"Rulers and Ruled in the U.S. Empire" By James Petras
Review by Kris Millegan
Things couldn't be better for the ruling class, with the top 2% of adults in the world owning half its wealth, the top 10% with 85% of it, and the bottom half just 1%. The result is an unprecedented wealth disparity, with corporate C.E.O.'s on average earning over 400 times the income of wage and salaried workers. For top-earning speculators and hedge fund managers the ratio is 1,000 to one, with some earning over a billion dollars a year. In addition, corporate wealth was at a record 43% of 2005 national income accruing to profits, rents, and other non-wage/salary sources.
The number of world billionaires reached 946 in 2007. This lucky thousand has an estimated combined wealth of $3.5 trillion. Over half of them are in three countries -- 415 in the U.S., 55 in Germany, and 53 in Russia. India ranks high as well, with 36 billionaires, with China next in the region at 20. The number of millionaires exploded as well with close to 10 million in 2007, that number increasing annually by 10%.
Balzac was right: "behind every great fortune is a crime" (most often a small fortune as seed money), nowhere so obvious as in Russia. Without exception, transfers of (state) property were achieved through gangster tactics -- assassinations, theft, seizure of state resources, illicit stock manipulations. They strip mined over a trillion dollars of Russia's wealth into private predatory hands who, in turn, stuffed them into offshore accounts. It happens everywhere, with the U.S. being Exhibit A. The Rockefellers, Morgans, Fords, and Carnegies didn't amass wealth by being neighborly or nice. They got it the old-fashioned way -- by stealing, using the threat of violence.
The growth of monstrous and rigid class inequalities reflects the narrowing social base of an economy dominated by finance capital, with the U.S. redistributing far less to its people than other developed nations, e.g., in Western Europe. Democrats are as culpable as Republicans, both parties tied to big monied interests through campaign funding and the power of lobbies. These "bribes" make everyone in the political power structure unwilling to change anything, so they don't. The result: working Americans go on suffering while those at the top never had it so good There is a potential worker backlash ahead that has gone unheeded. Elitists ignore it at their peril.
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The Journal of History - Fall 2007 Copyright © 2007 by News Source, Inc.