Trying to decide wether to run for the Senate or not, one of Trump's most blatantly and egregiously corrupt former cabinet members, Scott Pruitt (EPA), dialed up two slime-bag billionaires who made their fortunes in the fossil fuel industry-- oil tycoon Harold Hamm and coal baron Joseph Craft III. The Washington Post reported that, without mentioning that Craft III and Hamm are oligarchs.
Also today, the Helsinki Times reported that Finland has placed a total of 21 yachts under a transfer ban on grounds of suspicion that they are owned by oligarchs or other individuals falling within the sanctions regime of the EU. If Finnish official obtain confirmation that the yachts are owned by oligarchs, they will be impounded. One of them is owned by kleptocrat Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's former president.
One more oligarch/kleptocrat story to kick off the day: no one knows how much Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg was paid to shit-can the Trump investigation, though most people bet it was a lot. Yesterday, the NY Times reported that prosecutor Mark Pomerantz (70), one of 2 senior prosecutors who quit when Bragg destroyed the investigation, included in his resignation letter that Trump is "guilty of numerous felony violations" and that it was "a grave failure of justice" not to hold him accountable. Pomerantz wrote that "The team that has been investigating Mr. Trump harbors no doubt about whether he committed crimes-- he did."
There are different rules for oligarchs, a system a crooked Harvard creep like Bragg is proud to be part of. This afternoon, Bernie sent his supporters an e-mail entitled "Oligarchy" which makes the point that not every bag of crap oligarch is a Russian. "The United States," he wrote, "has its own oligarchy." (And it's enforced by corrupt bureaucrats like Bragg.) If we're going to have members of Congress for whom to look to for relief from the deprecations of oligarchs, it will be because of people like California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, currently battling it out with a standard variety servant of the oligarchy, Robert Garcia, for an open southeast L.A. County congressional seat. "You have to hand it to Bernie to get to the heart of the matter," she told me late last night. "The American oligarchy and patriarchy are responsible for nearly every type of injustice in our society from income inequality to environmental injustice to gender inequality. Before we throw stones let's be real about our own nation's issues."
Today, in the United States, the two wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of our population-- more than 130 million Americans. And the top one percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 92 percent. During the last 50 years there has been a massive transfer of wealth in our country, but it’s going in the wrong direction. The middle class is shrinking while the people on top are doing better than ever.
Further, in terms of the global economy, there is no question that we are seeing a huge and destructive increase in income and wealth inequality. While the very, very richest people become much wealthier, ordinary people struggle and the most desperate starve.
While massive levels of inequality existed before the rise of COVID, that situation has become much worse over the past two years.
Today, around the world, the wealthiest 10 multi-billionaires now own more wealth than the bottom 3.1 billion-- almost 40 percent of the world’s population. Unbelievably, the wealth of these ten multi-billionaires has doubled during the pandemic, while the income of 99 percent of the world’s population has declined. The oligarchs spend huge amounts of money buying fancy yachts, mansions and great paintings while 160 million people throughout the world have slipped into poverty. According to Oxfam, global income and wealth inequality has led to the deaths of more than 21,000 people each and every day throughout the world as a result of hunger and the lack of access to healthcare. Yet the world’s 2,755 billionaires saw their wealth go up by $5 trillion since March 2021-- increasing from $8.6 trillion to $13.8 trillion.
But it’s not just the increased income and wealth gap between the very rich and everyone else. It’s a growing concentration of ownership and brute economic and political power. Something which is not talked about much, either in the media or political circles, is the reality that a handful of Wall Street firms, Black Rock, Vanguard and State Street, now control over $21 trillion in assets-- roughly the GDP of the United States. This gives a tiny number of CEOs enormous power over hundreds of companies and the lives of millions of workers. The result: in recent years we have seen the ultra-wealthy significantly increase their influence over media, banking, health care, housing and many other parts of our economy. In fact, never before have so few owned and controlled so much.
Add it all together and what you see is a nation and world trending very strongly toward oligarchy-- where a small number of multi-billionaires exercise enormous economic and political power.
So, in the midst of all of this, where do we go from here?
Clearly, while we face oligarchy, COVID, attacks on democracy, climate change, the horrific war in Ukraine and other challenges it is easy to understand why many may fall into cynicism and hopelessness. This is a state of mind, however, that we must overcome-- not only for ourselves, but for our kids and future generations. The stakes are just too high, and despair is not an option. We must come together and fight back.
What history has always taught us is that real change never takes place from the top on down. It always occurs from the bottom on up. That is the history of the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the environmental movement and the gay rights movement. That is the history of every effort that has brought about transformational change in our society.
That is the struggle we must intensify today.
