March 2013        

The super-rich dine at our expense

This month the American business magazine Forbes published its billionaires list; and because of—not despite—“austerity,” that list has grown in number and grown in net worth. There are now 1,426 billionaires (up by 210 from last year), with a net worth of $5.4 trillion (up from $4.6 trillion last year). So things are looking good for the rich!
      The United States leads the list, with 442 billionaires, followed by Asia (386), Europe (366), the rest of the Americas (129), and the Middle East and Africa (103).
      Mexico’s telecommunications monopolist Carlos Slim Helú tops the list with a fortune of €73 billion. The rest of the top ten are Bill Gates (Microsoft) with $67 billion, Amancio Ortega (clothing empire, including Zara) with $57 billion, Warren Buffett (investor) with $53 billion, Larry Ellison (Oracle and other software companies) with $43 billion, Charles and David Koch (industry and petrochemicals) with $34 billion each, Li Ka Shing (plastic manufacturing and retail) with $31 billion, the Bettencourt family (L’Oréal) with $30 billion, and Bernard Arnault (LVMH, Dior, luxury goods) with $29 billion.
      Notable Irish inclusions are Denis O’Brien (telecommunications) with $5.2 billion, John Dorrance III (Campbell’s soup) with $2.4 billion, Martin Naughton (Glen Dimplex) with $2 billion, and of course Dermot Desmond (investor) with $1.8 billion.
      It is no coincidence that during a time of austerity and recession the rich are in fact getting richer, while ordinary working people suffer unemployment, pay cuts, and increased costs. Austerity is designed to transfer wealth from working people to the rich, and debt and risk the other way.
      Austerity is not the mistaken policy of people who just don’t understand its effect. They understand very well its effect on people and on the domestic economy. Austerity is a very clearly designed EU policy, for very deliberate results; and it is working. It has succeeded in the largest transfer in history of corporate debt onto workers’ shoulders. It has succeeded in maintaining high levels of unemployment and pay cuts to help restore profitability for monopolies. It has taken economic sovereignty away from the control of nationally elected governments and put it into unelected and unaccountable hands. It is privatising whatever public wealth remains. It is working, and it is succeeding.
      It has sown division among working people, unions, and communities. They have created an atmosphere of confusion and fear among people, especially public-sector workers, pensioners, people dependent on social welfare, and those who need access to government services, such as health and education.
      Croke Park I and II are the primary mechanisms being employed by the state to manage the working class for the benefit of monopoly capital. They are class management tools for imposing pay cuts and maintaining unemployment—directly in the public sector and indirectly in the private sector.
      This enables monopolies to increase the share of wealth that goes to capital, at the expense of labour, and to drive a return to growth in GDP for their benefit—not ours—while making the super-rich even richer in the process, again all at our expense.
      Austerity is not a policy: it is class war.

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