Editor’s Note: At $1 million each, this vehicle could become the ride of choice for the world’s global elite who are increasingly becoming paranoid about the bewildered herds growing anger at rising inequality and their increasingly extravagant lifestyles while so many struggle to get by. Why not peasant proof themselves with a Prombron Black Shark?
‘Leather seats and a champagne fridge used to be the ultimate in car luxury. Now, it’s Tiffany blue bonnets encrusted with Swarovski crystals.
In China, where millionaires are being minted daily and displays of excess are still easily found despite a crackdown on extravagance, the bar for conspicuous consumption is being raised ever higher.
Enter the Prombron Black Shark, a bespoke luxury vehicle from Latvia’s Dartz Motorz Co. that in addition to armor-plating, crowd-suppression lasers and anti-paparazzi electrified door handles, offers exotic leather interiors, a Bang & Olufsen A/S sound system and, yes, as one customer has requested, that famous blue paint job. Costing in excess of six figures, these cars are clearly for people who want to do more than just get from point A to point B.’
‘Wealth inequality in the US is at near record levels according to a new study by academics. Over the past three decades, the share of household wealth owned by the top 0.1% has increased from 7% to 22%. For the bottom 90% of families, a combination of rising debt, the collapse of the value of their assets during the financial crisis, and stagnant real wages have led to the erosion of wealth.
The research by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman [pdf] illustrates the evolution of wealth inequality over the last century. The chart shows how the top 0.1% of families now own roughly the same share of wealth as the bottom 90%.
The picture actually improved in the aftermath of the 1930s Great Depression, with wealth inequality falling through to the late 1970s. It then started to rise again, with the share of total household wealth owned by the top 0.1% rising to 22% in 2012 from 7% in the late 1970s. The top 0.1% includes 160,000 families with total net assets of more than $20m (£13m) in 2012.
In contrast, the share of total US wealth owned by the bottom 90% of families fell from a peak of 36% in the mid-1980s, to 23% in 2012 – just one percentage point above the top 0.1%.’
‘These two groups – financial institutions and the consultants that advise them – play key roles in the spread of institutionalized corporate and financial power, and as such, warnings from these groups about the threat posed by “social unrest” carry particular weight as they are geared toward a particular audience: the global oligarchy itself.
Organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank were responsible for forcing neoliberal economic “restructuring” on much of the developing world from the 1980s onwards, as the IMF and E.U. are currently imposing on Greece and large parts of Europe. The results have been and continue to be devastating for populations, while corporations and banks accumulate unprecedented wealth and power.
As IMF austerity programs spread across the globe, poverty followed, and so too did protests and rebellion. Between 1976 and 1992, there were 146 protests against IMF-sponsored programs in 39 different countries around the world, often resulting in violent state repression of the domestic populations.
These same programs by the IMF and World Bank facilitated the massive growth of slums, as the policies demanded by the organizations forced countries to undertake massive layoffs, privatization, deregulation, austerity and the liberalization of markets – amounting, ultimately, to a new system of social genocide. The new poor and displaced rural communities flocked to cities in search of work and hope for a better future, only to be herded into massive urban shantytowns and slums. Today roughly one in seven people on Earth, or over 1 billion, live in slums.’
- IMF’s Post-Crisis Austerity Call Mistaken, Internal Watchdog Says
- The Group of Thirty, Architects of Austerity
- Europe’s job crisis a smouldering fuse
- The root of Europe’s riots
- Fact. There is a link between cuts and riots
- World Bank warns of social unrest
- IMF warns second bailout would ‘threaten democracy’
- Prolonged crisis a danger without fast stimulus, IMF warns
- Greg Palast: IMF’s four steps to damnation
- The Missionary Position: NGOs and Development in Africa
- Masters of Illusion: The World Bank and the Poverty of Nations (Book)
- Planet of Slums (Book)
- Billions of dollars wasted on investment advice
- Consultants face need for survival strategy
- Capitalism for the Long Term
- Future State 2030: The Global Megatrends Shaping Governments
- Dealing With Disruption: Adapting to Survive and Thrive
‘Outspoken US media tycoon Ted Turner turned up the heat in his acrimonious and long-standing feud with Rupert Murdoch last night, calling the News Corp chairman a “warmonger” for his support of the war in Iraq.
Just weeks after Mr Turner challenged Mr Murdoch to a fist fight, he waded into his old adversary for his unrelenting support of the war.
“He’s a warmonger,” Mr Turner said in a speech in San Francisco. “He promoted it.”‘
‘The number of billionaires has doubled since the start of the financial crisis, according to a major new report from anti-poverty campaigners.
