Beneath all the welcome popular disgust with George W. Bush, it is easy to forget â€“ and important to remember â€“ that some special interests and individuals have reasons to rejoice at the wonders of life under The Worst President Ever (â€œHeâ€™s the Worst Ever,â€
REASONS FOR RICH REJOICE AS THE WORLD UNRAVELS: THE HIGHEST PROFITS MARGINS IN HALF A CENTURY
The economic men and women of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) were being more than polite when they greeted Bush with spontaneous and prolonged applause last week. They were expressing heartfelt capitalist gratitude. The arch-plutocratic, anti-labor Bush administration has overseen a remarkable transfer of wealth from the American working class to the nationâ€™s ever more grotesquely opulent and privileged few.
Even before George the Second was installed through the Baker-Scalia judicial coup of 12-12-2000 (as dark a day in its own way as 9/11/2001), the
As Jack Rasmus reports in the most recent
We are returning to the highly regressive income wealth distribution of the late 1920s, with the top 1 percent â€œearningâ€ (taking) nearly 22 percent of the national income. The
The top 1 percent â€“ comprising roughly 1.4 million â€œtax unitsâ€ (see Peter Singer, â€œWhat Should a Billionaire Give?â€ New York Times Sunday Magazine, December 17, 2006, p.80) owns more than a third of all
During the last three years, Rasmus notes, the â€œearningsâ€ of the top hundredth have resumed their long-term expansion since the late 1970s, which was briefly interrupted by the dot.com bust and economic downturn of 2001. By â€œstark contrast,â€ the nationâ€™s 90 million working class families â€œnever recovered from the 2001 recessionâ€ and have â€œfallen steadily behind. This dark fact,â€ Rasmus notes, â€œis the defining economic characteristic and legacy of the George W. Bush presidency.â€ By Rasmusâ€™ calculations, United States capitalism â€“ recently hailed by Barack Obama as â€œour greatest assetâ€ and â€œa system that for generations has encouraged constant innovation, individual initiative and efficient allocation of resourcesâ€ (B.O., The Audacity of Hope [New York, 2006], pp. 149-50) â€“ transfers â€œwell over $1 in incomeâ€ annually from the nationâ€™s working class to â€œcorporations and the wealthiest non-working class householdsâ€ Rasmus, â€œTrillion Dollar Income Shiftâ€).
HOW RICH IS OUR BOURGEOISIE?
How rich is the
That astonishing total was $63 billion greater than the total cost â€“ estimated by the eminent â€œdevelopment economistâ€ Jeffrey Sachs at $121 billion â€“ of meeting the United Nationsâ€™ Millennium Goals for 2006 (Singer, â€œWhat Should a Billionaire Give?). Those frequently cited goals include: reducing by half the share of the worldâ€™s population that experiences hunger; halving the share of people who live in â€œextreme povertyâ€ (defined as living on less than one U.S. dollar per day); reducing by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water; halting and beginning to reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS; halting and beginning to reduce malaria and other diseases; guaranteeing that all children are able to access a full course of primary schooling.
Conventional â€œcapitalistâ€ wisdom requires â€œrealisticâ€ and â€œresponsibleâ€ Americans to dismiss the notion of such â€œexpropriatoryâ€ levels of public levy. It is interesting to note, however, that the minimum annual income in 2004â€™s top 0.01 percent was $4 million. Taxing the top ten-thousandth at two-thirds would have required no household in that elite bracket to live on less than $1.66 million.
Equally relevant is Nobel Prize winning economist Herbert Simonâ€™s determination that â€œsocial capitalâ€ accounts for â€œat least 90 percentâ€ of what people â€œearnâ€ in collectively rich industrialized nations like
There is no moral or social-scientific basis for the opulent minorityâ€™s claim that it â€œdeservesâ€ every dollar it â€œearns.â€ No less an expert on â€“ and beneficiary of â€“ American wealth inequality than U.S. mega-billionaire Warren Buffet acknowledges that he owes most of his personal fortune to "social capital" (Singer, â€œWhat Should a Billionaire Give?â€).
