Merrill Lynch (Bank of America) (2011 assets management: $2.3 trillion)--Directors include: Brian T. Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America; Rosemary T. Berkery, general counsel for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch (formerly Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc), member of New York Stock Exchange's Legal Advisory Committee, director at Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association; Mark A. Ellman, managing director of Credit Suisse, First Boston; Dick J. Barrett, cofounder of Ellman Stoddard Capital Partners, MetLife, Citi Group, UBS, Carlyle Group, ImpreMedia, Verizon Communications, Commonewealth Scientific and Industrial Research Org, Fluor Corp, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs Group.
The directors of these super-connected companies represent a small portion of the global 1 percent. Most people with assets in excess of $588,000 are not major players in international finance. At best, they hire asset management firms to produce a return on their capital. Often their net worth is tied up in nonfinancial assets such a real estate and businesses.
Analysis: TCC and Global Power
So how does the transnational corporate class (TCC) maintain wealth concentration and power in the world? The wealthiest 1 percent of the world's population represents approximately forty million adults. These forty million people are the richest segment of the first tier populations in the core countries and intermittently in other regions. Most of this 1 percent have professional jobs with security and tenure working for or associated with established institutions. Approximately ten million of these individuals have assets in excess of one million dollars, and approximately 100,000 have financials assets worth over thirty million dollars. Immediately below the 1 percent in the first tier are working people with regular employment in major corporations, government, self-owned businesses, and various institutions of the world. This first tier constitutes about 30--40 percent of the employed in the core developed countries, and some 30 percent in the second tier economies and down to 20 percent in the periphery economies (sometimes referred to as the 3rd world). The second tier of global workers represents growing armies of casual labor: the global factory workers, street workers, and day laborers intermittently employed with increasingly less support from government and social welfare organizations. These workers, mostly concentrated in the megacities, constitute some 30--40 percent of the workers in the core industrialized economies and some 20 percent in the second tier and peripheral economies. This leaves a third tier of destitute people worldwide ranging from 30 percent of adults in the core and secondary economies to fully 50 percent of the people in peripherial countries who have extremely limited income opportunities and struggle to survive on a few dollars a day. These are the 2.5 billion people who live on less than two dollars a day, die by the tens of thousands every day from malnutrition and easily curible illnesses, and who have probably never even heard a dial tone. [xxvii]
As seen in our extractor sector and investment sector samples, corporate elites are interconnected through direct board connections with some seventy major multinational corporations, policy groups, media organizations, and other academic or nonprofit institutions. The investment sector sample shows much more powerful financial links than the extractor sample; nonetheless, both represent vast networks of resources concentrated within each company's board of directors. The short sample of directors and resources from eight other of the superconnected companies replicates this pattern of multiple board corporate connections, policy groups, media and government, controlling vast global resources. These interlock relationships recur across the top interconnected companies among the transnational corporate class, resulting in a highly concentrated and powerful network of individuals who share a common interest in preserving their elite domination.
Sociological research shows that interlocking directorates have the potential to faciliate political cohesion. A sense of a collective "we" emerges within such power networks, whereby members think and act in unison, not just for themselves and their individual firms, but for a larger sense of purpose--the good of the order, so to speak. [xxviii]
Transnational corporate boards meet on a regular basis to encourage the maximunization of profit and the long-term viability of their firm's business plans. If they arrange for payments to government officials, conduct activities that undermine labor organizations, seek to manipulate the price of commodies (e.g. gold), or engage in insider trading in some capacity, they are in fact forming conspiratorial alliances inside those boards of directors. Our sample of thirty directors inside two connected companies have influence with some of the most powerful policy groups in the world, including British--American Business Council, US--Japan Business Council, Business Roundtable, Business Council, and the Kissinger Institute. They influence some ten trillion dollars in monetery resouces and control the working lives of many hundreds of thousands of people. All in all, they are a power elite unto themselves, operating in a world of power elite networks as the de facto ruling class of the capitalist world.
