A 1%er Looks at Inequality

This is a presentation Oscar Mayer heir Chuck Collins, author of Born on Third Base, gave on November 9th. At age 26, Collins made the brave decision to give his fortune away. He currently works as a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. In his leisure time, he works to educate 1%ers about inequality and their ethical obligations to society. He has campaigned heavily with Bill Gates senior and other billionaires to retain the estate tax and to oppose tax cuts for the wealthy.

Most of the presentation concerns his efforts to challenge the views of other 1%ers on privilege and the grave threat inequality poses to American democracy and the planet.

The Q&As, in which he talks about Donald Trump’s election upset are the best part of the talk. Collins credits Trump’s victory to the dismissive way Democrats view and talk about the working class (ie “the deplorables”). He highly praises  the late Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus for its exploration of this issue.

The best question is when an audience member asks if true equality is possible under capitalism.

Q&A’s start at 41:00

The 1% at Their Finest

The Super Rich and US

BBC (2015)

Film Review

The Super Rich and Us features casual cameos of British billionaires openly displaying their narcissistic indulgence in trophy assets. There is also a brief appearance by economist and author Thomas Piketty (Capital in the Twenty-First Century). The goal of the documentary is twofold: to debunk trickle down theory and to critique government policies that have made Britain one of the most unequal nations on the planet.

The filmmakers maintain that Britain’s top 1% generates and consumes all the so-called growth the UK has experienced over the last five years. None of it derives from increased investment, job growth, wages or productivity.

The British 1% has doubled their income between 1980 and 2015, while income for everyone else has stagnated or declined. Likewise the Conservative government’s 80 billion pounds in austerity cuts is roughly equal to the bonuses banks paid out to CEOs.

Why Britain Has the Most Billionaires

The UK has more billionaires per head (104) than any other country. This stems largely from a policy decision to compensate for factories moving overseas by making the country a tax haven for rich colonials seeking to avoid taxes in their own country – under the delusional belief it would make everyone else richer.

In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher significantly reduced taxes on Britain’s native millionaires and billionaires. She argued, as Reagan did in the US, that taxing the rich made society poorer. These policies, which have changed little over thirty years, have made Britain the world’s favorite tax haven, as international pressure forces other traditional tax havens (Switzerland, Luxemburg, Cayman Islands, etc) to shut up shop.

Trickle Up vs Trickle Down

Thanks to the wholesale repeal of banking and corporate regulations, none of this surplus wealth trickled down to the rest of the population the way Thatcher claimed it would. Instead the super rich have been sucking up shrinking lower and middle classes resources into their vast reservoir of private wealth. The main reason trickle down doesn’t work is that the 1% spends their surplus wealth on diamond jewelry, yachts, sports cars and other luxury goods that generate income for only a handful (if any – most of these goods are imported) of working people.

The film contrasts British tax policies with those of Sweden and Denmark, which the rich pay a fair share of taxes. Not only do both have GDPs equal to or higher than the UK’s, with numbers that reflect genuine improvement in productivity and job and wage growth. When polled, eighty-eight percent of Danish people are perfectly happy with their tax rate because they see it reflected in generous government services.

Takeover

corporate flag

 Guest blog by Steven Miller

(The following is an brilliant essay in 6 parts about the takeover of democracy by monopoly capitalism – that includes solutions.)

Capitalism in the 21st Century is no longer based largely on profits resulting from a real  economy productive process, windfall financial gains are acquired through large scale speculative operations, without the occurrence of real economy activity, at the touch of a mouse button.”  Michel Chussodovsky

Part I – Summary

It is a statement of fact, not ideology, that a class of billionaires, principally based in finance and speculation, control the levers of society. Since the Crash of 2008, the 1% has been waging a war against society that drives the 99% further towards disaster and ruin. Their End Game is the complete privatization of everything that is today owned by the public. This process is inevitable as long as political power remains in their hands. The question is: can this system be reformed? Another is: If not, can we fight and win? If so, how? These are strategic questions.

There are decisive moments in the history of capitalism when one form of wealth, one kind of property, becomes the most lucrative. The capitalists that control this property often become the dominant sector of the capitalist class and take control of the state, dictating policy to society. Marx writes, “The executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”  (1)

The ruling class – call them the 1%, call them capitalists – commonly wages war against itself to seize markets and articulate the strategic view that makes the most profit, especially for them. They call this “the free market”. It is rigged and completely stacked in favor of the billionaires.

When the most profit-making form of labor was slavery, the slave owners ran the government and the state. They were succeeded, after the Civil War, by the railroad barons, industrialists, who owned property in factories, coal, and iron. Slave production was replaced by industrial production. Human slavery was replaced by the far more productive wage-slavery. Early bankers played an enormous role in this transition. Industrial production predominated into the 1950s. It didn’t disappear, but the control of capital passed to banks, investors and finance.

Now it’s all changing again. The tools themselves, the technology, determine which sector of capitalists comes out on top. Today the most revolutionary tools are the vast array of digital, electronic and communication technologies. This revolution is transforming society in ways unforeseen just a decade ago. When Obama was elected in 2008 – the same year as the great economic Meltdown – there was no such thing as social media, no apps, no data in the cloud, no viral videos. The IPhone was only a few months old. The tools are changing fast, driven by constantly evolving hardware and software.

As you read through this essay and examine the evidence, please keep the bigger question in mind. Can this system actually be changed in some sort of meaningful way? What would it take? How do we fight and win?

The growing electronic production of almost everything demonstrates what Karl Marx was referring to when he said, “capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction.” But it was Adam Smith, not Marx, who first proved that the real source of profit is human labor.

References and Resources

 Lead quote – Michel Chussodovsky. “The Speculative Endgame: The ‘Government Shutdown’ and Debt Default’, a Multibillion Bonanza for Wall Street”, Center for Global Research

 1)  Communist Manifesto. Chapter 1

To be continued.

***

Steven Miller has taught science for 25 years in Oakland’s Flatland high schools. He has been actively engaged in public school reform since the early 1990s. When the state seized control of Oakland public schools in 2003, they immediately implemented policies of corporatization and privatization that are advocated by the Broad Institute. Since that time Steve has written extensively against the privatization of public education, water and other public resources. You can email him at nanodog2@hotmail.com

photo credit: Adbusters Culturejammers HQ via photopin cc

Originally posted at Daily Censored