The rest of the top one thousandth (comprising 129,000 tax units with an average income of $2 million) could exceed the Millennium Goals by $9 billion if its income were taxed at 50 percent, an imposition that would require nobody in the top 0.1 percent to live at less than $550,000. The rest of the top 0.5 percent (575,000 units with an average income of $623,000) could exceed the Millennium Goals by $21 billion if it contributed 40 percent, requiring no households in the top two-hundredth to live on less than $162,800 â€“ a comparatively aristocratic sum in a â€œplanet of slumsâ€ (see Mike Davisâ€™s horrifying book Planet of Slums [Verso, 2006]) where more than 2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day.
Taxing the top two-hundredth on the sliding scale applied above â€“ 67 percent for the top 0.01 percent, 50 percent for the top 0.1 percent and 40 percent for the top 0.5 percent â€“ would yield $397 billion, equivalent to more than three times the Millennium Goalsâ€™ cost for 2006. Thatâ€™s without even touching recently remarkable capital gains, which flow especially to the top 1 percent that owns more than half the nationâ€™s stocks and more then two-thirds of its bonds.
My fellow (United-States-of) Americans, â€œourâ€ rich are very rich indeed.
DEEP HOMELAND POVERTY
How poor is the
But this understates matters. The official
According to 2006 federal (Department of Health and Human Services) guidelines, a family of three was officially poor last year only if it receives $16,600 or less. As the Economic Policy Institute EPI) shows in a detailed cost-of-living analysis applied to every major metropolitan area in the U.S., however, the real no-frills cost of a minimally decent â€œbasic family budgetâ€ (BFB) for a family of three in Chicago in 2005 was $38,628, more than 230 percent of the poverty measure. For
Another thing that is rarely noted in â€œmainstreamâ€ (dominant and corporate) reporting on domestic misery is the depth of deprivation within the nationâ€™s under-measured poverty population. As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reported last year, 15.6 million or 42 percent of the nationâ€™s officially poor people lived in what researchers now call â€œdeep povertyâ€ in 2005 â€“ at half or less than half the nationâ€™s notoriously inadequate poverty level. The number of Americans living at or below that terrible measure is currently the highest recorded since the federal government began making available the data required to calculate deep poverty (USCB, â€œPoverty USA,â€ available at www.usccb.org/cchd/povertyusa/povfacts.shtml).
In a research project I conducted for the Chicago Urban League in 2004, for what itâ€™s worth, .I found 14
This data come from the end of the long Clinton economic boom, of the 1990s, when the â€œpoverty gapâ€ â€“ â€œthe amount of money needed to bring all poor people exactly up to the official poverty lineâ€ â€“ increased even as overall U.S. poverty fell somewhat (see Robert Pollin, Contours of Descent: U.S. Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity [London: Verso, 2003], p. 45).
â€œTHE BIGGEST PROFIT EVERâ€
Some specific and strategically placed capitalist interests have special reason to rejoice at their good fortune under the new King George. Look, for example, at the following story off the Associated Press Wire, reporting that Exxon-Mobil scored the single largest annual corporate profit ever enjoyed by a
â€œOil Giant Exxon Posts Record Earningsâ€
â€œ$39.5 Billion for 2006 Was Biggest Profit for a U.S. Companyâ€
The Associated Press
4:01 p.m. CT Feb 1, 2007
â€œHOUSTON - Oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. on Thursday posted the largest annual profit by a
â€œThe 2006 profit topped Exxon Mobilâ€™s own previous record of $36.13 billion set in 2005.â€
â€œRevenue at the worldâ€™s largest publicly traded oil company rose to $377.64 billion for the year,
â€œExxon Mobilâ€™s record annual earnings followed a year of extraordinarily high energy prices as crude oil topped $78 a barrel in the summer â€” driving up average gasoline prices in the
â€œResults for the October-December period mimicked those of U.S. competitor ConocoPhillips, which last week said its fourth-quarter profit fell 13 percent â€” also primarily because of lower natural gas prices and refining margins. But hefty earnings earlier in the year helped Houston-based ConocoPhillips record itâ€™s most profitable year on record, earning $15.55 billion.â€
â€œConocoPhillips is the nationâ€™s third-largest integrated oil company behind Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp., which is scheduled to report 2006 results Friday.â€
