News Releases

Trump and Barr Turn to Joint Terrorism Task Force to Crush Protests

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DAVE LINDORFF, dlindorff at gmail.com
Editor of ThisCantBeHappening.net and 2019 winner of an “Izzy” Award for Outstanding Independent Media, Lindorff just wrote the piece “Tear Gas and Clubs in Lafayette Square Were Just the Beginning” for The Nation.

Lindorff reports: “On June 1, President Trump ordered National Park Police and troops from the District of Columbia National Guard and some other federal law enforcement agencies to drive peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, north of the White House, to clear the way for his Bible-holding photo op. The same day, Trump and his Attorney General William Barr, along with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, also placed a call to the nation’s 50 governors.

“A leaked transcript of that taped conversation, published in full by a number of major news organizations [audio], shows both Trump and Barr referring in glowing terms to the way the Obama administration, almost nine years earlier, had crushed the months-long Occupy Movement across the country in a matter of a few days.

“Trump told the governors, many of whose states were experiencing massive protests against police brutality in the wake of the brutal videotaped police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, ‘This is like Occupy Wall Street. It was a disaster until one day somebody said, “That’s enough.” And they just went in and wiped them out. And it’s the last time I heard the name Occupy Wall Street. …’

“Trump was followed at that point in the call by Attorney General Barr, who told the assembled governors that the Trump administration planned to use the same Fusion Centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) the Obama administration had relied on to spy on and then crush the Occupy Movement to shut down the current wave of urban uprisings and protests over police brutality.

“As Barr put it, ‘The structure we’re going to use is the Joint Terrorist Task Force, which I know most of you are familiar with. Tried and true system. It’s worked for domestic and homegrown terrorists, and we’re going to employ that model.’

“It’s important to remember what actually happened with the Occupy Movement, a remarkable protest against inequality, corporate power, and the corrupt Wall Street banks whose recklessness had caused the 2008 financial crisis. Occupy was a spontaneous grassroots protest that sprang up in September 2011 in Lower Manhattan with the occupation of a one-block space called Zuccotti Park located just two blocks north of the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway. That encampment was quickly replicated in over 18 cities across the nation as part of a movement that introduced into popular discourse the class-conscious notion of ‘the 1 percent and the 99 percent.’

“As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Washington, D.C.–based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) recalls, the Occupy movement” was targeted by the government. She said, “That’s why you saw encampments wiped out by police with over 7,000 arrests.”

“PCJF, following that shutdown of Occupy, turned to the Freedom of Information Act, seeking all documents relating to efforts to crush that movement from both the FBI and the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Pentagon and other intel agencies. After appeals, the organization received thousands of pages [see BigBrotherAmerica.org] of heavily redacted documents that made it clear that even as the FBI was reporting that the Occupy movement was peaceful, it had been classified as a domestic terrorist threat by both the FBI and DHS, ‘before even the first encampments were set up in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere in mid-September,’ with the FBI already providing detailed warnings of Occupy Wall Street’s plans to Wall Street banks and US corporations as early as August, 2011.”

Epstein and Maxwell: “One Nation Under Blackmail”

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WHITNEY WEBB, wwebbmpn at protonmail.com, @_whitneywebb
Webb is author of the forthcoming book One Nation Under Blackmail about the Jeffrey Epstein scandals.

She stressed that the indictment released today against Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime associate, is “for only three victims — [from] 1994 to 1997 — and the indictment states that Maxwell was involved in their sexual abuse directly (in terms of the sex acts themselves) but NOT charged for that.”

Webb tweeted: “They waited until after Bill Barr fired [United States attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey] Berman” and “They reportedly arrested her in [New Hampshire], they’ve known where she is this whole time, waited till now. Why now?”

She also notes on Twitter: “The fact the FBI won’t even touch or question Les Wexner (‘head of the snake’ of the whole op) tells you that any effort to go after Ghislaine is superficial.”

Webb was featured on an acccuracy.org news release last year that drew on a series of her reports including “Mega Group, Maxwells and Mossad: The Spy Story at the Heart of the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal,” in which Webb examines the role of Epstein’s main financial patron for decades, billionaire Leslie Wexner.

