Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire

Bankers, Zionists, Militants

by James Petras

Clarity Press, 2007, paperback


Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street

We make the rules-the news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the cost of a paper clip.., you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy are you? It's the free market.

The people in key positions in financial, corporate and other business institutions establish the parameters within which the politicians, parties and media discuss ideas. These people constitute a ruling class. Their composition changes according to which sector of these business institutions is dominant at a given point in history. The rules are established, modified and adjusted according to the specific composition of the leading sectors of a ruling class. Rules change with shifts in power within the ruling class.

Finance capital' has many faces and cannot be understood without reference to specific sectors. Investment banks, pension funds, hedge funds, savings and loan banks, and investment funds are only a few of the operative managers of a multi-trillion dollar economy. Moreover each of these sectors has specialized departments engaged in particular types of speculative-financial activity including commodity and currency trading, consulting and managing acquisitions and mergers. Despite a few exposés, court cases, fines and an occasional jailing, the financial sector writes its rules, controls its regulators and has secured license to speculate on everything, everywhere and all the time.

Finance capital is the midwife of the concentration and centralization of wealth and capital as well as the direct owner of the means of production and distribution. Finance capital has moved from exacting a larger and larger 'tribute' or 'rent' (commission or fee) on each large-scale capital transaction, toward penetrating and controlling an enormous array of economic activities, transferring capital across national and sectoral boundaries, extracting profits and dumping shares according to the business, product and profit cycle.

The financial ruling class is internally stratified into three sub-groups: at the top are big private equity bankers and hedge-fund managers, followed by the Wall Street chief executives, who in turn are above the next rung of senior associates or vice-presidents of big private equity funds who are followed by their counterparts at Wall Street's public equity funds. Top hedge fund managers and executive have made $1 billion dollars or more a year-several times what the CEOs make at publicly traded investment houses. For example in 2006 Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs.

Within the financial ruling class, political leadership does not usually come from the richest hedge fund speculators, even less from among the junior bankers. Political leaders come from the public and private equity banks, namely Wall Street-especially Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, the Carlyle Group and others. They organize and fund both major parties and their electoral campaigns. They pressure, negotiate and draw up the most comprehensive and favorable legislation on global strategies (liberalization and deregulation) and sectoral policies (reductions in taxes, government pressure on countries like China to 'open' their financial services to foreign penetration and so on). They pressure the government to bail out bankrupt and failed speculative firms and to balance the budget by lowering social expenditures instead of raising taxes on speculative 'windfall' profits.

in the Middle East there are seven state-owned oil and gas companies. In six of those companies the principal beneficiaries are a small ruling elite. They recycle their revenues and profits through US and EU investment banks largely into bonds, real estate and other speculative financial instruments. State ownership and speculative capital, in the context of the closed 'Gulf-State' type of ruling classes, are complementary, not contradictory, activities. The ruling regime in Dubai converts oil rents into building a regional financial center. Many JewishAmerican-led Wall Street investment banks work with new self-designated Islamic banking and investment houses, both reaping speculative returns.

The greater the salaries, bonuses, profits and rents for the financial ruling class engaged in 'restructuring' for M&A [mergers and acquisitions] , the greater the decline in living standards for the working and middle classes.

Inequality in the distribution of national income in the US is the worst in the entire developed capitalist world. Moreover studies of time series data reveal that in the US the inequality increase was far greater and intergenerational social mobility was far more difficult than in any country in Western Europe. The growth of monstrous and rigid class inequalities reflects the narrow social base of an economy dominated by finance capital, its ingrown intergenerational linkages and the exorbitant entry fees (ranging around $50,000 per annum tuition with room and board) to elite private universities and post-graduate business schools. Equally important,)finance capital and its associated conglomerates wield uncontested political power in the US in comparison to their counterparts in any country in Europe. As a result the US government redistributes far less through the tax and social security, health and educational system than other countries.

An overwhelming chunk of the funds that Democrats raise nationally for election campaigns comes either from Wall Street financiers or Silicon Valley software entrepreneurs. The Democratic congressional electoral campaign was tightly controlled by two of Wall Street's favorite Democrats, Senator Charles 'Israel First' Schumer and Congressman Rahm Emanuel, who selectively funded candidates who were pro-war, pro-Wall Street and unconditionally pro-Israel.