â€œAlso Thursday, Royal Dutch Shell PLC reported a 21 percent rise in fourth-quarter earnings, buoyed in part by high energy prices and the sale of some operations. Net profit came to $5.28 billion, up from $4.37 billionâ€¦.â€
â€œAt Exxon Mobil, profit for the fourth quarter of 2006 declined to $10.25 billion from the $10.71 billion Exxon earned in the 2005 quarter â€” a record quarterly profit for any U.S. public company. That best-ever profit came when the price of both natural gas and crude oil skyrocketed in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which damaged wells, pipelines and refineries in the key energy-producing Gulf of Mexico...â€(www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16922298)
BAD MESSAGES: REVEALING DELETIONS AT GENERAL ELECTRIC TELEVISION
Isnâ€™t capitalism marvelous? The Ninth Ward and Mississippi Deltaâ€™s tragedy is a windfall for top managers and shareholders at Exxon-Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell, where CEOs â€œearnâ€ salaries equivalent to more than 500 times the average working-class wage in the
On Thursday, February 1st, NBC (owned by leading â€œdefenseâ€ contractor General Electric) Evening Newsâ€™s lead anchor Brian Williams and an analyst from CNBC smiled with irony as they discussed Exxonâ€™s historic earnings. They observed that Exxon Mobil is an especially backwards firm when it comes to the development of â€œalternative fuels.â€ Williams wondered on air about â€œwhat kind of message these record profits send to the energy industry.â€ It was as if he thought capitalism was about human social needs and maintaining a sustainable ecology.
Later in the same broadcast, Williams referred to some reports suggesting that global warming â€œmight be caused by human beings,â€ something that mainstream science has been insisting for many years. The very next day the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a high-profile report giving yet more â€œunequivocalâ€ evidence that global warming is (anti-) socially produced (E. Rosenthal and A. Revkin, â€œScience Panel Says Global Warming is Unequivocal,â€ New York Times, 3 February 2007, A1).
Neither Williams nor his CNBC colleague saw fit to observe that Katrina and Rita â€“ those great profit bonanzas for Exxon â€“ were likely related to the global warming to which Exxon, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell and other leading members of the petro-industrial complex have richly contributed.
They also failed to mention that Exxon-Mobil has spent many millions of dollars â€œfunding a network of groups to challenge the existence of global warmingâ€ (see Chris Mooney, â€œSome Like it Hot,â€ Mother Jones [May-June, 2005] ;
â€œExxonMobil Spends Millions Funding Global Warming Skeptics,â€ [Democracy Now, April 22, 2005, available online at www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid =05/04/22/1338256]).
The General Electric media operatives naturally had nothing about the key role that the Bush administrationâ€™s brazenly imperialist Operation Iraqi Liberation (O.I.L.) and related, surging
NBC viewers heard nothing, of course, course, about Exxon-Mobilâ€™s efforts to enhance its ecocidal bottom line by accessing Mesopotamian petroleum won for them (they certainly hope) by that marvelous â€œoil protection serviceâ€ (Michael Klare, Blood and Oil [New York: Metropolitan, 2004]) called the U.S. Armed Forces.
â€œRECORD SALESâ€ FOR NOTED â€œLIFE-SAVERâ€ BOEING
Another company with special cause to exult in the age of Bush II is the Chicago-based Boeing Corporation. A short article in the business section of last Thursdayâ€™s Chicago Tribune is titled â€œBoeingâ€™s Outlook Points Up.â€ The company â€œtallied record sales of $61.53 billion last year,â€ noted Tribune business reporter Julie Johnson, â€œup 15 percent from 2005, as the companyâ€™s commercial aviation and defense business posted strong results. Boeing expects 2007 and 2008 to be even better,â€ Johnson observed. â€œRaising its forecasts Wednesday,â€ Johnson added, â€œthe Chicago-based company predicts sales will top $64.5 billion this year and $71 billion next year as major
Johnson quoted a leading aerospace market research analyst to chilling effect: â€œThis is the first simultaneous civil aviation and military upturn in decades. Boeing is the only
Boeingâ€™s leading managers and stockholders are â€œprimedâ€ to reap a continuing windfall from human tragedy, international crime, petro-imperialist racism and ecological destruction within the beyond the
Master of War
It is responsible for such fine products of the "free enterprise system" as the Ground-Based Interceptor missile, X-Band Radar, Battle Management, Command, Control and Communications (BMC3), Upgraded Early Warning Radars, and the Airborne Laser.
