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Why didn’t the Justice Dept indict Kobach as well as Bannon?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/08/2020 - 9:37am in

The wire transfers of $250,000 and $100,000 that Steve Bannon and Brian Kolfage were indicted for would have to be approved by the We Build the Wall foundation’s general counsel — Kris Kobach. The payments were in direct violation of the foundation’s by-laws. Furthermore, Kobach used the non-profit’s donor list to raise money for his Senate run, normally a felony crime. I worked with the Justice Department on racketeering cases. You don’t... READ MORE

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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 8:38am in

Profiteering off the Pandemic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 15/08/2020 - 5:55am in

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Since the start of the pandemic, American billionaires have been cleaning up. As more than 50...

Book Review: Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West by Justin Farrell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/08/2020 - 9:15pm in

In Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West, Justin Farrell examines the lives of the ultra-wealthy who make Teton County, Wyoming, the richest county in the United States, focusing on their views towards each other, the environment and the county’s working-class community. While this ambitious study raises more questions than it provides definite answers about the ultra-wealthy in the western United States, the book undertakes the necessary groundwork to open up further examinations of this steadily growing social class, writes Evan Bonney.

Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West. Justin Farrell. Princeton University Press. 2020.

With Billionaire Wilderness, Yale sociologist Justin Farrell promises a unique study of the lives of the ultra-wealthy who make Teton County, Wyoming, the richest county in the United States. This isolated area, tucked in the Teton Mountain range of the Rocky Mountains, may not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of the world’s most affluent, but as one millionaire resident admits, the county seat of Jackson Hole is currently ‘where the billionaires chase the millionaires out of town’ (218). It is to these individuals with a net worth of $30 million or more that Farrell turns. Yet, instead of merely highlighting the socio-economic incentives that attract the ultra-wealthy to Wyoming, Farrell focuses on examining their views towards each other, the environment and Teton’s local working-class community.

From the start, Farrell stresses that Billionaire Wilderness seeks to challenge stereotypes of the affluent in the United States that ‘mask complexity and discourage the empathy and objectivity researchers need to understand any social group from the inside’ (5). Consequently, he takes a predominantly qualitative approach, using hundreds of personal interviews either with the ultra-wealthy themselves, Teton County community activists or with the Latino workers who total 30 per cent of Teton’s local population. These sources differentiate Billionaire Wilderness from similar studies, such as Peter Dauvergne’s Environmentalism of the Rich, which focuses exclusively on the socio-political uses of conservationist philanthropy by major corporations. But despite its unique sources, Billionaire Wilderness often feels too ambitious for one comprehensive study of the ‘ultra-wealthy and the remaking of the American West’.

This is most evident in the book’s structure. Farrell opens his study with five chapters that detail the social mechanics of the ultra-wealthy in Teton County, revealing what fiscally attracts them to Wyoming, how they view environmental conservation and what types of local philanthropies they endorse. These chapters are Farrell’s strongest as they explain the socio-economic motivations that attract the ultra-wealthy to this particular part of the Rocky Mountains, with one ultra-wealthy individual admitting that Wyoming is ‘the best onshore version of an offshore trust’ (126).

From Chapters Six to Eight, however, Farrell principally adopts a social-psychological approach. Here, he aims to understand why the ultra-wealthy idealise what he terms the ‘Western authenticity’ of the landscape and of Teton’s working-class community (183). Although this section seems dislocated from the first, Farrell attempts to combine his two approaches in his two concluding chapters, focusing exclusively on the opinions of the workers who are often either directly or indirectly employed by ultra-wealthy residents. Their views vary widely, with several saying that they ‘don’t think the rich can affect the community in a negative way’ (263), while others express that the ultra-wealthy ‘take care of the wolves more than the Latino workers in this community’ (271). For Farrell, highlighting this contrast alongside the testimonies of the ultra-wealthy is crucial for finding solutions that ‘build trust’ and ‘instil greater empathy’ between all social classes of Teton County (307-308).

These intentions are noble, but Farrell’s attempt to interlace two distinct analytical frameworks inadvertently undermines the tenor of his conclusions. An illustrative example is in Chapter Eight, which examines if ‘[the ultra-wealthy] feel guilty’ for the widening income gap that makes Teton County the most unequal in the United States (4; 237). After examining multiple interviews with ultra-wealthy residents, Farrell ultimately concludes that, despite a few outliers, the ultra-wealthy absolve themselves from guilt by either citing the disputed theory of trickle-down economics as proof that they invigorate the local economy, or by blaming socio-economic divisions on newcomers to the Teton circle of ultra-wealthy residents. This is a solid insight, but it is unclear how this conclusion challenges the reader to pause before jumping to what Farrell describes as ‘our hasty desire to brand [the ultra-wealthy] individually as either saviors or monsters, good or evil, deserving or undeserving, environmental heroes or destroyers of nature’ (300). For readers expecting a study that encourages them to think beyond these binaries, Billionaire Wilderness may prove frustrating.

