are in the land of the wild west. There are many rich Asians here who seldom pay taxes as their native institutions aren’t sophisticated enough to control tax cheats. As a consequence, dodging taxes is generally seen as much more of a game that is played rather than a real criminal activity. The IRS takes this problem very seriously, but it is a very difficult issue to resolve.

    The US is financing its wars by printing money, which is extremely inflationary. The problem of our corrupt financial system lies squarely with the bankers. “The corrupt tax system”, is mostly a plutocrat’s talking point.

    • James Cool
      September 8, 2018 at 1:50 am

      Your essay is well written however, the estate tax is a double dip by the government which impacts family farms and businesses immensely requiring families to break up and sell off their businesses to pay the taxes. I agree that the rich have it best because they generally are beyond most taxes by off-shore accounts and family trusts and such and buy gifting it early. I would generally eliminate it entirely because the rich escape most of its’ impacts and it stifles the upper middle class and by not producing much in taxes, comparatively. To put a finer point on the author’s article, I would think the title is off of the mark by equating wealth with absolute political power, dynastically. In the recent election, neither the Clinton nor the Bush dynasty got elected and others historically really haven’t been all that favored if wealth is the real, rule. The Roosevelts( Teddy was not closely related), the Rockefellers and Kennedys are the only other dynasties that come to mind and they didn’t have that much longterm influence, politically, but were fabulously wealthy in comparison to our more modern dynasties; the Bushes and Clintons, both of whom, gained their wealth through international corruption for decades not domestically. So we have had 1 Roosevelt president, 1 Kennedy president, and no Rockefeller presidents and 1 Clinton president and 2 Bush presidents which in total don’t add up to much in many ways compared to all the rest. I realize that power is both covert and overt but wealth also can make one lazy and incompetent which seems a better predictor of outcomes than the author’s dynastic interpretation of our Democratic Republic. Throw in a few Congress people and it still doesn’t indicate overwhelming power over our populace except locally. MAGA.

  11. Faith
    September 7, 2018 at 11:24 am

    CALPERS is the California Public Employees Retirement Fund. CalSTRs is the teachers fund.

  12. Realist
    September 7, 2018 at 1:40 am

    The plutocrats think that it is their world and they just allow the rest of us to live in it. Once they decide they can’t afford the expense of excess humanity, I think I’ll start cheering for the machines to take over.

  13. jacobo
    September 7, 2018 at 1:25 am

    as usual, Michael Brenner nails it. What’ll it take to bring down the plutocracy? Same as before, solidarity of the 99% in pursuit of that just and peaceful world.

  14. Godfree Roberts
    September 7, 2018 at 12:45 am

    This looks bad in 2018 but imagine how it will look in 2021, when every Chinese will have a home, a job, plenty of food, education, safe streets, health and old age care. 

    On that day there will be more poor, hungry and imprisoned people in America than in China.

    Not relatively or per capita. In absolute numbers.

  15. KiwiAntz
    September 7, 2018 at 12:11 am

    A Plutocracy; a Kleptocracy or a Corptocracy, just name your poison to describe the US of A? But it certainly isn’t a Democracy, that’s just a sick joke for the masses to believe in? Run like a Medieval Fiefdom with its citizens as compliant serfs to be treated like crap, living on lousy wages, third world healthcare & crumbling infrastructure & feed on propagandist BS! It’s a throwback to the Dark Ages? All the anger over Trump is because the World is finally getting to see the real America now that Trump has torn off the mask of this tired Empire, lashing about in its death throes? America is like the Picture of Dorian Grey with the false appearance of a moral, beautiful, benevolent Country but the real picture or portrait, is that it’s a rotting, immoral, lawless & cancerous mess of a Nation! And with Trump in charge, the acceleration of America’s decline is now on steroids? And never has that decline been so evident with it’s Trade sanctions, weaponisation of the US dollar & other nefarious acts as a last gasp attempt to hold on to its dying, hegemonic Empire! The Worlds heading towards a multipolar future & freeing itself from the shackles of this Superpower Tyrant ? Buckle up for a wild ride but for America the biblical verses which state that “the writings on the wall” & “the end is nigh” could be the anthem for the American Empire & it’s Plutocracy with it’s future demise, already in motion!

    • September 8, 2018 at 9:43 am

      So much truth in this comment, except I don’t believe in your future multi-polar anti-American utopia. Let’s not forget that China has just followed the play book of American capitalism with their own blend of human rights violations. No these plutocrats are not bound by the borders of the US, so as soon as they suck dry the populace here, they will just concentrate their blood sucking on a fresher host. Same master, different address. In short America is anyplace where McDonald’s is.

      and I really could go on about how much I agree with your description of the empire/plutocracy, which yes is “American” but which will not die with America.

    • aj54
      September 8, 2018 at 5:52 pm

      I agree with you almost totally. I think the good professor missed the mark a bit, as I think we have already overflown Plutocracy and are a maturing Kleptocracy. The laws are written by those they will benefit; as with Trump’s tax cut, 98% of the benefit went to the richest 1%, and this phenomenon has picked up speed, and I think is past the point of no return. The streets of our major cities show us exactly that we have fallen to the state of ‘third world’ in many places.

  16. Randy
    September 6, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    FDR was for the many only because he was preparing to meat-grinder them in the interest of the few. Really, no Supreme Court judgement has been legal since the sob FDR packed the courts. They call that group the Greatest Generation yet they choked when they should have rebelled.

  17. robert e williamson jr
    September 6, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    On the plutocracy, obtaining authority ( governing power) and wealth. Suffice to say that “American style capitalism”, the neo-liberal economic theory in practice, concentrates wealth in the hands of the fewest. Lust for wealth or “GREED” drives this concentration. This lust for more power in order to concentrate even more wealth by designing government law and guiding ( lobbying ) the elected representatives such to allow and facilitate the concentration of this authority even further. Rule by the super wealthy corporate elitist.(sw(c)ets) This is an illness, a cancer compromising the rule of law to impotency and there by rule by authoritarian government. The result of this is the super wealthy elitists (swets) find them selves the targets of the masses they try to control. The final result of this plutocracy is the SWETS find themselves the targets of the masses they yearn to control. And the birth of a government that will suppress the masses by force or any means necessary o protect the SWETS and THEIR form of government. This should come as no surprise.

    So the rub comes when the powerful elitists suppress the masses by force. Submit to our will or die. Born of the necessity of self. preservation of the 1 %. Reminds me of Ohio 1783-1795.

  18. Louis Sartor
    September 6, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    Should we not just address the 1% as our Lords? Why pretend otherwise? This will be fun once….

  19. Realist
    September 6, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    “President Obama used his State of the Union Address of 2017 to send the message loud and clear.”

