Billionaires and oligarchs Trump tower
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We live in a materialistic age and under the auspices of the capitalist system. Billionaires and oligarchs: Our relationship to them must be examined. Billionaires have been seen as the apotheosis of our economic societies. The general public in western democracies have looked upon these very wealthy people as winners and something to aspire to. In America, individuals like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have been held up as examples of real success. At the same time, America and Australia have become much less equitable nations in terms of the distribution of wealth amongst their populations. There are more billionaires but the percentage of shared wealth has become far more skewed in favour of rich elites.

Billionaires and oligarchs
Photo by Karolina Grabowska:

Billionaires Sucking The Wealth Out Of Nations

The 5 richest billionaires in America, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Elon Musk, increased their wealth by 70.3% in less than 2 years between March 2020 and October 2021. That is from $2.947 trillion up to $5.019 trillion. This is much more than the worth of half of the entire population of the United States, which is over 331.9 million people. Do you think that a few individuals should have more wealth than a couple of hundred million people? Is this an indication of a system that serves an entire society fairly and well? Obviously not.

In Australia –

“Half yearly profits for all companies together had almost doubled to $US55.2 billion ($79.6 billion), up from $US28.7 billion for the same period last year…”

(ABC News, August 2022)

“Debt is the slavery of the free.”

  • Publilius Syrus

Oligarch Bad, Billionaire Good

Oligarchs in Russia have been singled out by the west as the bad guys under the Putin regime, which has invaded Ukraine, an independent country that neighbours the Russian Federation. These oligarchs were, in fact, set up by Boris Yeltsin following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“The Russian oligarchy arose out of the mayhem of rapid privatization in the 1990s. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian president Boris Yeltsin, a leader in the revolt against communism, had to figure out how to transition from a command-and-control economy to a market one. Yeltsin turned to the Russian economists Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais, who, with the aid of Western advisers, hammered out the details.”

Western economists and the IMF played a big role in creating this ‘shock therapy’ conversion to  capitalism. You have to remember who was in power in the west during this period and in the lead up to it Reagan, Bush, and Thatcher. Neo-Liberalism, trickle down economics, and the economic policies which have gone on to make our world so inequitable and unbalanced. We created the oligarchs to be the mirror images of the corporations and their billionaires so enamoured of the free enterprise market system. Billionaires and oligarchs: Our relationship to these moneyed figures requires greater scrutiny.

“Once you realize that trickle-down economics does not work, you will see the excessive tax cuts for the rich as what they are-a simple upward redistribution of income, rather than a way to make us all richer, as we were told.” 

 – (Ha-Joon Chang)

Putin - billionaires and oligarchs

Russia is in the grip of Vladimir Putin and his oligarchs – it is a totalitarian police state controlled by henchmen and their strong arm tactics. This is a fascist state where free speech is non-existent. Many in the west think that is because Russia has always been like this through the Soviet era and prior during the time of Imperial Russia. There is an element of truth in this but there was a window of opportunity for change in 1989 and in the following years. However, the ‘shock therapy’ economic conversion to capitalism fed right into the hands of fascists and gangsters. Extreme inequality is, historically, a forerunner to the collapse of civilisations. The ancient Romans are an example of this and were, during the Republican period, fairly suspicious of individuals with great wealth. Cato ‘the elder’ passed measures taxing luxury and spoke against accruing wealth as a non-Roman value.

Billionaires and oligarchs our relationship
Photo by Laura Tancredi:

Trump The Phony Billionaire

The United States is in the grip of a fierce social war between Republican Party aligned and Democratic Party aligned citizens. The former President Donald Trump was the most divisive US President, possibly ever. This celebrity billionaire, who actually didn’t have any money, according to his tax returns, was elected on a platform of making America great again. He championed conservative white America promising a return to isolationist policies and greater wealth for this cohort. Russia was involved in electing Trump via manipulation of the internet and social media. Russian bots spread anti-Hilary Clinton material and Russian hackers infiltrated the Democratic Party digital presence. Donald Trump was the Russian’s horse in this race and they may have tipped the scales in his favour in 2016. Trump was always deferential toward Putin, most likely because the Russians propped his organisation up financially for nearly two decades through real estate acquisitions.

