Program Description: As IFG intensifies its "inside" work to change institutions, we will also support "outside" efforts to build power of peoples' movements. Increasingly few, stupendously wealthy plutocrats have lately made enormous strides toward dominating global governance, finance and national democracies, while actively undermining traditional democratic expressions, such as collective bargaining rights, clean air protections, and services for social safety nets. The wealth of these individuals is so great that we begin to see a kind of global “neo-feudalism” evolving, where they themselves become the pivotal arbiters and factors shaping economies, politics, media, and many other elements of once democratic systems. MORE
Mar 22, 2012
How to Reduce Gas Prices and Remove Barriers to Clean Energy Some say higher oil prices are essential to ending our addiction to fossil fuels. While true, recently rising oil costs have so far had exactly the opposite effect, creating even bigger barriers to change...MORE
Feb 28, 2012
Forbes Attacks IFG's Billionaires Report: Need Response Now! Honestly, we didn't think we'd be attacked for using Forbes' own data about billionaires...MORE
Feb 22, 2012
The Super-Rich and Super-PACs: Oligarchs Find a Voice Five of the eleven super-rich Americans identified in IFG’s recent report, “Outing the Oligarchy: Billionaires Who Benefit from Today’s Climate Crisis,” have been in the headlines lately...MORE
Dec 6, 2011
NEW REPORT: "Outing The Oligarchy: Billionaires Who Benefit From Today’s Climate Crisis" The International Forum on Globalization (IFG) released a special report today, “Outing the Oligarchy: Billionaires Who Benefit From Today’s Climate Crisis.”... MORE
The Case Against the Kochs
To kill climate legislation in 2010, the billionaire brothers outspent both Exxon and the American Petroleum Institute. Then they financed the election of their hardcore ideologues as the Tea Party (which was founded and funded by the Kochs), shifting Congress radically to the right in 2011, launching an attack to eviscerate the Clean Air Act, and effectively end the EPA. Of course, it helped that they greased the wheels in advance by being among the largest contributors to the Chair of both the Energy and Budget Committees. They also played a very prominent role in fighting the phase out fossil fuels in the biggest polluting nation’s biggest polluting state, California. After years of battle by a Republican Governor to establish the country's first climate change law, the Kochs gave over $1 million to overturn the law in the most recent election (while Chevron and the other super major oil companies stood silently on the sidelines).
America’s second largest private company, Koch Industries, and other dirty producers fight off any attempt to turn energy policy toward conservation and cleaner fuels simply because their profits from fossil fuels are at stake. Energy expansion via Keystone XL and fracking, are all perfectly positioned for Koch’s massive investments in pipelines, processing, refining, shipping, trading and other emerging energy services.
Of course, their agenda to keep us addicted to fossil fuels should be no surprise when one considers that their father invented the “cracking” process that turns crude oil into gasoline; the family fortune has expanded with the very use of fossil fuels and it underpins their influence/wealth and power.
What is most sad is how the Koch Brothers, whose philanthropy appears to be aimed at advancing their father’s philosophical legacy of hatred for unaccountable power, have come to embody everything their father fought against. Fred Koch built Stalin’s oil refineries in Communist Russia, only to see the people he trained later “purged.” Today, Fred Koch’s sons have become the symbol of corruption in US democracy by moneyed interests, and guilty as any individuals of undue influence. They are motivated not merely by profit but by a corporate libertarian ideology to “shrink government,” a twisted form of their father’s beliefs.
Outing the Oligarchy in the Press: Reactions and Mentions
"Billionaires Who Benefit From Today’s Climate Crisis"
December 6, 2011
The International Forum on Globalization (IFG) released a special report today, “Outing the Oligarchy: Billionaires Who Benefit From Today’s Climate Crisis,” which identifies the world’s top 50 individuals whose investments benefit from climate change and whose influence networks block efforts to phase out pollution from fossil fuels.
IFG’s report comes as global debates intensify on how best to protect the climate and how best to counter the corrupting power of extreme wealth over politics. The report draws the links between the two debates and identifies the emerging, ultra-rich tycoons who are deepening the world’s climate crisis.