    Obama did not give a State of the union address in 2017.

    • Michael Brenner
      September 7, 2018 at 7:01 pm

      Correct, of course. It was 2016.

  20. September 6, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Thank you, Michael Brenner.

  21. Crosley Bendix
    September 6, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Paul Volcker deliberately smashed US unions by strangling the economy.

  22. robert e williamson jr
    September 6, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    It’s a manifest destiny thing study the US history esp 1783-1795 by reading THE THEFT OF OHIO, WALKER 2016. Especially pages 641-665. The white true believers never had any other way of looking at it.

  23. Pallas Ferrante
    September 6, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    This is a superb article that sums of the bleak landscape of money-domination and the catastrophic destruction of anything approaching a democracy: wealth, or ploutos, has been crushing the people (demos). The terrifying issue is that the crushing is proceeding and will proceed exponentially. The wealthy will grow much wealthier and the poor ever more poor in this expanding financial human-made universe of greed, accumulation, corruption and deceit.

    • September 6, 2018 at 6:15 pm

      I agree with every word you wrote Pallas, this article is full of informative nuggets, and lots of truth and wisdom. But it is too long!
      I would dearly love to forward this to several important people who I think would benefit from Brenner’s expertise, but these people are not retired; they are busy at their work and or studies and don’t have time to spend three fourths of an hour reading something this long( even speed reading something this long takes time).
      Too often I am frustrated by long, yet informative articles that I’d like to share yet know it is pointless. It’s as though the writer has all this information and feels that he/she must impart ALL of it at once. I do wish Joe Lauria, who is now in charge would keep in mind that, although many of the commenters here at Consortium seem to have limitless time to partake of the articles and write commentary, there are many others who don’t and although we admire Consortium we don’t have many days where we have the leisure to read everything. Plus Consortium is not the only thing we read, so it is competing for our attention. If the articles are too long, some of us who have to prioritize our time, may choose to not participate by reading what is offered.
      I love Consortium and always enjoy readers comments when I have time; but I wish Joe would keep in mind that some of us have major time constraints. And I hope Consortium is not just for retired folks who have lots of time to read and comment.

      • Pallas Ferrante
        September 7, 2018 at 12:09 am

        yes, brevity is the soul of wit (wit derives from the old english ‘wiggen’ which means to know

        but sometimes you have to lay everything out

        I see your point, though, and I thank you for your kind words about my comment

  24. robert e williamson jr
    September 6, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    Why you all seem to miss the point.

    I’m not sure why anyone ever expected anything different. From 1783-1795 the white man stole Ohio from the native peoples using the ruse of “Manifest Destiny” and “True Believers”‘ have espoused this garbage ever since.

    Let us never forget that while negotiations with the Indians for land for peace were ongoing on Oct 11, 1788 Congress adjourned and became defunct for two years there was no congress.

    See Richard Gale Walker The Theft of Ohio 1783-1795, Turas pub. Copy Right 2016, p 253 note 105 and pages 648-655

    especially p 649 last Paragraph “Although the his (Rev Daniel Breck) sermon could not be found, it was based on Exodus 19: 5-6, which made clear that the god of old eastern Mediterranean tribes, not the god of the eastern North American tribes, owned the land treasured the obedient “above all people”:

    “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation.”

    note 17 Dickinson, p 289. For a description of the service, see May, p 87, Mays Journal July 20, 1788.

    The concept that this nation exists because someones god wanted it that way is simply because of the whites professed belief in mysticism as a way to justify their greed.

    Is anyone interested in explaining to me why the great creator would placed the native Americans , North Americas indigenous peoples, as sole inhabitants of the north American continent? Only to then have the European whites come to the continent to enslave and murder the native inhabitants .

    Or said another way do you actually believe that “only true believers could own land”. The chosen ones. Who I might as bestowed this grand right upon themselves obviously since God hasn’t said anything about it. This is pure lunacy.

    I’m simply asking why when one enters an endeavor seeking only wealth that the ultimate result of their efforts is to continue pursuing efforts of greed.

    Or said another way, since the ground work for this country was based on a lie why would we expect to not end up living the resulting lie? For the sake of clarity this country did not become a plutocracy it always has been one.

    If you are offended turn me into the White House the lunatic there is looking for witches to burn right now.

    Note: the author of this book allows that up to fifty pages may be reproduced for the purposes of edification of the public.
    Look to amazon to find the book.

  25. Deschutes
    September 6, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    Imagine that: a plutocracy runs the USA! Scandalous! Never thunk it. In other news…

    https://memegenerator.net/instance/58839417/ron-burgundy-and-in-other-news-water-is-wet

  26. Mark Thomason
    September 6, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Many of our richest do little or none of their own work. They live on their wealth. They have people to do the work. They pay them, and often not very well.

    That is our politics today.

  27. September 6, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Capitalism sells people on the idea that “you, too, can become a millionaire” and it’s a free market, which it isn’t and not everyone could get rich. It’s a giant Ponzi scheme and just cannot go on forever. Even if some corporations bring back jobs, not enough will, because the basic premise is profit, not preservation of resources. I maintain that we need nothing short of a change in our whole outlook toward our planet, a change in consciousness, and who’s doing that but a few? They’re certainly not at the top. Jacob Rothschild, head of the banking family that stays out of news, just two weeks ago came out publicly stating that “the ‘new world economic order’ is not working”. Now why did he say that? He’s a bit worried? The banks might fail! And, Back, the move toward ‘uniworld’ could not have been carried out years ago, as we see the evolution of the Common Market to the EU, the attempts for the North American Union, all these steps have been hitting roadblocks of various sorts.

    • backwardsevolution
      September 6, 2018 at 6:50 pm

      Jessika – interesting about Rothchild’s comment. Soros is quite worried too and made similar comments recently. If they’re worried, then that’s a good thing because that means that their plans for a one-world government and common currency are in trouble.

      Banks don’t like having a bunch of different currencies and sovereign countries because that enables countries to devalue when they get in trouble (as Italy and Greece would have done in the last crisis, if not for the E.U.), and the banks end up getting back less than they lent. A bunch of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels now get to dictate what happens in the E.U. Perfection, in their eyes, because the E.U. makes sure the banks get their money back in full, even when they lend to high-risk countries that they shouldn’t have lent to.

      Jessika, in 2008, had they wanted to, they could have let things fall to pieces. I mean, down on the ground ugly. They could have introduced a common currency right then and there, shrugged their shoulders and said that it had to be done, just as they did when they got rid of the gold standard. It doesn’t have to make sense. They just do as they please, and we all swallow it. QE was pulled off over and over again and is still being pulled off. Who protested? No one.

      Trade treaties are falling apart and being rewritten, and Trump has a lot to do with this. I can’t imagine the “one-world” proponents liking him much for that, but at least sovereignty will be maintained this way.

