Who Are The 85 Richest People On Earth? Who Are The .00000001%?

Posted February 14, 2014

by Jerry Alatalo

“But to be at once exceedingly wealthy and good is impossible, if we mean by the wealthy those who are accounted so by the vulgar, that is, the exceptional few who own property of great pecuniary value – the very thing a bad man would be likely to own. Now since this is so I can never concede to them that a rich man is truly happy unless he is also a good man, but that one who is exceptionally good should be exceptionally wealthy too is a mere impossibility.”

– Plato (428-348 B.C.)

ripple33Many have heard about the report from Oxfam which pointed out that 85 people own as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people on Earth. This report, published days before the recently completed 2014 World Economic Forum, has made an enormous noise on the internet among alternative news and citizen blog sites, although (in America) the mainstream media (MSM) has acted like they know nothing about it – evidently the MSM never received any notice, or tips.

Out of the set of reactions to hearing this report, men and women have had a variety of them ranging from cynicism to sadness to outrage to righteous indignation. The Oxfam report has unveiled an obscene condition on Earth. Obscene means “adj. offensive to decency”, and this is equal to immoral. Perhaps people have little awareness of those who own ultra-wealth because the ultra-wealthy like to stay totally out of the news; out of the public spotlight. Gore Vidal once talked about how admiring of the ultra-wealthy he was because of their ability to remain essentially invisible to the people; how very few people even have an awareness that they exist.

For example, does anyone know the exact amount of wealth owned by the “royal” (adj. of Kings or Queens) families of the world, like Queen Elizabeth and her “people”, or any of a number of “royal” families on Earth? Seriously, does anybody know? And what about these Rothschild people? Or these Rockefeller people? And, is there a real group of ultra-wealthy families that includes the House of Hanover (Germany), the House of Hapsburg (Austria), the House of Orange (Netherlands), the House of Lichtenstein (Lichtenstein), and the House of Guelph (Britain)?

If these people/ultra-wealthy families are existent, how is it that we have never heard of them? Perhaps it is because the ultra-wealthy are the owners of the world’s largest media corporations, like the dynasty Rothschild-owned Reuters and Associated press. If one imagined that they were one of the 85 richest individuals on Earth and owned a major media corporation, it wouldn’t be difficult to sense how allowing stories to become reported on wealth inequality and actual assets held is seen as “off the reservation”.

Now, Oxfam seems like an honest organization; their reports don’t rely on any kind of “conspiracy theory” or wild-eyed guesses about the conditions in the world. In effect, the Oxfam report verifies the claims of some men and women who have tried to alert humanity of such a profound difference between the “haves and have-nots”. So, the wacked-out theories about an “Illuminati” are filtered out of reasoned discussions about real economic conditions, and real wealth inequality.

Does the “royal” family in England own a great deal of 54 commonwealth nations, millions of acres of land, thousands of “crown” corporations, Rio Tinto, Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum, Archer Daniels Midland, the corporate city-state of London, and the list goes on? Or is the British “royal” family, as well as other nations’ “royal” families, simply a group of people who are figureheads; polite men and women who like to invite the world’s most powerful people over for tea, or touch the shoulders of those they have determined deserve the title of “sirs”, “dukes”, “barons”, “lords” and all the other incomprehensible, so-called noble designations?

In the year 2014 royalty/monarchy seems highly anachronistic, or a way of living on Earth that will only be found in the history books, describing a style of ruling/governing that existed, then ceased, many hundreds of years ago.

Now, besides making public the names of the 85 individuals referred to in the Oxfam report, is it possible to make public the methods, tactics, and strategies that were employed by these 85 to accrue such dazzling wealth? Virtually everyone knows that the Iraq War begun in 2003 was all about oil resources. How much of those oil reserves which were pumped out of the ground under Iraq since 2003 have ended up in the bank accounts of the 85 richest? Perhaps it would be beneficial for humanity to find this out and then ask the persons who gained from the Iraq War how they feel about the methods used to enrich them.

The members of the 85 richest may have some important philosophical knowledge to impart on the rest of humanity, especially if enlargement of their bank accounts required that millions of men, women, and children died. Would their comments include the feelings exhibited by Ms. Madeleine Albright when asked if the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children through sanctions was too high a price to pay, and she answered that “it is worth it”?

