There's a Violent World War Going On, with Millions of Casualties -- Oligarchs vs. Everyone Else
History is littered with the corpses of those who thought they could conquer the world, or at least the “known” or “important” world, through force of arms. Many come immediately to mind: Alexander the Great; Caesar; Hitler; the Celts, Ottomans, and Catholics; various European, Asian, and American empires from the 17th Century Dutch to the 18th Century French, to the 19th Century British and the 20th Century Soviets and Americans. Others, like the Aztecs, are less well known to westerners, Europeans, and Asians, but no less ambitious.
All used some variation on war, the force of military power, to accomplish their goal. All won, over the short-term, and then collapsed over the long term (making the relatively safe assumption that the American Empire is in the process of collapse right now).
So, who’s next?
While the rising economies of the world, like the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations, all have the potential, particularly the Chinese, all also are pretty focused on regionalism. But there is one group that has declared war on us - all of us, all over the world - and already won some significant victories. And that’s the creditor class, what economist Henry George called the “rentiers,” and we generally today refer to as “the billionaires.”
The top story on the Sunday, January 6 2013 online edition of the Financial Times, was headlined, “Banks win more flexible Basel rules” by Brooke Masters. The lead paragraph noted that “International banks received a new year fillip” or gift, when the new regulations out of the Basel bank regulators meeting “announced that the first ever global liquidity standards would be less onerous than expected and not be fully enforced until 2019, four years later than expected.” Perhaps the single most relevant sentence in the article started: “The results are largely good news for bank profits…”
We have become, in the United States, and increasingly all over the world, a society with only two classes: Those who own, and those who owe.
The owners (or “Takers”) own vast wealth, and loan it out at interest to everybody from students to governments. They’re continually receiving that interest back in ways that are either tax-free or taxed at very low levels. (Here in the US we call it “capital gains,” “Interest,” “dividends,” and “carried interest.” While a working person will pay as much as 39% in federal income taxes, the federal income tax to the Mitt Romneys, Paris Hiltons, and Lloyd Blankfeins of the world is now capped at 20%. As Leona Helmsley famously said, “Only little people pay taxes.”)
The owe-ers - the indebted - find themselves trapped on a lifelong treadmill paying interest and fees to the Takers. The owe-ers are also mostly the workers, the people who make things (from manufactured goods to hamburgers), and so are rightly called the “Makers.”
For a brief period of American history, the rapaciousness and greed of the Takers was kept in check by the Makers - mostly through the actions of their unions and elected officials like FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. Glass-Steagal prevented banksters from gambling with your savings account or pension. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act and its heirs prevented the big fish from swallowing all the medium-sized and smaller fish, so cities and malls were filled with locally-owned businesses. Social and economic mobility were higher in the United States than in most other countries of the world.
But with the election of Ronald Reagan, the Takers - whose favorite way of taking is through putting the Makers into debt - won a huge victory. They killed or weakened democratic institutions, like unions and politicians not dependent on them. They moved the Middle Class from prosperity into, first, credit card debt, then into second-mortgage debt, and finally into student loan debt. And then, in the final Coup de grâce, they made the formerly democratic governments of Western Europe and the United States indebted to them.