      If we worry about this planet, as I know you and I both do, then things should be manufactured close to home, not shipped halfway around the world. We are *aping this planet, and we are going to pay the price for it. I do not want to see China’s One Belt Road because that is going to bring about our demise that much quicker. They build a new highway for goods so that more consumers can be manufactured, and for what? We cannot afford to continue living as WE do, never mind the rest of the world coming on line and living like us. It’s got to stop.

      And China is not going to be any more benevolent than the current leaders are, probably less so. They just execute people who don’t go along, and their elite are every bit as corrupt as our’s are.

      Good talking to you, Jessika. Interesting times ahead.

    • Dr. Ip
      September 7, 2018 at 3:43 am

      Fear is a driving force in capitalism as well as in organized crime [can capitalism be defined as organized crime?], and it is epitomised in the plot of Godfather III, where Michael Corleone tries to take his whole operation into the “legit” area because he knows, once he’s in there, he and the future of his “business” is safe. Joining the oligarchs is what keeps you safe from the law because their methods of accumulating wealth have been the same as those in organized crime for centuries, intimidate and steal and make deals with other oligarchs to ensure that one stays among “friends.” When possible, of course, stealing and eliminating a competitor is always allowed, as long as the war that is thus started is winnable. And the people who run Wall Street and the oligach families are criminals, whether “doing good for common people” or not. It’s a jungle. But it’s a jungle populated by human beasts, the most deadly mammals on the planet.

  28. F. G. Sanford
    September 6, 2018 at 11:44 am

    There is no left/right, liberal/conservative, nationalist/globalist, socialist/capitalist or any other set of labels that apply. It’s just the rich against the rest of us, and all these labels are a smokescreen to divide and conquer. Employment under the current administration is 0.02% LESS than when Obama left office. The stock market goes up, but productivity is stagnant, and off-shoring continues. I recommend listening to economist Richard Wolff for a real picture of the economy. It is going to crash. The question is when.

    The latest scam being floated is the idea that Naziism was a “socialist” system. The so-called “Austrian School” of economics has taken the lead on this — probably to deflect attention from their roots in Hjalmar Schacht’s economic principles. The German economic miracle was based on prison labor, corporate control of the economy, capital controls and militarization. With a prison industrial complex, seven ongoing wars, a privatized FED, and a political system controlled by corporate money, what’s the difference? Well, our politicians and pundits use the pejorative terms “socialism”, “leftism”, “progressivism” and “liberalism” to deflect attention from rampant theft that has gone through the roof. Does anybody remember when General Electric paid no taxes, but still got a refund when they filed? Who bailed out the banks? Who bailed out the auto industry? The rich own stocks and bonds, but pay no “property tax” on those possessions. All that “free stuff” is “socialism” for the rich. They’re just like the Central Committee of the Communist Party — living in the lap of luxury while the “deplorables” in the “workers paradise” enjoy the fruits of an imposed plutocratic system.

    The tragedy is that those most exploited see this propaganda as salvation. In my family, there’s a 105 year old great aunt who grew up in Italy under Mussolini. As working class people, their lives got slightly better, and she still worships the man she remembers. It takes very little to “buy off” the misinformed, the disenfranchised and the already exploited. They see a savior where the adequately educated see a demagogue. No wonder education is being gutted. If you’re too dumb to know the difference, MAGA sounds like “a plan”. Sorry, folks, but there is no plan. Look carefully, and you’ll see that nothing of substance has changed in four administrations.

    • backwardsevolution
      September 6, 2018 at 12:24 pm

      “All that ‘free stuff’ is ‘socialism’ for the rich.” Just like it’s always been – corporate welfare. And socialism is great in their eyes whenever they need to be bailed out.

      “Look carefully, and you’ll see that nothing of substance has changed in four administrations.”

      Well, wanting peace with Russia is certainly a huge change, along with wanting to get rid of NATO. So is wanting to apply tariffs on the goods the U.S. multinationals are exporting from China. I’d call that “substance”.

      As far as being misinformed, uneducated, it really depends on what history books you read, doesn’t it? So much of what we’ve been taught and are still being taught is nothing but propaganda. Alternative history is simply not allowed, outright banned in many cases. Too bad. It keeps us all in the dark.

      • ronnie mitchell
        September 6, 2018 at 2:31 pm

        I don’t know where you get the idea that Trump is working towards peace with Russia, but as he is like a loose cannon sometimes he talks like that is his goal then in the next frame he is shoveling large amounts of lethal weapons to Ukraine where the military is formed (and doing drills) all along Russia’s border.Maybe Putin should do that in Mexico or would it look like a threatening move to the US? O course it would.
        Even the war monger Obama restricted ‘lethal weaponry’ sales to the Ukraine because it would incite hostile relations with Russia, even tho he was funding other attacks on Russia.
        It should not be overlooked that the Obama’s administration spent 5 BILLION dollars (as Under Sec. of State Victoria Nuland bragged) to bring about the coup and brought about the Nazi loving leaders that are there today.
        There is also the other front on the war being waged right now against Russia, and that is in the form of ‘sanctions’ which are a military tactic, an economic siege, from the earliest days when an army would surround a castle or town and absolutely nothing could come or go from the there until it fell from within.
        Right now under Trump more sanctions on Russia than even existed during the ‘Cold War’ era.That is not a matter of dispute.
        Sanctions are an act of war,and they don’t harm the Ruling Class, they harm the general public like when sanctions against Iraq under Bill Clinton brought about the estimated deaths of 500,000 CHILDREN to which his Sec.of State Madeline Albright when asked about it in an interview on 60 Minutes, said that “we feel it was worth it”. Of course the interviewer never asked what that “it” was.
        Trump is also once again threatening Russia in regards to Syria and the current situation in Idlib reads just like the one in Ghouta, first the US, UK, France and Canada (and others to a varying degree), first warnings are given about the possible use of chemical weapons by Syria, then the terrorist’s ambulance and PR group The White Helmets’ stage a false flag event and the bombs start falling on Syria.
        Not to mention that in the last event the bombing started BEFORE the OPCW could arrive to investigate the allegations and they were on their way but had to stop when the bombing started, and not so mysteriously bombs also fall on the area they were coming to inspect.
        As far as NATO goes life has never been better as they are being swamped with more military hardware than ever to use and they have increased their number of bases in Europe, and all across Africa btw.
        It is growing and while that happens the number ONE promoter/funder of terrorism and radical versions of Islam all around the world, Saudi Arabia, is getting hundreds of billions of dollars in military hardware, which they are using in its genocidal campaign in Yemen as they do photo-ops with Donald Trump clasping their hands and smiling for the camera.
        One last thing, there is no such thing as “alternative history”, alternative versions of it is what I expect you meant to say and as far as the tariffs go it just means the average consumer will pay more for things imported from China (and that’s a LOT of stuff) then China will respond in kind which will hurt industries here but above it all those corporations will continue their ways and counting the cash.

