Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Time To Remove the Blinders? (Secret Agendas In the Land of the Free) How the Word Communist (and Socialist) Is Used By Greedy Propagandists To Acquire Power and Money (What/Who Did In JFK) The Invisible Rich?

The Agent Orange Revolution?

White House - Kill Syrian/Iraqi Civilians - Exemption for Airstrikes

There is so much truth within the following essay about the United States' history of secret agendas influencing/making foreign policy that it leaves me speechless.

But not surprised.

Some important (or formerly important) people are not afraid to speak the truth to power - what should be the real power in the "home of the brave" (the American people).

Maybe we, the people, are finally ready to "remove the blinders."

Washington’s Secret Agendas

Paul Craig Roberts

September 28, 2014

One might think that by now even Americans would have caught on to the constant stream of false alarms that Washington sounds in order to deceive the people into supporting its hidden agendas.

The public fell for the lie that the Taliban in Afghanistan are terrorists allied with al Qaeda. Americans fought a war for 13 years that enriched Dick Cheney’s firm, Halliburton, and other private interests only to end in another Washington failure.

The public fell for the lie that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” that were a threat to America and that if the US did not invade Iraq Americans risked a “mushroom cloud going up over an American city.” With the rise of ISIS, this long war apparently is far from over. Billions of dollars more in profits will pour into the coffers of the US military security complex as Washington fights those who are redrawing the false Middle East boundaries created by the British and French after WW I when the British and French seized territories of the former Ottoman Empire.

The American public fell for the lies told about Gaddafi in Libya. The formerly stable and prosperous country is now in chaos.

The American public fell for the lie that Iran has, or is building, nuclear weapons. Sanctioned and reviled by the West, Iran has shifted toward an Eastern orientation, thereby removing a principal oil producer from Western influence.

The public fell for the lie that Assad of Syria used “chemical weapons against his own people.” The jihadists that Washington sent to overthrow Assad have turned out to be, according to Washington’s propaganda, a threat to America.

The greatest threat to the world is Washington’s insistence on its hegemony. The ideology of a handful of neoconservatives is the basis for this insistence. We face the situation in which a handful of American neoconservative psychopaths claim to determine the fate of countries.

Many still believe Washington’s lies, but increasingly the world sees Washington as the greatest threat to peace and life on earth. The claim that America is “exceptional and indispensable” is used to justify Washington’s right to dictate to other countries.

The casualties of Washington’s bombings are invariably civilians, and the deaths will produce more recruits for ISIS. Already there are calls for Washington to reintroduce “boots on the ground” in Iraq. Otherwise, Western civilization is doomed, and our heads will be cut off. The newly created propaganda of a “Russian threat” requires more NATO spending and more military bases on Russia’s borders. A “quick reaction force” is being created to respond to a nonexistent threat of a Russian invasion of the Baltics, Poland, and Europe.

Usually it takes the American public a year, or two, three, or four to realize that it has been deceived by lies and propaganda, but by that time the public has swallowed a new set of lies and propaganda and is all concerned about the latest “threat.” The American public seems incapable of understanding that just as the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth, threat was a hoax, so is the sixth threat, and so will be the seventh, eighth, and ninth.

Moreover, none of these American military attacks on other countries has resulted in a better situation, as Vladimir Putin honestly states. Yet, the public and its representatives in Congress support each new military adventure despite the record of deception and failure.

Perhaps if Americans were taught their true history in place of idealistic fairy tales, they would be less gullible and less susceptible to government propaganda.

I have recommended Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the United States [1], Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States [2], and now I recommend Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers [3], the story of the long rule of John Foster and Allen Dulles over the State Department and CIA and their demonization of reformist governments that they often succeeded in overthrowing. Kinzer’s history of the Dulles brothers’ plots to overthrow six governments provides insight into how Washington operates today. 

In 1953 the Dulles brothers overthrew Iran’s elected leader, Mossadegh and imposed the Shah, thus poisoning American-Iranian relations through the present day. Americans might yet be led into a costly and pointless war with Iran, because of the Dulles brothers poisoning of relations in 1953.