Really?

Are those in the very, very rarefied world of the 85 OK with wars that kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, if that allows them to “keep up with the 85 Jones” with the yachts, Rolls Royces, racehorses, sports teams, castles/mansions, large jewel collections, art masterpieces, and billions of dollars worth of Class A blue-chip stocks and bonds?

Has anyone heard a member of the 85 come forward with great ideas for ending starvation, war, greed, severe poverty, homelessness and all the problems humanity has faced for hundreds of years? The Oxfam report represents the next great unveiling of secrecy on Earth, making Edward Snowden’s (although important as well) revelations pale in comparison. Oxfam is a more important whistleblower than Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and others because Oxfam has revealed the greatest secret: a small number of people on this Earth have been the source of humanity’s greatest problems and suffering.

Those 85 people need to become named – for all the world to know – then asked some very, very difficult, extremely important questions.

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(Thank you to Rubin Report @ YouTube)

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Article V, Constitutional Convention, Democracy.

Posted February 11, 2014

by Jerry Alatalo

“It is, Sir, the people’s Constitution, the people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.”

– Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

mountain55When listening to a number of interviews recently there were some mentions of “Constitutional Convention” and Article V. So, the decision to look further into the concept was made, and there seems to be an excellent potential/promise for increasing genuine democracy. The genesis of a movement for an Article V Constitutional Convention may have been the Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited spending on elections: a huge change with regard to democracy that has caused a very large backlash.

Most men and women with any knowledge of Citizens United, after they become aware of the now even more pervasive influence of money in elections, have immediately recognized how corrosive of democracy the Supreme Court’s ruling was. After two years and many articles, analyses, and reports on the controversial ruling, movements have come into existence to rally the people for efforts to bring a Constitutional Amendment for its reversal.

The essential argument against Citizens United is that it allows wealthy individuals and corporations to buy democracy. Due to lack of free, lengthy, all-inclusive debates in campaign races at all levels from city to county to state to national, campaign advertising has become the road to success in “selling” candidates to voters. So, just as “there is such a thing as a free press, if you own one”, there is “such a thing as winning elections, if you advertise more than your political opponent”.

When one compares candidates/elections to companies now after Citizens United, one sees the parallel of “winning” business and sales through blanketing of the TV screens and airwaves to “winning” elections through blanketing of TV screens, etc. In essence genuine democracy – since the time when advertising became part of running for office – has morphed into corporate-and-wealthy democracy. Advertising on elections and campaign contributions have become so pervasive that now on Earth 85 individuals possess wealth equal to 3.5 billion people.

So, it has become painfully obvious that money has become far too influential in the political processes of nations around the world, especially in the United States, and people are sensing an urgency to take action to repair the very out-of-kilter situation.

Enter Article V of the Constitution. In every state of America men and women have either begun, or are making plans to begin, talking to their state’s legislators to start toward a nationwide Constitutional Convention to amend Citizens United. The magic number of states needed to move toward a convention is 34. There are debates happening on the nuts-and-bolts of how to implement a Constitutional Convention, as it would be the first time in America one has been convened.

Some worry about a “runaway convention” where amendments would pile up like automobiles at rush hour, with crazy ideas/amendments proposed and gumming up the process to an unmanageable status. Then there are questions about how to choose delegates. Should delegates to a convention be elected or should they be chosen by lottery or another method? How many amendments? One, two, twenty? Perhaps the framework of such a convention would best be created with as wide a view, as wide and open-minded to proposals and ideas, as possible.

Concerns about a “runaway” eventuality with regard to a Constitutional Convention are overblown and are entirely addressable. The debate about Article V’s implementation, given (as one law professor discussion panelist on Article V put it) that King George’s legislative body would probably have a higher approval rating than today’s Congress: 11%, is low on the list of concerns. A Constitutional Convention is best seen as a national emergency meeting to deal with some real, very large issues of concern. Any wacked out ideas will quickly become filtered out and rejected as the process moves forward.

What is so promising about an Article V convention is that new ideas are needed in the United States and the world, those ideas would attend the meeting along with the delegates – and those which have real merit will be obvious to the men and women who vote whether or not to implement them. Muddling along with the hope that “everything will re-balance and we’ll be back to normal” is no longer a viable option for America. Because the 535 men and women in the Congress and Senate have, for the most part, been bought and paid for.