        • backwardsevolution
          September 7, 2018 at 5:29 pm

          ronnie mitchell – no, the average consumer will NOT pay more for things imported from China. The average consumer is tapped out, and the corporations know that they won’t be able to pass along the tariff costs. Oh, they will try, and some might be successful, but most will not be. The corporations are going to have to eat the tariffs, which will cut into their insane profits, harming their stock prices. Gee, maybe they’ll consider coming home now? This should have been done 30 to 40 years ago! You don’t have a marriage (a country) when one party is using a concubine in some far-off land.

          And China has been doing all they can to keep huge tariffs on U.S. goods trying to get into China. A nice one-way street for them whose time has come to an end. So China isn’t going to buy U.S. soy? Who cares.

          Cheap labor and no environmental controls made up for the shipping costs, plus some, but now with the tariffs, using China as a manufacturing base isn’t looking so good anymore. What to do, what to do! If what Deniz (above) said is true, then jobs just might come home. Of course, automation is right around the corner.

          “Trump’s tax effectively shut down the use of tax havens by imposing a minimum tax on all profits retained offshore. In other words, it no longer makes sense to create an offshore intellectual property holding company. Companies should just keep their profits in the US and pay the minimum or reduced tax.”

          I read somewhere that 60% of what comes in from China are products manufactured in China for the U.S. multinationals. The rest is junk. The deal was they had to take on a Chinese partner (nice for those Chinese elites who did nothing and made billions) in order to manufacture in China. Trump is trying to entice these U.S. multinationals to assemble their products in the U.S.

          That’s substance.

        • backwardsevolution
          September 7, 2018 at 5:39 pm

          ronnie mitchell – yeah, and Trump went to visit Putin in Helsinki and he was labelled a “traitor” for it. He forewarned Syria both times that missiles were coming, giving them time to evacuate. Trump even mentioned “false flags”, but was vilified for it. Trump knows it’s all bullsh*t, but he has to go along, doesn’t he? He’s being forced to by the Democrats and almost all of the Republicans, all of whom are bought-and-paid-for. Ditto regarding the media.

          Maybe the sanctions, in Trump’s view, are better than letting the warmongers have their way – all-out war.

          You and I don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes. Well, maybe Bob Woodward knows – ha!

          • backwardsevolution
            September 7, 2018 at 6:35 pm

            “The most scary fact of our time is that the two men most committed to peaceful relations between the US and Russia—Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin—are the two most demonized people on Earth. The demonization of Trump and Putin is the principal activity of the US media and the Democratic Party.”

            Paul Craig Roberts

    • Joe Tedesky
      September 6, 2018 at 12:48 pm

      There are no good guys and gals. Our government has been overrun by parasites who care nothing of our national commons, as they stuff their pockets lined with their rewards for their hefty donor contributions. These are certainly the days to be Independent, as the 2 Parties are 2 wrongs that never get it right.

  29. mike k
    September 6, 2018 at 11:40 am

    What I would like to see is for the US to renounce it’s goal of world domination, and agree to help create a world at peace. What is the alternative? Increasing the madness until it destroys all of us. This latter seems the most probable outcome, since the insane power addicts continually pushing for more war, seem incapable of curing themselves of their fatal obsession.

  30. September 6, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Very good article, even for Consortium News that has high standards.

    A somber (pessimistic note): plutocrats are as organized and as smart as they need to be to remain plutocrats (both rich and powerful). As a group, they have unquestioned dominance, so while small part of their “power-related” efforts still goes to snuffing out emerging political alternatives, they can focus on winning some points against each other. Same with intelligence and wisdom. There is a plutocratic consensus, some shades of it have homes in two major parties, and attempts to squash efforts to go outside that envelope are as organized and “smart” as necessary.

    An optimistic note 1. The oversized role of fund raising in American politics is definitely cementing plutocratic control of politics, but it was shown several times that it is not so difficult to challenge that role. For example, with quite progressive political program and masterful rhetoric (effects, not my personal impression) Obama collected several hundred million dollars, recruited volunteers and won elections. By the way of contrast, un-inspiring political program, pedestrian rhetoric etc. did not carry Hillary Clinton to power in spite of money advantage.

    An optimistic note 2. Old proven ways of squashing progressive ideas loose their efficacy. The prime example is the increase acceptance of “socialist” by American public. I recall certain D’Amato winning senatorial election in NY state under slogan “Mario Cuomo, too liberal for too long”. Socialism was used to scare people away from improper ideas like government regulation of health insurance — Marx, Engels, Lenin etc. would be very surprised by that usage. So most of the public knows the term from the invectives heaped on the people who defend Obama-care and those who propose single-payer system, and the public had to reason on their own that it can be better than the status quo.

    That said, politicians with progressive impulses lack comprehensive vision that could be implemented and address various constituencies that are currently pitted against each other. Sanders was not that bad in my opinion, but comprehensive he was not. What do we do about MIC and imperialism? Money and energies consumed by them could be turned into badly needed resources. What would be a humane and rational way of protecting jobs so workers do not have to compete against their “colleagues” from Vietnam, India or recent poor and illegal immigrants. What to do about guns to satisfy hunters and urbanites (here I liked Sanders).

    One could add more questions, and propose answers that I could propose, but not in a comment. My modest point is that without a comprehensive program, politicians with whatever type of “impulses” (Trump comes to mind) end up recruiting people from former Administration, think tanks etc. and enter the Swamp.

  31. September 6, 2018 at 9:32 am

    It’s the USG where G stands for “gangsters”. I also disagree that there is no conspiracy. Every day there are conspiracies being plotted. The Federal Reserve is not a bank of the USG, I think most who read CN know that.

    Trump boasting about the strong economy with the tariff/trade wars is more plutocrat hot air and will actually hurt the middle class — sorry, Back, I know you hope MAGA will succeed, but I don’t, because I believe he got talked into a Mnuchin/Goldman Sachs and Wilbur Ross idea of making the stock market go up and aiding corporate profits, but regular folks don’t have the money in the first place to buy much more than basics. Many alternative economists think we are heading for a grand collapse, and I think so, too. Which then would aid the central bank idea of a common currency for everyone, digital probably, and then we’re really controlled.

    The world economic powers have already run into trouble with European countries pushback on migrants caused by the US/Israel/KSA led wars, but when we see another collapse perhaps worse than 2008 in the US, the entire world will have even more chaos adjusting than we already see with Trumponomics. It seems we have, ever since the Clinton/Robert Rubin era, been taken over by Goldman Sachs. My joke is that “the Gold Man sacks US”, always thought that was an interesting metaphor for our exploitation.

