Sunday, March 08, 2020

p30, p06 Oligarchy's Squeeze Play

Oligarchy's Squeeze Play

by John Taylor, 2020 Mar 08

In 2011 economist Paul Krugman pointed out that calling the wealthy the "one percent" is quite inaccurate. They should be called the one in a thousand. Where does the money of this tiny elite come from? What do the powerful oligarchs do for a living? In view of how events over the past nine years have played out, Krugman's list is prescient.

"Who is in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic entrepreneurs creating jobs? No, for the most part, they are corporate executives. Recent research shows that around 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent either are executives in nonfinancial companies or make their money in finance, i.e., Wall Street broadly defined. Add in lawyers and people in real estate, and we are talking about more than 70 percent of the lucky one-thousandth." (Oligarchy, American Style, Paul Krugman, New York Times, November 3, 2011

Sound familiar? This one in a thousand are executives, lawyers and real estate tycoons. Worse, at the very top of this pyramid sit the heirs to even vaster fortunes who own it all, and who never had to earn money in the first place.

When so few rule, they have to know their job, because the one who satisfies the other members of the elite will surely rise above all others. This is done by keeping other oligarchs busy, and offering them hope of even greater fortunes. The one at the summit must provide the skilled and ambitious oligarchs just below with gainful employ and easy money.

Is it any wonder that Donald Trump rose above all others?

Counter-intuitively, his notoriety and incompetence gave him a decisive advantage over other, more placid heirs to mega-fortunes. It attracted Russian money to bail him out and compromise him, then, after his rise to power, laws designed to protect privilege from their rightful due, and bountiful government funding, protect him. Trump precariously surfs the wave of an ever toppling real estate empire perpetually on the brink of bankruptcy, eating up huge loans from the powerful financial sector. His criminal transgressions, even now, provide lucrative employment to an army of influential lawyers -- members in good standing of the oligarchy -- busy fending off lawsuits initiated by victims and opponents.

Why do other oligarchs tolerate him? Stupid question. Free tax cuts permanently transfer ever more money to the top of the heap, into the avid hands of inherited drones and corporate leaches.
And how do the keep the schmucks, the 999 out of a thousand, in line, especially in an age when communication technology displays their shenanigans on everyone's palm? The oldest play in the book, divide and conquer. Keep them scrabbling, stir up outrage about anything and everything; pump up the volume, remove their ability to think straight, delude them until even love and truth fail to move. The ancient Hindu book, the Panchatantra, expresses our vulnerability poetically.

 Until a mortal's belly pot is full,
 He does not care a jot
 For love or music, wit or shame,
 For body's care or scholar's name,
 For virtue or for social charm,
 For lightness or release from harm,
 For godlike wisdom, youthful beauty,
 For purity or anxious duty.
 (Panchatantra, p. 401)

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