The Dulles brothers overthrew Guatemala’s popular president Arbenz, because his land reform threatened the interest of the Dulles brothers’ Sullivan & Cromwell law firm’s United Fruit Company client. The brothers launched an amazing disinformation campaign depicting Arbenz as a dangerous communist who was a threat to Western civilization.

The brothers enlisted dictators such as Somoza in Nicaragua and Batista in Cuba against Arbenz. The CIA organized air strikes and an invasion force.

But nothing could happen until Arbenz’s strong support among the people in Guatemala could be shattered. The brothers arranged this through Cardinal Spellman, who enlisted Archbishop Rossell y Arellano. “A pastoral letter was read on April 9, 1954 in all Guatemalan churches.”

A masterpiece of propaganda, the pastoral letter misrepresented Arbenz as a dangerous communist who was the enemy of all Guatemalans.

False radio broadcasts produced a fake reality of freedom fighter victories and army defections. Arbenz asked the UN to send fact finders, but Washington prevented that from happening.

American journalists, with the exception of James Reston, supported the lies. Washington threatened and bought off Guatemala’s senior military commanders, who forced Arbenz to resign. The CIA’s chosen and well paid “liberator,” Col. Castillo Armas, was installed as Arbenz’s successor.

We recently witnessed a similar operation in Ukraine.

President Eisenhower thanked the CIA for averting “a Communist beachhead in our hemisphere,” and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles gave a national TV and radio address in which he declared that the events in Guatemala “expose the evil purpose of the Kremlin.”

This despite the uncontested fact that the only outside power operating in Guatemala was the Dulles brothers.
What had really happened is that a democratic and reformist government was overthrown because it compensated United Fruit Company for the nationalization of the company’s fallow land at a value listed by the company on its tax returns.
America’s leading law firm or perhaps more accurately, America’s foreign policy-maker, Sullivan & Cromwell, had no intention of permitting a democratic government to prevail over the interests of the law firm’s client, especially when senior partners of the firm controlled both overt and covert US foreign policy.
The two brothers, whose family members were invested in the United Fruit Company, simply applied the resources of the CIA, State Department, and US media to the protection of their private interests.

The extraordinary gullibility of the American people, the corrupt American media, and the indoctrinated and impotent Congress allowed the Dulles brothers to succeed in overthrowing a democracy.
Keep in mind that this use of the US government in behalf of private interests occurred 60 years ago long before the corrupt Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama regimes. And no doubt in earlier times as well.
The Dulles brothers next intended victim was Ho Chi Minh. Ho, a nationalist leader, asked for America’s help in freeing Vietnam from French colonial rule.

But John Foster Dulles, a self-righteous anti-communist, miscast Ho as a Communist Threat who was springing the domino theory on the Western innocents. Nationalism and anti-colonialism, Foster declared, were merely a cloak for communist subversion.
Paul Kattenburg, the State Department desk officer for Vietnam suggested that instead of war, the US should give Ho $500 million in reconstruction aid to rebuild the country from war and French misrule, which would free Ho from dependence on Russian and Chinese support, and, thereby, influence. Ho appealed to Washington several times, but the demonic inflexibility of the Dulles brothers prevented any sensible response.
Instead, the hysteria whipped-up over the “communist threat” by the Dulles brothers landed the United States in the long, costly, fiasco known as the Vietnam War.
Kattenburg later wrote that it was suicidal for the US “to cut out its eyes and ears, to castrate its analytic capacity, to shut itself off from the truth because of blind prejudice.” Unfortunately for Americans and the world, castrated analytic capacity is Washington’s strongest suit.
The Dulles brothers’ next targets were President Sukarno of Indonesia, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba of Congo, and Fidel Castro. The plot against Castro was such a disastrous failure that it cost Allen Dulles his job.
President Kennedy lost confidence in the agency and told his brother Bobby that after his reelection he was going to break the CIA into a thousand pieces. When President Kennedy removed Allen Dulles, the CIA understood the threat and struck first.
Warren Nutter, my Ph.D. dissertation chairman, later Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, taught his students that for the US government to maintain the people’s trust, which democracy requires, the government’s policies must be affirmations of our principles and be openly communicated to the people.
Hidden agendas, such as those of the Dulles brothers and the Clinton, Bush and Obama regimes, must rely on secrecy and manipulation and, thereby, arouse the distrust of the people. If Americans are too brainwashed to notice, many foreign nationals are not.
The US government’s secret agendas have cost Americans and many peoples in the world tremendously. Essentially, the Dulles brothers created the Cold War with their secret agendas and anti-communist hysteria. Secret agendas committed Americans to long, costly, and unnecessary wars in Vietnam and the Middle East.
Secret CIA and military agendas intending regime change in Cuba were blocked by President John F. Kennedy and resulted in the assassination of a president, who, for all his faults, was likely to have ended the Cold War twenty years before Ronald Reagan seized the opportunity.
Secret agendas have prevailed for so long that the American people themselves are now corrupted. As the saying goes, “a fish rots from the head.” The rot in Washington now permeates the country.