She highlights that a main goal of the Epstein-Maxwell operation was to blackmail prominent individuals and “it’s important to mention that it was state-sponsored and involved compromising politicians [and] individuals so they would be supportive of policies pursued by that state. Sexual blackmail by intelligence has a long history, in the U.S. and elsewhere, and Epstein and Maxwell were merely using that same playbook (on a grand scale) for the benefit of their sponsors.”

Webb also wrote about Maxwell’s father, Robert, who worked with the Mossad “according to several books including Seymour Hersh’s The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy.” She adds: “In exchange for his services, the Mossad helped Maxwell satisfy his sexual appetite during his visits to Israel, providing him with prostitutes, [whom] ‘the service maintained for blackmail purposes.’” [Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad by Gordon Thomas]

See Webb’s interview last year with The Real News: “Epstein May Be Just One Part of an Intricate Network of Sex and Power.”

Webb wrote her series on Epstein for MintPress. She is now with The Last American Vagabond. Her reporting there has included the pieces “Techno-Tyranny: How the U.S. National Security State Is Using Coronavirus To Fulfill An Orwellian Vision” and “All Roads Lead to Dark Winter.”

Inconvenient Facts: U.S. Killed Russians in Syria and Afghanistan

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ABC reports Thursday: “Top intel officials brief Pelosi, congressional leaders on reported Russian bounty on U.S. troops.”

The Daily Beast reported in 2018: “Report: U.S. Forces Killed More Than 200 Russian Fighters in Syria Attack.”

Excerpts from Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA [PDF is here], a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Tim Weiner:

The CIA’s biggest gun running mission was its global pipeline to the mujahideen, the holy warriors of Afghanistan, who were fighting the 110,000-man Soviet army of occupation. It began under Jimmy Carter in January 1980. Because it was Carter’s idea, Casey did not embrace it wholeheartedly—not at first. But soon he saw the opportunity at hand. “I was the first chief of station ever sent abroad with this wonderful order: ‘Go kill Soviet soldiers,’ ” said Howard Hart, who arrived as the chief in Pakistan in 1981. “Imagine! I loved it.” It was a noble goal. But the mission was not to liberate Afghanistan. No one believed that the Afghans could actually win. From the start, the Saudis matched the CIA’s support for the rebels, dollar for dollar. The Chinese kicked in millions of dollars’ worth of weapons, as did the Egyptians and the British. The CIA coordinated the shipments. Hart handed them over to Pakistani intelligence. …

The Soviets were trying to build a natural-gas pipeline from Siberia into Eastern Europe. They needed computers to control its pressure gauges and valves. They sought the software on the open market in the United States. Washington rejected the request but subtly pointed to a certain Canadian company that might have what Moscow wanted. The Soviets sent a Line X officer to steal the software. The CIA and the Canadians conspired to let them have it. For a few months, the software ran swimmingly. Then it slowly sent the pressure in the pipeline soaring. The explosion in the wilds of Siberia cost Moscow millions it could ill afford to spare. The silent attack on Soviet military and state engineering programs went on for a year. …

The CIA’s Afghan operation was now a $700-million-a-year program. It represented about 80 percent of the overseas budget of the clandestine service. Armed with Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, the Afghan rebels were killing Soviet soldiers, downing Soviet helicopter gunships, and inflicting deep wounds on the Soviet self-image. The CIA had done what it set out to do: to give the Soviets their Vietnam. “One by one we killed them,” said Howard Hart, who had run the mission to arm the Afghans from 1981 to 1984. “And they went home. And that was a terrorist campaign.”

MATTHEW HOH, matthew_hoh at riseup.net
Hoh resigned in protest from his State Department position in Afghanistan in 2009 over the escalation of the Afghan War by the Obama administration; he also served in Iraq with the Marines. On Monday, he was featured on an accuracy.org news release: “Is Big Media Echoing Accusations to Demonize Russia and Continue Afghan War?

Israeli “Colonial” Expansion

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RAMZY BAROUD, ramzybaroud at gmail.com, @RamzyBaroud
Baroud is editor of The Palestine Chronicle, which reports on a new congressional letter “spearheaded by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and signed by Reps. Betty McCollum of Minnesota, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, along with Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont” warning: “Should the Israeli government move forward with the planned annexation with this administration’s acquiescence, we will work to ensure non-recognition as well as pursue conditions on the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel, including human rights conditions.”

