Eight Wealthiest Men Own the Same Amount as the Poorest Half of The World

According to Oxfam, because of our broken economics, never have so few owned so much.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Illana Novick

Emphasis Mine

A new Oxfam report confirms many of our worst suspicions about about inequality, that it is horrible and getting worse. Eight men, many have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world, or 3.6 billion people, according to the report. It was published to coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the world’s largest gathering of leaders and business heads.

The poorest half of the world owns own the same in assets as that group of eight, $426 billion to be exact. The group of eight is led by Bill Gates, Amancio Ortega, the founder of the Spanish fashion chain Zara, and investor Warren Buffett. The others on the startlingly short list are Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecom tycoon, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Michael Bloomberg, former billionaire mayor of New York and founder of Bloomberg news and financial information service.

This information would be frightening enough on its own, but gets even worse when compared to 2016’s data, when a whopping 62 owned the same in assets as the poorest half of the world, partly because new data shows that poverty in India and China is even worse than reported just last year. Such a steep drop should be troubling to anyone concerned the scourge of economic inequality. Oxfam’s report certainly didn’t mince words, calling the data “beyond grotesque,” and, as the Guardian reports, advocating for “a new economic model to reverse an inequality trend that it said helped to explain Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.”

“From Brexit to the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics, there are increasing signs that more and more people in rich countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo,” the report said.

It’s not enough, and in fact, is probably counterproductive, to make these eight men the poster boys for economic evil though they are the beneficiaries. As Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s CEO writes in a Guardian Op-Ed explaining the report, many of the top eight are also among the world’s most prominent philanthropists. Goldring continues,

this is not an exposé of eight people, but of a broken economics. Narrowing the gap between the richest and the rest requires us to take on a more challenging task than asking eight men to change their behaviour. It requires us to create a more human economy; one that does not result in 1% of the world’s population owning the same wealth as the other 99%. One that encourages and rewards enterprise and innovation, yes, but one that also offers everyone, regardless of background, a fair chance in life and ensures when individuals and businesses succeed, they do so for the benefit, rather than at the expense, of others.

Even the Davos heavyweights know this, as, in a study published ahead of the gathering, 700 experts said inequality is the number one threat to the global economy. One way to begin might be to address this threat, aside from a fundamental cultural shift in values, would be to limit tax avoidance, which Goldring reminds us “costs poor countries more than $100bn annually that could be used to provide clean water, lifesaving medicines or education. Rich countries, including the UK, lose countless billions more. Yet governments, anxious to defend their own corporate sectors and perceived national interests, have failed to adequately respond to companies’ use of tax loopholes, corporate power and new technology to avoid paying their fair share.” Also contributing to the inequality are policies allowing aggressive wage restraints.

If any of the well-heeled Davos attendees were serious about fighting this threat they would do well to read both the report, and and Goldring’s commentary.

Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/eight-wealthiest-men?akid=15114.123424.rWHESr&rd=1&src=newsletter1070612&t=14

Donald Trump Simply Doesn’t Get It: His Vast Egotism Is Doing Serious Damage to America

Trump’s oblivious denials on the Russia hack are delegitimizing his presidency before he even takes office.

Photo Credit: Brad McPherson / Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Brad McPherson / Shutterstock

Source: AlterNet

Author: Gary Legum/Salon

Emphasis Mine

Having been fully briefed on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia ran an operation to meddle in America’s presidential election and elevate Donald Trump to the White House, the president-elect and his team spent the weekend doing what Republicans do: blaming Democrats for the whole mess.

Most of Trump’s comments on the matter came from a statement published within minutes of the end of his briefing on Friday and from his Twitter feed, which journalists have taken to monitoring like the Oracle of Delphi since the president-elect refuses to hold press conferences. A stream of whining issued from those two sources on Friday and Saturday, during which Trump managed to do the following:

  1. Accuse the Democratic National Committee of “gross negligence” for allowing itself to be hacked.
  2. Brag (incorrectly, according to the government report released Friday) that the Republican National Committee was not hacked because it had better defenses.
  3. Sneer that Democrats are complaining about hacking because they are embarrassed to have lost the election.
  4. Whine that the unclassified report had been leaked (because of “politics”) to NBC News before he saw it.
  5. Suggest that even if Russia did hack the national committees and other entities during the campaign, the United States will still have a warm relationship with that country moving forward — because what’s a little cyber-warfare and covert influence operations among friends?

Lest anyone need a reminder about the dominant mindset within the incoming administration, Trump surrogates also spent time on TV this weekend repeating the claim that nothing Russia purportedly did in any way help Trump to what his sycophants are still pretending was a historic landslide victory. This classification of his win is total nonsense, of course. Anyone who understands math or how to read a list knows that Trump’s Electoral College “landslide” was anything but.

