The Price of Empire
US becoming ‘world champion of extreme inequality’ under Donald Trump, says UN poverty envoy
The American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion’
by Andrew Buncombe • New York • Friday, December 15, 2017
While the US is one of the richest nations, entrenched poverty already experienced by many will be made worse by policies promoted by Mr Trump and the Republicans, in particular a planned tax overhaul that critics say gives huge cuts to the wealthy, it added.
“The American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion, as the United States now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries,” said Philip Alston the UN Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
PRESS RELEASE: “American Dream rapidly becoming American Illusion, warns UN poverty expert after 2-week human rights visit” available at https://t.co/i208R4jo4T @UNHumanRights #USApoverty pic.twitter.com/kzi1NQLqta
— Philip Alston (@Alston_UNSR) December 15, 2017
“American exceptionalism was a constant theme in my conversations. But instead of realising its founders’ admirable commitments, today’s United States has proved itself to be exceptional in far more problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights.”
He added: “There is no other developed country where so many voters are disenfranchised and where so few poor voters even care to go to the polls.”
Mr Alston delivered his comments alongside a draft report which he made public. His final report will be available in the spring of 2018 and will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June of next year.
On his 15-day visit around the US, the Australian Mr Alston, a law professor at New York University, visited Los Angeles, San Francisco, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico and West Virginia. He spoke to low-income families and officials.
Please go to Independent to read the entire article.
Princeton makes it official — USA Has Become Oligarchy, No Democracy
by F. William Engdahl • November 11, 2014
American media is fond of speaking about “Russian Oligarchs” as if Russia were the only nation that allowed accumulation of such unprecedented wealth. The Yeltsin days of dis-order and collapse indeed saw the rapid rise of many fortunes and oligarchs—persons of very much wealth. Some of them have proven patriotic citizens, some like Khodokorvsky or the late unlamented Boris Berezhovsky proved to be loveless gangsters. A new study, however by a Princeton University Professor of the influence of very wealthy or economically powerful persons on American political policies makes clear for the first time that a genuine American Oligarchy has staged a slow coup d’etat over US foreign and domestic policy over the past three decades since the era of Ronald Reagan. This American oligarchy today is the major force for war and dis-order across the planet.
I completed by undergraduate university studies in one of America’s most elite universities, Princeton. It was during the early 1960’s and classmates came from elite preparatory private schools like Andover or Exeter. Classmates with names like Firestone or Prince Faisal were attending. Then tuition cost $650 a year, the price I paid for my used 1956 Chevy. I was only able to pay that because I was awarded a full university scholarship, raised by a working mother with modest income. Today tuition for one year at Princeton costs $41,820. Princeton speaks of money and elite families. So I noted with great interest a new study published by two Princeton professors on wealth in America since 1981.
Martin Gilens is Professor of Politics at Princeton University together with Benjamin I. Page Professor at Northwestern University have published results of a unique analysis “using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.” The study concludes that, “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination…”
Their study further concluded, “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
Finally they conclude, “…Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”
In a subsequent media interview, Gilens noted what they concluded in their analysis of volumes of data from 1981-2002 for government policy decisions and the role of elites versus ordinary citizens in some 1,800 different policy initiatives: “One central factor is the role of money in our political system, and the overwhelming role that affluent individuals that affluent individuals and organized interests play, in campaign finance and in lobbying. And the second thing is the lack of mass organizations that represent and facilitate the voice of ordinary citizens. Part of that would be the decline of unions in the country which has been quite dramatic over the last 30 or 40 years. And part of it is the lack of a socialist or a worker’s party.”
The study verifies with ample empirical data what I have witnessed during the course of my own life as an American over the past four decades. There has been a silent coup d’etat of the monied class, an American oligarchy. Names such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, David Rockefeller, Sheldon Adelson (main financier of Mitt Romney for President), the Koch Brothers (main financiers of the Tea Party political movement), George H.W. Bush and family. The top 1% have reshaped the fundamentals of American life, culture and above all politics. A decision to wage war today against Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria depends not on the will of average Americans. Obama was elected on a pledge to close the US Army torture center at Guantanamo and six years on has yet to do. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in his first month and proceeded to wage more war in Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and most recently Syria and Ukraine.
It is important to have this in mind when judging “America.” The United States of America today bears little resemblance to that I knew when I grew up in the early 1960’s, when a used good Chevy cost $650 and college tuition could be afforded by ordinary Americans if they were willing to study. The oligarchy that has taken policy control behind a thin façade of “democracy” has ultimately ruined the industrial and social fabric of the United States. They are the ones behind the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or bank deregulation so they can loot the planet. This new study by Princeton’s Prof. Gilens is a refreshing attempt, even if academic and from one of the most elite academic universities, to shed some light on what is fundamentally wrong with America over the past three decades.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.