Because a convention to amend the Constitution is so rare, there are legitimate questions about complex issues in its implementation. A set of rules must first be created to successfully conduct a good convention that results in the effects that Article V was written for hundreds of years ago. The major focus must remain on wide consensus ideas that are obvious in their beneficial aspects. This set of rules can be developed and worked out in a “pre-convention rules convention” that takes the best proposals, and engineers the most obviously satisfactory rules framework – to arrive at the most beneficial effects.

The Constitution was written a long, long time ago and times, conditions, and society have changed a great deal since then. Pushing the button on Article V is a good idea, which will go down in history as a great American achievement – a profoundly democratic action – that can only result in a “more perfect union”. Those who express opposition to a Constitutional Convention are understood in their concerns about the possible “experimenting with the Constitution” or “putting the Constitution up for grabs”.

But America began as a courageous experiment in Democracy. 

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Men and women are making the real difference without any big money, prestige, or influence. To get the ball rolling in your state please visit http://www.wolf-pac.com.

(Thank you to Wolf PAC HQ at YouTube)

Money Makes The World Economic Forum Go Around.

Posted February 1, 2014

by Jerry Alatalo

“There is hardly any inequality among men in the state of nature.”

– Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)

cumberland 8-1At the 2014 World Economic Forum there were a number of panels convened to talk about various issues around the world. In this one the topic was “Money and Influence”. One man is a hedge fund manager, another a historian, then two economists. It is an interesting conversation, but somewhat uneventful with respect to specific steps needed to tackle the problem of the topic: money’s influence in politics and society.

It could be said that what has become a widely publicized subject – increasing wealth inequality – is a radical trend that requires radical ideas. American writer and publisher Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) thought that “an idea that is not dangerous is unworthy to be called an idea at all”. There is a sense during this talk that it has yet to be completely proven that money and influence is a problem at all.

Perhaps because the panel members are reluctant to sound like economics extremists of some kind, the intensity level of the discussion isn’t high enough – given that 85 people own as much wealth as 3.5 billion people on Earth seems to suggest a sense of urgency absent here. At the start of the talk the audience responded to a poll on the question “is democracy being corroded by wealthy individuals and corporations?”

Those who thought so, and voted “yes”, was 64%; those who didn’t think so, and voted “no”, was 36%.

It would seem beneficial to remember that this is the World Economic Forum and not an Occupy Wall Street gathering. The men and women who attended the event in Switzerland are not a group of people who have felt the harsh negative effects of the economic crisis that began in 2008, or earlier, and has continued and is felt by people around the world to this day. So, for this group to vote close to 2/3 in the affirmative in answer to that provocative question is significant.

The woman moderator asked some thoughtful questions. Like: “when inequality rises, can wealth simply “buy” the representation in government they want, the best lawyers and win most of their lawsuits, and the media to get their view and agenda embraced by the people?” The panel members did a good job of answering the questions given the broad quality of the moderator’s suggestions. One person on the panel suggested that wealth inequality leads to political inequality, where the “rules of the game” are set mostly by the present political power, which says that the “rules of the game” will remain until the vicious cycle of wealth and influence is stopped through legal means.

Then voting was the issue. One of the panel pointed out that only 20% of the young people in America voted in 2010, when they are the age group who has the most “skin in the game” compared to elders in their 70’s. The example of Australia was given, a country where voting is mandatory by law. Citizens United was brought up and talked about. But none on the stage suggested a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling, thereby putting a stop to massive, secretive, campaign spending by the people practicing the game of “money and influence”.

The one fellow suggested that wealth inequality needs to be mitigated, not exacerbated. Another thought that sufficient funding for regulatory agencies and good pay for regulators would be helpful. Another added that a nonpartisan redistricting of congressional districts by a nonpartisan panel would increase democracy, reversing recent years’ practice of rigging elections for either republicans and democrats in a process call “gerrymandering”.

Finally the audience this question from the woman moderator “can democracy defend itself?”

Perhaps the discussion made the men and women in the audience more optimistic – 70% voted “yes” and 30% voted “no”.