    • backwardsevolution
      September 6, 2018 at 11:49 am

      Jessika – of course the stock market is going up. It’s been going up since the spring of 2009 when the Fed took the interest rates down to zilch, and when the banks were bailed out. The corporations have been using their profits to buy back their own stock, a practice that used to be illegal prior to the 80’s (and should be illegal again).

      I don’t understand how the tariff/trade wars are going to hurt the middle class. It should work to force corporations to bring jobs back (which will benefit the middle class). If they don’t, then they pay tariffs. No, the corporations will not be able to pass these costs along because, I agree, the average consumer is tapped out and can’t afford to pay more. They already know they can’t raise prices. Instead, the tariffs will eat into corporate profits, which have been insane. They just don’t want to have to give up some of their profits.

      It’s their choice: either they keep manufacturing overseas and pay the tariffs (money which would go a long way to rebuilding infrastructure, as an example) or they bring jobs back. Trump has taken the corporate tax rate down nice and low for them, trying to entice them to come back home, but they like it the way it currently is, with money in tax havens, cheap overseas labor, and ridiculous profits. The Chinese and U.S. elites have been making out like bandits.

      “Many alternative economists think we are heading for a grand collapse.” We already had a grand collapse in 2001, which was bailed out, and then we had another grand collapse in 2008, which Obama bailed out and left the mess for the next sucker who came along (Trump). At any moment the Fed could bring the whole thing down. It’s within their power to do that since the whole thing is manipulated and engineered, anyway. There is actually a wizard behind the curtain.

      Trump already knows it’s not a strong economy, but he’s trying to make it stronger. Yes, he talks it up and boasts because he realizes people don’t consume when they are afraid and fearful. As he says, you don’t really have a country if you don’t have a strong manufacturing base and a modern infrastructure.

      But I could be wrong, Jessika. Trump might be in on the game (an insider, not an outsider) and the elite and media going after him 24/7 might just be part of the show. Russiagate might be part of the show too, along with Manafort going to jail. If true, then they really have gone to great lengths to fool us, haven’t they? But I just don’t see this.

      The only thing is: if they wanted a world currency, why wouldn’t they have done it back in 2008? They could have (and should have) let the bubble deflate fully back then, but they didn’t. All central banks (even China) rushed in and bailed their systems out, and some, who actually were insolvent, have been saved by these actions: the banks. Was it all part of the show? Is that why no bankers went to jail? We won’t know the answer to that question until we get there, but you can bet that some people already know the answer.

      Did they let Trump win in order to blame him for an upcoming collapse, resulting in a one-world currency, or is he part of the scheme to bring it down? So many questions.

    • September 6, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      It is not a conspiracy if it works overtly. Strategic and business plans are plotted, perhaps, but what we see is 99% or what we get.

  32. September 6, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Would be helpful if such learned men would be less descriptive and more prescriptive.

    The line from the old song, “The rich get rich and the poor get poorer” seems to sum it up. And then there is the other line in the same song: “In the mean time, in between time, ain’t we got fun.”

    You wonder if one of those plutocrats commissioned the song.

    Another is the line in The Bridge Over the River Kwai: “Be happy in your work.”

    Time to go back and look at what Stiglitz has to say. Smart and his heart is in the right place, with ordinary folks.

  33. Unfettered Fire
    September 6, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Powerful article. The free-floating, fiat currency system has been grossly exploited by the 1% since 1971. Private bank money creation has been obscenely abused as well. David Stockman, one of the architects of trickle down economics, proudly boasted on 60 Minutes in 2011 that the top 5% net worth went from $8 trillion in 1985 to $40 trillion in 2011. Today, it’s closer to $100 trillion. Neoliberalism continues to teach Orwellian “junk” economics in mainstream university classrooms:

    “Economics students are forced to spend so much time with this complex calculus so that they can go to work on Wall St. that there’s no room in the course curriculum for the history of economic thought.

    So all they know about Adam Smith is what they hear on CNN news or other mass media that are a travesty of what these people really said and if you don’t read the history of economic thought, you’d think there’s only one way of looking at the world and that’s the way the mass media promote things and it’s a propagandistic, Orwellian way.

    The whole economic vocabulary is to cover up what’s really happening and to make people think that the economy is getting richer while the reality is they’re getting poorer and only the top is getting richer and they can only get rich as long as the middle class and the working class don’t realize the scam that’s being pulled off on them.” ~ Michael Hudson

    Why concern yourself with history when the endless feudal loop has been installed? Brazil’s austerity policies inadvertently caused the burning down of a museum, the history of civilization, due to the lack of a sprinklers system, one of many safety regulations burned up in the global privatization fire.

    in addition, both Colin Kaepernick and our military men and women are endorsing and supporting a plutocracy that exploits child labor and indiscriminately bombs civilians. Neither are representing justice.

    “We must never again let any force dedicated to a super race or a super idea or super anything become strong enough to impose itself upon a free world. We must be smart enough and tough enough in the beginning to put out the fire before it starts spreading. As the years go by, a lot of people are going to forget, but you won’t. And don’t ever let anybody tell you you were a sucker for fighting against fascism.” ~ scene from Battleground

  34. September 6, 2018 at 8:47 am

    Well done, Michael Brenner!

    A key to understanding all of this is it gets worse no matter who is in office. Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton… it makes no difference. The trajectory is downward.The slope is negative. It’s Robin Hood in reverse, whether we call it trickle-down, supply side, neoliberalism… the song remains the same. All of us regular people get poorer while a handful of rich people get richer.

    How do we fix this? It’s going to take radical change. Here are three recent articles with suggestions about this:

    What is Social Democracy/ Democratic Socialism?

    Socialists, Democrats, and the Liberal Imagination

    What is Oligarchy? Government, Gone to the Dogs

  35. backwardsevolution
    September 6, 2018 at 7:22 am

    The big banks have all the power now because they’re pretty much the only game in town. Blow bubbles – boom – bust. All the well-paying manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas, leaving labor, unions and wages gutted. Millions of uneducated and vulnerable illegals serve to keep wages down for the few remaining jobs. Ralph Nader believes this gutting began in the 70’s and has escalated since then.

    When you’re the only game in town, you get to dictate the rules. The whole country is one great big financial Ponzi scheme.

    I agree with F. G. Sanford – there was and is collusion between the players. The central banks act in concert, as does the media and politicians.

    I would not listen to one word out of Paul Krugman’s mouth. The guy is part of the Group of 30 and very much aligned with the plutocrats.

    I agree with dick Spencer – boycott the Plutocrats! Get your money out of the big banks, stop buying from Amazon, use cash, stop reading the New York Times, the Washington Post, stop watching MSM. Boycott every large multinational.