The world’s richest corporations and capitalists have been branded by the Occupy Wall Street movement as the “one percent,” yet there has been scant attention to the individuals within in the “one percent” who have greatest responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. Little information has been publicly available about the identities of the industrialists, investors and ideologues who are most responsible for the decisions over carbon-intensive activities that drive greenhouse gas emissions far past danger levels.
IFG’s new report brings this information to light. The task of calculating carbon decision-making footprints is highly complex. However, IFG’s new study is an initial step in what will be a longer-term initiative of analyzing the roles played by the planet’s worst carbon culprits and how they fund sophisticated influence networks over almost all aspects of government policymaking, especially energy.
“Here we have the ‘Who's Who List’ of crony capitalists who have gotten rich by polluting the planet, and now they are plowing their cash back in to prevent any legal protections for the planet and its most vulnerable peoples,” said Victor Menotti, IFG director and co-author of the report. “Behind each of these billionaires are the stories of countless peoples and places that are being erased from the face of the earth by unregulated greenhouse gas emissions. These climate destroyers must be pulled out of the shadows so that peoples of the world can understand who is responsible for the world’s predicament and can figure out the solutions.”
Leading climate activist Bill McKibben said, “Saving our climate means knowing who is stopping solutions, and the 1 percent have a responsibility to step up and help shift today’s paradigm so that our planet stands a chance. This list helps make it clear why science has been ignored and reason thrown to the wind in the face of the greatest crisis we've ever faced.”
“India’s Great Oligarchs are exposed in the IFG report for their get-rich-quick gambles to grab more land and resources, which, in turn, concentrates even more political power in fewer hands in ‘the world’s largest democracy,’” said co-author and IFG board member from India, Dr. Vandana Shiva.
Dr. Jeffrey Winters, in the politics department at Northwestern University, calculates in his 2011 book, Oligarchy, that wealth in the US is twice as concentrated in the hands of the few at the top today as it was during the Roman Empire. Most Americans are shocked to find out that they live in a society that is vastly more unequal than Rome."
IFG is a global research and education center that helps bring grassroots perspectives to international economic and environmental policies. Based in the Presidio of San Francisco, California, IFG emerged in response to the creation of the World Trade Organization and was instrumental in educating people to turn out for the WTO's 1999 ministerial in Seattle. Among IFG’s numerous reports is the 2001 title, “Does Globalization Help the Poor?” which examines the impacts of global free trade on poverty. In addition to its research, education, and monitoring of multilateral trade, investment, finance, environmental, and human rights rule-making, IFG has been intensively engaged in global climate talks since the U.N. climate conference in Bali in 2007.
Participants at IFG Convening on Plutonomy: October 13, 2011
Lisa Graves, Center for Media and Democracy
Derek Kressman, Common Cause
Michael Brune, Sierra Club
Cathi Tactaquin, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Tow Swan, Health Care for America Now
Allison Cook, Story of Stuff
Michael Blecker, Swords to Plowshares
Lisa Hoyos, Blue Green Alliance
Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network/Grassroots Global Justice
Vandana Shiva, Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology
Ross Hammond, Dirty Energy Money
Linda Sheehan, Earth Law Center
Brendan DeMelle, Desmogblog
Steve Smith, California Labor Federation*
Dr. Jeffery Winters, Northwestern University, author, Oligarchy
Rose Braz, Center for Biological Diversity
Lee Fang, Think Progress, Center for American Progress
Don Hazen, Alternet*
Carleen Pickard, Global Exchange
Angelo Carusone, Media Matters
Jamie Henn, 350.org*
Galina Angarova, Pacific Environment
Henry Clark, West County Toxics Coalition*
Sharon Lungo, Ruckus Society
Kert Davies, Greenpeace*
Paul Cox, Swords to Plowshares
Dale Wen, IFG China Scholar/ Rural China Foundation
Michelle Chan, Friends of the Earth US*
Chuck Collins, Institute for Policy Studies*
Robert Greenwald, Brave New Foundation*
John Sellers, The Other 98%*
Daniel Espinosa, National People’s Action*
Anuradha Mittal, Oakland Institute
Robin Beck, Moveon.org*
Van Jones, Rebuild the Dream*
Robert McChesney, Free Press*
Stephanie Bloomingdale, AFL-CIO Wisconsin*
Helen Grecio, Common Cause
Jim Tarbell, Alliance for Democracy
Robert Collier, UC Berkeley School of Journalism
Jerry Mander, International Forum on Globalization
Debbie Barker, Center for Food Safety
Tony Clarke, Polaris Institute
Bing Gong, Lia Fund
Benita Kline, Arkay Foundation
Chriss Desser, Observer
Troy Lush, Musician
Joyce Huesemann, Author
Peter Stern, Observer
Kourosh Behnam, IFG
Lilly Alvarez, IFG
Victor Menotti, IFG
* not able to attend but ask to be included in any follow up.