Other recent pieces include: “Palestine Chronicle Explains: What You Need to Know about Israel’s Annexation Plan.”

Baroud also wrote the piece “Palestine is Not Occupied, It is Colonized,” which states: “In some sense, the ‘Israeli occupation’ is no longer an occupation as per international standards and definitions. It is merely a phase of the Zionist colonization of historic Palestine, a process that began over a 100 years ago, and carries on to this day.”

He just wrote the piece “Why Israeli weapons should scare everyone,” which states: “Israeli officials are brimming over with pride. The country’s military exports are recovering very well, despite ‘intense international challenges and competition,'” as Israel has “managed to rake in $7.2 billion in so-called defence contracts last year alone.” The Chronicle also recently published the pieces “George Floyd and the Uprising: How Israel Contributes to the Militarization of American Police” and “Speaking against Settlement Expansion is just a Chore for the EU.”

Baroud also just wrote the piece “Tearing down the idols of colonialism: Why Tunisia, Africa must demand French apology.”

The Chronicle also reports on different forms of activism, including in the recent article “Pro-BDS Store Wins Major Legal Victory against Pro-Israel Advocates in the U.S.,” which states: “Advocates for the state of Israel have suffered a historic defeat in a decade-long legal battle to sue Olympia Food Co-op over its decision to boycott Israeli goods.

“The U.S. grocery store, which campaigns for ethical food consumption, was fully vindicated by a Washington appeals court on February 20 in a legal case that is likely to have positive ramifications for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights.”

Is Big Media Echoing Accusations to Demonize Russia and Continue Afghan War?

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The New York Times on Friday published a piece titled: “Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says.”

The following analysts are scrutinizing this story:

MATTHEW HOH, matthew_hoh at riseup.net
Hoh resigned in protest from his State Department position in Afghanistan in 2009 over the escalation of the Afghan War by the Obama administration; he also served in Iraq with the Marines.

He said today: “This is not the first time Russia has been accused of trying to harm U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. In 2017 and 2018 accusations were that Russia was supplying weapons to the Taliban were loudly repeated by the U.S. press, however, when put on record about such accusations, senior U.S., Afghan and NATO officials admitted there was no evidence to back such claims. In fact, the only confirmation of Russian involvement militarily in Afghanistan was the provision of 10,000 weapons to the Afghan government in 2016 by the Russians.

“This is more a story of the abdication of journalistic standards and critical practice than it really is about the war in Afghanistan. That nearly all corporate-owned media in the U.S. are simply repeating the claims of anonymous officials, claims that are made without any evidence, just demonstrates U.S. corporate media has become a public relations tool of the U.S. government. After corporate media’s willingness to repeat the baseless and unfounded claims, lies really, made by the administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump in justifying U.S. war in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and now throughout Africa, it is no surprise they would go along, willingly and enthusiastically, with anonymous statements made without evidence, once again, in order to justify war in the Muslim world, to increase tensions with Russia, and to stoke Pentagon and military industry budgets. It should be noted nearly all the experts quoted in print or appearing on television/radio to speak about these claims are retired generals who are on the boards of military companies or residents of think tanks that receive funding from the U.S. government and/or the military industry.

“This has always been the nature of U.S. war in its imperial form, with false accusations supported by an excited media to create the domestic political support for war, or continued war. This is true of U.S. wars in Vietnam, Central America, the Spanish American War, the acquisition of Hawaii, the Mexican American War, U.S. support for the British Opium Wars, and, for hundreds of years, wars of genocide against the Indigenous people of this land.

“Of course, these dangerous accusations come at a time when peace efforts have reached a point in Afghanistan not seen since the early 1990s. Such an attempt to stop efforts to end a war with a continued value to the U.S. military industry, and elements within the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, should be expected.”

Hoh, a senior fellow with the Center for International Policy, who is also a 100 percent disabled veteran, has written extensively about U.S. wars for the last decade and has conducted hundreds of media interviews. See an appearance on CSPAN last year discussing the war in Afghanistan. His pieces include “Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War,” “And the Armies That Remained Suffer’d: Veterans, Moral Injury and Suicide” and “Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies.”