The Trump team is following a perversion of the dictum laid down by one of former president George W. Bush’s advisers to journalist Ron Suskind in 2002. This adviser, later reported to be Karl Rove, told Suskind that America is an empire and “when we act, we create our own reality.” In the case of Trump, the reality is spun from whatever insecurities and neediness are consuming him at any given moment. There is not necessarily any action driving him to will his own reality into being, just the random effluvia cascading from his mouth, washing Reince Priebus and Kellyanne Conway onto the set of Sunday morning shows to lie to us.

The problem is that Trump is entirely oblivious to how much his refusal to acknowledge the reality of his narrow win or the ways the alleged Russian hacking might have helped his victory (and no, Donald, we’re not talking about voting machines) serves to delegitimize his administration before he is even sworn in. It looks illegitimate to the country’s electorate, when 3 million more ballots were cast for his opponent than he received. It looks illegitimate to leaders of other nations, who see this buffoon with a cheap spray tan trying to gaslight his own country and can only wonder what that will mean for their interactions with him. It looks illegitimate to the citizens of other nations, who followed America’s election closely and are well aware of the drama and controversy surrounding it.

This undermining of confidence in American leadership, that’s particularly evident within European countries like Germany that have also allegedly had their elections targeted by Russia’s army of hackers and online trolls, is a salve to President Vladimir Putin, who has no interest in real democracy in his nation or in seeing it continue in others. In Trump, Putin faces a president he already knows he can manipulate. Other world leaders will know they cannot look to the United States to enforce the global order that has existed for decades and served as a bulwark against petty tyrants like Putin.

All this history and geopolitics should be bigger than any one person’s ego, even one as massive as Donald Trump’s. But when he waves off any suggestion that he benefitted from Russian help and some of his fans and followers shrug their shoulders, it’s clear to America and the rest of the world that Trump’s ego is the dominant factor at play. That’s a scary reality to contemplate.

Gary Legum is a freelance writer based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His work has appeared on Wonkette, Salon, The Daily Beast, Alternet and Bitter Empire. Follow him on Twitter @garylegum.

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/trump-ego-ruins-america

From Obama’s Farewell Address

President Obama never mentioned Donald Trump’s name, but when he discussed the need for workers to stand together it was clear whose tactics he was talking about.

Obama said, “But we’re not where we need to be. All of us have more work to do. After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves. If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children – because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce. And our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women.”

Workers of all ages, races, genders, and professions can’t allow themselves to be divided by the Trump tactics. Trump won the election by dividing workers. He made white workers in manufacturing, mining, and energy feel like they were fighting for their lives. Trump demonized Hispanics and African-Americans.

The only people that benefit from dividing workers are those who can keep wages down with division.

Instead of fretting over attracting white workers to their party, Democrats need to be talking to all workers. Trump does not have a pro-worker agenda. Trump’s agenda is pro-corporation, millionaire, and billionaire. Workers will only win if they stand together.

Rising Inequality Is Far From Inevitable

Source: American Prospect via Portside

Author:Robert Kuttner

Emphasis Mine

The latest study of deepening inequality by three of the most careful scholars of the subject, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saens, and Gabriel Zucman, has prompted another round of shrugs [1] from economists that inequality is just in the nature of the advanced economy.

Supposedly, these inexorable trends reflect technology, globalization, and increasing rewards to more advanced skills. The poor are paid in correct proportion to their contribution to the national product, which alas, isn’t much.

A close look at political history suggests that this widespread inference is convenient nonsense—convenient to economic elites. In fact, the distribution of income and wealth has bounced around a lot in the past century and a half. It was extreme in the first Gilded Age of the late 19th century, a little less so in the Progressive Era, extreme again in the 1920s, and remarkably egalitarian in the period between the New Deal and the early 1970s—and now extreme again.

Does anyone seriously argue that these shifts reflected changes in technology or skills? No, they reflected changes in the political power to set the ground rules of capitalism. And that’s what should command our attention today.

The remarkable income equality of the postwar boom was built on a political transformation, which in turn allowed a suite of equalizing policies. It had little to do with shifts in the technical structure of the economy.

Most fundamentally, the power of finance was “repressed,” in the phrase of Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, both economically and politically. That in turn weakened both the ability of financial elites to capture such a large share of the total product, and to influence the rules of the game. Commercial banks and investment banks were tightly regulated, hedge funds and private equity were miniscule, and there were no complex synthetic financial products to enrich insiders, frustrate ordinary borrowers, or crash the system.