Most ordinary folk around the world do not understand how the internet works. They just use it. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are virtual town squares where information is disseminated. These faceless exchanges between IP addresses may or may not involve two or more actual human beings. AI in the form of bots can boost the dispersion of messages throughout the internet. Most people would not know the difference. The Russians have dedicated teams of disruptors and distractors spreading false messages and amplifying them across a whole host of platforms. If you can change the narrative and direct the discussion you can influence free and democratic elections. Bombarding false flags into political discussions can muddy the waters, which removes the focus on potentially damaging stories and revelations from investigative journalists. Fake news accusations achieve the same thing, which Trump repeatedly made his mantra during office and in his campaigns for election.

Americans celebrate extreme wealth as a sign of success. Trump was a celebrity billionaire, who was actually a failed businessman being propped up by the Russians, who were past masters of managing oligarchs for their own ends. Trump’s Presidency was revealed to be as incompetent as his business career, with hundreds of thousands of Americans dying from Covid in the richest nation on earth. His dysfunctional presidency trashed the reputation of the United States around the world. The billionaire who wasn’t really a billionaire did a really bad job.

“During the Trump presidency in the US the corporate tax rate was cut from 35% down to 21%, whilst the individual top tax rate was lowered from 39.6% to 37%. “

  • (J. Trimarchi)

“If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further. But I think that people at the high end – people like myself – should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we’ve ever had it.”   

– (Warren Buffett)

Twitter - Billionaires and oligarchs
Photo by greenwish _:

Elon Musk has bought Twitter and has been revealed to be an irresponsible and foolish leader. Financial success is not a guarantee of wisdom. Billionaires are not necessarily better people than the rest of us. They have much higher profiles and with this comes greater responsibility. If you put yourself at the head of a whole bunch of people you better have their concerns at heart. Democracy is under threat from extreme capitalism and those who peddle it. Elected representatives in America and in Australia have not been looking after the interests of the greater majority of people. Money and power have been standing in the way of democracy functioning properly. Congress and the Senate have been bought in America by corporations and super wealthy people.

We’re now stuck with a situation where corporations are corrupting our political process aggressively, and so are very very rich people, because money has been ruled not to be property, but to be speech, and so rich people have lots and lots of speech, and corporations have been ruled to be people with rights under the First Amendment, when in fact, we all know that they’re not natural persons and the First Amendment was not written for corporations, it was for natural persons.

It seems the only way to solve this problem —— because the Supreme Court has taken this bizarre position that has evolved over the years increasingly in the direction of a corporate state —— is to amend the Constitution, to simply say corporations do not have the rights of natural persons, do not have the rights under the Constitution other than creatures of law as artificial persons, and that money is property, not speech. And that’s what Move to Amend is promoting and I think that that’s the right way to go.”

Australia has been heading in the same direction but less obviously so. We have had a decade of Liberal conservative government, where wealth inequality and corporate influence have risen substantially. The materialist trap is that excessively rich people are held up to be examples to aspire to. The amassing of great wealth happens for many reasons. In the case of Trump he was the son of a very wealthy parent, Fred Trump a property magnate. The self-made man thing is a complete myth. Trump is a creation of the media and Russian interests, which is why this fiction has been so hard to pin down and his Teflon status has been so enduring. If disruptors are running deflection campaigns for you on social media and you have effectively discredited the media with your fake news strategy- public opprobrium has then been neutered.

“Russia found allies among nationalists, oligarchs, and radicals everywhere, and its drive to dissolve Western institutions, states, and values found resonance within the West itself.  The rise of populism, the British vote against the EU, and the election of Donald Trump were all Russian goals, but their achievement reveals the vulnerability of Western societies.”

Australia and America need to change the narrative coursing through our nations and populations. Celebrity and material success are not the only lights in the sky to aspire to. Billionaires are oligarchs wherever they throw their money and influence around. Our perception around such individuals and the system that maintains them needs to be sharpened. Democracy is under real threat from the extreme capitalism that Neoliberalism has delivered. We need to get unrestrained money out of our political systems and election processes. We, also, need to wake up in regard to how public narratives are being manipulated via the internet and social media. The recent mass murder by sovereign citizen right wing conspiracy theorists should be a wake up call around this. Gun deaths, by sons of an evangelist, targeting the police is a clear and present danger being fanned by the internet. We can no longer afford to be the innocent and unwary, like the police in Queensland are claiming to be, when it comes to something horrendous like this. It is a tragedy for the families of the young police officers and the neighbour who were slaughtered by these right wing terrorists.

By Robert Hamilton


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