PLUTONOMY PROGRAM, FULL DESCRIPTION:
As IFG intensifies its "inside" work to change institutions, we will also support "outside" efforts to build power of peoples' movements. Increasingly few, stupendously wealthy plutocrats have lately made enormous strides toward dominating global governance, finance and national democracies, while actively undermining traditional democratic expressions, such as collective bargaining rights, clean air protections, and services for social safety nets. The wealth of these individuals is so great that we begin to see a kind of global “neo-feudalism” evolving, where they themselves become the pivotal arbiters and factors shaping economies, politics, media, and many other elements of once democratic systems.
The laws and regulations that have permitted such wealth concentration have themselves been shaped by the very special interests that benefit the most, while the public treasury is almost ignored. This situation must be reversed.
Putting greater focus on this problem will prove essential to dealing with it. The turbo charged economic growth of the past few decades has brought increasing concentration of financial wealth into the hands of very few individuals or families. The top one half of one percent (0.05 %) of the wealthiest individuals on the planet currently control approximately 35 % of the world’s financial wealth – more than the wealth of the bottom 90% of humanity! The top ten billionaires control more wealth than half of the countries in the world. This bloated concentration of wealth has enabled a few wealthy individuals to exert undue influence on national and international institutions to continually ratchet up opportunities for even more economic wealth concentration at the expense of both the environment and of efforts to meet the basic needs of the majority of the world’s population. Such a level of disparity is both unprecedented and unacceptable.
This new class of plutocrats exerts influence by various means including controls on media, funding of think tanks and special interest groups, domination of election processes and financing, control over legislatures and government policies, and over governments themselves, as witness the Wisconsin situation, aimed at suppressing democratic expressions such as unions. They also apply pressures on government for subsidies, favorable tax laws, tax shelters, weak regulation of critical services such as banking and trade, etc. And they actively battle for privatization of any and every government service possible, from health, to social security, to military security functions, to control over the natural commons.
We believe that these individuals are successfully undertaking a major strategic shift, thus far insufficiently observed, in relation to corporate/state control of essential goods and services – food, water, energy, basic resources, mobility, etc. Though many of these mega-wealthy individuals have themselves benefited from global corporate growth and profit, they have also grasped that corporate growth is coming up against planetary limits. They see that economic growth is ever-more difficult; short on resources, and skyrocketing costs. With prospects for future growth, and for sustained “surplus value” seriously diminished, they are no longer focused solely on business growth per se. More and more are seeking political control as well. Controlling the political process they can squeeze out more wealth by toppling unions and lowering worker salaries, gaining subsidies, cutting their taxes, gaining off-shore havens, and also through privatization of services like insurance and the military, and Medicare and Social Security. Most importantly, control of scarce but valuable resources, and other aspects of the natural commons, like fresh water, are also within their crosshairs. That’s the shape of a new “market.” It is a profound shift in corporate/state strategy, but potentially much more pervasive and dangerous. The late US Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis said “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.” This insight now applies to the entire planet.
Our first tasks will be to make a detailed “mapping” of the oligarchs who are blocking the many well articulated progressive movements in every jurisdiction, expose their unfair advantages and immoral interference in the democratic processes, and demand reforms that limit their undue power and influence. Progressive movements which ignore the critical roles of the oligarchy will be shadow boxing with the oligarch’s hired hands – legislators, pundits, corporate spokespersons. Ignoring the oligarchs allows them to continue exerting their self interested influence with a free rein.
A new IFG report will make a great step forward in “Outing the Oligarchy.” (Tentative title.) With that as the reference point, we hope to arrange a series of strategic convenings among movement activists internationally, to create concerted action to expose and limit the influence of this new pernicious force.
The Truth About The Economy In 2 Minutes
Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains the problems with the economy in less than 2 minutes, 15 seconds
Originally submitted by MoveOn.org