Thank you, sir.

And one more bit of new information.


Our Invisible Rich

Paul Krugman

In fact, most Americans have no idea just how unequal our society has become.

The latest piece of evidence to that effect is a survey asking people in various countries how much they thought top executives of major companies make relative to unskilled workers.

In the United States the median respondent believed that chief executives make about 30 times as much as their employees, which was roughly true in the 1960s — but since then the gap has soared, so that today chief executives earn something like 300 times as much as ordinary workers.
So Americans have no idea how much the Masters of the Universe are paid, a finding very much in line with evidence that Americans vastly underestimate the concentration of wealth at the top.
Is this just a reflection of the innumeracy of hoi polloi? No — the supposedly well informed often seem comparably out of touch. Until the Occupy movement turned the “1 percent” into a catchphrase, it was all too common to hear prominent pundits and politicians speak about inequality as if it were mainly about college graduates versus the less educated, or the top fifth of the population versus the bottom 80 percent.
And even the 1 percent is too broad a category; the really big gains have gone to an even tinier elite. For example, recent estimates indicate not only that the wealth of the top percent has surged relative to everyone else — rising from 25 percent of total wealth in 1973 to 40 percent now — but that the great bulk of that rise has taken place among the top 0.1 percent, the richest one-thousandth of Americans.
So how can people be unaware of this development, or at least unaware of its scale? The main answer, I’d suggest, is that the truly rich are so removed from ordinary people’s lives that we never see what they have. We may notice, and feel aggrieved about, college kids driving luxury cars; but we don’t see private equity managers commuting by helicopter to their immense mansions in the Hamptons. The commanding heights of our economy are invisible because they’re lost in the clouds.
The exceptions are celebrities, who live their lives in public. And defenses of extreme inequality almost always invoke the examples of movie and sports stars.

But celebrities make up only a tiny fraction of the wealthy, and even the biggest stars earn far less than the financial barons who really dominate the upper strata. For example, according to Forbes, Robert Downey Jr. is the highest-paid actor in America, making $75 million last year. According to the same publication, in 2013 the top 25 hedge fund managers took home, on average, almost a billion dollars each.
Does the invisibility of the very rich matter? Politically, it matters a lot. Pundits sometimes wonder why American voters don’t care more about inequality; part of the answer is that they don’t realize how extreme it is.

And defenders of the superrich take advantage of that ignorance. When the Heritage Foundation tells us that the top 10 percent of filers are cruelly burdened, because they pay 68 percent of income taxes, it’s hoping that you won’t notice that word “income” — other taxes, such as the payroll tax, are far less progressive.

But it’s also hoping you don’t know that the top 10 percent receive almost half of all income and own 75 percent of the nation’s wealth, which makes their burden seem a lot less disproportionate.
Most Americans say, if asked, that inequality is too high and something should be done about it — there is overwhelming support for higher minimum wages, and a majority favors higher taxes at the top. But at least so far confronting extreme inequality hasn’t been an election-winning issue. Maybe that would be true even if Americans knew the facts about our new Gilded Age. But we don’t know that.