Trade unions were empowered, both by the Wagner Act of 1935, and more importantly by Roosevelt’s policies during the war, which made unions recognized partners in war production, and by extension partners in a broader social compact. Before corporations took the gloves off again, there was a brief era in which unions had broad legitimacy.

Unions, in turn, influenced wages, not just of their own members, who were about one third of the workforce in labor’s heyday during the ‘40s and ‘50s, but the structure of earnings and the terms of employment generally. Minimum wages were far higher in real terms.

In that era, the terms of globalization, created at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, deliberately created rules that allowed trade to expand, but not to destroy national social compacts. Bretton Woods was biased in favor of full employment economies and against the austerity that is newly fashionable and as perverse as ever.

All of this helps explain why the postwar era was a far more equal one than we have today. But what about skills? Well, the typical worker barely had a high school diploma—many did not—but one income was enough to support home ownership and a middle class standard of living. Despite low skills, the social compact of that era insisted on greater equality.

But can we ever get that back? Of course we can—the obstacles are political, not economic.

We could have much higher minimum wages. We could stop the union-bashing. We could restore a brand of globalization that promotes rather than undermines national social standards. We could invest massively in a green transition, modeled on the World War II mobilization that reduced unemployment from 14 percent to 2 percent in two years and produced tens of millions of good jobs.

As technology replaces human work, we could also give everyone a share of that new production, the way the Alaska Permanent Fund gives all Alaskans a share of that state’s oil revenues. Any advances created with the help of government—from subsidy of biomedical research to free-riding on the internet—could be subject to a share-the-wealth levy. Author Peter Barnes is the inspiration for this idea.

Is this broad vision crazy? It is far less crazy than the folly of supply-side economics that is back in fashion, which will only make America more needlessly unequal.

Will Donald Trump pursue any of these policies? Despite is fake populist rhetoric, he is on track to run the most corporate administration ever. Increasing inequality will follow.

Trump won, in part because previous Democratic administrations did not make living standards of ordinary working Americans a sufficiently high priority, either legislatively or on the ideology of what they stood for. Looking beyond Trump, that has to change.

Instead of accepting the counsels of despair, we should be reinventing the levers of the more equal economy and society that America once proudly displayed to the world.

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School. His latest book is Debtors’ Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition.

 

See:https://portside.org/print/2017-01-06/rising-inequality-far-inevitable

Never Normalize: Why Trump’s Presidency Is Illegitimate and How to Respond

Source:Portside

Author:Nancy Altman/HuffPost

Emphasis Mine

Now that a majority of electors have cast their ballots in favor of Donald Trump, he will have the lawful powers of the presidency, as prescribed in the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Legal authority is not equivalent, however, to political legitimacy, moral authority, or entitlement to civic respect.

Trump’s legal authority will give him the power to issue executive orders and repeal existing ones. If he signs bills passed by Congress, those enactments ― however stupid or destructive they may be – will be the law of the land, unless the courts find them unconstitutional. Similarly, Trump will be the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, because the Constitution confers that power on the holder of the office. As a result, as long as Trump’s actions are consistent with law, opponents can and should publicize the costs and hazards of those actions, but will lose if they mount legal challenges.

Though Trump has legal legitimacy, he totally lacks political legitimacy. He seized power through a cumulative set of actions that thoroughly undermine the integrity of the election outcome. These illegitimate actions include voter suppression engineered by the Republican Party; highly inappropriate and outrageous interventions in the election by the Director of the FBI; persistent demonizing and intimidation of a free press; and, most egregious, a deliberate attempt (openly encouraged by Trump himself) by a hostile foreign government to influence the election in his favor. Taken together, these actions fatally undercut the political legitimacy of Trump’s presidency.

He also lacks the moral authority normally associated with the Presidency. Trump’s deficiencies of character undercut any notion that he deserves moral or civic respect. His deep flaws have been on full exhibit before, during, and after the election campaign. These character failures are revealed in his blatant and persistent lies; the scapegoating of vulnerable groups; eight years as a birther; a disgusting history as a sexual predator and racist; and conflicts of financial interest so wide and deep that he will be impeachable on day one of his presidency.

How should Americans treat a president who has bare legal legitimacy but lacks both political legitimacy and moral authority? Some say that all Americans should wait and see how he performs in the job, and that other leaders should work with him where common interests can be found. They argue that, for the good of the country, we should put the election behind us and treat Trump with political and moral respectthat is, that we should strive to normalize his presidency.