Moreover, this 1 percent global elite dominates and controls public relations firms and the corporate media. Global corporate media protect the interests of the 1 percent by serving as a propaganda machine for the superclass. The corporate media provide entertainment for the masses and distorts the realities of inequality. Corporate news is managed by the 1 percent to maintain illusions of hope and to divert blame from the powerful for hard times. [xxix]
Four of the thirty directors in our two-firm sample are directly connected with public relations and media. Thomas H. O'Brien and Ivan G. Seidenberg are both on the board of Verizon Communications, where Seidenberg serves as chairman. Verizon reported over $110 billion in operating revenues in 2011. [xxx] David H. Komansky and Linda Gosden Robinson are on the board of WPP Group, which describes itself as the world leader in marketing communications services, grossing over $65 billion in 2011. WPP is a conglomerate of many of the world's leading PR and marketing firms, in fields that include advertising, media investment management, consumer insight, branding and identity, health care communications, and direct digital promotion and relationship marketing. [xxxi]
Even deeper inside the 1 percent of wealthy elites is what David Rothkopf calls the superclass. David Rothkopf, former managing director of Kissinger Associates and deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade policies, published his book Superclass: the Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, in 2008. [xxxii] According to Rothkopf, the superclass constitutes approximately 0.0001 percent of the world's population, comprised of 6,000 to 7,000 people--some say 6,660. They are the Davos-attending, Gulfstream/private jet--flying, money-incrusted, megacorporation-interlocked, policy-building elites of the world, people at the absolute peak of the global power pyramid. They are 94 percent male, predominantly white, and mostly from North America and Europe. These are the people setting the agendas at the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, G-8, G-20, NATO, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. They are from the highest levels of finance capital, transnational corporations, the government, the military, the academy, nongovernmental organizations, spiritual leaders, and other shadow elites. Shadow elites include, for instance, the deep politics of national security organizations in connection with international drug cartels, who extract 8,000 tons of opium from US war zones annually, then launder $500 billion through transnational banks, half of which are US-based. [xxxiii]
Rothkoft's understanding of the superclass is one based on influence and power. Although there are over 1,000 billionaires in the world, not all are necessarily part of the superclass in terms of influencing global policies. Yet these 1,000 billionaires have twice as much wealth as the 2.5 billion least wealthy people, and they are fully aware of the vast inequalities in the world. The billionaires and the global 1 percent are similar to colonial plantation owners. They know they are a small minority with vast resources and power, yet they must continually worry about the unruly exploited masses rising in rebellion. As a result of these class insecurities, the superclass works hard to protect this structure of concentrated wealth. Protection of capital is the prime reason that NATO countries now account for 85 percent of the world's defense spending, with the US spending more on military than the rest of the world combined. [xxxiv] Fears of inequality rebellions and other forms of unrest motivate NATO's global agenda in the war on terror. [xxxv] The Chicago 2012 NATO Summit Declaration reads:
As Alliance leaders, we are determined to ensure that NATO retains and develops the capabilities necessary to perform its essential core tasks collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security--and thereby to play an essential role promoting security in the world. We must meet this responsibility while dealing with an acute financial crisis and responding to evolving geo-strategic challenges. NATO allows us to achieve greater security than any one Ally could attain acting alone.
We confirm the continued importance of a strong transatlantic link and Alliance solidarity as well as the significance of sharing responsibilities, roles, and risks to meet the challenges North-American and European Allies face together . . . we have confidently set ourselves the goal of NATO Forces 2020: modern, tightly connected forces equipped, trained, exercised and commanded so that they can operate together and with partners in any (emphaisis added) environment. [xxxvi]
NATO is quickly emerging as the police force for the transnational corporate class. As the TCC more fully emerged in the 1980s, coinciding with the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), NATO began broader operations. NATO first ventured into the Balkans, where it remains, and then moved into Afghanistan. NATO started a training mission in Iraq in 2005, has recently conducted operations in Libya, and, as of July 2012, is considering military action in Syria.
It has become clear that the superclass uses NATO for its global security. This is part of an expanding strategy of US military domination around the world, wherby the US/NATO military-industrial-media empire operates in service to the transnational corporate class for the protection of international capital anywhere in the world. [xxxvii]
Sociologists William Robinson and Jerry Harris anticipated this situation in 2000, when they described "a shift from the social welfare state to the social control (police) state replete with the dramatic expansion of public and private security forces, the mass incarceration of the excluded populations (disproportionately minorities), new forms of social apartheid . . . and anti-immigrant legislation." [xxxviii] Robinson and Harris's theory accurately predicts the agenda of today's global superclass, including