Farrell could have enriched his analysis by demonstrating how the ultra-wealthy of Teton County are representative of a particular subgroup of the ultra-wealthy in the United States that adopts a distinct set of beliefs and behaviours. Indeed, it is surprising that Farrell opts to consider the ultra-wealthy as a uniform social cohort, given that what emerges from several of his sources is that there are clear divisions among the ultra-wealthy themselves. This is most apparent with the ultra-wealthy of Silicon Valley and those from the East Coast. In Chapter Three, two ultra-wealthy residents, originally from California, criticise environmental conservation in Teton County for gentrifying the area, with one from Silicon Valley blaming East Coast residents for their inclination to ‘want it to be the way it was the first day [they] came’ (89-90). Similarly, in Chapters Two and Eight, the ultra-wealthy from the East Coast condemn their Silicon Valley counterparts, with one woman from Delaware disdaining the ‘Silicon Valley crowd’ for flying in and out as they please, while one corporate investment executive from Connecticut confides that those ultra-wealthy who rode the ‘tech bubble’ are less respected amongst their peers (66, 234).

By treating the ultra-wealthy as a cohesive social unit, Farrell misses the opportunity to probe further into how geographic origin, social merit or long-term residency influence the social dynamic within this small community. Consequently, and perhaps unintentionally, Farrell conceals the very complexities of the ultra-wealthy he set out to expose. Indeed, as seen from the decade-old political group Patriotic Millionaires, the ultra-wealthy themselves are politically and ideologically fragmented when it comes to social activism targeted at closing the widening wealth gap in the United States. Although it is commendable that Farrell was able to gain access to this exclusive group of ultra-wealthy individuals, his lack of a clear analytical framework leads him to oversimplify his subject of study.

Despite its alluring title, Billionaire Wilderness raises more questions than it provides definite answers about the ultra-wealthy in the western United States. Although it reveals the environmental and tax incentives that attract the ultra-wealthy to Wyoming, it does not offer insight into how the beliefs and behaviours of the ultra-wealthy of Teton County may differ from those elsewhere in the United States. It remains to be seen if this study can foster the empathy that Farrell expressly desires to see between the ultra-rich and working poor of this remote part of the Rocky Mountains (308), but Billionaire Wilderness has taken the preliminary steps necessary to examine further this steadily growing social class.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.

Image Credit: Photograph of Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA at sunrise by Jesse Gardner on Unsplash.

 


Trump’s Worst Attacks on WorkersDonald Trump campaigned as an...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/07/2020 - 5:06am in

Trump’s Worst Attacks on WorkersDonald Trump campaigned as an insurgent outside of the political establishment who would restore the long-neglected working class. That was a lie. As president, he’s turned his back on working people, governing instead as a lackey for billionaires, CEOs, and corporations. Even during a public health and economic crisis, Trump has left working people in the dust.

Consider his signature tax law, sold as a benefit to working people. More than 60 percent of its benefits have gone to people in the top 20 percent of the income ladder. In 2018, for the first time in American history, billionaires paid a lower tax rate than the working class.

Trump said every worker would get a $4,000 raise, but nothing trickled down. Instead, corporations spent their tax savings buying back shares of their own stock, boosting executive bonuses and doing nothing for workers. To make matters worse, some of the richest corporations are paying nothing in federal income taxes, despite making billions in profits.

Meanwhile, Trump’s corporate lobbyists and industry shills have systematically dismantled worker protections – rolling back child labor protections, undoing worker safeguards from exposure to cancerous radiation, gutting measures that shield workers from wage theft, and eliminating overtime for 8 million workers.

Trump has even asked the Supreme Court to take away the health insurance of 23 million American workers by invalidating the Affordable Care Act –  in the middle of a global health crisis, no less! If Trump gets his way, protections for people with pre-existing conditions will be eliminated.

Oh, and remember his promise to rein in drug prices so working people can afford the meds they need? Well, forget it. Remdesivir, a drug to reduce the severity of COVID-19, from pharma giant Gilead, was developed with $70 million of taxpayer funding, yet Trump is letting the company charge $3,000 per treatment. And he is omitting pricing protections from federal contracts to develop drugs for Covid-19 – making it likely that life-saving treatments and vaccines will be out of reach for people in need.

Donald Trump doesn’t give a fig for working-class Americans. He even wants to end the extra unemployment benefits that countless Americans are depending on to get through this crisis.

So whose side is Trump really on? 

Well, here’s a clue: Tucked away on page 203 of the COVID stimulus package backed by Trump, is an obscure provision that delivers a whopping $135 billion in tax breaks to millionaire real estate developers and hedge fund managers. One real estate tycoon who stands to profit handsomely from the provision is none other than the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.
In total, the cash secretly spent on tax cuts for millionaires in the COVID-19 package is more than three times as much money as was included for emergency housing and food relief.

