‘How rich is Tony Blair? What are the needs of an ex-prime minister with grown-up children, a working wife, £25m in property and bodyguards costing the state £1m a year? Blair protested yesterday that he is not worth £100m, “not half of that, a third of that, a quarter of that, a fifth of that, and I could go on.” That gets us down to below £20m. In addition, he pleaded that, “I spend two-thirds of my time on unpaid work,” such as bringing peace to the Middle East. How dare anyone suggest he was motivated by money?’
‘[...] Although the Obama years have been boom times for America’s super-rich—recent work by the economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty showed that ninety-five per cent of income gains in the first three years of the recovery went to the top one per cent—a lot of them believe that they’re a persecuted minority. As Mark Mizruchi, a sociologist at the University of Michigan and the author of a book called “The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite,” told me, “These guys think, We’re the job creators, we keep the markets running, and yet the public doesn’t like us. How can that be?” Business leaders were upset at the criticism that followed the financial crisis and, for many of them, it’s an article of faith that people succeed or fail because that’s what they deserve. Schwarzman recently said that Americans “always like to blame somebody other than themselves for a failure.” If you believe that net worth is a reflection of merit, then any attempt to curb inequality looks unfair.
That’s not how it’s always been. A century ago, industrial magnates played a central role in the Progressive movement, working with unions, supporting workmen’s compensation laws and laws against child labor, and often pushing for more government regulation. This wasn’t altruism; as a classic analysis by the historian James Weinstein showed, the reforms were intended to co-opt public pressure and avert more radical measures. Still, they materially improved the lives of ordinary workers. And they sprang from a pragmatic belief that the robustness of capitalism as a whole depended on wide distribution of the fruits of the system.’
‘The government on Monday faced a call to impose legal caps on executive salaries after a study found top pay in Britain has reached 180 times average wages. The High Pay Centre said that since the late 1990s executive pay has grown from 60 times that of the average British worker to nearly 180 times.
It wants the government to consider requiring companies to cap executive pay at a fixed multiple of their lowest-paid employee. Last year the government gave shareholders the power to vote down executive pay policy at company AGMs if they thought the proposed pay package was too large.
So far, however, every vote at a FTSE 100 company has seen a majority of shareholders support the company policy on top pay, the Centre said. Last year pay received by the average FTSE 100 chief executive increased to £4.7 million, up from £4.1 million in 2012, it said.’
Editor’s Note: Jacob Wallenberg, along with his cousin Marcus, are key members of the elite and influential Bilderberg meetings. For more on these meetings, go here.
‘Jacob Wallenberg is used to fighting against misapprehensions. Perhaps the biggest is that Sweden’s leading industrialist and his family personally own their stakes in the likes of telecoms group Ericsson, home appliance maker Electrolux and drugs multinational AstraZeneca. Instead the shares are held by family foundations, with the largest giving SKr1.3bn ($190m) to Swedish research last year. This is healthy for two reasons, says Mr Wallenberg, who together with his cousin Marcus and brother Peter are the fifth generation of the family to be active in business.
First, he says, they look to develop companies for the benefit of the foundations rather than “squabbling about my money, your money, who gets what and so on”. He adds that while “in a Swedish context we’re well-off”, they do not have immense wealth by global standards, an assertion supported by the absence of Wallenbergs from a recent list of 136 Swedes worth more than SKr1bn ($150m), led by Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad. The second advantage of having the money tied up in foundations is personal motivation, he maintains: “When I wake up in the morning, like everyone else I need to go work, I need to earn a good, sound living.” Nonetheless, the 58-year-old is at the heart of the largest Nordic country’s business elite, with the Wallenbergs controlling companies representing 40 per cent of the total market capitalisation of Stockholm’s stock exchange.’
‘I see pitchforks.
At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.
But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.’
‘Robert David Steele, former Marine, CIA case officer, and US co-founder of the US Marine Corps intelligence activity, is a man on a mission. But it’s a mission that frightens the US intelligence establishment to its core. With 18 years experience working across the US intelligence community, followed by 20 more years in commercial intelligence and training, Steele’s exemplary career has spanned almost all areas of both the clandestine world. Steele started off as a Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer. After four years on active duty, he joined the CIA for about a decade before co-founding the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, where he was deputy director. Widely recognised as the leader of the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) paradigm, Steele went on to write the handbooks on OSINT for NATO, the US Defense Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Special Operations Forces. In passing, he personally trained 7,500 officers from over 66 countries.
