by Dr. Tim Coles
New Dawn Special Issue Vol 13 No 3
T.J. Coles is an associate researcher at the
Organisation for Propaganda Studies, a columnist with
Axis of Logic, a contributor to numerous publications
(including CounterPunch and Truthout) and the author of
several books including Manufacturing Terrorism (Clairview
Books), Human Wrongs (iff Books) and Privatized Planet
There is a new, mega-rich global elite consisting of a small number
of billionaires and multibillionaires.
Many of them made their
money in the technology sector. Others play financial markets or
inherit fortunes. They are wealthier and more powerful than some
The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) says:
"Whilst there have
always been differences between the wealthier, better educated
and the less privileged, these differences appear likely to
widen in the coming decades."
deliberately order the world in ways that guarantee their wealth by
Occasionally, this is
In 1997, a book published
by the Royal Institute for International Affairs (RIIA)
in the UK acknowledged:
international order may not be the best of all possible worlds,
but for one of the 'fat cats of the West' enjoying a privileged
position in an international society that is structured and
organized in ways which perpetuate those privileges, there are
good reasons for not pursuing radical change."
This is also true of
The third richest man in
the world, Warren Buffett (worth over $80bn), confirmed this:
"There's been class
warfare for the last 20 years, and my class has won."
This echoes his statement
in 2006, just prior to
the global financial crisis:
warfare all right... but it's my class, the rich class, that's
making war, and we're winning."
Around the same time, the
liquidity firm Citigroup circulated an investor memo, stating:
governments need to be amenable to disproportionately
allow/encourage the few to retain that fatter profit share."
More recently, the UK MoD
"In the coming
decades, the very highest earners will almost certainly remain
rich, entrenching the power of a small elite. Vested interests
could reduce the prospect of economic reforms that would benefit
Consider the enormous
concentration of wealth and power that results from this imbalance.
Global and national inequality is staggering and getting worse.
By 2011, a mere 147 -
mainly U.S. and European - corporations owned and controlled 40% of
world trade and investment.
Just four corporations
influence the profitability and power of these 147:
which owns Standard & Poor's ratings agency
Mutual, owner of the indexer Russell Investments
the CME Group,
which owns 90% of the Dow Jones market index
Evaluative decisions by
analysts at these firms affect the wealth and performance of each of
the 147 giants.
That's corporate wealth concentration.
But what about wealth
concentration among individuals?
There are 7.7 billion
people in the world.
Of those, just 2,153
According to Forbes,
their combined wealth totals $8.7 trillion.
The list of billionaires
reflects where power is most concentrated:
While China and Europe's
number of billionaires declined in the previous 12 months, the U.S.
and Brazil gained billionaires.
The U.S. is home to 607
billionaires or 0.000001% of the population. It is worth noting that
Donald Trump was a billionaire
before he came to power. Trump has cut taxes for his fellow
As an indication of
continued wealth concentration, consider the wealth disparity among
the billionaire class itself.
He Xiangjian, founder
of the Midea Group, is the joint-50th richest person,
worth over $19.8bn.
Jeff Bezos, by comparison, the
founder of Amazon, is the richest man in the world, worth over
$131bn - more than six times He Xiangjian.
Part of the problem has
been the U.S.-led imposition of an economic dogma called "neoliberalism"
(which is neither new nor liberal) on much of the rest
of the world.
Neoliberalism can be roughly
i.e., allowing investors to make money from money as opposed
to tangible things;
government insurance policies so that working people bail
out financial institutions;
Cutting taxes for
public services to reduce social mobility;
austerity to make markets more attractive to investors.
cut taxes for the super-rich, enabling them to hold onto their
wealth at the expense of others.
The average rate of
personal income tax for the wealthy was 62% in 1970. In 2013, it
In the UK, the
poorest 10% pay a higher proportion of their income in taxes
than the richest 10%
Global GDP, i.e., how
much money there is in the world, is $80 trillion
But, of this, $7.6
trillion is untaxed
In the decade since
the financial crisis, the number of billionaires doubled
This reveals that the
system rewards greed
In 2017, 43 people
owned as much wealth as half the world's poorest
In 2018, the number
To put all this into
Jeff Bezos owns as
much wealth as the poorest fifty countries.
