Eric Zuesse – Why US Economy Plunged but US Billionaires Boomed, after 2019
Why US Economy Plunged but US Billionaires Boomed, after 2019
On February 8th, Gallup headlined “Half in U.S. Say They Are Worse Off, Highest Since 2009”, and reported that, “35% of Americans say they are better off now than they were a year ago, while 50% are worse off.” However, what’s even more significant is that ever since the start of 2020, when covid-19 struck in January of 2020, the percentage saying yes to Gallup’s “you [are] financially worse off now” than a year ago, has steadily risen from an all-time low of 20% saying that in January 2020, to a near all-time high of 50% saying that in January 2023. In other words: except for the all-time high of 55% saying yes to that question during 2008 when America’’s economy crashed, Americans today think that they are worse-off now than they were a year ago — they’re saying it at a near record-high level — and their economic decline since the January 2020 hit by covid-19 (and continuing since Biden’s becoming President in January 2021) has, itself, continued that economic plunge unabated, now, for all of these three years, 2020-2022, with the percentage saying yes to “you [are] financially worse off now” rising steadily thoughout that time.
During these same three years, while the American public sank, America’s nearly a thousand billionaires boomed. On 21 November 2022, Inequality Dot Org bannered “Billionaire Wealth Slips, But Still 50 Percent Gain Since Pandemic Start”, and reported that, “As of Monday, November 21, there are 728 billionaires with combined wealth of $4.48 trillion, an increase of $1.5 trillion compared to mid-March 2020, drawing on Forbes’ billionaire database. Combined U.S. billionaire wealth prior to the pandemic was just under $3 trillion.” In other words: it rose 50% during those three years.
So: the more that the American public have lost, the more that America’s billionaires have gained. On 22 March 2022, Henley & Partners headlined “US Tops Total Private Wealth Held Worldwide” and reported that, “The total private wealth held in the country currently amounts to USD 68.8 trillion. The US also experienced the greatest high-net-worth population growth of the world’s 10 wealthiest countries by ’total wealth’ (the W10) last year, at 10%. China, while 2nd in the W10, has only a third of the US’s private wealth at USD 23.3 trillion, and its high-net-worth population grew by a comparatively low 4%.” While America continues to achieve enormous growth in the wealth of its “high-net-worth population” (just a few thousand people), China is not. This means that economic inequality is decreasing in China but soaring in America.
However, since there is a lot of corruption in the world and especially amongst “high-net-worth” individuals who hide from the public as much of their wealth as possible — and there are entire industries that serve them to help do that — these estimates entail a lot of guesswork, and might be way off the mark.
For example, as I reported on 16 October 2015, under the headline “The Saudi Dynasty, Key U.S. Ally, Tops the World in Barbarism”:
The richest person in the world isn’t anyone in the Forbes list, which excludes calculations for any heads-of-state, but is instead King Salman of Saudi Arabia, whose net worth is in the trillions of dollars. He virtually owns the Saudi Government, which owns the world’s largest oil company, Aramco, among other assets. Aramco alone is worth “anywhere between US$1.25 trillion and US$7 trillion, making it the world’s most valuable company.” The company’s website says: “1980: Saudi Arabian government acquires 100 percent participation interest in Aramco,” most of which it had already owned. The Saud family’s partners since 1933 had been Chevron Corporation, or Standard Oil of California, which built Aramco. It was a Rockefeller company then; but no one can say who controls it today. As of 2013 (see p. 56 there), the only two investors that owned more than 0.002 or .02% of Chevron, each owned around 6% of it: Blackrock, Inc., and State Street Corp., and they essentially jointly controlled that company, regarding anything on which the two agreed. But the controlling stockholder of Blackrock in 2013 was PNC Financial Services, at 20.8%. PNC is jointly controlled by Wellington Management, Blackrock and the Vanguard Group, each at more than 5%. Wellington, the main stockholder, is jointly controlled by Blackrock, Dimensional Fund Advisors, Royce & Associates, T. Rowe Price, and Wellington Management itself. Some companies, such as Wellington Management, simply hide their owners. All of this is called ‘democracy.’ (Or, at least, it’s “capitalism” of the fascist sort.)
The Henley & Partners estimates are based upon an estimate that America has 810 billionaires. However, Forbes reports that “America still leads the world, with 735 billionaires worth a collective $4.7 trillion”, and so the validity of any such estimate should be considered only approximate — and highly inaccurate. That $4.7 trillion might actually be less than the net worth of King Saud alone, who isn’t even shown in any ranking of billionaires, much less of trillionaires (of whom he might be the only one).
