News & Politics

How the 1% Touches Everything We Own

A Forbes slideshow reveals in detail how “billionaire brands control your life."

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Just how much of our lives do billionaires influence? While activists may rightly rail against the 1%, everything from branded bottled water to energy drinks to gummi bears and beyond are owned by rich people. It’s one thing to criticize their disproportionate influence in politics, but it’s a whole separate ballgame when it comes to not lining their pockets. A new Forbes slideshow reveals in detail how “billionaire brands control your life"--and how easy it is to further enrich these billionaires unwillingly.

Take Brawny paper towels, for example. It seems like a benign purchase that will help you clean your house. But when you buy Brawny products, you’re giving money to the Koch brothers, who own the company. Charles and David Koch are worth $34 billion. Even worse, they’re major funders of conservative causes.

Or look at Expedia, the very convenient website that helps you search for the best deal on hotels. That company is owned by Barry Diller, whose net worth comes in at $1.9 billion.

Want an energy drink to boost your day? You’ll also have to hand over cash that lines the pockets of other rich people. 5 Hour Energy drink is owned by Manoj Bhargava, who is worth $1.5 billoon. Red Bull, another energy drink, is owned by Dietrich Mateschitz, worth $7.1 billion.

Here’s yet another example: if you use a computer with an Intel processor, the fabulously wealthy owner will profit. His name is Gordon Moore, and he’s worth $4.1 billion.

This is not to say you should go live in a cave and not consume anything, particularly when many of the products Forbes lists are important for some people to use. But it’s important to frankly acknowledge the power of billionaires in our society--and how consumers keep their pockets fat. The big question, then, is how to change an unequal society with the scale tipped towards the rich while consumers continue to buy their products. As a first step, we could start with raising their taxes.

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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