It would have been good if the woman moderator forced the idea of solutions – specific solutions. In this regard these men, who have reached a level of ability and success where they received invitations to this thought of as prestigious event of the world’s movers and shakers, were in the same boat as those who attended the rallies during the American Occupy movement. They were in the same boat by failing to offer any specific solutions to problems they believe need addressing.

It is obvious that money has become hugely influential in the world, and that is at all levels of government from city hall to the capitals of nations around the Earth. Wealth inequality can be seen as a pendulum that has swung way, way too far toward money, where a time has arrived that requires dramatic – perhaps radical and dangerous – ideas be brought forth to stop the pendulum so it swings toward the so-called 99%.

It was disappointing to find the lack of solutions offered in this panel. Perhaps one has a naïve understanding of the World Economic Forum that it was convened to specifically offer solutions to problems in this world. Perhaps the people in Davos received invitations to speak because they were the type of people who are ones that will not “rock the boat”. For this reason, it can be assumed that there was a less-than-complete effort put forth by the people at Davos in 2014 to solve problems they were supposedly invited to grapple with.

At risk of sounding like a “radical” with “dangerous ideas”, how about the following proposals? One wonders how the audiences at World Economic Forum 2014 would have voted:

Constitutional amendment to eliminate Citizens United

No taxes until $50,000 in income

Significant, progressive increase in tax rates after $250,000 of income

Consideration of a “maximum wage”

Consideration of a $1 billion maximum wealth

Banishing completely money from campaigns / no political advertising whatsoever

Free, lengthy debate time on the people’s airwaves

Inclusion of all parties in debates

Shutting down all tax schemes and tax havens

Wall Street financial transaction tax

Banning Wall Street transactions that bet on others’ misfortune

Prosecution of all financial crimes with real jail time

Significant reduction of the 57% share of U.S. budget to military

End the Federal Reserve system and replace with a public-owned central banking system

other/any and all measures that swing the pendulum back toward the 99%

Please add any measures you believe would effectively deal with the problems associated with money’s overwhelming and growing influence in the world.

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(Thanks to World Economic Forum @ YouTube)

740 Park Avenue: Where Monopoly Is Played For Keeps.

Posted January 27, 2014

by Jerry Alatalo

mountain3“Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many.”

– Adam Smith (1723-1790) English economist

Monopoly is a fictional board game. Fiction has been defined as “n. 1. novel, fantasy. 2. fabrication, figment, unreality, falsity.” Nobody knows how many people consider the nonfictional real world as a form of monopoly – a game that’s played for keeps. The board game acts as a metaphor in Alex Gibney’s (The Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) documentary film, “Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream”.

Don’t ask me why I have never been able to like reading novels or watching fictional films. There is no ready explanation. Perhaps some day there will come a greater appreciation for art forms such as the great novels, or who can tell if fiction writing is/is not in the cards for future projects. At present, nonfiction reading and viewing of documentaries is where it is, and some may agree with the saying “truth is stranger than fiction”.

There is probably a good chance that every man and woman who prefers nonfiction for their information source has felt at times like the truth is hard to bear. Austrian writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) said “I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us”. Perhaps, noticing he lived for forty-one years, one may want to think twice before following his advice on which books to choose.

“Park Avenue” is a film that wounds and stabs us, for it portrays America in true documentary style, and leaves one either short of breath or breathless. This could explain why people have a desire to seek nonfiction books and films – because there is an innate curiosity in humans that is almost as insatiable as a heroin addiction. Given the tremendous increase in roads to travel on the internet, it is safe to say that there is an epidemic going on around the world. An epidemic of truth-seeking affecting all those who could be called “curiosity addicts”.

This is in no way meant as a criticism of human beings’ curiosity. Quite the opposite. One can express thanks for the internet, as much truth has come out for the benefit of humanity. “Park Avenue” is the second film, after viewing “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”, I’ve seen by Alex Gibney. Both of these films wound and stab, leaving the viewer with lingering thoughts like “how could this have happened?” and “why isn’t something being done about this?”

Alex Gibney is a great documentary filmmaker.