Today’s political balance rests on a foundation of ignorance, in which the public has no idea what our society is really like.

And that answers that conundrum.


JO - Colorado

I wonder whether the "average" American, earning around $50,000, understands "almost a billion."

10 average income earners bring in $500,000.
100 bring in $5,000,000
1,000 bring in $50 million
10,000 bring in $500 million.
It takes nearly 20,000 average earners to equal ONE hedge fund manager.

That figure is NOT an amount anyone "earns" from "working." It represents a huge redistribution of wealth, a phrase considered toxic when it is proposed to go the other way. A good portion of that transfer come from the pension funds supposedly representing "average" Americans; put another way, it is coming out of the retirement funds of the average workers who earn a mere $50k.

The financialization of the American economy is the end stage of capitalism, when those who merely move capital without actually adding any value by their labors manage to deconstruct the industrial economy that made their excess wealth possible in the first place. When consumers can barely make do, they will cease to consume on a meaningful scale except food and clothing. Capitalism ends up consuming itself by its own avarice.

This transfer of wealth has already been accompanied by a parallel transfer of political influence. Our society has changed profoundly in the past 35 years, change that is as threatening as the climate change that threatens the next mass extinction within our lifetimes. IF "we the people" refuse to recognize and act on the facts, that doesn't mean the consequences will go away.

Anetliner Netliner - Washington, DC area

The growing inequality in U.S. income distribution should be trumpeted from the rooftops and covered relentlessly in the mass media.

Conservatives purport to be against income redistribution. But what they fail to say is that conservatives have presided over one of the greatest redistributions of income in American history-- from the majority of working Americans, including the middle class, to a tiny sliver of the elite.

Some potential remedies, some of them noted by Dr. Krugman:

--Creation of additional tax brackets to impose higher marginal tax rates on the very richest.
--Higher federal tax rates on the wealthiest estates.
--Elimination of the 'carried interest' loophole.
--An increase in the amount of earned income taxed for Social Security.
--The imposition of a small financial transactions tax on stock and bond trades; if desired, this could be linked to capital gains income above a certain threshold.
--An increase in the minimum wage.
--A constitutional amendment to invalidate Citizens United and its progeny.

It is clear that tax and wage policies in force in the 1950s, '60s and '70s produced a far fairer and more robust America. Trickle down has failed repeatedly and must be repudiated.

Socrates - Verona, N.J.

The foundation of the Republican Party is a beautiful interlocking set of parasitic principles that have flourished brilliantly for 35 years of gilded larceny and legerdemain:

Trickle-down poverty for 99% - geometric upward wealth redistribution to the 1%.

Frozen minimum wages for the 99% - exploded maximum wages for the 1%.

Stripped and abandoned employee benefits for the 99% - unlimited perks, pensions and free stuff for the CEO.

Slashed funding for social services and public education for the masses - massive tax rate decreases for corporations and their executive incomes.

Executive wage theft - executive tax theft - executive 'common good' theft - are the bases of the Republican Party platform, and a decent number of Democrats have grown quite comfortable with them as well.

Other countries are much more civilized about worker pay, worker benefits and citizen benefits.

A social democracy is the most respectable form of government.

The United States has a 'dollared' republic form of government, with virtually all power residing in the 'dollared' classes, and little power residing in the actual citizenry.

An ignorant, minimum wage voter (and non-voter) is the Greed Over People's party very best friend.

The basis of 350:1 CEO:worker pay and the Republican Party is psychopathy.

"We take your money because we any good psychopath."

In Executive Wage Theft We Trust

George H. Blackford - Michigan

The truly sad thing is that most people don’t realize the extent to which the increase in the concentration of income and wealth is the result of conservative antigovernment policies that they have supported for over the past thirty years. The concentration of income and wealth we see today is the direct consequence of lower taxes, less government, and deregulation. See:

Greg Shimkaveg - Oviedo, Florida

From the end of World War II until the mid 1970's, gains in worker productivity matched one-for-one with gains in worker compensation. Since then inflation-adjusted median wages have gone nowhere, while productivity has nearly doubled:

The wealth created by workers has been siphoned off. Had the earlier sharing of prosperity continued, today's median wage would be nearly double what it is. I ask people, "Could you use an extra $40,000 a year, every year?" No one says no. Then I say, "You earned it, but it got taken away".