    Overall, this was an excellent article. Thank you.

  36. playmobil
    September 6, 2018 at 7:15 am

    wonderful piece

  37. backwardsevolution
    September 6, 2018 at 6:22 am

    I’ve said several times on this site that this is a class war. The plutocrats are winning because they’re deflecting the war away from themselves by using divide and conquer tactics: “Don’t look at us, look at those deplorables! Don’t look at us, look at those racists!” And they’re laughing all the way to the bank as the Left and Right tear each other to shreds.

    And there’s another war going on between the globalists and the nationalists, and the plutocrats are fighting to the death.

    One side wants open borders with cheap, free-flowing labor, no nation states, multinationals beholden to no one, tax havens, and supranational organizations with the power to override sovereign courts and laws. Kind of like an open marriage. Anybody know of an open marriage that was successful in the long run? Oh, and endless wars to ensure worldwide supremacy.

    Conversely, the nationalists want fair trade, controlled borders, sovereignty, and a country that manufacturers their own products, where possible. A country that minds their own business, defends themselves, when necessary, and concentrates on their own citizens.

    Damn near every Democrat and Republican is on the globalist side. They’ve all been bought off by big money, as has the media. Monopolies are growing, small business is dying.

    Start looking “up”. That’s where your real enemy is – at the top of the pyramid. Don’t let them take your eyes off the ball.

  38. Realist
    September 6, 2018 at 4:11 am

    Our plutocracy is abetted by Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1976 and exacerbated by continuing dumb shit SC decisions First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission

  39. Brad Owen
    September 6, 2018 at 4:00 am

    Privatization and deregulation, public private partnership, plutocracy; all just fancy words for racketeering. The racketeers and pirates have taken over, and our economy is just a bundle of rackets.

  40. September 6, 2018 at 3:55 am

    Yes, indeed.

    And I’m not sure there can be any solution.

    Not only affairs within the United States are affected by the forces at work but the world of American foreign policy and empire.

    I’ve written on the matter a number of times, and I am just very doubtful there can a solution.

    The entire political structure of the United States has been bent and re-shaped by and for plutocracy.

    After all, you have Supreme Court decisions that say money is free speech and corporations are people, about as meaningful and principled as the Dred Scott decision.

    And all the people with any power, who could potentially change anything, are on-board with the big money. All of them. They have no motive for change.

    https://chuckmanwordsincomments.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/john-chuckman-comment-how-american-politics-really-work-why-there-are-terrible-candidates-and-constant-wars-and-peoples-problems-are-ignored-why-heroes-like-julian-assange-are-persecuted-and-r/

    https://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/what-america-has-become/

    https://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/john-chuckman-essay-the-twilight-zone-of-american-political-life-where-almost-every-word-of-news-isnt-what-it-seems/

    • September 6, 2018 at 4:03 am

      Further thought.

      The immense sense of power experienced by plutocrats leads to some very morally and ethically questionable activities.

      Some of the stuff coming out of the Gates Foundation for example.

      And, of course, we have Lord Acton’s words about the effects of poweer, one of the most important observations ever made

  41. Dmitry Babich
    September 6, 2018 at 1:47 am

    Just a great article! Congratulations to Consotriumnews on having professor Michael Brenner among its authors. I am a subscriber to the professor’s newsletter and I see him as the best authority in the US on the subjects covered in this article: income inequality, the mainstream media lies, the destruction of democratic institutions. Professor Brenner’s ideas apply to other countries, too/ But his edge on the US is the sharpest one.

  42. Zim
    September 6, 2018 at 12:20 am

    Most excellent essay. Thanks

  43. September 5, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    I believe, the plundering is all connected:
    —————————————
    May 5, 2017
    “The Open Criminality of the Establishment and its Political Puppets”

    “There is nothing politically right that is morally wrong” Daniel O’Connell

    The system has been pillaged and plundered by financial criminals and none have gone to jail. In the Libor “racket” some of them have paid large fines and continue to operate in the financial world. Other financial institutions have been involved in laundering drug money and financing terrorism but still no jail time ensues. Many banks have been bailed out with taxpayers’ dollars, and many taxpayers have lost their homes and their jobs and have seen their pension funds and their savings go into the dumpster (no bailouts for them) because of the financial banditry by these monetary reprobates. Some of these monetary manipulators have been known to advise governments, and goofy governments take their advice and impose austerity on their own people….
    “Therefore one has to ask: Has the Rule of Law Become the Rule of Outlaws?”…

    Meanwhile, there is no “austerity” in the “war business. Countries are invaded, millions are dead, millions are refugees and the financial industry reaps huge bloodstained profits. Corporate cannibals feed off death and destruction and taxpayers pay for all the carnage and soldiers pay with their lives, while others make a killing. (No pun intended)…
    [read more at link below]
    http://graysinfo.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-open-criminality-of-establishment.html

  44. Carlespie McKinney
    September 5, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    I have come to painfully accept the fact that this country has failed to live up to the values it claims to hold dear – values it claims to be ones that lights its path. I do not believe it is going to change. The United Sates is, indeed, a plutocracy. In fact, it has been so for most of its history but especially so in the last few years. This country is racing down a path from which it almost cannot veer. In short, democracy is a best a wishful dream and at worst, something this country will never see again.

  45. CitizenOne
    September 5, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    I’ll keep sending this quotable notes out like a lighthouse beacon that our ship of state is about to come crashing onto the shoals of despotism.

    “The Money Powers”:

    “The fact is that there is a serious danger of this country becoming a pluto-democracy; that is, a sham republic with the real government in the hands of a small clique of enormously wealth men, who speak through their money, and whose influence, even today, radiates to every corner of the United States.”

    William McAdoo – President Wilson’s national campaign vice-chairman, wrote in Crowded Years (1974)

    “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.”

    Abraham Lincoln – In a letter written to William Elkin less than five months before he was assassinated.

    “The money power preys on the nation in times of peace, and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces, as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes.”

    Abraham Lincoln

    “A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the Nation and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the world – no longer a Government of free opinion no longer a Government by conviction and vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men….

    Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men’s views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the U.S., in the field of commerce and manufacturing, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.”

    Woodrow Wilson – In The New Freedom (1913)

    “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them, will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

    Thomas Jefferson

    “The system of banking [is] a blot left in all our Constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction… I sincerely believe that banking institutions are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity… is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”

    Thomas Jefferson

    “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a monied aristocracy that has set the Government at defiance. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.”