Source: Russian Insider
Russia, Not America, Is Building a Compassionate Civilization
. . . compassion is actually a national value of Russia: this attitude derives richly from Russia’s Orthodox Christian theology of humility, asceticism, and brotherly love.
by Valeria Z. Nollan • December 16, 2017 In a speech on 3 May 2017 to the employees of the U.S. Department of State, Sec. of State Rex Tillerson made a statement that might surprise observers of the U.S.’s military actions abroad since the 1960s:
Now, I think it’s important to also remember that guiding all of our foreign policy actions are our fundamental values: our values around freedom, human dignity, the way people are treated. Those are our values.(1)
Tillerson’s words were no doubt well-intentioned, but in uttering them he ignored the troubled socio-political history of the country whose government he represents.
The question arises: Are the above-mentioned values reserved only for Anglo-Saxon white-skinned people, and not for the people of color in the Middle East, Asia, and other predominantly non-white parts of the world? Starting from the post-World War II period, when that cataclysm produced a world order favoring the United States, this superpower’s values were increasingly subsumed by its political interests. It is a sad fact that even before the 1950s most of the U.S.’s history manifests a will to subjugate peoples whose traditions or very existence stood in the way of American expansion. The tragedies of the Native American tribes, Cuba, and Puerto Rico provide examples of this mindset. Closer to the present time, the U.S.’s military interventions in El Salvador, Guatemala, Vietnam, and Honduras continue a foreign policy gone awry. So much for the practicing of the values “around freedom, human dignity, the way people are treated.”
Russians marching to commemorate their relatives who died in WW2 – the phenomenon is called the ‘Immortal Regiment’
More recently, the U.S.’s and its European allies’ regime change projects in the Middle East and Ukraine have brought about millions of deaths and the wholesale destruction of the infrastructures of those parts of the world. Regime change and the politics of oil and natural gas pipelines, rather than the introduction of freedom, have been the real drivers behind these projects. It did not and does not matter to American elites that the peoples of Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine are in far worse straits now than before their countries were destabilized. What matters is that the ensuing chaos and privatization of resources and industries create conditions for currency speculation and plunder by oligarchs and politically-connected actors eager to cash in on other peoples’ misfortune. The U.S.’s stated project to dominate all parts of the world pushes aside the values of compassion for the Other and the accompanying sensibility of empathy—the intellectual and emotional attempt to place oneself in the Other’s position, to proverbially walk a mile in the Other’s shoes.
Can it be that the real decision makers steering the U.S. government—the neo-conservatives and their allies on Wall Street—have become so jaded, or distant, or uncaring concerning the carnage taking place in Yemen alone—an enormous humanitarian disaster that has spawned mass starvation, cholera, and other forms of human suffering–that such values as compassion no longer matter? Have these individuals ever stopped, even for a moment, to imagine the appalling circumstances of famine and preventable disease? Hunger is surely one of the worst ways to die, but to helplessly stand by and witness the slow, excruciating deaths by hunger of members of one’s family is far worse. Where is the value of compassion, of “the way people are treated”? How on earth can the U.S. Congress justify more arms sales to Saudi Arabia, when each member of that body knows that those weapons will be used against Yemen, one of the poorest nations on earth whose people have never done anything to hurt the United States? (2) Where is the courage among members of Congress to take a stand against such unethical decisions? How do the U.S.’s values support this genocide?
By contrast, compassion is actually a national value of Russia: this attitude derives richly from Russia’s Orthodox Christian theology of humility, asceticism, and brotherly love. Spirituality in general in Russia, expressed as well by her other heritage religions of Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism, influences everyday life in ways connected with compassion and empathy: mysticism with its understanding of the sacred, kindness to all living creatures, and almsgiving to the less fortunate all play a role in how the citizens of the Russian Federation interact with each other. These observations do not amount to idealizing Russian culture, but rather recognize spirituality as an essential feature that has existed on Russian soil for over one thousand years—and which was itself inherited from Christian Greece through the Eastern Roman Empire with its center at Constantinople. Among Russians a mystical, metaphysical acknowledgment of some higher, non-human-made system of values pervades their thoughts and actions.
Russia’s compassion and empathy derive not only from her spirituality, however. Even during the approximately seventy-year period of communist rule (1917-1987), the concept of the “collective” as a group of close-knit members of a specific workplace included more than how a “network” of colleagues is understood in the U.S.(3) In the Soviet collective its members supported each other not only emotionally, but also economically: if, for example, butter was available at a local store, one member would stand in line and bring back enough for the others. Because Russian culture by tradition is a spiritual and communal one, it follows that its citizens are guided by ethical and moral values that focus on each individual, but understand that individual as functioning within the whole of society. In contrast to many Americans, Russians do not self-centeredly promote themselves at the expense of everyone else, nor do they elevate the incessant acquisition of material things as the surest path to inner happiness.
Please go to Russian Insider to read the entire article.
Despite what we have read here on how America is no longer a “democracy” but an oligarchy, and how inequality is becoming more “extreme” in America, the US passed a $700 billion “defense” expenditure bill, and continues building its bases not only in Europe, but in Syria as well. Several observers have been suggesting a war on Iran is being planned and we are now in its preparatory stages. The real reason the US military are in Iraq and Syria is to fragment those countries.
All the while US corporate profits appear to be “booming”:
Then as the Trump administration has decided to pass this most recent tax bill, it will favour corporations and wealthy people (oligarchs):
Will globalization go into reverse?
Does anyone really know where all this money has been directed to?