Occupy: It's (Almost) All About the Money

~ Money Talks Poster ~
courtesy of JustSeeds.org
by douglas reeser on October 28, 2011
It has been a little more than a month since the first cries of the Occupy Movement were heard from New York, and since then occupiers have spread across the US and the world. The persistence and growth of Occupy and the recent (unfortunate) turn toward police crackdowns in a number of cities has firmly planted the movement within the attention of the national media. Through all of these developments, the centrality of the Occupy message has begun to emerge. In short, it's all about the money. It's a message that is spot on. 

Money is a central theme of Occupy. The entire 99% meme is a response to the unprecedented concentration of wealth in the hands of a very small percent of the people. Other points of contention include the call for corporate influence (read money) to be excluded from the political arena, and a critical reworking of the student loan bubble that has resulted in thousands of students overburdened with debt and wages that don't add up. 

Two articles caught my attention this week for the way that they highlight and support these concerns so central to the Occupy Movement. In his article in the Free Press, Joel S. Hirschhorn provides some concrete numbers about the global upperclass that support what Occupiers have been talking about: 
"Globally, millionaires and billionaires now control 38.5 percent of the world’s wealth, according to the latest Global Wealth Report from Credit Suisse. Never have so few owned so much. There are 29.7 million people in the world with household net worth of $1 million or more; they represent less than 1 percent of the world’s population, actually just .4 percent of 7 billion people.

Their wealth share rose from 35.6 percent in 2010, because even during the global economic recession their wealth increased by about $20 trillion. In fact, their wealth grew 29 percent — about twice as fast as the wealth in the world as a whole."
Yes, that's correct, those with the largest share of the wealth continued to make money during the global recession. As many (if not most) people around the world experienced a direct hit to their economic well-being, the rich became richer. While millions in the US were having their homes foreclosed, the rich became richer. The global economic system has been revealed as unjust - a system that steals from the poor to fatten the rich. 

And just who are these global rich? That is the subject of the second article I came across this week by the Globe and Mail that reports on research by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. The research investigated the corporate links that account for the bulk of global economic activity. The researchers examined 43,060 transnational companies, and found that 147 companies account for 40% of global economic value. Further, financial institutions - the very ones mixed up in the global recession - make up the bulk of these core companies: 
"Among the top 50 corporations, 45 operate within the financial industry. Barclays PLC is the most powerful, according to the ETH study, followed by such well-known names as JPMorgan Chase & Co., UBS AG, and Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. 
The intense interconnection and concentration of power weakens market competition as players form blocs, according to the study. There’s another drawback to those close links, particularly among the banks: when one runs into problems its woes spread quickly to the others."
After reading these short pieces, it's clear that the 99% rallying cry is on the money. In fact, maybe it should be "We are the 99.9%!" 

We have uploaded the research paper from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich to our Library for further reading. Read The Network of Global Corporate Control here >>>

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  1. Anonymous11:29 AM

    Great article! There are two things I want to add. The first, an article from New Scientist that shows how a small number of banks hold power over the global economy. Researchers found that 147 companies control 40% of the wealth in the total network of 43,000 transnational companies. One of the analyses of the data argued that this is a logical and normal phase of the "self-organizing economy," and not a global conspiracy. I would argue there's probably more than one way to analyze the consequences of such 'normal' organization. Here is the link: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228354.500-revealed--the-capitalist-network-that-runs-the-world.html

    Second, your point about student loans. While many are blaming banks for the student loan bubble, it doesn't appear that the universities and colleges themselves are getting enough of the blame. Most are profit-driven companies with inflated tuition tied to some prestige stigma. Does a four year education really need to cost $200,000? Seems to me the schools and the banks are unlikely bedfellows!!

  2. Anonymous12:40 PM

    Great post! Two things I'd like to add. The first is an article on New Scientist that shows how a small group of companies controls 40% of the wealth in the network of 43,000 transnational corporations. One of the analyses of the data argues that this division of wealth is the logical way a self-organizing economy would organize, not a global conspiracy to horde money to 1%. I would argue that there are probably more ways of evaluating the consequences of such organization! Here is the link to the article: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228354.500-revealed--the-capitalist-network-that-runs-the-world.html

    Your second point about student loans. There seems to be a lot of focus on the banks or the economy in general in conversations about what is happening with student loans and (lack of) jobs. Perhaps colleges and universities are as much to blame as well. Should a four year education really cost $200,000? Or even $30,000? These schools are profit-driven companies, many of which rely on a prestige-stigma to inflate tuition. It seems to me that universities and banks have become unlikely bedfellows!!

  3. Great post. It is sickening that despite the recession the ultra rich continue to turn a profit. This whole system, being propped up on the backs of the middle and the poor class, will come crashing down if something doesn't happen. At least for now, it looks like that something has started.

  4. Anon - thanks for the comments and link. Conspiracy or not (I agree with the article & would tend to think not), the real issue with such a small number of corporations holding such a high percentage of the global economy is whether that translates into political power & influence. I think in the US at least, it has become clear that it has.

    Also, the New Scientist added this piece: The study "revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships. Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What's more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world's large blue chip and manufacturing firms - the "real" economy - representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues."

    And your point about the University-Bank relationship is well-taken. Interesting insight!

  5. Tender - It does appear that people are aligning to work on this broken system. And I think you're right, something is going to happen either way.


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