Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Andrew Gavin Marshall surveys the grossly disproportionate amount of wealth and power held by a small elite class:
In 2006, a UN report revealed that the world’s richest 1% own 40% of the world’s wealth, with those in the financial and internet sectors comprising the “super rich.” More than a third of the world’s super-rich live in the U.S., with roughly 27% in Japan, 6% in the U.K., and 5% in France. The world’s richest 10% accounted for roughly 85% of the planet's total assets, while the bottom half of the population – more than 3 billion people – owned less than 1% of the world’s wealth.
A 2005 report from Citigroup coined the term “plutonomy” to describe countries “where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few.” The report specifically identified the U.K., Canada, Australia and the United States as four plutonomies. Published three years before the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, the Citigroup report stated: “Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper and become a greater share of the economy in the plutonomy countries.”

"The rich," said the report, "are in great shape, financially.”

In early 2013, Oxfam reported that the fortunes made by the world’s 100 richest people over the course of 2012 – roughly $240 billion – would be enough to lift the world’s poorest people out of poverty four times over. In the Oxfam report, "The Cost of Inequality: How Wealth and Income Extremes Hurt Us All," the international charity noted that in the past 20 years, the richest 1% had increased their incomes by 60%. Barbara Stocking, an Oxfam executive, noted that this type of extreme wealth is “economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive...We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true.”
(T)he ruling class is not “global” as such, but rather “a supra-national capitalist class that has gone a considerable way toward transcending national divisions,” notably in the industrialized countries of Western Europe and North America; in their words, "the regional locus of transnational class formation is more accurately described as the North Atlantic region.” However, with the rise of the "East" – notably the economic might of Japan, China, India, and other East Asian nations – the interlocks and interconnections among elites are likely to expand as various other networks of institutions seek to integrate these regions.

The influence wielded by banks and corporations is not simply through their direct wealth or operations, but through the affiliations, interactions and integration by those who run the institutions with political and social elites, both nationally and globally. While we can identify a global elite as a wealth percentage (the top 1% or, more accurately, the top 0.001%), this does not account for the more indirect and institutionalized influence that corporate and financial leaders exert over politics and society as a whole.
 - But Jim Stanford wonders whether the latest effort to build corporatism into Canadian foreign policy will produce important economic and political consequences - as the predictable economic displacements caused by the CETA may well damage the Con administration which is so eager to shackle Canadian governments at all levels.

- Meanwhile, the City of Regina is trying to change its petition rules in order to try to prevent a public referendum on a P3 wastewater treatment plant - which should make for ample reason to sign the petition in order to make sure the City's maneuverings don't get in the way of democratic choice.

- And the provincial government's own privatization schemes are blowing up as well, as the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour revealed this week that a private bidder on linen services for health-care providers tried to lock workers into a 10-year contract without any say by shopping a pre-written collective bargaining agreement around to unions. (At the same time, the attempt to slash wages and benefits compared to those paid to current workers only goes to show that any "efficiency" in privatizing the work was based on a pure transfer from workers to corporate shareholders.)

- Finally, Dean Beeby reports on the remarkable orders being given to Parliament Hill guides. And I'm not sure that undue praise for the Senate - which can at least be explained as putting a positive spin on the system which actually exises - represents as much an affront to Canada's own democracy as this appalling attempt to narrow the terms of political debate in an actual multi-party system:
The politics manual also contains a section that touts the benefits of a two-party system, unlike the multi-party hue of the current House of Commons.

“In a multi-party group system the voter is liable to be confused by a variety of competing issues and solutions,” it advises trainees, noting that a two-party system has more “moderation.”

“The two-party system has acted as a great unifying agency in countries such as Canada and the United States, which have not any very deep underlying unity to begin with.”

1 comment:

  1. Stunning statistic. " Oxfam reported that the fortunes made by the world’s 100 richest people over the course of 2012 – roughly $240 billion – would be enough to lift the world’s poorest people out of poverty four times over"