The biggest message that can be taken from “Park Avenue” relates to money and political power in America. Most men and women reading this are aware of the growing inequality in America and around the world. As someone who named his blog “The Oneness of Humanity” it is only natural to become interested in an issue as large and encompassing as wealth inequality. Any conception of oneness is directly the opposite of inequality, so those who hold that humanity is one family – where all are brothers and sisters – may have something to add to discussions surrounding “haves” and “have-nots”.

The film juxtaposes the lives of people living close to each other on Park Avenue in New York City, within a ten-minute drive across a river from each other. At “740 Park” reside the so-called upper crust of billionaire hedge-fund owners and corporate CEOs. A ten-minute drive away is the South Bronx – perhaps the poorest congressional district in America.

There are only 31 units at 740 Park, lavish and luxurious beyond one’s imagination, each unit containing up to 30 rooms or more, lived in by people who have in effect rigged the rules in their favor. Rigged to such an extent that Jack Abramoff – the convicted-of-corruption lobbyist who dealt with what Blackstone Group billionaire CEO Steve Schwarzman called himself and his billionaire friends, “Occupy Waldorf” – described the money/political power system as… “badly in disrepair”.

Besides an interview of Jack Abramoff, who served four years in federal prison after his conviction, there are many more interviews of intelligent people describing with frankness the politics and money problems. One person points out that things are such that lobbyists bring with them laws they want enacted when visiting elected representatives in the House and Senate. Things were bad before the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling – the amount of money spent of political campaigns to gain influence has only sky-rocketed after the infamous decision.

In passing, every last cent and dollar should be removed from political campaigns, starting with a constitutional amendment to abolish/overturn Citizens United. Jeffrey Sachs, featured in other posts here, says in “Park Avenue” that the government in Washington has become “owned and operated by United States corporations”. The reality is that most elected representatives have become bought and sold by the billionaires who live at 740 Park and other upper crust communities.

Much was made of the 15% tax on dividends and capital gains paid by Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election. This is the tax rate Warren Buffett made famous when he stated “I shouldn’t be paying a lower tax rate than my secretary”. George W. Bush paid a visit while campaigning to 740 Park, spoke for an hour to Steve Schwarzman, and, after a fifteen minute stay at an “Occupy Waldorf” fundraiser, left with a $1.2 million check.

Billionaire Blackstone Group CEO Schwarzman, when asked during a filmed interview if he had any comments on low taxation of capital gains and dividends, said “…that’s the sort of issue that is in the political world. We don’t have a say on that”. (Emphasis added)

Democrat Charles Schumer is seen as the person mainly responsible for defeating measures to increase the 15% wealthy tax, so viewers find little separation between the two major parties when big, big money is around – one of the interviewees thought that Schumer “buried the bill”. Some will be surprised to learn the film notes the 1980 Libertarian Party vice-presidential nomination of Charles Koch, one of the controversial Koch Brothers. The Libertarian Party got 1% (perfect) of the national vote, so the Koch brothers had to figure another way to gain influence.

So, the brothers began investing directly through gobs of multi-million dollar checks to right-wing think tanks, universities, and, after Citizens United, political action groups – including founding the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) of which its head said “our side is the side of freedom”. AFP owes its political philosophy to Ayn Rand, and found many either conscious or unconscious Rand adorers in the membership rolls of the so-called Tea Party.

Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential running-mate, is heard in a radio interview from 2005 contradicting his 2012 distancing of himself from the controversy surrounding Randian philosophy. Alex Gibney then guides viewers through Mr. Ryan’s so-called “Path to Prosperity”, the economic plan described by John Boehner as “the key to America’s future”.

The film then delves into Wall Street corporations that lose billions of dollars while CEOs give themselves and colleagues multi-billions in bonuses, republican Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s assault on collective bargaining rights of “pampered public employees” with his “budget repair bill” (avoiding recall with the help of AFP – $10 million), and finally lists the names of men who declined to be interviewed for the film or failed to respond to multiple requests. Those men are:

Charles Koch

David Koch

Paul Ryan

Charles Schumer

Steve Schwarzman

John Thain (Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch)

Scott Walker

Jeffrey Sachs may have summed up the film’s message when he said, “America became a place where money buys everything”. It is perhaps trite to talk about a documentary and suggest the film “must be seen by every American”. On that, it is up to the viewer to decide.

At any rate, there are human beings on Earth who… play for keeps.

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(Thank you Why Poverty @ YouTube)