We respectfully but emphatically disagree. It would be a grave error to ignore his political illegitimacy and lack of moral authority. Other elected officials, the media, and the citizenry at large have no obligation to afford him the slightest political respect. Rather, the next four years should be a time of resistance and outright obstructionism. Opponents of Trump should be at least as aggressive in challenging the political legitimacy and moral authority of his presidency as Republicans were in disrespecting President Obama, whose political legitimacy and moral authority were beyond reproach.

In short, Democrats should learn the lesson Republicans have taught them: Don’t bring boxing gloves to a knife fight.

What concrete presumptions flow from the political and moral illegitimacy of Trump’s presidency? Here are four:

  • Everything Trump speaks, writes, tweets, or otherwise expresses should be presumed false, unless there is reliable (to the listener) evidence that it is true. He has lied so often and so blatantly, and his followers have so persistently rejected the idea of objective truth, that no responsible citizen should believe a word he says unless it can be independently verified. The press will be acting irresponsibly unless it covers him according to this principle.
  • Trump should never be presumed to be acting in the best interests of the United States. His actions with respect to his business interests and his family’s wealth suggest that his highest loyalties are to those personal concerns, and his loyalty to the nation is completely secondary. His encouragement of the Russian cyberattack on the election is just the most extreme example of his loyalty to himself over loyalty to his country. Every move he makes should therefore be presumed to represent a conflict of interest, unless he can demonstrate that no conflict exists.
  • The wealthy donors and others he appoints to office should be presumed incompetent and riddled with interest conflicts until proven otherwise. His emphasis on a cult of personal loyalty, insensitivity to conflicts of interest, alliances with bigots, and willingness to appoint people wholly ignorant of, and indeed hostile to, the tasks associated with a particular office, mean that the burden of proof should always be on Trump to demonstrate the competence and honesty of his appointees. Unlike what routinely occurs in a normal presidency, Senators should give absolutely no deference to his choices. Indeed, nominees requiring confirmation should be questioned at length and scrutinized with care, in order to expose their flaws. Confirmation of nominees should be slowed down and blocked in every procedural way possible.
  • Trump’s substantive judgements should be presumed ignorant, and, at times, dangerous. His unwillingness to educate himself about crucial details of national security and domestic policy, or to surround himself with expert and trustworthy advisors, means that every substantive judgement he makes is highly likely to be flawed.

Democratic leaders should take every opportunity to act in accordance with these presumptions. Common inter-branch traditions and norms of civility should be laid aside for the duration of the Trump regime. For example, Senate Democrats should never provide unanimous consent, including to allow Trump’s incompetent and financially conflicted nominees to be confirmed prior to January 20. Democrats should force votes at every turn and use the filibuster aggressively, as Republicans did during the Obama years. The goal should be to prevent the smooth flow of Senate action in order to stall Trump’s illegitimate agenda as much as possible.

On January 20, Democrats should boycott Trump’s inauguration. As befits a lying president, Democrats should be quick to shout “You lie!” when Trump addresses joint sessions, just as Republicans shouted at President Obama. When Trump praises Vladimir Putin or Russia in formal addresses, Democrats should rise and chant “Puppet! Puppet!” In short, Democrats should learn the lesson Republicans have taught them: Don’t bring boxing gloves to a knife fight.

At noon on January 20, 2017, we will have a new president. The office of the presidency deserves respect, but the new occupant has relied on illegitimate means to seize power, and he deserves moral contempt. Polling reveals that these concerns are widespread among the electorate. Two thirds of Democrats [1] want to see resistance, and well fewer than half – just 38 percent [2] ―of the entire electorate believe Trump to be minimally qualified for the presidency. Democratic leaders should take notice and act accordingly.

Nancy J. Altman is the founding co-director of Social Security Works. Ira C. Lupu, a constitutional law scholar, is the F. Elwood & Eleanor Davis Professor of Law, Emeritus at George Washington University Law School

 

See:

FBI Analysis Fingers Russian Spy Agencies For U.S. Election Hacks

Source: HuffPost

Emphasis Mine

The FBI squarely blamed Russian intelligence services on Thursday for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, releasing the most definitive report yet on the issue, including samples of malicious computer code said to have been used in a broad hacking campaign.

Starting in mid-2015, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, the FSB, emailed a malicious link to more than 1,000 recipients, including U.S. government targets, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a 13-page report co-authored with the Department of Homeland Security. (bit.ly/2iuT8cp)

While the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence had said Russia was behind the hacking in October, the report is the first detailed technical analysis provided by the government and the first official FBI statement.

Russia has consistently denied the hacking allegations.