Over half of petrol earnings in the Middle East, Africa and most of Latin America are recycled to US or European banks.

Ninety-one percent of US private sector workers are unorganized and totally subject to the commands of their employers. The nine percent of US private sector workers organized into trade unions are led by six-digit salaried bureaucrats who specialize in giving back workers' rights to employers and remain captive to the pro-business Democratic Party. Given these conditions there is no reason to expect any serious challenge to the status quo. As is likely to happen with a turn in the business cycle, when the economy slows or even goes into recession and profit margins decrease, capitalism will simply turn the screw even tighter on working class and salaried workers' wages, impose more of the costs of recovery on their backs, and pressure the Democrats and Republicans for greater Federal handouts, tax rebates and cuts in their pursuit of recovery.

Immigration policies have served the capitalist class by creating a reserve army of cheap labor to lower wages, undermine unionization and fill 'niches' in the domestic labor market in low-paid, unhealthy work. Equally significant, capitalists hire low wage immigrant workers to replace skilled and semi-skilled workers in higher paying jobs such as nurses, doctors, carpenters, plumbers, plasterers, painters, machinists, cooks, meat cutters and so on. Contrary to the argument of many 'progressives', immigrant labor is used to downgrade existing high-paying jobs with expensive health and safety protections into low-paying, degraded, unsafe and unhealthy work.

Annually almost 500,000 Mexicans migrate to the United States, in addition to the estimated eleven million undocumented Mexican residing in the US 'illegally'. While migration to the United States has existed for many decades, the large-scale, long-term migration exploded from the end of the 1980s and particularly after 1994 with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The massive expansion of Mexican migration in the 1980s was a result of the debt crisis or more accurately the debt payment crisis. High interest rates in the US forced Mexico's debt to grow geometrically at a time when the prices of its principal exports (gas and oil) were falling. As a result the IMF imposed harsh debt payment conditions and forced Mexico to liberalize its economy, discarding trade and investment barriers, which had protected its peasant farmers and national manufacturers. The result was a sharp rise in Mexican bankruptcies and millions of Mexican workers and peasants without a future. At the same time the liberal state under President de la Madrid sharply reduced transfers and loans to small businesses and agriculture. Many farmers rebelled and blocked bankruptcy auctions, later forming a militant debtors movement (Barzon), while others swelled the ranks of undocumented immigrants.

The most devastating blow to Mexican agriculture, industry and finance, however, took place between 1988-94 following the grotesque, fraudulent electoral theft that imposed 'President' Salinas in power. He proceeded to convert the ejido, a form of village common property, into private plots, setting the basis for massive land sales. Salinas signed NAFTA, leading to the vast importation of US subsidized agricultural products, especially corn, chickens, pork, rice and other basic crops previously produced by Mexican small farmers. He promoted Mexico as a capital-: intensive agro-mineral export economy with foreign ownership of Mexican banks, retail sales, and other strategic sectors which undermined working class and small business income, jobs and opportunities.

The big winners were US and European capital. The big losers were the peasants, farmers, retailers and workers. The economic consequences of neo-liberalism, the social dislocation and disruption of the stable family and community, created the preconditions for massive immigration In other words, as imperialism grows, the massive movement of dislocated workers toward the imperial center multiplies.

The principal new targets of MNCs [multinational corporations], banks, pension funds and institutional investors are the 'BRIG' countries-Brazil, Russia, India and China. Russia is favored for its massive oil and gas wealth, and its market for transport and luxury goods, all of which yield high rates of profit. Brazil is an investor's paradise for its world record interest rates, raw materials and low labor costs in manufacturing, especially in the automobile sector. China attracts investors to its manufacturing sector and consumer market because of low labor costs. China also serves as an intermediary assembly and processing center for exports from other Asian countries prior to export (via US and EU MNGs) to the West. India attracts capital to its centers for low cost IT outsourcing, services and related activities.

What is striking about the 'BRIG' countries and their growing attraction for US and EU MNGs is their extremely poor rating with regard to corruption. There is a strong correlation between the 'attractiveness' of the 'BRIG' countries and the ease of doing business and having access to highly lucrative economic enterprises and sectors once the political leaders have been paid off.