    Thomas Jefferson

    … To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress (The Nucllear Option enacted by Congress which dissolved the two thirds majority rule enabling the nomination of Supreme Court Justices based on a simple majority) is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition. The incorporation of a bank, and the powers assumed by this bill [chartering the first Bank of the United States], have not, been delegated to the United States by the Constitution. My own interpretation (in parentheses). Hence there is not a quotation for this one.

    “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

    Frederic Bastiat – (1801-1850) in Economic Sophisms

    “The powers of financial capitalism had (a) far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent meetings and conferences. The apex of the systems was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank…sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world.”

    Prof. Carroll Quigley in Tragedy and Hope

    “In a small Swiss city sits an international organization so obscure and secretive….Control of the institution, the Bank for International Settlements, lies with some of the world’s most powerful and least visible men: the heads of 32 central banks, officials able to shift billions of dollars and alter the course of economies at the stroke of a pen.”

    Keith Bradsher of the New York Times, August 5, 1995

    “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is eager to enter into close relationship with the Bank for International Settlements….The conclusion is impossible to escape that the State and Treasury Departments are willing to pool the banking system of Europe and America, setting up a world financial power independent of and above the Government of the United States….The United States under present conditions will be transformed from the most active of manufacturing nations into a consuming and importing nation with a balance of trade against it.”

    Rep. Louis McFadden – Chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Currency quoted in the New York Times (June 1930)

    “Nothing did more to spur the boom in stocks than the decision made by the New York Federal Reserve bank, in the spring of 1927, to cut the rediscount rate. Benjamin Strong, Governor of the bank, was chief advocate of this unwise measure, which was taken largely at the behest of Montagu Norman of the Bank of England….At the time of the Banks action I warned of its consequences….I felt that sooner or later the market had to break.”

    Money baron Bernard Baruch in Baruch: The Public Years (1960)

    “The Federal Reserve Bank is nothing but a banking fraud and an unlawful crime against civilization. Why? Because they “create” the money made out of nothing, and our Uncle Sap Government issues their “Federal Reserve Notes” and stamps our Government approval with NO obligation whatever from these Federal Reserve Banks, Individual Banks or National Banks, etc.”

    H.L. Birum, Sr., American Mercury, August 1957, p. 43

    “[The] abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit…. In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holdings illegal, as was done in the case of gold…. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves…. [This] is the shabby secret of the welfare statist’s tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the ‘hidden’ confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights.”

    Alan Greenspan in an article he wrote in 1966.

  46. MillyBloom54
    September 5, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    Bravo

  47. September 5, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    We live in a world in which the wealthiest 5 humans have as much wealth as the 3.8 poorest humans on the entire freaking planet. Five people vs 3.8 BILLION people. If one set out to create the most unfair, amoral, ecologically destructive, violent system humanly possible – I really don’t think one could do better than our current model.

    The habitability of the earth itself, clean air, clean water, a toxin free environment are literally considered unimportant “externalities” by the literally insane market “logic” of our current civilizational myth system. The toxins we are ingesting daily are leading to intergenerational epigenetic changes that are destroying the health of as yet unborn generations.

    https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/09/04/chemically-induced-frankenstein-humans/

    Our arrogance and narcissism regarding our home, the earth, is coming back to haunt us, and none of our absurd arguments claiming that – “externalities” (such as a livable planet) – don’t really matter in our sacred equation of greed – is going to help us. Given the complete greed fueled blindness of the wealthy & powerful, one must assume that only utter the crash of global economy and of our ecosystems will bring this concrete zeppelin back to earth with a thud. God forbid we’d employ common sense in the meantime.

    • Anon
      September 6, 2018 at 8:44 am

      In the end, the Earth will win. And that day seems to be rapidly approaching.

  48. Tom Kath
    September 5, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    The essential underlying “consensus” among plutocrats, and, as you rightly lament, “also amongst the victims”, is a deep seated belief in “THE AMERICAN DREAM”. You describe very well the almost universal joy and pride in the ability to take advantage of our fellow man! – The respectability of “giving yourself an unfair advantage”, or in blunt terms, the respect for the successful SCAM ! – This will not be easy to remove or overthrow. – However……………..
    The most sophisticated and credible challenge to this distorted obsession with MONEY as the ultimate measure of VALUE, is the bitcoin phenomenon. The crucial component of it is the blockchain innovation. – In brief, I will simply describe it as a revolutionary new value system.
    Meanwhile, I leave you with a few words that occurred to me regarding the current state of political power compared to MONEY-
    In Power
    Because they don’t have opinions, and haven’t any ideas,
    They’re selected, endorsed, and elected. That’s how it has been now for years.
    Manicured and well presented, they play out their role on the stage
    Working hard to preserve the wellbeing of those few who just pay their wage.

    Smooth and polished and handsome, with the face of a movie star,
    They rehearse every word that’s been scripted. That’s what politicians now are.
    Overseeing their wide dominions, to allay the public’s worst fears
    Can’t afford to have any opinions, dare not have any ideas.

  49. Sally Snyder
    September 5, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    Here is an article that looks at the big favour that the Trump Administration has granted to the American banking sector:

    https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-economic-growth-regulatory-relief.html

    Washington failed to learn the lessons taught by the 2008 – 2009 recession and has set the economy up for another banking sector crisis that the Fed will be forced to resolve, an issue that will compromise its ability to “correct” the economy.

    • backwardsevolution
      September 6, 2018 at 12:04 am

      Sally – the Fed is responsible for the last three or four bubbles, and we all know what happens to bubbles – they pop. By holding interest rates down too low for far too long, the bubbles expanded. And, yes, they knew what they were doing.

      Every single bubble has been engineered and manufactured deliberately and with intent. The big banks own the Fed.

  50. Yahweh
    September 5, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    So the sitcom some live in is called plutocracy. You honestly don’t have to be a member of the cast. Everyone has a choice to be free or a slave to this narrative.

    Have you ever watched a scripted play or movie? One that was so compelling you felt like you were there and even after the movie was over there was an emotional hangover.

    Now, think real hard about who writes the most realistic scripts for Hollywood. Mesmerizing. Do you know what that means ?

    The life blood of any endeavor/ scripted play on earth is funded by the US Dollar. Maybe it’s time to check your portfolio to see if you’re an active actor in the play. Or keep your eyes on the magician and not their half naked assistant.

  51. September 5, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    A vivid description of the plutocracy! It might be a little stronger if it had more comparison with the way that capitalists and the ruling elite acted in a pre-plutocratic era. The next question is why bourgeois democracy degenerated.

  52. Jeff Harrison
    September 5, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    It is all very sad. The only way to upend this plutocracy is violent revolution. No one relinquishes power freely. Failing at that, like the malignant tumor that they are, they will destroy the host that contains them.