SCOTT HORTON, via ed at scotthorton.org, @scotthortonshow
Horton is author of the book Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editorial director of Antiwar.com. He said of the recent reports: “The NYTWSJ and Washington Post stories all rely only on anonymous officials’ claims. These sources did not even describe the nature of the supposed intelligence to the reporters, much less prove their case. The journalists who wrote the articles have all cited each other as ‘confirming’ their stories on Twitter, when they all are still only repeating the same hearsay. (In a later follow-up, the Times added a few details, but still no reason to believe.)

“The timing is of course very suspicious due to impending negotiations with the Taliban and current negotiations with Russia, on U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and nuclear arms.

“After the intelligence agencies lied directly to the American people about Iraq’s unconventional weapons, Libya’s impending genocide, Syria’s ‘moderate rebel’ terrorists and especially the late-Russiagate hoax, every claim they make should be considered an outright lie until proven otherwise.

“Russia has supported U.S. efforts in Afghanistan since 2001. If they are now trying to give our government an excuse to stay bogged down in that no-win quagmire, then what does that say about our current occupation there in the first place?

“In 2017, the army admitted that there was no evidence for claims by officials to the media, such as CNN, that Russia was supplying weapons to the Taliban. War veteran journalists at Task and Purpose handily debunked those claims as well.

“There is no reason at all to believe the current accusations are any more credible.”

Others critics cited examples of U.S. policy killing or targeting Russians in Syria and in Afghanistan.

“Battleground States”

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Photo credit: Fincantieri

KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
Kelly is co-founder of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and just wrote the piece “Battleground States.” She writes: “On Thursday, June 25th, President Trump’s re-election efforts took him to the ‘battleground’ state of Wisconsin, where he toured the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard. He railed against the Democrats as a scarier enemy than Russia or China. He also celebrated Wisconsin’s win over domestic enemies like the state of Maine in securing a key shipbuilding project. ‘The first-in-class FFG(X) [frigate] will not just be a win for Wisconsin workers; it will also be a major victory for our Navy,’ Trump said. ‘…The stunning ships will deliver the overwhelming force, lethality, and power we need to engage America’s enemies anywhere and at any time.’ On many military minds, it seems, was China. …

“Before the pandemic hit, and before this U.S. Navy contract was awarded to Marinette, my fellow activists at Voices for Creative Nonviolence were planning a protest walk to the Marinette shipyard. As Trump noted in his speech at Marinette, they are currently building four Littoral Combat Ships for sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. … In late 2019, with the U.S. Navy no longer interested in purchasing Littoral Combat Ships from the yard, the Marinette shipyard had been ‘saved by the Saudis’ and by Lockheed Martin, which had helped arrange the contract.

“The Saudi military has been using U.S.-supplied Littoral (near-coast) Combat Ships to blockade the coastal ports of Yemen, which is undergoing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis due to a famine exacerbated by the Saudi-led blockade and an invasion involving relentless aerial bombardment. Actual cholera epidemics, reminiscent of centuries past, were another result of the war’s creation of lethal delays and shortages for Yemeni people in desperate need of fuel, food, medicine and clean water. Yemen’s humanitarian situation, worsened by the spread of COVID-19, is now so desperate that the United Nations humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, warned Yemen will ‘fall off the cliff’ without massive financial support. President Trump took full credit for the Saudi contract at [Thursday’s] rally. …

“We must resist signing contracts with weapon makers profiting from endless immiseration of the Middle East and needless superpower rivalries inviting full nuclear war. Such contracts, inked in blood, doom every corner of our world to perish as a battleground state.”

How Behemoth BlackRock Rigs Finance

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ELLEN BROWN, ellenhbrown at gmail.com, @ellenhbrown
Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling The Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free.