When it comes to more
'developed' nations, Bezos's wealth equals the entire GDP of
Consider how Bezos makes
Amazon is a
corporation that primarily advertises and delivers products.
design, and investment in and of those products is the work of
"workers like robots" by spying on them, discouraging unions,
offering insecure contracts, and encouraging long hours.
Amazon is also
notorious for paying little or no corporation tax.
Amazon is an online
The Internet was
developed by the U.S. Defense Department in the 1960s as
ARPANET, with public money.
The satellites that
enable online transactions are first and foremost military
Not only did Amazon
take advantage of state-funded innovation, but it also rewards
government investors by selling the CIA cloud technology and the
Pentagon artificial intelligence.
Bezos is far from being
the only one.
Bill Gates's Microsoft and the
late Steve Jobs's Apple, which became the first
trillion-dollar company, also enjoy low taxes, technologies
developed with government grants, and procurement contracts.
Consider also the immoral activities of other hi-tech nouvelle méga
Without making it
clear to users,
Facebook founder Mark
Zuckerberg (worth $66bn) has made his money by selling
personal data to insurers and advertisers.
Scientists have used
Facebook in social media experiments without the knowledge or
consent of users in an effort to see how memes affect mood.
including the hedge fund manager Robert Mercer of
Renaissance Technologies, used Facebook to market political
Other tech billionaires
Google founders Larry Page
and Sergey Brin.
Google technology was
funded by the CIA's venture capital firm In-Q-Tel.
Also relying on
technologies developed by the Pentagon with workers' tax
dollars, the company cooperates with the National Security
to spy on citizens and it has even enabled U.S. assassination
How do the billionaires get away with it, and what are the social
and political consequences?
The examples below are
from the U.S., but it should be noted that the U.S. exports its
A study (Testing
Theories of American Politics:Elites, Interest Groups, and
AverageCitizens) by Martin Gilens and
Benjamin I. Page on
plutocracy (government by the
rich) notes that the rich buy political parties...
and/or vote for laws that help the rich.
The authors analyzed
1,779 policy issues in the U.S. and conclude that,
and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent
Unlike the public,
and organized groups representing business interests have
substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy."
Other research into
wealth inequality in the U.S. finds that,
such as the decreased support for unions and tax cuts favoring
the relatively well-off and corporations, have benefitted a
small minority of the population at the expense of the majority
and have thus contributed to widening income inequality."
At the turn of the last
century, 9% of American families owned 71% of the nation's wealth.
The elite of the day
included familiar names:
...and so on.
Things balanced out after
the Second World War, with the majority of Americans becoming middle
class. Gradually, state controls over the economy were removed, and
the situation reverted to the inequality of bygone centuries.
Since the 1970s, the U.S. middle class has been shrinking.
Until recently, the
middle classes of Asia grew, precisely because strong Asian
economies (notably China, South Korea, and Singapore) either
retained some state controls or refused to adopt the U.S. neoliberal
Alan B. Krueger, a labour economist and key
Obama advisor, explains that,
"since the 1970s
income has grown more for families at the top of the income
distribution than in the middle, and it has shrunk for those at
Between 1979 and 2007,
the top 1% ((multi)millionaires and (multi)billionaires) enjoyed a
278% increase in their after-tax incomes.
But 60% of Americans saw
their incomes rise by just 40%, which when adjusted for rising
living costs means stagnation.
Krueger notes that during
that period, $1.1 trillion of annual income was moved to the top 1%.
"Put another way, the
increase in the share of income going to the top 1% over this
period exceeds the total amount of income that the entire bottom
40 percent of households receives."
The exportation of this
model means that Australia, Britain, and Canada became what the
billionaire-dollar liquidity firm Citigroup calls "plutonomies,"
economies in which the rich drive luxury goods markets such as
jewellery, fashion, cruises, and sports cars:
hence the recent
entry of celebrity Kylie Jenner into the billionaire class.
The Citigroup document
also notes that in plutonomies the top 1% owns 40% as much
wealth as the bottom 95%.
No matter where you
live, you can't escape the institutional structures that create
The U.S. military exists,
in part, to maintain the unjust status quo.