  53. F. G. Sanford
    September 5, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Actually, it is a conspiracy, and its perpetration and implementation have been carefully planned and executed. The architect of this conspiracy was economist James McGill Buchanan, and his patron saints are the Koch Brothers, the Ford Foundation, J.P. Morgan Chase and an enormous list of other financial elites, entities and think tanks. For the last sixty years, legislation has been quietly floated by American political puppets in order to permanently and irreversibly embed this dystopian system by convincing the masses that “big government” –in other words, “socialism”– works to steal from the “haves” in order to give “free stuff” to the “parasites”. In truth, government has become a reverse Robin Hood enriching the already rich at the expense of the poor.

    Buchanan believed that the measure of human worth was wealth, and poor people were poor because that’s what they deserved. The “deplorables” have actually been conditioned to believe that, and they worship their oppressors. The media plays along to reenforce the delusion. Bill Maher sucking up to John Brennan, John Lewis sucking up to John McCain, John Oliver sucking up to Barack Obama, Rachel Maddow sucking up to Hillary Clinton, and of course, there’s CNN, where Cristiane Amanpour (married to Robert Rubin) and Anderson Cooper (of Vanderbilt family fortune) gleefully suck up to any corporate enterprise.

    The strategy behind dismantling Social Security is predicated on the impoverishment of the elderly, which precludes intergenerational accumulation of wealth. They don’t have anything to pass to their children, which insures that durable assets accrue to the financial class over time.

    As ugly as Buchanan’s philosophy is, Americans keep proving him right. They keep voting against their own interests. In fact, they elect the very billionaires who insure that they remain “deplorable”. Tragically, because the legislation is so difficult to reverse or overcome, the only way out is probably a “let them eat cake” moment. With militarization and the expanded surveillance of the burgeoning police state however, that is unlikely. Americans will keep right on believing that “social justice” is all about free market economy and private property. They keep convincing the billionaires that they deserve whatever they can get. Nope, no “free stuff” for us, dammit! We’re Americans!

    • LarcoMarco
      September 6, 2018 at 12:51 am

      I suspect that Trumpsterfire’s base of “deplorables” have been led to believe that most “free stuff” goes to Black or Brown people and that Real Americans decline offers of govt aid and oppose the legislation that enables it.

      • backwardsevolution
        September 6, 2018 at 5:46 am

        Larco Marco – the “deplorables” are angry about the jobs that have been offshored by the multinationals and angry that half of the country cares more about illegals than they do of their own countrymen. They’re working two and three jobs and haven’t had a real raise in close to 40 years, when you factor in inflation.

        There are many black and brown “deplorables”. They too hope for a country where things are made locally, like they should be (not produced and then shipped halfway around the world).

        The bad thing about getting “free stuff” is it’s never really ever free, is it?

    • Joe Tedesky
      September 6, 2018 at 9:32 am

      F.G. great comment as usual, to go with Professor Brenner’s terrific essay.

      Reading your comment, after reading this article, makes my mind travel to America’s labor struggles of the early 20th Century. Will the protest, and riots, such as what happened at the Chicago Republic Steel strike in the 30’s come back to haunt the American landscape of discourse? Could we expect that at some point a generational struggle for higher wages, and job securities, will become vogue? Will my grandchildren return to petition for the values their great grandparents fought so hard for? May we expect a FDR to rise out of the ashes of destructing greed, and plutocratic abuse? Will the pendulum swing viciously back towards the laborers?

      Questions on top of questions. Joe

  54. mike k
    September 5, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    Belaboring the obvious. Of course the rich control our society. If you can’t see that, you are deeply brainwashed. If you see the obvious truth, the question is – what can we do about it? Whatever that is – let’s do it!

    • dick Spencer
      September 5, 2018 at 8:03 pm

      BOYCOTT–the Plutocracy—-Now–

  55. Joseph
    September 5, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    In every government since the dawn of time, there have been people who have more impact on that government and there have been people who have less. In Ancient Athens, every citizen had an equal vote, but the people who came to assembly every day made the laws, and the folks who stayed home had to live with the consequences. In the middle ages, it was primarily the noblemen who made the laws, Serfs got no say and the merchant/middle class were scarcely better.

    John Adams predicted that when Americans threw off nobility, it would soon be replaced by a sneakier kind of noble – one that held no title, no royal pedigree, but would still be able to tell his employees or tenants who to vote for. He believed that there would always be those people who wheel and deal considerably more power than the common man. He was right.

    Generally the way that big business get bigger is by crushing their smaller competitors, and they use the government for this. The spotted owl story was pushed by big logging companies who owned the land. The story resulted in government no longer leasing land to small logging companies – the competitors of the big logging companies. When the supreme court gave the states the right to collect sales taxes from online companies in other states, the extra headache of learning 50 different tax codes put a lot of small online sellers out of business. Not so for Amazon. A federal tax code that is 74608 pages long benefits large businesses who can hire lawyers and accountants, but is a hindrance to small business. Every license, registration, fee, regulation, and nearly every law hurts small business and helps large business. Government isn’t the solution to big business, it’s the cause. Everything the government touches tends give off the foul odor of corruption and inefficiency afterwards.

    When the red communists lined all the property owners against the wall and shot them, they still ended up with a system of government where a small portion of the population exerted significantly more political sway than the others. There is no permanent solution to this because it’s a fact of human nature that some people will be more involved in politics and some will be less. I will say that I think that the Americans of 1776 were much better informed and more active in political debate, thought, and theory than anything we’ve seen in my generation.

    • backwardsevolution
      September 6, 2018 at 5:42 pm

      Joseph – what a great comment! I totally agree with what you’ve said: how big business gets rid of its smaller competitors (by passing more regulation), how there’s always a small segment of society who rise to the top (not because they’re smarter, but because they’re craftier, sneakier, and certainly more willing to use manipulation and bribes to get ahead). You and others are no doubt smart, but it takes a certain type to step on others to get to the top.

      I also agree with John Adams about the “new” nobility. It’s exactly the same thing. Kings and queens used to have to watch their backs constantly. Heads were always rolling over one plot or another. It hasn’t changed, not really, just a slightly different form of landed gentry.

      I remember reading once that the French Revolution was not started by the lower classes, but the merchant class, the business people. These up-and-coming pillars of society riled up the peasants, who finally took over, but when it all ended, who was there to pick up the pieces? The merchant class. Just a different nobility with so-called “democracy” being the new king.

      “Government isn’t the solution to big business, it’s the cause. Everything the government touches tends give off the foul odor of corruption and inefficiency afterwards.”

      Totally agree with “government” ending up corrupted. Of course we need strict, enforced laws, but the fewer, the better. Big government is just a cover for corruption, for buying the population, for protecting the privileged class. The poor, who often want big government because they feel safer, are actually deluded in their thinking. They end up being bought for their vote.

      Good post, Joseph.

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