She just wrote the piece “Meet BlackRock, the New Great Vampire Squid,” which states: “To most people, if they are familiar with it at all, BlackRock is an asset manager that helps pension funds and retirees manage their savings through ‘passive’ investments that track the stock market. But working behind the scenes, it is much more than that. BlackRock has been called ‘the most powerful institution in the financial system,’ ‘the most powerful company in the world’ and the ‘secret power.’ It is the world’s largest asset manager and ‘shadow bank,’ larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China), with over $7 trillion in assets under direct management and another $20 trillion managed through its Aladdin risk-monitoring software. BlackRock has also been called ‘the fourth branch of government’ and ‘almost a shadow government’, but no part of it actually belongs to the government. Despite its size and global power, BlackRock is not even regulated as a ‘Systemically Important Financial Institution’ under the Dodd-Frank Act, thanks to pressure from its CEO Larry Fink, who has long had ‘cozy’ relationships with government officials.

“BlackRock’s strategic importance and political weight were evident when four BlackRock executives, led by former Swiss National Bank head Philipp Hildebrand, presented a proposal at the annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in August 2019 for an economic reset that was actually put into effect in March 2020. Acknowledging that central bankers were running out of ammunition for controlling the money supply and the economy, the BlackRock group argued that it was time for the central bank to abandon its long-vaunted independence and join monetary policy (the usual province of the central bank) with fiscal policy (the usual province of the legislature). They proposed that the central bank maintain a ‘Standing Emergency Fiscal Facility’ that would be activated when interest rate manipulation was no longer working to avoid deflation. The Facility would be deployed by an ‘independent expert’ appointed by the central bank.

“The COVID-19 crisis presented the perfect opportunity to execute this proposal in the U.S., with BlackRock itself appointed to administer it. In March 2020, it was awarded a no-bid contract under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to deploy a $454 billion slush fund established by the Treasury in partnership with the Federal Reserve. This fund in turn could be leveraged to provide over $4 trillion in Federal Reserve credit. While the public was distracted with protests, riots and lockdowns, BlackRock suddenly emerged from the shadows to become the ‘fourth branch of government,’ managing the controls to the central bank’s print-on-demand fiat money. How did that happen and what are the implications? …”

Brown concludes: “If the corporate oligarchs are too big and strategically important to be broken up under the antitrust laws, rather than bailing them out they should be nationalized and put directly into the service of the public. At the very least, BlackRock should be regulated as a too-big-to-fail Systemically Important Financial Institution. Better yet would be to regulate it as a public utility. No private, unelected entity should have the power over the economy that BlackRock has, without a legally enforceable fiduciary duty to wield it in the public interest.”

Brown’s other books include The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity and most recently, Banking on the People: Democratizing Money in the Digital Age.

Billionaires Deforming Education?

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KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kevin at kevinkumashiro.com
Author of ten books on education, Kumashiro is former dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco and co-founder of Education Deans for Justice and Equity,

He has helped organize a statement signed by over “650 educators of color and educational scholars of color across the U.S.” calling for a “retreat from the market-based initiatives (like the so-called ‘portfolio model,’ expansion of choice, and deprofessionalizing of teaching) being foisted by billionaires upon poorer communities of color.”

The statement — “This Must End Now: Educators & Scholars of Color Against Failed Educational ‘Reforms’” begins: “The public is being misled. Billionaire philanthropists are increasingly foisting so-called ‘reform’ initiatives upon the schools that serve predominantly students of color and low-income students, and are using black and brown voices to echo claims of improving schools or advancing civil rights in order to rally community support. However, the evidence to the contrary is clear: these initiatives have not systematically improved student success, are faulty by design, and have already proven to widen racial and economic disparities. We must heed the growing body of research and support communities and civil-rights organizations in their calls for a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the problems facing our schools, a retreat from failed ‘reforms,’ and better solutions.”

Kumashiro recently wrote the piece “Corona-Capitalism and the Racialized Looting of Public Schools,” which states: “As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, proponents of market-based reforms have wasted little time capitalizing on the same two conditions that propelled privatization post-Katrina, except at a scale and level without precedent: school closures and federal funding.”

Lack of Union Jobs “Obliterated an Emergent Black Middle Class”

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WILLIAM LAZONICK, william.lazonick at gmail.com
Lazonick is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and president of the Academic-Industry Research Network.