The FBI issued its report on the same day that President Barack Obama announced a series of retaliatory measures, including the expulsion of 35 Russian intelligence operatives and the sanctioning of the GRU and FSB. The Kremlin denounced the sanctions as unlawful and promised “adequate” retaliation.

According to the FBI report, among the groups compromised by the FSB hacks was the Democratic National Committee, which was again infiltrated in early 2016 by another Russian agency, the military GRU. 

The report largely corroborates earlier findings from private cyber firms, such as CrowdStrike, which probed the hacks at the DNC and elsewhere, and is a preview of a more detailed assessment from the U.S. intelligence community that President Barack Obama ordered completed before he leaves office next month, a source familiar with the matter said.

Much of the information provided in the report is not new, the source said, reflecting the difficulty of publicly attributing cyber attacks without revealing classified sources and methods used by the government.

Some senior Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress have expressed outrage at what they called Russian interference in America’s elections, diverging from their own party’s president-elect. The allegations and sanctions mark a new post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties.

Throughout the raucous campaign, a steady stream of leaked Democratic emails clouded the candidacy of party nominee Hillary Clinton. In the aftermath of her defeat, Democrats have accused Russia. Meantime, Trump, a Republican, has questioned whether Russia was truly at fault and told the Democrats to get over it.

“It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said in a statement on Thursday.

Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, tapped people seen as friendly to Moscow for administration posts and rejected assessments by intelligence agencies on the hacking.

The FBI said hackers gained access to and stole sensitive information, including internal emails “likely leading to the exfiltration of information from multiple senior party members” and public leaks of that information.

The report did not name hacked organizations or address previous conclusions reached by the Central Intelligence Agency and FBI, according to U.S. officials, that Russia sought to intervene in the election to help Trump defeat Clinton.

See:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/russian-spy-agencies-election-hack_us_58666756e4b0de3a08f7fd27?qy2amr2hldyn2q33di

 

Calling Working People of All Colors

Bringing white voters who defected to Donald Trump into the fold would make the Democratic Party a formidable force, but not if it means marginalizing the concerns of people of color.

Source:PortSide

Author: Ebony Slaughter-Johnson

Emphasis Mine

A little over 80 years ago, NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois wrote “Black Reconstruction in America,” a groundbreaking essay that looked at the racial politics of the post-Civil War years.

The major failure of those years, Du Bois insisted, was that poor whites and poor blacks failed to form an alliance around their mutual economic interests and challenges. Instead, white elites doubled down on their efforts to divide poor people of different races.

“So long as the Southern white laborers could be induced to prefer poverty to equality with the Negro,” Dubois lamented, “a labor movement in the South [was] impossible.” Though similarly exploited by white elites, economically disenfranchised whites and blacks “never came to see their common interest.”

More than eight decades later, we’re still waiting.

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, the resounding explanation for Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump has been that Democrats failed to respond to the economic needs of the white working class. As a result, this story goes, the white working class turned towards Donald Trump and contributed significantly to his victory.

For some, then, the diagnosis for the party’s malaise is simple: Bring the white working class back into the fold.

If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded,” Columbia University professor Mark Lilla wrote. He sharply criticized Hillary Clinton for “calling out explicitly to” blacks and Latinos while supposedly neglecting the white working class.

Bringing those white voters into the fold would make the Democratic Party a formidable force, but not if it means marginalizing the concerns of people of color. That would be an unmitigated disaster.

The best way for progressives to realign themselves with the white working class isn’t to reverse this progress. It’s to argue forcefully that the economic concerns of the white working class and people of color are more alike than different.

For instance, working white people understandably complain of lower wages and lost jobs. Yet these economic challenges are part and parcel to those confronting communities of color.

The unemployment rate for black Americans is twice that for the white community across education levels. Similarly, the income gap between black and white households grew to $25,000 as of 2014, a statistic due in no small part to the same wage stagnation, deindustrialization, and de-unionization plaguing many Rust Belt whites.

Trends in wealth have mirrored those in income. Where the Great Recession led to a 16 percent loss in wealth for the average white family, it led to a 53 percent loss for the average black family. As of 2014, around  a quarter of black and Latino Americans lived in poverty, compared to 10 percent of whites.

The racism that’s worsened conditions for many Americans of color needs to be addressed head-on. But many of the same populist economic policies that would lift them up would also help struggling whites.

Instead of erasing race from the equation, working people and their progressive advocates should take their cues from Du Bois and get to work building what he called a unified “proletariat” of all colors.

At this rate, we don’t have another 80 years.

Ebony Slaughter-Johnson is a research assistant with the Criminalization of Poverty project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

 

See: http://portside.org/2016-12-24/calling-working-people-all-colors