According to Oxfam, the world’s rich are getting richer, leaving hundreds of millions of people facing a life “trapped in poverty” as global “inequality spirals out of control”.
The report found that the number of billionaires in the world has more than doubled to 1,646 since the financial crisis of 2009, and Oxfam says is evidence that the benefits of a return to economic growth are “not being shared with the vast majority”.’
‘According to a new report, the richest one percent have got their mitts on almost half the world’s assets. Think that’s the end of the story? Think again. This is only the beginning.
The “Global Annual Wealth Report,” freshly released by investment giant Credit Suisse, analyzes the shocking trend of growing wealth inequality around the world. What the researchers find is that global wealth has increased every year since 2008, and that personal wealth seems to be rising at the fastest rate ever recorded, much of it driven by strong equity markets. But the benefits of this growth have largely been channeled to those who are already affluent. While the restaurant workers in America struggled to achieve wages of $10 an hour for their labor, those invested in equities saw their wealth soar without lifting a finger. So it goes around the world.’
‘The richest 1% of the world’s population are getting wealthier, owning more than 48% of global wealth, according to a report published on Tuesday which warned growing inequality could be a trigger for recession.
According to the Credit Suisse global wealth report (pdf), a person needs just $3,650 – including the value of equity in their home – to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens. However, more than $77,000 is required to be a member of the top 10% of global wealth holders, and $798,000 to belong to the top 1%.
“Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets,” said the annual report, now in its fifth year.’
- Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report
- Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world
- Britain’s five richest families worth more than poorest 20%
- Piketty’s Inequality Story in Six Charts
- Pope Francis denounces ‘trickle-down’ economics
- The Global 1%: Exposing the Transnational Ruling Class
- From The Price of Inequality: Joseph Stiglitz on the 1 Percent Problem
- £13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite
- Why economic inequality leads to collapse
- The Rise of the New Global Elite
Editor’s Note: Robert Johnson is the Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, a Senior Fellow and Director of the “Project on Global Finance” at the Roosevelt Institute. He was also a former currency trader on Wall Street who worked under George Soros.
‘The enormity of the Koch fortune is no mystery. Brothers Charles and David are each worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they’ve cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today’s GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year’s midterms. So far in this cycle, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate.
What is less clear is where all that money comes from. Koch Industries is headquartered in a squat, smoked-glass building that rises above the prairie on the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas. The building, like the brothers’ fiercely private firm, is literally and figuratively a black box. Koch touts only one top-line financial figure: $115 billion in annual revenue, as estimated by Forbes. By that metric, it is larger than IBM, Honda or Hewlett-Packard and is America’s second-largest private company after agribusiness colossus Cargill. The company’s stock response to inquiries from reporters: “We are privately held and don’t disclose this information.”
But Koch Industries is not entirely opaque. The company’s troubled legal history – including a trail of congressional investigations, Department of Justice consent decrees, civil lawsuits and felony convictions – augmented by internal company documents, leaked State Department cables, Freedom of Information disclosures and company whistle-blowers, combine to cast an unwelcome spotlight on the toxic empire whose profits finance the modern GOP.’
‘The secret story of how the outgoing head of the most powerful military alliance landed his job “has everything,” according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“It has the Kurds. It has the destruction of an entire TV station. Corrupt deals between intelligence agencies and the judiciary. The corruption of a Scandinavian country, Denmark. And the head of that country, the prime minister, doing a corrupt deal to get his job,” Assange told teleSUR English in an exclusive interview.
Continuing, Assange lamented the “whole thing, signed off, explicitly by Barack Obama.”
The story with “everything” is now a pending case before the European Court of Human Rights, but it begins two years ago, with the prosecution of a Kurdish language television station in Denmark.’
‘In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University’s economics department, the offer came with strings attached.
First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.
Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.
And third, Bruce Benson, a prominent libertarian economic theorist and Florida State University economics department chairman, must stay on another three years as department chairman — even though he told his wife he’d step down in 2009 after one three-year term.’
Darrell M. West has produced a list of America’s top billionaires with the most political power for a upcoming book called Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust. According to the author he “examines the political use of great wealth, including campaign expenditures, activism through nonprofit organizations and foundations, holding public office, media ownership, policy thought leadership, and behind the scenes influence.” You can learn more about it by clicking on the image below:
‘What follows in this essay might appear to some to be a somewhat harsh critique. On the other hand, in the tradition of honoring one’s adversaries, it could be read as an acknowledgment of the vision, flexibility, sophistication, and unwavering determination of those who have dedicated their lives to keeping the world safe for capitalism.