So let's call it what it is - theft. Admittedly, schemes like asset stripping and high speed trading are more creative than sticking a gun at a victim and demanding their money, but the effect is the same. People work harder than ever, while the euphemism called the "financial services industry" scoops all the gains away for itself.

Common sense screams that this can't go on much longer.

We should support Elizabeth Warren's bill to restore Glass-Steagall and separate commercial and investment banks. We should join Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman in supporting a financial transaction tax.

But the real keystone would be to declare in our Constitution that money is not speech. The infamous Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court decision was in 1976, just when wages started flatlining. Support the Udall Amendment. It will take diligence, but it is our best chance for fundamental fairness.

David Lawrence - Tucson AZ

The ignorance of the American public goes far beyond the simple knowledge that the 0.1% are staggeringly wealthy beyond imagination. How else to explain the vast numbers of low and middle income people who constantly vote, against their own self interest, for those who would stand on those voters' necks and wring every last cent from them for their own enrichment.

David - Palo Alto, Calif.

The top 0.1% in income have been very careful to at least attempt to corral the top 2% in income in their corner. They want the doctors, lawyers, engineers to fight their battle for them. But they are just small potatoes.

The fifth richest person in the world, Larry Ellison, - worth nearly $50 billion dollars - recently obtained a $10 billion dollar line of credit on his Oracle stock. What a wonderful thing for Larry.

He has absolute liquidity to spend as he wishes from billions in capital gains on his stock without having to pay a penny to the US Treasury by selling the stock for liquidity and paying capital gains taxes.

Banks will give him a credit line on the gains and when he dies the stock basis is stepped up to the stock price on the day he dies. The capital gains just vanish.

The 85 richest people on the planet - who are worth what the poorest 3.5 billion on the planet are worth combined - have managed to convince labor that passive income from investments should be taxed at a preferential rate to labor.

No wonder we have income inequality and wealth concentration. Why in God's name would the gains from wealth be taxed at a preferential rate to the gains from labor?

Unless and until people decide to show up and vote for the politicians that will reverse decades of unconscionable preferential tax treatment in favor of the wealthiest Americans, the rich will just get richer and the poor will just get poorer.

Vic - Miami

The reason that this article is so completely disheartening is that this will not change until the ultra-wealthy are legally prohibited from influencing elections through the repeal of Citizens United. The chances of that repeal, in todays political environment, are miniscule.

Evelyn Elwell Uyemura

I would guess that when most Americans think about "the rich" and "executives," they are picturing the kind of guy who owns a local car dealership, or a successful McDonald's franchise. They literally can't imagine that there are people who bring home a billion dollars. It is hard to grasp how much that is. If we called it a thousand-million it would make the matter clearer. One man, in one year, bringing home as much money as a thousand people each earning a million dollars. It is like trying to picture what a light-year means--not part of our common experience!

EKB - Mexico

When I was in elementary school in the late 1940s and particularly in the early 1950s, we were taught American mythology, not American history. Quite effectively. We were taught that our country was the greatest on earth, a shining city on the hill, that we were a melting pot, that we were all equal and that we all had the same chances to do well, that Americans invented practically everything worth inventing and that God loved us especially. God was definitely present in my public elementary school in the 1950s.

At this point, it appears our myths are coming back to bite us. As has been said, I suspect many Americans can't even imagine that in their beloved land there is such a wealth gap. Similarly, many seem to regard as enemies people who try to present the truths about the country's condition. IN fact the myths are so deeply embedded that many can't see that indeed many Americans can't do well anymore no matter how hard they work and play by the rules. They can't see the manipulation of laws to favor corporations and politicians, the corruption inherent in many state governments and in our federal government. The powers that be use fear to keep people believing that to open their eyes would be worse than keeping them shut.