He co-authored a new paper: “How the Disappearance of Unionized Jobs Obliterated an Emergent Black Middle Class” for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

See summary blog post: “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the deep-rooted racial divide that infects American society. According to APM Research Lab, the Covid-19 mortality rate for blacks has been 61.6 per 100,000 compared with 28.2 per 100,000 for Latinos, and 26.2 per 100,000 for whites. It’s another abhorrent statistic to add to the highly disproportionate number of African Americans who are poor, unemployed, and incarcerated.

“The longer life-expectancy of white men compared with black men in the United States has narrowed in recent years, but that is because of a significant drop in longevity of white working-class males, who, even before the pandemic, were succumbing to ‘deaths of despair.’ The fact is that blacks are doing terribly in a nation wracked by extreme economic inequality, which is dragging down the whole working class, irrespective of race or ethnicity. In a nation that once advertised itself as the land of upward socioeconomic mobility through equal employment opportunity, intergenerational downward mobility has become the norm.

“As a new generation has taken to the streets with demands for social transformation, we need to look back a half century to a time when the quest for equal employment opportunity gave rise to an African American blue-collar middle class. During the 1960s and 1970s, blacks with no more than high-school educations gained significant access to well-paid unionized employment opportunities, epitomized by semi-skilled operative jobs in the automobile industry, to which they previously had limited access. Anti-discrimination laws under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act with oversight by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) supported this upward mobility for blacks in the context of a growing demand for blue-collar labor in the United States.

“From the late 1970s, however, the impact of global competition and the offshoring of manufacturing combined with the financialization of the corporation to decimate these stable and well-paid blue-collar jobs. Under the seniority provisions of the increasingly beleaguered industrial unions, blacks tended to be last hired and first fired. As U.S.-based blue-collar jobs were permanently lost, U.S. business corporations and government agencies failed to make sufficient investments in the education and skills of the U.S. labor force to usher in a new era of upward socioeconomic mobility. This organizational failure left blacks most vulnerable to downward mobility.

“Central to this corporate failure was a transformation of corporate resource allocation from ‘retain-and-reinvest’ to ‘downsize-and-distribute.’ Instead of retaining corporate profits and reinvesting in the productive capabilities of employees, major business corporations became increasingly focused on downsizing their labor forces and distributing profits to shareholders in the form of cash dividends and stock buybacks. Legitimizing massive distributions to shareholders was the flawed and pernicious ideology that a company should be run to ‘maximize shareholder value.’ Eventually, the downward socioeconomic mobility experienced by blacks would also extend to devastating loss of well-paid and stable employment for whites who lacked the higher education now needed to enter the American middle class. By the twenty-first century, general downward mobility had become a defining characteristic of American society, irrespective of race, ethnicity, or gender.”

Workers Line up for Unemployment; Billionaire Wealth Skyrockets

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AP reports this morning: “1.5 million more laid-off workers seek unemployment benefits.”

CHUCK COLLINS, chuck at ips-dc.org; also via Bob Keener, bobk at ips-dc.org
Collins is co-author of the recently released study “Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, and Pandemic Profiteers.”

U.S. billionaires saw their wealth “increase by 20 percent, or $584 billion, roughly since the beginning of the pandemic, as 45.5 million Americans lost their jobs and the economy cratered,” according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies — Program on Inequality, where Collins works.

Overall, “between March 18 — the rough start date of the pandemic shutdown, when most federal and state economic restrictions were in place — and June 17, the total net worth of the 640-plus U.S. billionaires jumped from $2.948 trillion to $3.531 trillion, based on the two groups’ analysis of Forbes data. Since March 18, the date Forbes released its annual report on billionaires’ wealth, the U.S. added 29 more billionaires, increasing from 614 to 643.

“The top five billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison — saw their wealth grow by a total of $101.7 billion, or 26 percent. They captured 17.4 percent of the total wealth growth of all 600-plus billionaires in the last three months. The fortunes of Bezos and Zuckerberg together grew by nearly $76 billion, or 13 percent of the $584 billion total.”

“The last thing U.S. society needs is more economic and racial polarization,” said Collins. “The surge in billionaire wealth and pandemic profiteering undermines the unity and solidarity that the American people will require to recover and grow together, not pull further apart.”

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