We must bring people together around a progressive agenda. We must educate, organize and build an unstoppable grassroots movement that helps create the kind of nation and world we know we can become. One that is based on the principles of justice and compassion, not greed and oligarchy.
We must never lose our sense of outrage when so few have so much and so many have so little.
We must not allow ourselves to be divided up based on the color of our skin, where we were born, our religion or our sexual orientation.
The greatest threat of the billionaire class is not simply their unlimited wealth and power. It is their ability to create a culture that makes us feel weak and hopeless and diminishes the strength of human solidarity.
Yet, as a result of the horrific Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the extraordinary courage and solidarity of the Ukrainian people, countries throughout the world are waking up to the fact that there is a global struggle taking place between autocracy and democracy, between authoritarianism and the right of people to freely express their views.
Now is the time to build a new progressive global order that recognizes every person on this planet shares a common humanity and that all of us-- no matter where we live or the language we speak-- want our children to grow up healthy, have a good education, breathe clean air and live in peace.
What we are seeing now is not just the incredible bravery of the people in Ukraine, but thousands of Russians who have taken to the streets to demand an end to Putin’s war in Ukraine, knowing that it’s illegal to do so and that they will likely be arrested and punished.
We have seen the courage of working people here in our country who are coming together to take on corporate greed and organize for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
Sisters and brothers, right now we are in a struggle between a progressive movement that mobilizes around a shared vision of prosperity, security and dignity for all people, against one that defends oligarchy and massive global income and wealth inequality.
It is a struggle we cannot lose. And it is one that we can overcome, as long as we stand together.
Joaquin Vazquez is a progressive congressional candidate in the San Diego area running to replace a corrupt political hack who has spent his whole life kissing up to oligarchs, Juan Vargas. "Bernie is right," Joaquin told me tonight. "All of this is very true. We do need to keep pressing on as progressives to get to a world where oligarchs no longer run it. What we also must do is keep our eyes open so that we aren't fooled by the politicians who are run by oligarchs. They disguise themselves as allies of the left while only doing lip service and not truly fighting corporate greed to end it's reign over our democracy. Rep. Juan Vargas is a perfect example, and every other Democrat like him who takes corporate money, whether directly or indirectly, as they will continue to only be held accountable by their funders. We've seen how so many Democrats are running as self labeled "progressives" to fool voters and make them believe that they truly are fighting for them. We must keep track of their voting records, their fundraising records, and of the actual bills and policies that they propose. Some just talk the talk so we'll, that people keep voting for them and we keep getting the same results: seat warming politicians who are enriching their corporate donors and the oligarchy. We will never get rid of this greed in our government until we oust every single one of these cruel politicians and replace them with real champions of the people, funded by the people, and for the people."
Mike Ortega is also a South California candidate working to replace a corrupt conservative, in this case Blue Dog Lou Correa, a corporate whore. Last night he told me that "We were recently told by the President that we have to tighten our belts to support the people of Ukraine. This would be a noble cause if it had any truth to it. The truth is that both sides of the aisle are joined at the hip with the oligarchy here at home. Our domestic policy has been authored by corporate greed, and if monopolies want to raise gas prices, they can, and the President won’t do anything to get in the way. In fact, he’ll make excuses for the fossil fuel industry, and throw transitioning from fossil fuels by the wayside. Bernie is right on every account-- the working class are treated like pawns now more than ever. We have to have the courage to hold this disappointment. It’s a great burden for all of us. We are busy enough struggling to put food on the table and getting the health care we need-- but we must join hands with all working people across the world and see that the good in this world is worth fighting for. That time is now. It’s always been now."
On the other side of the country, David Ocampo is running for an open New Jersey seat that the corrupt Democratic establishment is trying to give to Bob Menendez's unaccomplished son. In theory, hereditary offices are un-American. Just like oligarchy. "Senator Sanders," he told me, "is absolutely right. Oligarchs are insulated from the real conditions of their country. How is that different from the billionaire class here in the United States? When the economy grows, the rich get richer. When the economy teeters on the brink of depression and millions suffer, as it did during the height of pandemic lockdowns, the rich get richer. When nations go to war, the rich get richer. The reality is, so much of what corporate media presents is designed to divide the working class-- not just here at home, but also abroad. Progress gets bogged down by bad-faith debates around deficits, fairness, and 'freedom'. You see this also as the drums of war escalate around Ukraine. Over these last two years, the pandemic has shined a bright light on the failures of our society. If we’re going to win the struggle for an equitable society, to guarantee that everyday people have the right to live with dignity, healthcare and housing, then we need to come together. We can’t afford to become complacent or burnt out. We must keep mobilizing and pushing forward."