Speaking of" today’s political balance rests on a foundation of ignorance, in which the public has no idea what our society is really like", the public also ought to know that those 25 hedge fund manager taking home almost a billion dollars were taxed at the much reduced capital gains rate, not their income rate, thanks to "Carried Interest" loophole defended by Democratic Senator, Charles E. Schumer, NY


"Mr. Schumer discounted any suggestion that the campaign contributions from the industry had influenced his thinking, "


"The securities and investment industry, through its employees, has been the chief contributor to Schumer’s re-election efforts, directing $2.7 million to his campaigns from 2007 to 2012, "

Inequality is promoted by political system practiced by both parties protecting the rich.

C. Gallagher - New York

In 2010, hedge funder John Paulson personally made $5 billion dollars betting on bailed out banks ($1 billion more than the $4 billion he made in 2007 betting against the subprime mortgage bubble). To put that figure in a personal perspective, were you to be fortunate to make $1 million each and every month of the year, you'd need to start earning that income back around the year 1600 to accumulate $5 billion by now.

I think we Americans have no idea of the true concentration of wealth at the top because the awareness of it would drive us insane.

Gary Henscheid - Yokohama

I’m afraid Americans really are blissfully unaware of how wide the wealth gap is, or that it continues burgeoning wider, or that we were a far more equal society for the entire postwar period until Ronald Reagan ushered in the thoroughly debunked idea that trickle down economics made any sense at all. All evidence has proven it to be a disaster, yet most Americans couldn’t care any less that almost nobody in government is even attempting to represent the working class anymore.

I’ve been to high school football games back home in Texas where parents get hot under the collar about referees making bad calls, and the same people are bored by any mention of all the social and economic injustices in the world these days. You’d think responsible adults would be more passionate about getting their kids a leveler playing field in their future careers than they are about a blown call in a sports match, but they aren’t even tuned in to the real game at all, and the opposing team is running up the score with every dirty trick in the playbook.

xaxnar - upstate NY

I suspect one reason Americans know so little about how great the gap has become is because of a code of silence among the media and the Democratic Party.

As so much of our news media is owned by a handful of corporations, they have little interest in investigative reporting that actually follows the money. "News You Can Use" is more likely to focus on how to save a few pennies here and there, or a "You Paid For It" story detailing some expensive government miscue. Stories on campaign spending, who's getting the money, and where it's coming from? - too complicated and liable to anger some critical demographic. Infotainment gets higher ratings than actual news.

As for Democratic fecklessness, chalk it up to a desire to be seen as business-friendly, fear of unilateral disarmament in the battle for Big Money, and the dreaded Class Warfare charge if one actually talks about how rigged things have become to favor the wealthy.

Talk about doing more for the less well-off (most of us these days), and you get denounced as a big government, big spending socialist who hates freedom. A whole media machine is waiting to unload on anyone who dares.

There was a big opportunity to change this when the Great Recession hit, and again when Occupy Wall Street dragged it into the light. The reluctance, even active pushback against looking too closely suggests this issue scares a lot of people.

But not enough to do anything meaningful about changing it for the better.


Tim Kane - Mesa, Az

And then there is the mulitplier effect.

For every job created through import, it has a multiplier effect of about 2.5 in the local economy (Econ Geog 101, 30 years ago).

So, that one person sucking up the wage of 20,000 wage earners, is really denying a community of 50,000 middle class incomes.

That would mean perhaps 40,000 families with 2.5 kids per house hold (again, circa 1980).

Basically one hedgefund manager is sucking out of the economy the resources that would sustain a community of 100,000 people at roughly a middle class existence level. Basically a city the size of Springfield Illinois.

The top 25 hedge fund managers collectively are sucking out of the economy the resources necessary to sustain a city the size of Baltimore, or Pittsburgh or Cincinnati or St. Louis, or Kansas City at a middle class existence level.

25 people consume the funds that would sustain 2.5 million people at a middle class existence.

