July 25, 2012
By Chris Floyd
The world is suffering through a severe economic crisis. Governments at every level are on evangelical fire with the gospel of austerity, slashing services and people and selling off essential public goods at knock-off prices to a few rapacious elites. Everywhere, at every turn, we are told that there is simply "no money" to sustain anything remotely like the quality of life known by the past few generations before us.
Tears of a Drone
Arthur Silber writes with power and eloquence about the Aurora killings -- and the monstrous hypocrisy of our national "leaders," who mouthed saccharine pieties about how fragile and precious life is, and how tragic it is that innocent lives are so cruelly taken from us ... this while raining down terror and mass murder on innocent human beings all over the world. A brief excerpt:
"Consider the staggering number of murders of innocent human beings committed by the United States government -- and ask yourselves how many Auroras those murders represent. ... Listen for the public lamentations about even a small fraction of these deaths. Listen as carefully as you can. What do you hear? Why, nothing at all. ...
"President Obama and ...the U.S. government [assert] that he and they have the "right" to murder anyone at all anywhere in the world, for any reason they choose -- and that they need never disclose any details of their murders, including the fact that they have ordered them. ... This monstrous crime, what is in fact an ongoing, systematic series of monstrous crimes, is greeted by near universal silence in America. The U.S. government orders an unending series of Auroras: it ordered an Aurora last week, it will order an Aurora this week, it will order an Aurora next week. Almost no one cares. Almost no one even notices."
Silber then quotes Obama's statement after the killing, and notes:
"... These are the remarks of a man who has suffered an irreparable break with reality, a man who who has rendered himself unable to connect obviously related facts. If Obama genuinely meant these comments -- if he understood how these remarks apply with far greater force to him ("we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this") -- his realization of the monster he has allowed himself to become would reduce him to gibbering incoherence for the remainder of his life. In varying degrees, the same is true of any individual who remains in the national government at this point.
"More generally, this is American culture today. Like the killer in my story, many Americans hurl themselves with fundamentally false, deeply disturbed enthusiasm into public demonstrations of grief over the needless deaths of some human beings -- those human beings they see as being much like themselves, when the deaths happen in what could be their own neighborhood. As for all the murders committed by their government with a systematic dedication as insane as that of any serial killer: silence.
"But every murder committed by the United States government, every murder ordered by Obama, represents a tragedy exactly like Aurora to someone."
There is much, much more; go read the whole thing.
Den of Thieves
As we all know, the world is suffering through a severe economic crisis. Governments at every level are on evangelical fire with the gospel of austerity, slashing services and people and selling off essential public goods at knock-off prices to a few rapacious elites. Everywhere, at every turn, we are told that there is simply "no money" to sustain anything remotely like the quality of life known by the past few generations before us. ("No money," that is, except for the hundreds of billions in tax dollars -- our money -- these same austerian evangels continue to dole out to those same rapacious elites.)
OK, fine; for the sake of argument, let's take these plutocrat-serving poltroons at their word: there is no money. So where did all the money go then?
As the Observer reported this weekend, an extraordinary new study shows exactly where the money went: into the off-shore tax havens of the super-super rich. How much of the world's wealth has been squirreled away by this tiny group of gilded buccaneers? At least $21 trillion.
That's right: $21 trillion. And that's just the lowball end: the actual figure could be up to $32 trillion. The Observer reports:
"A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary -13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore -- as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together -- according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network.
"James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer.
"He shows that at least -13tn -- perhaps up to -20tn -- has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, 'protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy.' According to Henry's research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than -4tn in 2010, a sharp rise from -1.5tn five years earlier.
"The detailed analysis in the report, compiled using data from a range of sources, including the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund, suggests that for many developing countries the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world....
"'The problem here is that the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments,' the report says.
"The sheer size of the cash pile sitting out of reach of tax authorities is so great that it suggests standard measures of inequality radically underestimate the true gap between rich and poor. According to Henry's calculations, [$9.7 trillion] of assets is owned by only 92,000 people, or 0.001% of the world's population -- a tiny class of the mega-rich who have more in common with each other than those at the bottom of the income scale in their own societies. ...
"Assuming [this] mountain of assets earned an average 3% a year for its owners, and governments were able to tax that income at 30%, it would generate a bumper [$187 billion in tax revenue] every year."
And much of that revenue would be going to world's poorest countries, whose wealth has been looted at levels outstripping the worst of colonial times.
Put simply, there is no good reason for the people in "developing nations" to live in the crushing poverty that has long been their lot. There is no good reason for the people in the "developed" nations to see their societies rot away before their eyes. These things are happening because unimaginable amounts of money have been and are being looted by a powerful elite abetted at every turn by banks and politicians -- by specific individuals freely deciding to do evil to their neighbors. Or as the Observer headline puts it in an accompanying story: "Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it just floods offshore."
Away By the Water So Blue ...
And now a few ancestral voices to see us out: intonations and incantations from a vanished world ...
Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times and many others. He is the author of Empire Burlesque: High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium, and is co-founder and editor of the "Empire Burlesque" political blog.