Their enthralling history, which has faded from contemporary memory, began in the United States in the early twentieth century when, kitted out legally in the form of endowed foundations, corporate philanthropy began to replace missionary activity as Capitalism’s (and Imperialism’s) road-opening and systems maintenance patrol.
Among the first foundations to be set up in the United States were the Carnegie Corporation, endowed in 1911 by profits from Carnegie Steel Company, and the Rockefeller Foundation, endowed in 1914 by J. D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Company. The Tatas and Ambanis of their time.’
Editor’s Note: In Russia it has been claimed in recent years that several members of the opposition have been aided by the West in an attempt to loosen Putin’s grip or remove him from power. While there are certainly some links with certain groups and individuals, particularly through organisations like the NED (well known for meddling in other countries affairs), some of the accusations can also be put down to a combination of paranoia and propaganda. Chess grandmaster and former world champion Garry Kasparov‘s links to the West have been quite visible however, most notably his attendance at the 2012 Bilderberg conference in Chantilly, Virginia. Kasparov’s attendance is interesting because Russians are almost never invited to the secretive annual meetings so he is someone worth keeping an eye on. You can learn more about Bilderberg here.
The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said its study of the social background of those “running Britain” was the most detailed of its kind ever undertaken and showed that elitism was so embedded in Britain “that it could be called ‘social engineering'”.
[…] The commission’s 76-page report mostly focuses on analysis, but it does include recommendations, saying government, schools, universities, employers and even parents all need to play their part in promoting social diversity.
Looking at the background of more than 4,000 people filling jobs at the top of government, the civil service, the judiciary, the media, business and the creative industries, the commission investigated where they went to school, on the grounds that going to a private school is reasonably indicative of a wealthy background.’
Editor’s Note: France’s new economy minister, investment banker Emmanuel Macron, attended this year’s Bilderberg conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Manuel Valls, the man who selected him, has also attended the elite meetings in 2008 as a Member of the French Parliament. It’s all about connections when it comes to highest levels of business and politics. Jean-Claude Trichet, former head of the ECB and a Bilderberg regular, seems quite happy that Macron is the right man for the job. That job being sticking to the austerity policies that the big bankers who regularly attend Bilderberg want imposed on Europe.
‘French President Francois Hollande has named a new cabinet under PM Manual Valls, dropping ministers who rebelled against austerity cuts. The first government of Mr Valls, who was appointed less than five months ago, fell on Monday after a row with Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg.
Mr Montebourg resigned along with two other ministers from the left. He will be replaced by Emmanuel Macron, a former Rothschild banker and ex-presidential economic adviser.
President Hollande is seeking a coherent line on economic policy after recent criticism from the left wing of his Socialist Party. Many see it as his last chance to make a successful presidency, after his recent poll ratings sunk to 17%.’
- France’s economic woes won’t end anytime soon
- Hollande replaces critic of austerity with Rothschild banker
- Jean-Claude Trichet: French govt now has ‘clear line and course’
- Ten facts about France’s economics whizzkid
- Dissidents out in France reshuffle
- France’s new Socialist cabinet decidedly conservative
- New French government under fire from left and right
The location for the 2015 annual conference of the Bilderberg Group has been confirmed. The yearly transatlantic summit, which is attended by senior politicians, bank bosses and the heads of some of the world’s largest companies, will be held at the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol, a luxury hotel and conference centre in Austria.
The Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol is a “five-star hotel conference centre” tucked away in the mountain forests a few kilometres west of the Seefeld ski resort, and conveniently close to Innsbruck airport. The hotel is part of the privately-owned Liebherr Group, a giant Switzerland-based manufacturing conglomeration, owned by the billionaire German Liebherr family.
According to the hotel’s Meetings & Events brochure, “the hotel lies at an altitude of 1,300 metres in an exclusive setting in the Tirolean Alps and offers panoramic views of magnificent mountain peaks.” The isolated, Eagle’s Nest style venue has a 400-capacity conference centre with “a magnificent Alpine backdrop” and state-of-the-art conference facilities.
The location of the 2015 conference has now been confirmed by Austrian police. It will be the third time the Bilderberg summit has been held in Austria, and 27 years since the previous occasion. The 1988 conference was also held at the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol; the 1979 conference was held in Baden, just south of Vienna.
It’s thought that the 2015 conference will be held in early June, although the exact date has yet to be confirmed. The hotel is fully booked on the first two weekends of June (4th-7th and 11th-14th).