Dr. Planarian - Arlington, Virginia

In 1960, the average CEO pay was 20.1 times the average worker's pay. The top marginal tax rate was 91%. Our growth rates dwarfed those of today.

In 1978, the average CEO pay was 35 times the average worker's pay. The top marginal tax rate was 70%. Our growth rates were not as strong but still robust.

In 2010, the average CEO pay was 234 times the average worker's pay. The top marginal tax rate was 35%. Our economy is struggling to maintain any growth at all.

And our so-called "conservatives" think that increasing tax rates on these rich guys is somehow unfair, and that it's fairer to cut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, and other programs that benefit those of more modest means. They vow to punish American workers, families, seniors, and our disadvantaged most cruelly if we dare to raise income tax marginal rates, even slightly, on these top earners who have snatched more and more of our nation's wealth at the expense of workers and those dependent on social programs.

It is immoral in the absolute. It is EVIL by any reasonable definition. It is the root cause of America's fiscal and employment woes.

Rachel - NJ/NY

I worked for a billionaire. It was very odd watching him and his family in action, because they expected that all their problems could be solved with money.

Long lines at Disney Land? Book a behind-the-scenes tour, before it opens, just for your kids. Uncomfortable pillows at your hotel in Europe? Have someone on your staff replace them with the same kind you use at home. I called it "the princess and the pea" effect - after a while, they became intolerant of even the tiniest minutiae. ("Can we find a way for my coffee not to get cold if I put it down for five minutes?") They became like spoiled children who didn't think about anyone besides themselves because they were never asked to. Even their charitable giving was targeted as a means to an end. ("So we can't get a doctor's appointment because the doctor isn't taking new patients? Give a 50K donation and call again.")

Not only do those highly wealthy people not need the money, I've watched up close how unhealthy it is for them to have it. Anyone who has to answer to no one and doesn't have to work for a living gets narcissistic and often a bit crazy. And crazy narcissists setting public policy is terrifying.

Mark - Cheboyagen, MI

Most Americans don't know how many branches of government there are and if they do, can't name them. How would they know about the enormous wealth of these financial pirates. America has it's collective head buried in it's info-tainment back side. How else do you explain governmental non-action in this weak sauce recovery after the disaster caused by the finance industry. All they hear is that the government can't do anything and then it's on to Honey Boo-Boo Palin and the rest of the clan.

Some of the same people involved with causing the crash of the economy were making sure that there would be no reregulation of finance and banking even while they were taking their tax payer funded bonuses home.

'What there are no good jobs available anymore, because we've let them all go overseas? What we haven't recovered jobs at the state level, because the states are still broke and we won't tax the rich, because they wouldn't finance our elections? To bad, but please help yourself to a gun and feel free to carry it in public.'

William O. Beeman - San José, CA

If the rich actually earned their money by carrying out productive activity in the economy, they could be praised. But a significant proportion do nothing productive. They don't create jobs, they don't create goods or services (except for themselves). They manipulate money and buy tax breaks by purchasing legislators.

They have now found that State legislators are much cheaper than those in Washington, and have the same salutary effect on their bottom line. They enhance their considerable wealth by hiding behind "values" in local elections - doing things like running private prisons in places like Arizona while lobbying for more restrictive laws the better to fill their prisons faster, with taxpayers paying the freight.

The rich have discovered that the United States taxpayers are the cash cows they always dreamed of. It is much easier to soak the public for personal gain than to actually risk investment in manufacturing or even the stock market. We are all subsidizing the rich. At least in the Golden Age there was genuine fraud that took work and planning to engineer to gain wealth. Now all one has to do is throw a few million at some legislative lackeys to get a return of many times that.

Islandflyer - Seattle, Wa

Please remind me again what those $1 billion/year hedge fund managers are doing to benefit society.

Oh, of course, they're managing the assets of those same super-wealthy people by rigging the markets to benefit themselves, at the expense of those who can't pay to play.

Jen Smith - Nevada

The invisible rich do show themselves, to some extent, when they are trying to buy the White House. The White House should not be a prize for billionaires, this is why we need to focus on our rights and make our voices heard, whether Congress wants to listen to average Americans or not.