Boeing has been the main contractor for the Pentagon's dangerous, destabilizing, and costly Star Wars System, a key part of the
Beyond working to wreak havoc from the stars, Boeing has contributed to the killing and maiming of countless Arabs, Pashtuns, Persians and other world citizens with such high-tech tools of death and destruction as the notorious Apache AH-64A helicopter, the F-15 and the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets. Its famous B-52, the longtime "backbone of the manned-strategic bomber forces in the United States," (according to Boeing's web-site), includes among its most recent accomplishments the "anti-terrorist" bombing of Afghanistan, conducted from heights guaranteed to produce significant deadly civilian "collateral damage."
The F-15 was featured in the 11-year bombing campaign against
The F-22, produced in cooperation with Boeing's "arch-rival" Lockheed Martin is an "air superiority fighter" with what Boeing's web site calls "first look, first-shot, and first-kill capability."
Boeing's B-2 Stealth Bomber is one of the most horrifying human creations to date. It is a monument to the Dark Side of Star Wars (the movie) fame - a "multi-role bomber, capable of delivering both nuclear and conventional munitions" to, in Boeing's words, "strike targets all over the world from bases in the
One of Boeing's most interesting products is the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), dedicated to the proposition that "the only way to completely protect the person flying a combat mission is to have them fly it from somewhere else." Boeing has taken the appropriate imperial lesson from
"We build UCAV and other innovative defense products," wrote the Orwellian content providers of Boeing's web site in 2002, "because they do one thing and do it very well - they save lives." War is Peace, Love is Hate, and Death is Life. Boeing is also a major world arms dealer, with its products widely used in deadly conflicts and by repressive regimes around the world.
As Kevin Martin noted in late 2001, Boeingâ€™s â€œApache AH-64A has been sold to
Boeing capitalizes on its overseas sales to drive demand at home. "In a perverse manifestation of the pursuit of its interests above national or international security concerns," Martin observed, "Boeing uses its weapons exports to help perpetuate demand for its future planes. New weapons...developed for the
Along the path to its position at the commanding heights of the military-industrial complex, Boeing has developed strong reputations for slashing labor costs by outsourcing union jobs, poisoning the environment, discriminating against African-American employees, receiving colossal corporate welfare and other state-capitalist subsidies, and making massive investments in the American political and policy process. Boeing spent $8.2 million on lobbying in 1995 and more than $1.75 million on campaign contributions in 1999-2000, a profitably small sum in comparison to the billions of public dollars it receives.
In agreeing to move its headquarters from
In a recent special survey of the great â€œSuccess Storyâ€ that is (supposedly) Chicago (for a different perspective read my forthcoming book Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black History [June 2007]), the neoliberal Anglo-American weekly magazine The Economist mentioned an interesting reason for Boeingâ€™s migration to Chicago: â€œBoeingâ€™s decision to move from Seattle was at least partly prompted by the thought that it was time to cut its (expensive) Washington state workforce in favor of production abroad, and that would be easier politically if the headquarters were several states awayâ€ (â€œA Success Story: A Survey of Chicago,â€ The Economist, March 18 2006).
â€œMove on or Weâ€™ll Call the Policeâ€
On the day that the occupation of
One fellow stopped, oddly transfixed. We spoke briefly. Somebody in the lobby noticed us and came out, telling us to leave or they would â€œcall the police.â€ I was late for a meeting; it wasnâ€™t time to get arrested yet.