In 1992, despite opposition from the CIA, he obtained Marine Corps permission to organise a landmark international conference on open source intelligence – the paradigm of deriving information to support policy decisions not through secret activities, but from open public sources available to all. The conference was such a success it brought in over 620 attendees from the intelligence world. But the CIA wasn’t happy, and ensured that Steele was prohibited from running a second conference. The clash prompted him to resign from his position as second-ranking civilian in Marine Corps intelligence, and pursue the open source paradigm elsewhere. He went on to found and head up the Open Source Solutions Network Inc. and later the non-profit Earth Intelligence Network which runs the Public Intelligence Blog.’
- Robert Steele at LIBTECHNYC: The Open Source Everything Manifesto
- The Open-Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth and Trust by Robert David Steele
- A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change
- The Crisis of Civilizatiion (Documentary)
- Robert David Steele’s Book Reviews
‘More than 1.76 million people joined the ranks of the global super-rich last year as stock-market gains and soaring property prices swelled personal fortunes worldwide. A record 13.7 million people are now classed as “high net worth individuals” (HNWI), according to a survey of the planet’s most well-off citizens.
The collective wealth of HNWIs – defined as those with investable assets of at least $1m (£590,000) not including their main home, their art collection or vintage sports cars – rose by 13.8% to $52.6tn. The latest wealth report by consultancy firm Capgemini and the wealth management arm of banking group RBC found that almost 40% of those fortunes were created in the last five years. In Britain, more than 62,000 people became HNWIs last year, bringing their numbers to a record high of 527,000 – or one in every 121 of the population.’
‘There are now more millionaires in China than in Japan, as the wealthiest Chinese reaped huge returns from shadow-banking-related financial products, a new study revealed. China had 2,378,000 millionaire households in 2013, a rise of 82% from the previous year and almost double the 1,240,000 millionaire households in Japan, according to the Boston Consulting Group Global Wealth 2014 report. China’s millionaire population is now the world’s second-largest, trailing only the U.S., which boasted 7,135,000 millionaire households in 2013. BCG defines a millionaire household as those with $1 million in total liquid wealth, including stocks, cash and other financial investments but not real estate, collectibles or luxury items.’
Capitalists seem uninterested in capitalism—in supporting the development of market-creating innovations.- Clayton M. Christensen and Derek van Bever, The Capitalist’s Dilemma, Harvard Business Review, June, 2014
‘Fourteen years ago, the 1% got the tax breaks and regulatory rollbacks which they had repeatedly assured us would usher in an era of boundless prosperity. What was ushered in instead was the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression – an ongoing disaster that is exacerbated by the austerity-mongering neoliberal vampires who still control our economy.
Now, even the Harvard Business Review is calling out the neoliberal nonsense about “entreprenuers”, pointing out that the short-term view of the financial markets values “disruptive innovation” less than “efficiency innovation” (i.e., cutting jobs). When the man who invented the term “disruptive innovation” (Clayton Christensen) says captialism does not value his brainchild, you know that Wall St. has jumped the shark.’
- The Capitalist’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen and Derek van Bever
- The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen
- World’s Super Rich Have Stashed $20 Trillion In Tax Havens
- Innovation isn’t profitable enough for the plutocrats
- The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs
- Cities and the Wealth of Nations by Jane Jacobs
- Plantation ownership – it’s not just for Southerners anymore
‘They are the richest family in the US, with a combined wealth greater than that of the entire bottom 40 per cent of Americans. Yet a new report has found that the Waltons – heirs to the Walmart megastore fortune – have donated a vanishing proportion of their riches to charity. The report by the activist group Walmart 1 Per Cent, entitled The Phony Philanthropy of the Walmart Heirs, found that the company’s four heirs have given only 0.04 per cent of their $140bn (£83bn) fortune to the Walton Family Foundation. The report compares the Waltons’ donations to those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who have given away 36.2 and 26.9 per cent of their fortunes respectively, and cites data suggesting that the average US middle-class earner with a salary of between $50,000 and $99,000 contributes 6 per cent of their discretionary income to charity.’
‘An heir to the Rockefeller fortune has been killed in a plane crash in New York, the billionaire family has announced. Richard Rockefeller died when his plane, a single-engine Piper Meridian turboprop, crashed in foggy weather just minutes after taking off from an airport near White Plains in Westchester county, New York.
Richard Rockefeller was the son of philanthropist David Rockefeller Sr and the great-grandson of oil tycoon and philanthropst John D Rockefeller. He had been returning from New York where he had been celebrating his father’s 99th birthday on Thursday. The aircraft came down less than a mile away from the airport, striking trees and missing a house in Harrison by only a few feet, according to police and airport officials. US safety agencies have launched an investigation.’
D-Day Set the Stage for the Rebirth and Reorganization of Global Capitalism: Interview with Leo Panitch
Editor’s Note: If you would like to learn more about the formation of the Atlantic capitalist elite after World War Two I would highly recommend two books. The first by Leo Panitch himself is “The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire“, and the other is by Kees van der Pijl, “The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class“. You can also download another of van der Pijl’s books for free here.