The U.S. economy is geared to be extraordinarly advantageous to billionaires, because it’s an extraordinarily corrupt country at the very top. For example: CNBC, on 3 November 2022, just before the mid-term elections, headlined “American billionaires spent a record $880 million on the U.S. midterm elections”, but ‘justified’ that because “Billionaires are funding ideologies and parties on both sides.” (In other words: the corruption is okay because it is bipartisan.) Of course, no billionaire donates to progressive candidates, in either Party; so, this ‘justification’ is a lie, because there are some progressives among the general public but they’re not at all represented by any nominee of either of the two corrupt Parties: all of the authentically good candidates end up being under-funded and so losing in any run for a national political office in America. 57.16% of the money donated to U.S. political campaigns comes from the wealthiest 0.01%, or the richest one in ten thousand, Americans. It’s well over half coming from one hundredth of one hundredth of the population, just the super-richest — and no billionaire (at least) wants a progressive in the Government.
As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said, on 28 July 2015, when asked about corruption in America:
It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and congress members. So, now we’ve just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over. … At the present time the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody that is already in Congress has a great deal more to sell.
And the worse that this corruption gets, the more rapidly it gets even worse than it already is. Pretending that this corruptness by the super-rich is a good thing, Bloomberg News headlined on 22 November 2022, “A Powerful New Tool Transforms How Billionaires Give Fortunes Away: Ray Dalio and the Koch family have pioneered philanthropy through the 501(c)(4). More than just a charity, it can avoid punishing taxes, retain business control and even influence politics.” (Notice that “just a charity” phrase, disparaging “charity,” versus the phrase “avoid punishing,” which conveys a positive image to this tax-dodging technique. And that deception already comes just after having used the fraudulent word “philanthropy” to refer to such schemes for tax-shifting away from the classes and increasingly transferring taxes onto the masses.) It reported that this was “giving billionaires a tax-advantaged way to exert secret influence over elected officials at the highest levels. C4s can spend unlimited amounts on political lobbying — and large sums on election campaigns.” But, already, one billionaire, George Soros, had, just at that time — according to the CNBC article just mentioned here, been — “The top donor so far is George Soros, who has contributed over $128 million to the midterms.” He gave 14% (one-seventh) of what all billionaires had given to politicians. (How ‘generous’ of him!) And that’s just of the KNOWN donations — none of the “dark money” donations were included in any of those totals. To call a country like this, a “democracy” (meaning one-person-one-vote), instead of an “aristocracy” (meaning one-dollar-one-vote), is only to insult the word “democracy,” by grossly mis-applying it, to its exact opposite: a nation that’s controlled by the super-rich.
The Bloomberg article acknowledges that there is an issue about billionaires’ political donations and “the influence they hold. In some countries, it’s more explicit — the close ties between Russia’s business elite and Vladimir Putin were put in the spotlight after the invasion of Ukraine.” (Supposedly, then, Russia is even more corrupt at the top than America is, Bloomberg ‘News’ is intimating.) However, that implication is deceitful: whereas billionaires have been required by Putin NOT to participate in funding political campaigns (and to be punished if they even try to), billionaires are ENCOURAGED in America to donate to political campaigns; so, that sly misdirection by Bloomberg — to imply that Russia is even more corrupt at the top than America is — is just a bald lie, a contradicton of the reality.
Furthermore: Transparency International, the organization that the U.S.-and-allied Governments cite as the authority on rating the corruptness-or-not of each of the world’s Governments, is actually a U.S.-Government front that’s designed to downrate the countries that the U.S. Government is targeting for takeover. Agents of U.S. billionaires had actually established Transparency International at the very same time as they did the Washington Consensus, as a means to rig the corruption-rankings of countries, so that the World Bank would be able to ‘justify’ charging higher interest rates to countries that America’s aristocracy aim to conquer (regardless of whether that conquest would be by subversion, by sanctions, by coup, or by military invasion). A good book about this is the Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (summarized here in a 6-minute video talk, by its author, John Perkins). All of this takeover of the U.S. Government by corruption was started, actually, by Harry S. Truman, on 25 July 1945, upon the advice of General Dwight Eisenhower, to ceate the military-industrial complex, and the nonstop string of coups and wars since that time. Whereas Ike knew and understood what he was doing, Truman wasn’t that intelligent, but both men — one right after the other — effectively ended democracy in America, and brought in the massive corruption (both liberal and conservative), which inexorably keeps getting worse in America, but greatly benefitting America’s billionaires, at the expense of the country-at-large — and of the entire world (such as in Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Chile, Libya, Indonesia, Syria, Ukraine, etc.). It just keeps getting worse.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse’s new book, AMERICA’S EMPIRE OF EVIL: Hitler’s Posthumous Victory, and Why the Social Sciences Need to Change, is about how America took over the world after World War II in order to enslave it to U.S.-and-allied billionaires. Their cartels extract the world’s wealth by control of not only their ‘news’ media but the social ‘sciences’ — duping the public.