InformedVoter - Columbus, Ohio

Over the weekend, my husband and I saw the IFC film “Pay to Play” about how big money controls our political system and is the single most corrupting influence to democracy. It was data driven, objective, and scary. There were about eight people viewing the film, being shown only on the campus of a state university’s film center with a very limited marketing budget.

Oligarchs and plutocrats who benefit from the from big money in politics would disagree with my (and Dr. Krugman’s )assessment-and therein lies the problem. Big money controls every form of information that Americans view and their goal is to make sure that their interest is the only one being served. PBS, our “public broadcasting station”, is under siege from wealthy donors who threaten to take away funding for programming that doesn’t agree with their narrative 100%, which is usually a smoke and mirrors representation of “reality”, i.e. there is no such thing as global warming, the wealthy are overtaxed and that is what depresses economic development, poor people are lazy, etc., etc.

The Rich want to remain invisible. They stay behind the scenes and control levers (all forms of media, 501 (c) (7) organizations , and politicans ) that exacerbate cultural issues that divide, and demonize unions and public servants as the destroyers of free market capitalism.

I love Dr. Krugman’s columns because he is a voice that continues to speak truth to power.


The truly powerful in our country have long preferred to remain relatively invisible and stay backstage, where they can direct the key actors, such as the politicians, judges, and heads of key institutions in society.

This was one of the principal themes of C. Wright Mills' book "The Power Elite" (1956). By staying behind the scenes, the power elite (corporate chieftains, military warlords, and the highly wealthy) are personally protected and can unobtrusively work their will (by manipulating those who appear to be "in power"). It is the job of the middle level power actors to carry out the wishes of the elite. The masses of people have relatively little power, and most are complacent and satisfied to have a job and think they live in a democracy.

Two institutions are central to the elite's control of the masses: education and communications. The purpose of education is not to teach critical thinking--au contraire; the purpose is to train people for jobs to fit into the capitalist structure. The purpose of the communications sector is to influence, control, & manipulate public opinion, which also means keeping the citizenry entertained but not well informed.

So a big reason Americans are so poorly informed is because our corporate media adheres to the interests of the powerful elite. Hence, the public is relatively unaware of climate change, just how inequitable things are in our country, how health care can be so much better in other countries, or what democracy is.

chickenlover - Massachusetts

And here is the funny (or sad, depending on your perspective) part. Most Americans not only (incorrectly) think that America is the most egalitarian society, but they wish to live in an egalitarian society.

Professors Norton and Ariely showed people three different wealth/income distributions - one in which the differences in wealth/income were modest, one in which the differences were vast. and one in which they were divided equally between the quintiles. People were asked to tell them which society was closest to America and also which society they would like to live in. They saw America as the one with modest differences and also preferred to live in a society with modest differences. They were surprised that the one with vast differences was actually the American distribution and the one with modest differences was actually the distribution in Sweden.

It is clear that Americans have no clue about the vast disparity in America today and believe it to be the most egalitarian society. This is primarily the result of a strong incessant right wing media that has successfully programmed Americans into this belief.

For more details, please read the original article here:

Rocketscientist - Chicago, IL

Princeton just published a paper suggesting that the US hasn't been a Republic in 30 years: it's an oligarchy. In an oligarchy, there are the chosen lapdogs who serve them and and ever-increasing development of internal security and militarized police. We see all of that. Those foolish enough to speak up or support progressive policies, like me risk identification by such ubiquitous systems as Google. Once identified as a progressive, it is often hard to get a job, despite superior qualifications. Blacklisting, in our oligarchy, is the invisible hand of the rich.


TONY said...

James Ellroy gives a pretty good account of who were lining up to destroy the Kennedys in 'American Tabloid'. Including the oligarchs and plutocrats in the mix (e.g. Howard Hughes). I'm going to a talk by Ellroy in Glasgow next month as it happens.

Cirze said...

Lucky. Lucky. YOU.

Wish I were there.