Empire-building is going far beyond the traditional conquest of raw material and cheap labor exploitation. The empire builders are shoving their way into the new, extremely lucrative finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sectors. The hottest field of investment in China and Russia is real estate, with prices increasing by forty percent a year in most high growth metropolitan centers. Insurance and financial sectors in China and banking and finance in Brazil have returned billions of dollars over the past four years. US banking and MNGs have subcontracted billions in IT and service contracts to the new Indian business tycoons, who in turn subcontract to local employers.

Today, over fifty percent of the top 500 US MNGs earn over half their profits from overseas operations. A substantial minority earn over 75 percent of their profits from their overseas empires. This tendency will accentuate as US MNGs relocate almost all their operations, including manufacturing, design and execution. They will employ low tech and high tech employees in their pursuit for competitive advantages and high rates of profits.

Political corruption, not economic efficiency, is the driving force of economic empire-building. Its success is evident from the massive-trillion dollar-transfers of wealth, enterprises and resources from the state sector to US/EU MNCs which has taken place in Russia, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Baltic countries and the Caucasus since the fall of communism. The scale and scope of Western pillage of the East is unprecedented in recent world history. In their European conquests, neither Stalin nor Hitler took over and profited from so many enterprises as have the Western MNCs over the past two decades. What is worse, the initial pillage set in motion an entire international political system embedded with kleptocratic pro-Western free market regimes, which constructed legislative frameworks that facilitated high rates of return. For example, legislation on reductions of wages, pensions, job tenure, work place safety and health regulations, and land use policies in the ex-communist countries were designed and enforced to maximize profits-and 'attract US and EU MNCs with their hard currencies. Pillage and political corruption created a mass of low paid, precarious, underemployed and unemployed workers who are available for exploitation by overseas US corporations and their partners, the overseas institutional investors looking for high return.

Corruption is especially prevalent in several sectors of MNCs' overseas operations. Arms sales, involving billions annually, is rampant with corruption as the military-industrial firms bribe state officials to purchase US weaponry. Military purchases, most with no real security value, deplete local treasuries of funds, while raising profit margins for the arms industries of a number of states, but mostly the US, and the institutional investors who engage in overseas investments.

Oil and energy companies secured exploration rights via corruption by buying out entire ministries in Russia, Nigeria, Angola, Bolivia and Venezuela in the 1990s. Securing a toehold in any economic sector of China to exploit cheap labor requires the MNC to payoff a small army of government officials. This is more than compensated by the regime's enforcement of a cheap labor regime, repression of labor discontent and the ) imposition of state-controlled pro-business 'labor unions'.

The entire network of MNCs criss-crossing the globe and forging political and economic compacts with corrupt political leaders forms the basis of contemporary economic empires.

The process of empire-building began with the privatization of publicly owned property, resources, banks and productive enterprises. It continues with deregulation of financial markets. It is legitimized by the election (and re-election) of pliable client politicians. The result is the creation of vast reserves of cheap labor and the elimination of protective social and labor legislation. The entire ensemble is based on political corruption at every level, in each and every country, including the imperial home states.

Electoral politics, moralizing anti-corruption rhetoric, lectures on corporate ethics and responsibility notwithstanding, corruption flows across boundaries and up and down the social structure, subordinating nations and workers to the emerging economic empires. While there are other imperial interests involved, it is the US that is the primary mainstay of this system, the primary ideological/political/military force which conditions/thwarts any systemic improvements whatsoever at every turn. This is the US Imperial System.

The imperial system is much more complex than what is commonly referred to as the "US Empire". The US Empire, with its vast network of financial investments, military bases, multinational corporations and client states, is the single most important component of the global imperial system. Nevertheless, it is overly simplistic to overlook the complex hierarchies, networks, follower states and clients that define the contemporary imperial system. To understand empire and imperialism today requires us to look at the complex and changing system of imperial stratification.

At the top of the imperial system are those imperial states whose power is projected on a world scale, whose ruling classes dominate investment and financial markets, and who penetrate the economies of the rest of the world. At the apex of the imperial system stand the US, the European Union (itself highly stratified) and Japan. Led by the US, they have established networks of 'follower imperial states' (largely regional hegemons) and client or vassal states which frequently act as surrogate military forces. Imperial states act in concert to break down barriers to penetration and takeovers, while at the same time competing to gain advantages for their own state and multinational interests.

