Billionaires of the World Unite!
You have the Whole World to Gain!
The great democracies
Arrive in Mumbai (Bombay), the commercial heart of India,
“the Largest Democracy in the World” with 1.2 billion people. Taxing from the
airport to the city along the main highway, see mile upon mile of wayside
shanties made of rusty iron scraps, discarded boards and plastic. Countless
millions live here all their lives, eating and defecating on the roadside. The
stench of human waste and rotting garbage overwhelms the nostrils if you open
the vehicle windows. But drive in comfort to the luxurious hotels or residences
of this vast city where the very affluent in a style unimaginable to
Two of the world’s richest billionaires, Mr. Lakshmi Mittal and Mr. Mukesh Ambani, built homes that cost over US$ one billion each in this city. Several floors in each are assigned for hundreds of luxury cars. Others accommodate the 350-400 bearers (servants) and staff who work in the house for the family. The rooftop has helipads. About three floors are maintained for the few family members when they visit the city. In other rich residential areas, multi-millionaire businessmen maintain mini palaces
with a staff of 40-50 bearers.
Democratic India is home to 400 million of the world’s poorest according to UN statistics. They live shanty towns in urban ghettos, in mud-walled straw thatched huts in villages and some millions even as forest dwellers. Caste humiliation is an added economic deprivation for many of the poor. The ancient Vedas and the laws of Manu, dating back to 600 B.C., divided Hindus to 5 classes into which they were born and died: the Brahmins (teachers and priests), Kshatriyas (warriors, big landlords and kings), Vaishyas (merchants, farmers and craftsmen), Sudras (manual labourers) and Untouchable (human waste and carrion removers). These are each divided into thousands of sub-castes and still govern social behaviour in many instances, despite the best efforts of the great independence leaders like Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar. Indian legislation contains the world’s most progressive affirmative action legislation for the under-privileged castes but the problem has not been eliminated.
Now welcome to the USA, the richest country and “the Greatest Democracy on Earth”, carrying its message of freedom and dignity to the ends of the world through money, propaganda, non-governmental organisations and aid projects, and some other times through military invasion and occupation of other countries. Officially, 9.2% of the workforce are unemployed, another 10% are under-employed or have given up seeking jobs. Over 10 million families have lost their homes to mortgages they could not pay because of the economic downturn or because mortgage brokers sold them what they could not pay for. In the big cities, there are more beggars often with signs “Homeless Veteran, Please Help”, than in Colombo, Sri Lanka (where I did not see a single beggar during one whole holiday month). In California, New York and some other states the homeless are living in tents in wooded areas like forest dwellers or camping under bridges and over-passes. The number of people seeking food stamps has risen to 45 million and 40 million have no health care benefits.
Then look at the other happy side. According to a recent US National Public Radio news item, 400 individual Americans own 35% of all national assets. Of the 55 individuals who earned over US$500 million in 2010, 34 paid no taxes on their incomes. The gap between the rich and the poor is the highest in the world. Many of the largest corporations paid little or no taxes, while some also got government subsidies.
Political economics is not a science in that it has no eternal laws though it always pretends to be one. In that sense it could be better called political theology because it claims eternal truths but its substance is rooted in an environment at a particular phase of history. Democracy arose in the small Greek city states where all adult males (not females and slaves) gathered to debate and vote on public affair. Such practice is only possible now in social clubs like Rotary (which also did not admit women till the 1980s). Nation states have
millions of people while two nations have over a billion people each. In 600 B.C., Manu in India and Confucius in China laid down political philosophies that had relevance then but are irrelevant today. So did more modern political theorists like Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Robert Owen, Karl Marx, Vladimir Illyich Lenin, Thorstein Veblen, Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Joseph Schumpeter and many others who are now relegated to historical analysis. Political theory survives and is nurtured in a favourable climate and dies with change. The political theory of the “Divine Right of Kings” died in England when King Charles I was executed in 1669, and died in France when Emperor Louis XVI was beheaded in Paris in 1791.