Participants at the 2014 conference in Copenhagen included: Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP; Paul Achleitner, the Chairman of Deutsche Bank; Stephen Poloz, the Governor of the Bank of Governor; Robert Dudley, the Group Chief Executive of BP; Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google; Douglas Flint, the Group Chairman of HSBC; Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF; and Peter Sutherland, the Chairman Goldman Sachs International.
‘The 1 percent is literally rich beyond measure, depriving nations of billions in tax revenue and obscuring shifts in global inequality. Research conducted separately by European Central Bank economist Philip Vermeulen and London School of Economics’ Gabriel Zucman show the wealth of the super-affluent — hidden by tax shelters and nonresponse to questionnaires — is undercounted. Correcting for similar lapses in income data almost erases progress made from 1988 to 2008 in narrowing the gap between the world’s rich and poor, World Bank research found.
“We always suspected there was some low-balling of the top 1 percent,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-prize winning economist and author of “The Price of Inequality. “There’s a growing sense that our system is rigged and unfair.” Failure to get a better handle on the actual amount of wealth and income means economists and policy makers don’t have a proper understanding of the degree of disparity, which represents a hurdle in addressing it. For instance, knowing that earnings and assets are more concentrated could spur support for changing the tax structure, Zucman said.’
‘Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva Salgado is known in Portugal as “Dono disto tudo,” or “Owner of everything.’ The oligarch’s family has been calling the shots in Portugal for over a century. It’s the largest shareholder of the country’s biggest stock market listed bank, and controls a string of other financial companies, agricultural, energy, health care and property companies in Portugal and across the globe. But now it looks like the final chapters in the long history of the most renowned members of the country’s elite are about to be written. And perhaps with it a new chapter in Portugal’s and Europe’s financial and economic crisis.
Last week Ricardo Salgado, now aged 70, was arrested. He was detained – later released on bail for €3m – in connection with a long-running investigation into money laundering and tax evasion. Ricardo Salgado’s arrest didn’t come about of nowhere. The Espírito Santo family has been under “intense scrutiny” since earlier this year when an audit ordered by the central bank discovered accounting irregularities at the Luxembourg-registered holding company ESI. With ESI and its 100%-owned Rioforte now preparing for bankruptcy, the country’s President Anibal Cavaco Silva has admitted that the failure could be systemic: “We cannot ignore that there will be some impact on the real economy,” he said, providing a rather darker forecast that most of the experts quoted in the press with soothing words such as “contained” and “priced-in.”’
‘If ever a story deserved to be filed under the heading “irony” it is the one about a “caring capitalism” summit ending in a bitter legal dispute among the organisers over money. Thursday’s Evening Standard reports that Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild – the former financier, director of Estee Lauder and the Economist and member of one of the world’s wealthiest families – is suing the charity that helped stage the Conference on Inclusive Capitalism in May, the Henry Jackson Society, on a catalogue of issues, including intellectual property and residual funds and unpaid invoices totalling £187,000.
The world was abuzz in the 90s with conversations of whether capitalism could indeed be “caring”. Companies such as Ben & Jerry’s were leading the way with new corporate concepts and ethical structures. Some academic articles glumly concluded that such new concepts “will be prone to eventual failure and subsumption by fast capitalism”. Twenty years later, while inequality continues to grow and the world is becoming increasingly volatile, we are still having the same conversation. Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry’s has been bought by Unilever.
Capitalism, in its unadulterated form, is not caring. It is not inclusive, responsible or ethical. It is fast, callous, amoral, decisive, aggressive, self-interested and only cares about one thing: the bottom line. This is not a criticism. It is just how it is built.’
‘Time magazine (7/17/14–subscription required) has some good news for you, courtesy of investment banker and former Clinton Treasury official Roger Altman: “Surprise: The Economy Isn’t as Bad as You Think.”
After noting that “in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent of respondents said the US is on the wrong track,” Altman insists that “despite the pessimistic mood, America is experiencing a profound comeback.”‘
‘It would be difficult to come with a more on-the-nose metaphor for New York City’s income inequality problem than the new high-rise apartment building coming to 40 Riverside Boulevard, which will feature separate doors for regular, wealthy humans and whatever you call the scum that rents affordable housing.
Extell Development Company, the firm behind the new building, announced its intentions to segregate the rich and poor to much outrage last year. Fifty-five of the luxury complex’s 219 units would be marked for low-income renters—netting some valuable tax breaks for Extell—with the caveat that the less fortunate tenants would stick to their own entrance.’
‘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.’