Just below the central imperial states are newly emerging imperial powers (NEIP), namely China, India, Canada, Russia and Australia. The NEIP states are subject to imperial penetration, as well as expanding into neighboring and overseas underdeveloped states and countries rich in extractive resources. The NEIP are linked to the central imperial states (CIP) through joint ventures in their home states, while they increasingly compete for control over extractive resources in the underdeveloped countries. They frequently follow in the footsteps of the imperial powers, and in some cases take advantage of conflicts to better their own position. For example the overseas expansion of China and India focuses on investments in extractive mineral and energy sectors to fuel domestic industrialization, similar to the earlier (1880-1 950s) imperial practices of the US and Europe. Similarly China invests in African countries, which are in conflict with the US and EU, just as the US developed ties with anti-colonial regimes (Algeria, Kenya and Francophone Africa) in conflict with their former European colonial rulers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Further down the hierarchy of the imperial system are the semiautonomous client regimes (SACR). These include Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Taiwan, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Chile, and lately Bolivia. These states have a substantial national economic base of support through public or private ownership of key economic sectors. They are governed by regimes that pursue diversified markets, though highly dependent on exports to the emerging imperial states. On the other hand these states are highly dependent on imperial state military protection (Taiwan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia) and provide regional military bases for imperial operations. Many are resource-dependent exporters (Saudi Arabia, Chile, Nigeria and Bolivia) who share revenues and profits with the multinationals of the imperial states. They include rapidly industrialized countries (Taiwan and South Korea), as well as relatively advanced agro-mineral export states (Brazil, Argentina and Chile).

The wealthy oil states have close ties with the financial ruling classes of the imperial countries and invest heavily in real estate, financial instruments and Treasury notes which finance the deficits in the US and England.

On key issues such as imperial wars in the Middle East, the invasion of Haiti, destabilizing regimes in Africa, global neo-liberal policies and imperial takeovers of strategic sectors, they collaborate with rulers from the CIP and the NEIP. Nevertheless, because of powerful elite interests and, in some cases, powerful national social movements, they come into limited conflicts with the imperial powers. For example, Brazil, Chile and Argentina disagree with the US efforts to undermine the nationalist Venezuelan government. They have lucrative trade, energy and investment relations with Venezuela. In addition they do not wish to legitimize military coups, which might threaten their own rule and legitimacy in the eyes of an electorate partial to President Chavez. While structurally deeply integrated into the imperial system, the SACR regimes retain a degree of autonomy in formulating foreign and domestic policy, which may even conflict or compete with imperial interests.

Despite their relative autonomy, the regimes also provide military and political mercenaries to serve the imperialist countries. This is best illustrated in the case of Haiti. Subsequent to the US invasion and overthrow of the elected Aristide Government in 2004, the US succeeded in securing an occupation force from its outright client and semi-autonomous client regimes. President Lula of Brazil sent a major contingent. A Brazilian general headed the entire mercenary military force. Chile's Gabriel Valdez headed the United Nations occupation administration as the senior official overseeing the bloody repression of Haitian resistance movements. Other semi-autonomous clients, such as Uruguay and Bolivia, added military contingents along with soldiers from client regimes such as Panama, Paraguay, Colombia and Peru. President Evo Morales justified Bolivia's continued military collaboration with the US in Haiti under his presidency by citing its 'peacekeeping role', knowing full well that between December 2006 and February 2007 scores of Haitian poor were slaughtered during a full-scale UN invasion of Haiti's poorest and most densely populated slums.

The key theoretical point is that given Washington's current state of being tied down in two wars in the Middle East and West Asia, it depends on its clients to police and repress anti-imperialist movements elsewhere. Somalia, as in Haiti, was invaded by mercenaries from Ethiopia, trained, financed, armed and directed by US military advisers. Subsequently, during the occupation, Washington succeeded in securing its African clients (via the African Union, according to the White House's stooge, Ugandan Army spokesman Captain Paddy Ankunda) to send a mercenary occupation army to prop up its unpopular Somali client warlord ruler. Despite opposition from its Parliament, Uganda sent 15,000 mercenaries.