The current Western-origin concepts of democracy based on individual rights has been fashioned and refashioned by the giant business corporations that control much of the world economy that it would be unrecognisable to those who have only learnt of democracy from college textbooks or the corporate media. Democratic institutions that were designed to safeguard the ordinary citizen and ensure his basic rights are being eroded by the power of giant corporations whose financial resources buys political power
and privilege. When the election of the last presidency of the USA was obtained by spending U$750 million by that candidate, or where a senator or congressman has to spend tens of millions of dollars to be elected, and then be beholden to his wealthy sponsors, where are the rights of the man in the street? How does the theory of political democracy reconcile the overwhelming power of the wealthiest corporations with the helplessness of the man in the street who has lost his job, his home and his healthcare? When the some of the biggest financial institutions sold bad housing mortgages and piled up credit card debts and converted these “toxic assets” into triple A rated Credit Default Swaps and securities which destroyed a part of the world economy, the US government allocated US$1.5 trillion to bail out these corporations and also took over about US$3.0 trillion worth of their assets that had become toxic. But when lesser income earners were losing their homes and jobs, such generosity was not forthcoming.
The evolving political theology
The forthcoming US elections have already paved the way for some new political theories sponsored by large corporate donors and lobbyists (there are about 35,000 lobbyists for the US legislators’ attention) that would astonish people elsewhere. Let’s recall a few of the key theories that are being proclaimed now as eternal truths.
- The privileges of the rich are sacrosanct as the entire health of the nation
depends on them. The rich must not be taxed. Government revenue
must come from consumption taxes which will contributed mainly by the vast
number of lesser income households. So the richest pay proportionately
little, or no taxes (because of carefully introduced tax loopholes for the
wealthy), while the poor have few tax relief measures.
- Corporations must not be taxed or they will invest elsewhere in the world. Actually, the nominal corporate tax is a myth as built-in tax loopholes enable the
wealthiest corporations to pay little or no taxes and even may get huge
government subsidies. Oil companies make tens of billions in profits and
gain annual subsidies of around US$20 billion. European corporations pay
higher taxes and still remain profitable. Large US
corporations also cheat on taxes by using tax havens like Grenada and the Caymen Islands
where their official headquarters is sometimes only a post office box.
- Corporations must not be regulated by the government or else they will flee elsewhere. The highest corporate investment in the world is in China where all business is subject to heavy government regulation. What is attractive in China, India and other developing countries is the lack of labour regulation and poor wages.
- Trade unions create unemployment by hampering business so unions must be undermined and eliminated. The Governor of the State of Wisconsin has already done that. Germany, which is the manufacturer and exporter of the largest volume of high value industrial products has privileged labour unions where it representatives, by law, must be on the Boards of Directors of corporations.
- Government activity must be minimal, as its work infringes on the liberty of the individual. But it must maintain a trillion dollar military
for foreign interventions. And it is legitimate to subsidise large
corporations and help overseas expansion of corporate business, even using
political or military muscle.
- State sponsored social benefits for the needy must be minimised or eliminated. Social Security and Medicare for the retired, benefits for the elderly and the
incapacitated, are a drain on the government and state budgets. Unemployment
benefits must be cut, even though trillions were allocated to corporations
bankrupted by fraudulent or bad management.
- The public and the government have no right to prevent CEOs and top corporation mangers paying themselves billions of dollars in bonuses and salaries even though the corporations are surviving because of infusions of public money that saved them from bankruptcy.
There are many more strange theories in currency in the USA that would be
laughed out in Europe or even many of the developing countries. But the mass followers of these theories, who are themselves mainly among the under-privileged, are now sufficient to have elected enough legislators to create an ultra right-wing majority in the House of Representatives. None of these theories are part of an overall political
philosophy that can stand up for scrutiny and approval by scholars. These
theorists are not Adam Smiths or Maynard Keyneses. But that does not prevent
them from being accepted as political theology by the large masses of Americans
whose exposure to ideas is limited to the corporation owned mass media and
corporate funded activists.
The Billionaires’ Club
The world billionaires club met again at the Bilderberg Conference in St. Moritz,
Switzerland, during June 9-12, 2011. What they discuss is secret, as is their membership. But their aspirations are no secret. Joseph Stalin trumped over his opponents like
Leon Trotsky by getting the Communist International gatherings to agree that
the triumph of communism in one country, the USSR, will eventually lead to the
communist take over of the world. Three decades later, after World War 2, he
seemed to have succeeded in part by subordinating Eastern Europe. But 4 decades later still the communist states were finished. Does the billionaires club believe that the USA could be the launching pad for the new corporatocrarcy that will eventually govern the
world and own its resources? We must somehow believe in the sanity of the human
race and agree that this is an improbable finale.
09 July 2011
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reserved. Reprints may be approved on request from the author.
 The list
includes Google, News Corp, Boeing, Pfizer, Oracle, Altria (Philip Morris),
IBM, Time Warner, Morgan Stanley and Microsoft. See http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/551168/10_of_the_biggest_corporate_tax_cheats_in_america