Two nights later thousands marched against the war past the gloomy, glittering towers of global corporate doom in downtown
The business-dominated (post-) civil rights agency for which I worked at the time (The Chicago Urban League) had recently been trying to recruit a Boeing executive to its board of directors.
"Shares of the twenty U.S.-based defense companies with a market value of at least $1 billion are up 30 percent," CNN-Money noted, " compared to just a 2 percent gain in the S&P 500." In a broadly challenging investment climate, CNN reported, "one sector has held up quite well. And it's helping to prove that one of the most overused clichÃ©s of professional sports is actually applicable to investing: You can't win without a good defense. Shares of the ten defense and aerospace companies in the S&P 500 are up an average of 5 percent this year while the broader market has sunk 4 percent, according to Thomson/Baseline. Boeing (Research), up 15 percent year to date, is the second best performing stock in the Dow this year. Meanwhile Goodrich (Research) and Rockwell Collins (Research) have both SURGED [emphasis added â€“ P.S.] nearly 20 percent."
CNN-Money quoted a leading funds manager whose firm owns shares of leading military contractors Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and United Technologies. "In spite of clear budgetary constraints," this manager explained, "there hasn't been any attempt to reign in defense spending.
EMPIRE ABROAD, INEQUALITY AT HOME: â€œTHE PROFITS REVERT TO A FEW WITHINâ€
Reviewing that CNN-Money piece and more recent business reports, I am reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr.â€™s observation that "something is [morally] wrong with capitalismâ€ and his claim that â€œa nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual deathâ€ (King, â€œA Time to Break the Silence,â€ speech to the Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967).
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and the rest of the nationâ€™s imperial â€œdefenseâ€ contractors profit enormously from the fact that the United States government accounts for nearly half the military spending in the world and spends $28.50 on the military for: every $1.40 its spends on environmental protection, every $2.00 it spends on housing, every $2.70 it spends on nutrition, every $4.10 it spends on education and every $6.60 it spends on income security (see the National Priorities Projectâ€™s interactive tax chart at www.nationalpriorities.org/auxiliary/interactivetax chart/taxchart.html).
Iâ€™m also reminded of something that Noam Chomsky wrote two years after the assassination of the King:
â€œPerhaps a word might be added with regard to the commonly heard argument that the costs of the Vietnam War prove that United States has no imperial motivesâ€¦The costs, of course, are profits for selected segments of the American economy, in large measure. It is senseless to describe government expenditures for petroleum, jet planes, cluster bombs or computers for the automated air war simply as â€˜costs of intervention.â€™ There are, to be sure, costs of empire that benefit no one: 50,000 American corpses or the deterioration of the strength of the
Much the same could be said in regard to the current and very different
* Empire and Inequality Reports to date:
â€œVictory Without Vision,â€ Issue 1 (November 11, 2006), read at www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11386;
â€œNeanderthal Continuities of a Bipartisan Nature,â€ Issue 2 (November 20, 2006), read at www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11444;
â€œ â€˜You Just Donâ€™t Like George,â€™â€ Issue 3 (November 30, 2006), read at www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11511;
â€œ â€˜ Nobodyâ€™s Leavingâ€™: Never Mind Democracy and Imperial Fiasco,â€ Issue 4 (December 10, 2006), read at www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11598;
â€œMissions Accomplished,â€ Issue 5 (December 25, 2006), read at
â€œHappy Imperial New Year,â€ Issue 6 (January 6, 2007), read at www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11789;
â€œWeâ€™ve Done More Than Talk,â€ Issue 7 (January 19, 2009), read at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11895;
â€œThe Imperial Lexicon,â€ Issue 8 (January 26, 2007), read at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=11960;
â€œWhat is a Democracy?â€ Issue 9 (February 3, 2007), read at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=72&ItemID=12033;
Veteran radical historian, journalist, and activist Paul Street (email@example.com) is an anti-centrist political commentator located in Iowa City, IA, U.S. Street is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005), and Still Separate, Unequal: Race, Place, and Policy in Chicago (Chicago, 2005) and The Empire and Inequality Report.* Streetâ€™s next book is Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York, 2007) will be released next June.