‘On the weekend, this year’s Bilderberg meeting took place in Copenhagen. The Bilderberg Group is an elite circle that brings together since 1954 Top elites from Europe and the USA – business leaders and strategists meet handpicked politicians and journalists.
This year, almost 140 participants to discuss topics including the future of the EU, the situation in Ukraine, the stability of the economic recovery, data protection (“Does privacy exist?”) And the exchange of intelligence. Other topics can be found in the official press release - the transatlantic free trade agreement TTIP is not available as a separate item on the list, but may have been an issue.
2013 was the question on the list, “Can the U.S. and Europe grow faster and create jobs?” – As it will be gone by TTIP in the core (in the presence of a mixture of lobbyists for TTIP, political negotiators and decision makers).’
‘Not many European countries punch above their weight in foreign affairs like Sweden does. Much of this is down to Carl Bildt, foreign minister for the past eight years in this country of 10m people, and his bulging contacts book.
That is likely to end soon as polls ahead of Sweden’s parliamentary elections in September show the centre-left opposition way ahead of the governing coalition. But Mr Bildt, a former conservative prime minister in the 1990s, is showing no signs of slowing down.’
‘For a notoriously camera-shy conference, a city-centre location was always going to be a challenge. Of course, some of the delegates relished the attention, like the catwalk king of Bilderberg, Björn Wahlroos.
Björn is chairman of the huge Finnish finance company the Sampo Group, and Bilderberg’s best dressed man by a country mile. Those butterscotch slacks are nothing short of a triumph, and he knows it. A stickler for detail, Björn had his personal assistant spend the entire night getting the crimping right in that hanky. Worth every minute.
The only person at this year’s Bilderberg who came close to Björn in the style stakes was Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF.’
‘The night in 2002 when Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won his landslide victory in Brazil’s presidential elections, he warned supporters: “So far, it has been easy. The hard part begins now.” He wasn’t wrong. As head of the leftwing Workers’ party he was elected on a platform of fighting poverty and redistributing wealth. A year earlier, the party had produced a document, Another Brazil is Possible, laying out its electoral programme. In a section entitled “The Necessary Rupture”, it argued: “Regarding the foreign debt, now predominantly private, it will be necessary to denounce the agreement with the IMF, in order to free the economic policy from the restrictions imposed on growth and on the defence of Brazilian commercial interests.”
But on the way to Lula’s inauguration the invisible hand of the market tore up his electoral promises and boxed the country around the ears for its reckless democratic choice. In the three months between his winning and being sworn in, the currency plummeted by 30%, $6bn in hot money left the country, and some agencies gave Brazil the highest debt-risk ratings in the world. “We are in government but not in power,” said Lula’s close aide, Dominican friar Frei Betto. “Power today is global power, the power of the big companies, the power of financial capital.”‘
‘Spain’s King Juan Carlos, who led Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy but faced royal scandals amid the nation’s near financial meltdown, will abdicate so his son can become the country’s next monarch, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told the country Monday in an announcement broadcast nationwide. Rajoy did not say when the handover would happen because the government must now craft a law creating a legal mechanism for the abdication and for 46-year-old Crown Prince Felipe’s assumption of power.’
‘On the sun-drenched patio of the Marriott Hotel in Copenhagen sat the chancellor of the exchequer. He sat quietly and listened carefully as a distinguished older gentleman gave him what appeared to be an intense and barely-interrupted 25 minute briefing. George Osborne sat and listened, while we stood and watched.
The body language was fascinating. George was tense, leaning in, petitioning. The man opposite was physically relaxed but full of gestures and explanations. George was there to listen hard and get up to speed. Apart from a two-minute speech at the end, he opened his lips barely a dozen times, and half of those were simply to have a sip of his fruit punch.
The gentleman with his back to us, slouching comfortably in his chair, is an important, extremely well connected, but not very well known individual: Sir John Kerr. Otherwise known as Baron Kerr of Kinlochard. The current vice-chairman of Scottish Power. At Bilderberg, Sir John always seems to be at the centre of things: when Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands emerges onto the patio, it’s Sir John who leads her out. When no one else will have a drink with Richard Perle, Sir John steps up.’
‘Just before lunch on Friday, two cars left the Marriott hotel in Copenhagen in quick succession. First to leave was laden down with US military brass. It carried the supreme allied commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, and his aides.
Four stars on his hat and a grim look on his face. Clearly he’s annoyed to be missing the buffet. He can still smell those Danish meatballs. It’s killing him.
The general hadn’t travelled to Bilderberg alone. Discussing the situation in Ukraine with this many senior government ministers makes it official military business. He was well accompanied.’