Kushner isn’t the only Trump insider getting paid off during the pandemic. Forty lobbyists with ties to Donald Trump have helped clients secure more than $10 billion in federal COVID aid. And if Trump succeeds in getting the Supreme Court to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the richest 0.1 percent of Americans will get an average additional tax cut of $198,000 each per year.

Donald Trump is no working-class champion. He’s a corporate con man – the culmination of a rigged-for-the-rich system that’s shafting working Americans at every turn.

Pandemic Billionaires Still Raking It In

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/06/2020 - 5:45am in

In April 2020 we reported on the release of the report “Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, and Pandemic Profiteers” from Institute for Policy Studies. That study showed that between January 1, 2020 and April 10, 2020, 34 of the nation’s wealthiest … Continue reading

The post Pandemic Billionaires Still Raking It In appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Study: Coronavirus Has Been a Massive Boon for America’s Billionaires

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/05/2020 - 3:30am in

America’s billionaires have seen their wealth increase by 12.5 percent during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, released a study Thursday showing that, in the eight weeks between March 18 and May 14, the country’s super wealthy have added a further $368.8 billion to their already enormous fortunes. 

Among the more famous big winners during the pandemic include Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who adds $21 billion to his net worth (a 38 percent increase). Failed Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg is up $10 billion as well, meaning he has recouped ten times as much as he lost in his big money political campaign that went nowhere. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has increased his fortune by around $6 billion as well. 

All this comes at the same time that the economy has undeniably imploded for working people. A record 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance, with millions more losing their employer-based healthcare plans, and around a third of the country not paying its rent. Schools, factories, offices, and other businesses remain shuttered. The Trump administration has promised to provide $1,200 to every citizen, but it will be months before everyone receives their check. As a result, there has been an explosion in the use of food banks, as desperate citizens line up for hours in the hopes of receiving a box of food. 

The study, based on figures from Forbes’ annual global billionaire survey, found that Amazon CEO and world’s richest individual Jeff Bezos was the biggest winner during the period of crisis, adding a massive $30 billion to his wealth. If he continues at the current rate, Bezos will become the world’s first trillionaire by 2026, with other oligarchs not far behind. This is possible primarily because of the hyper-exploitation of his workforce; Amazon warehouse employees are infamously forced into wearing adult diapers or peeing in bottles, unable to take bathroom breaks. The company’s own data shows that one-third of its Arizona employees depend upon food stamps to make ends meet. In Pennsylvania, it is the state’s nineteenth largest employer but fifth most common for those receiving SNAP benefits. Bezos’ workers have been organizing amid a pandemic that puts their lives at risk, but instead of providing them with living wages and proper protective equipment, he has given his employees at Whole Foods supermarkets with new uniforms proclaiming that they are heroes. 

“When billionaires like Jeff Bezos see their wealth surge by tens of billions, as they command their underpaid, vulnerable and unprotected workers into the viral line of fire, we should rise up to demand accountability,” Chuck Collins, Director of the Program on Inequality for the IPS told MintPress News, noting that Bezos is on track to amass “a level of concentrated wealth and power that even the greatest kings and oligarchs could never have imagined.”

Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk has seen his wealth balloon by $11.3 billion, despite the fact that his California car plant has been closed for weeks. How could this be? One explanatory reason is the billionaire bonanza that is the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed last month. A nonpartisan congressional body found that 82 percent of the tax benefits will go to those earning over $1 million per year, with exponentially more for the ultra wealthy elite. In contrast, less than three percent goes to the great majority of us who earn less than $100,000 per year. Safe in the knowledge that billionaires will not have to bear the brunt of the costs of the pandemic, their wealth has shot up. “Rising billionaire wealth during a pandemic reveals a level of unequal sacrifice that is unseemly and immoral,” Collins added. 

Of course, the money is not coming from nowhere. It is certainly not coming from billionaires’ hard work. It is coming from us: from our pockets and those of the global poor, who will be forced to pay for the virus and the huge tax cuts later. The fact that billionaires’ wealth is rising so rapidly in a period of economic collapse is a sign that the rich’s wealth is barely even connected to productive forces anymore and has more to do with how much wealth one can take from public coffers.

Feature photo | A protester carries a sign that reads “Unionize Amazon Tax Bezos,” while riding a bike during a car-based protest, May 1, 2020, at the Amazon Spheres in downtown Seattle. Ted S. Warren | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Study: Coronavirus Has Been a Massive Boon for America’s Billionaires appeared first on MintPress News.

Palast & David Cay Johnston: How Trump Stole 2020 — A Warning!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 10/05/2020 - 2:38am in

They don’t steal votes to steal elections. They steal votes to steal the money. If you can steal an election, you’ve stolen the keys to the treasury — our treasury. In this conversation, award-winning investigative reporters and authors Greg Palast and David Cay Johnston follow the (stolen) money, and expose the billionaires and ballot bandits who are systematically stripping the United States of its assets, just as a vulture fund would with a corporate entity caught in its talons.

Cartoon: Billionaire buttinsky 2: Bloomberg boogaloo

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 11:50pm in

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