Yet, it acknowledges the
dangers of dominance:
"A global populace
that is increasingly attuned and sensitive to disparities in
economic resources and the diffusion of social influence,"
thanks in part to the very technologies that enrich the rich,
"will lead to further challenges to the status quo and lead to
system rattling events," like
Brexit or the
Yellow Vest protestors in
The mega-rich and
international think tanks and forums they sponsor are beginning to
reluctantly accept that their status quo political puppets might get
voted out of office and give way to so-called far-left or far-right
parties unless they address wealth inequality.
The question, then, is,
how to deal with the
restless and disaffected majority while not radically altering
the system and taking away the privileges of the elite.
In 1961, U.S. President
John F Kennedy said:
"If a free society
cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who
In the 1980s, World
Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab said:
globalization has entered a critical phase. A mounting backlash
against its effects... is threatening a very disruptive impact
on economic activity and social stability in many countries...
This can easily turn into revolt."
More recently, he said:
"Today, we face a
backlash against that system and the elites who are considered
to be its unilateral beneficiaries."
Likewise, the billionaire
Johann Rupert of Cartier jewellery (one of the many
luxury services driving plutonomies) said:
"We are destroying
the middle classes at this stage and it will affect us."
Similarly, the British MoD discusses "[m]anagement of societal
inequalities," as opposed to the elimination of social
Many of the new elites
make people redundant by automating the workplace.
While Amazon still relies
on human shelf-stackers and delivery drivers, it uses an increasing
number of physical robots to stack shelves and algorithmic robots to
assist online customers.
Likewise, Facebook and
Google's content filters rely on heavy automation. This is creating
precarious employment conditions.
According to the
Washington Post (which is owned by Bezos):
"…the modern emerging
workforce of tech, urbanized professionals, and 'gig economy'
labourers all represent an entirely new political demographic."
"focus more on
education, research and entrepreneurship, and less on
regulations and the priorities of labour unions."
But there are many
For one thing, the
financial services economy, which markets everything, has made
"education" a form of unsustainable debt.
The quality of U.S.
education is notoriously low by world standards, and many young
people are "overqualified" for menial jobs, like delivering for
Uber or stacking shelves in Amazon warehouses.
The UK MoD acknowledges
"Freelance work is...
often low-paid, lacking the benefits and security of formal
employment and, therefore, the growth of the gig economy could
The crisis of what to do
with a young, indebted, restless population automated out of steady
work by - and competing with - algorithms and physical robots has
been considered for at least 50 years.
Traditionally, 'education' meant brainwashing children to work in
menial jobs for life in adulthood.
But as the economy
changes and employment becomes less stable, new methods of
'education' for re-skilling adults are required.
In the late 1960s, future
Zbigniew Brzezinski authored a
book in which he advocated for lifelong learning as a way of
re-skilling an aging population that finds its employment
opportunities diminished, as small-to-medium-sized businesses get
overtaken by tech giants.
Around the same time, the
British Labour Party (when it was a real labour party)
introduced the Open University with the aim of providing
Likewise, in the 1980s,
futurist Alvin Toffler envisaged an "electronic village" in
which flexible working hours and lifelong learning would be required
in a hi-tech economy.
To keep the poor from rioting while trapping them in a system that
works for those who design it, today's multibillionaire elites help
to privatize public services
and education by offering
scholarships and infrastructure investments.
In doing so,
they train poor
people to work for their system by developing others'
technology skills while hiding their own taxable wealth in 'charity
Howard G. Buffett is
the son of Warren. While enjoying largely tax-free wealth that
further impoverishes the global poor, the Buffetts, via Howard's
foundation, invest in dams and irrigation in the
poorest nations of Africa.
foundation awards scholarships for STEM courses
(Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).
"to find new ways
to leverage technology, community-driven solutions, and
collaboration to accelerate progress in Science, Education,
and within our Justice & Opportunity work."
By using free online
services, we have allowed ourselves to be the products that tech
giants sell to advertisers.
By not organizing to
raise taxes on the mega-wealthy, we have underfunded our public
By not keeping an eye
on who's funding what, we've allowed our political parties to
hoover up donations from elites.
By failing to
understand the economy, we've allowed a new normal of
instability and political uncertainty to flourish to
the advantage of asset managers and hedge fund investors.
As the U.S. pursues
global domination, this model will continue to be exported.
It's time to wake up...!!!