‘So here he is, our esteemed chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, arriving at the 2014 Bilderberg in Copenhagen. In a snappy suit, and with a new razor-sharp hairdo, Osborne looks ready for business. You could skin a goat with that fringe. He probably got a trim and a shoe polish at the airport, wanting to look his best for the conference.
Osborne rolled up to the hotel with John Micklethwait, the editor-in-chief of the Economist and board member of the Economist Group. This year, in all, there are three members of the Economist board at Bilderberg: Micklethwait, John Elkann (the billionaire Agnelli heir) and Eric Schmidt (the executive chairman of Google).
During his stay in Copenhagen, Osborne will also have the chance to hammer out economic policy with three senior members of Goldman Sachs, three board members of Shell Oil, and two people whose nickname is “the Prince of Darkness” – Richard Perle and Peter Mandelson.’
‘There was an eerie silence on Thursday morning in the press area outside the Bilderberg conference venue in Copenhagen. All eyes, and a lot of lenses, were peering up Kalvebod Brygge, the long road to the airport, waiting for the limousines to start whooshing in with their precious cargo: a powerful mix of ministers and moguls, billionaires and business behemoths.
We know George Osborne is due to attend; this year’s conference in Copenhagen will be his seventh. He’s been coming on and off since 2006, though remarkably, in all this time, he hasn’t managed to say seven words about it in public. His discretion is to be much admired. Or criticised. Depending upon your view of democracy.
Photographers are playing an important part in bringing Bilderberg to a wider world – one which for decades paid scant attention to this international summit. There’s a material difference between seeing the words “Allied Supreme Commander Europe” on a press release and seeing his face in a limousine pass you into the Marriott hotel.’
‘It’s been a week of celebrations for Henry Kissinger. On Tuesday he turned 91, on Wednesday he broke his personal best in the 400m hurdles, and on Thursday in Copenhagen, he’ll be clinking champagne flutes with the secretary general of Nato and the queen of Spain, as they celebrate 60 glorious years of Bilderberg. I just hope George Osborne remembered to pack a party hat.
Thursday is the opening day of the influential three-day summit and it’s also the 60th anniversary of the Bilderberg Group’s first meeting, which took place in Holland on 29 May 1954. So this year’s event is a red-letter occasion, and the official participant list shows that the 2014 conference is a peculiarly high-powered affair.
The chancellor, at his seventh Bilderberg, is spending the next three days deep in conference with the heads of MI6, Nato, the International Monetary Fund, HSBC, Shell, BP and Goldman Sachs International, along with dozens of other chief executives, billionaires and high-ranking politicians from around Europe. This year also includes a visit from the supreme allied commander Europe, and a return of royalty – Queen Sofia of Spain and Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, the daughter of the Bilderberg founder Prince Bernhard.’
‘[...] Chancellor George Osborne and his Labour counterpart, Ed Balls, are among the hand-picked group of British politicians who will visit Copenhagen to hob-nob with the global elite behind closed doors.
Other guests from the political sphere include the former “Third Man” of New Labour, Lord Mandelson, the current International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, and the veteran American foreign policy expert, Henry Kissinger.
Billionaire captains of industry who landed invitations include the heads of Shell, BP, Airbus, HSBC, Saab, AXA, Google, and Linkedin. They will sit alongside key global powerbrokers such as Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, and senior officials from the European Central Bank.
The chairmen from Goldman Sachs and Lazards will perhaps reflect on how their investment banks “advised” Whitehall over the controversial flotation of Royal Mail, which left the UK taxpayer £1bn out of pocket.
Keeping a discreet eye over the exchanges will be the intelligence chiefs such as Mr Alexander from the United States and Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6, who was pictured on Facebook in his swimming trunks in 2009.’
There are thirteen British names on the officially released list of attendees for the 2014 Bilderberg Conference in Denmark.
The three day trade and policy summit begins on Thursday May 29th, and is taking place at the Marriott Hotel, Copenhagen.
The British participants include two serving cabinet ministers, the Group Chairman of HSBC, the head of MI6 and Lord Mandelson.
POLITICS / CIVIL SERVICE
George Osborne MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Justine Greening MP
Secretary of State for International Development
Ed Balls MP
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chief, Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
Group Chairman, HSBC
Chairman, International Institute of Finance
International Advisory Board, BritishAmerican Business
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles
Senior Advisor to Group Chairman, HSBC
Group Chief Executive, BP
Note: Bob Dudley is listed under ‘GBR’ on the participant list, although he is American.
Sir John Kerr
Deputy Chairman, Scottish Power
Chairman UBM plc
Deputy Chair, esure group.
Senior Adviser to Bain Capital
International Advisory Board, BritishAmerican Business
Chairman, PA Consulting
Chairman, Lazard International
Chairman, Global Counsel
Editor-in-Chief, The Economist
Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times