At the bottom of the imperial hierarchy are the client collaborator regimes (CCR). These include Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf States, Central American and Caribbean Island states, the Axis of Sub-Saharan States (ASSS) (namely Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Ghana), Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Mexico, Eastern European states (in and out of the European Union), former states of the USSR (Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Latvia, etc), the Philippines, Indonesia, North African states and Pakistan. These countries are governed by authoritarian political elites dependent on the imperial or NEIP states for arms, financing and political support. They provide vast opportunities for exploitation and export of raw materials. Unlike the SACR, exports from client regimes have little value added, as industrial processing of raw materials takes place in the imperial countries, particularly in the NEIP. Predator, rentier, comprador and kleptocratic elites who lack any entrepreneurial vocation rule the CCR. They frequently provide mercenary soldiers to service imperial countries intervening, conquering, occupying and imposing client regimes in imperial-targeted countries. The client regimes thus are subordinate collaborators of the imperial powers in the plunder of wealth, the displacement of peasants, the exploitation of billions of workers and the destruction of the environment.

The structure of the imperial system is based on the power of ruling classes to exercise and project state and market power, to retain control of exploitative class relations at home and abroad, and to organize mercenary armies from among their client states. Led and directed by imperial officials, mercenary armies collaborate in destroying autonomous popular nationalist movements and independent states.

Israel is clearly a colonialist power, with the fourth or fifth biggest nuclear arsenal and the fourth biggest arms exporter in the world. Its population, territorial spread and economy, however, are puny in comparison with the imperial and newly emerging imperial powers. Despite these limitations Israel exercises supreme power in influencing the direction of United States war policy in the Middle East via a powerful internal Zionist political apparatus, which permeates the state, the mass media, elite economic sectors and civil society. Through Israel's direct political influence in making US foreign policy, as well as through its overseas military collaboration with dictatorial imperial client regimes, Israel can be considered part of the imperial power configuration despite its demographic constraints, its near universal pariah diplomatic status, and its externally sustained economy.

While most commentators today rightly refer to Bush as an obsessive warmonger for his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they forget that President Clinton, in his time, engaged in several overlapping and sequential acts of war in Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Yugoslavia. Clinton's military actions killed and maimed thousands of Somalis, caused thousands of civilian deaths and injuries in the Balkans, and the embargo he imposed on Iraq resulted in the death of 500,000 Iraqi children.

The failure of Western intellectuals to recognize the multiple genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries is not a result of the lack of accessible data or knowledge of the facts, because the acts of genocide are public, the bodies are strewn in public spaces, the destruction surrounds any observer, the instruments of genocide are publicly funded. What is lacking is the willingness to face the reality that their governments, their states are responsible for the genocides, that their elected regimes are engaged in mass terror, that their private mass media systematically lie and cover up the acts of genocide, that important sectors of "civil society" are either impotent critics or complicit collaborators and that if they do not attempt to reverse this, then they too are complicit.

The Russian oligarchy, among the newest, youngest and fastest growing group of billionaires, stands out for its most rapacious beginnings. Over two-thirds (67 percent) of the current Russian billionaire oligarchs began their concentration of wealth in their mid to early twenties. During the infamous decade of the 1990s under the quasi-dictatorial rule of Boris Yeltsin and his US-directed economic advisers, Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar, the entire Russian economy was put up for sale for a 'political price', which was far below its real value. Without exception, the transfers of property were achieved through gangster tactics-assassinations, massive theft, and seizure of state resources, illicit stock manipulation and buyouts. The future billionaires stripped the Russian state of over a trillion dollars worth of factories, transport, oil, gas, iron, coal and other formerly state-owned resources.

Contrary to European and US publicists on the Right and Left, very few of the top former Communist leaders are now to be found among the current Russian billionaire oligarchy. Wealth was not transferred to high Communist Party Commissars (lateral transfers) but was seized by armed private mafias run by recent university graduates who quickly capitalized on corrupting, intimidating or assassinating senior state officials and benefiting from Boris Yeltsin's mindless contracting of 'free market' Western consultants.

Further, contrary to the spin-masters' claims of 'communist inefficiencies', the former Soviet Union-developed mines, factories, and energy enterprises were profitable and competitive before they were taken over by the new oligarchs. This is evident in the massive private wealth that has been accumulated in less than a decade by these gangster-businessmen. Virtually all the billionaires' initial sources of wealth had nothing to do with building, innovating or developing efficient new enterprises.

Forbes magazine puts out a yearly list of the richest individuals and families in the world. What is most amusing about the famous Forbes magazine's background biographical notes on the Russian oligarchs is the constant reference to their source of wealth as 'self-made' as if stealing state property created and defended for over seventy years by the sweat and blood of the Russian people demonstrated the entrepreneurial skills of thugs in their twenties. Of the top eight Russian billionaire oligarchs, all got their start from strong-arming their rivals, setting up 'paper banks' and taking over aluminum, oil, gas, nickel and steel production and the export of bauxite, iron and other minerals. Every sector of the former Communist economy was pillaged by the new billionaires: construction, telecommunications, chemicals, real estate, agriculture, vodka, foods, land, media, automobiles, airlines, etc.

With rare exceptions, following the Yeltsin privatizations all of the oligarchs quickly rose to the top or near the top, literally murdering or intimidating any opponents within the former Soviet apparatus and competitors from rival predator gangs.

The key 'policy' measures that facilitated the initial pillage and takeovers by the future billionaires were the massive and immediate privatizations of almost all public enterprises by the Gaidar/Chubais team. This 'shock treatment' was encouraged by a Harvard team of economic advisers and especially by US President Clinton in order to attempt to make the capitalist transformation irreversible. Massive privatization led to capitalist gang wars and the disarticulation of the Russian economy. As a result there was an eighty percent decline in living standards, a massive devaluation of the ruble and the sell-off of invaluable oil, gas and other strategic resources at bargain prices to the rising class of predator billionaires and US-European oil and gas multinational corporations. Over a hundred billion dollars a year was laundered by the mafia oligarchs in the principal banks of New York, London, Switzerland, Israel and elsewhere-funds which would later be recycled into the purchase of expensive real estate in the US, England, Spain and France, and as investments into British football teams, Israeli banks and joint ventures in minerals.

The winners of the gang wars during the Yeltsin reign followed up by expanding operations to a variety of new economic sectors as well as making investments in the expansion of existing facilities (especially in real estate, extractive and consumer industries) and overseas. Under President Putin, the gangster-oligarchs consolidated and expanded-from multi-millionaires to billionaires to multi-billionaires, and growing. From young swaggering thugs and local swindlers, they became the 'respectable' partners of American and European multinational corporations, according to their Western PR agents. The new Russian oligarchs had 'arrived' on the world financial scene, according to the financial press.

Yet as President Putin recently pointed out, the new billionaires have failed to invest, innovate and create competitive enterprises, despite optimal conditions. Outside of raw material exports benefiting from high international prices, few of the oligarch-owned manufacturers are earning foreign exchange because few can compete in international markets. For that reason the oligarchs have 'diversified' into stock speculation (Suleiman Kerimov $14.4 billion USD), prostitution (Mikhail Prokhorov $13.5 billion USD), banking (Fridman $12.6 billion USD) and buyouts of mines and mineral processing plants, activities better suited to their "entrepreneurial talents".

The Western media has focused on the falling out between a handful of Yeltsin-era oligarchs and President Vladimir Putin related to the increase in wealth of a number of Putin-era billionaires. However, the biographical evidence demonstrates that there is no rupture between the rise of the billionaires under Yeltsin and their consolidation and expansion under Putin. The decline in mutual murder and the shift to state-regulated competition is as much a product of the consolidation of the great fortunes as it is the 'new rules of the game' imposed by President Putin. In the mid 19th century, Honore de Balzac, surveying the rise of the respectable bourgeois in France, pointed out their dubious origins: "Behind every great fortune is a great crime." The swindles begetting the decades-long ascent of the 19th century French bourgeoisie pale in comparison to the massive pillage and bloodletting that created Russia's 21st century billionaires.

The billionaires'' and the White House's anger and hostility toward President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is precisely because he is reversing the policies which create billionaires and mass poverty. He is re-nationalizing energy resources and public utilities, and expropriating some large landed estates. Chavez is not only challenging US hegemony in Latin America but also the entire privatize-deregulate-denationalize edifice that built the economic empires of the billionaires in Latin America, Russia, China and elsewhere.

For the first time in the history of world empires, a tiny ethnic-religious minority representing less than two percent of the population is able to shape US policy in the Middle East to serve the colonial interests of a foreign country (Israel), which represents less than one percent of the population of the Middle East. And indeed, within Israel itself, given occasional polls indicating Jewish Israeli preference for peace over maintenance of settler colonies, that number shrinks even further. The Zionist power configuration in the US, with several hundred thousand fanatical activists throughout the country, can mobilize close to 98 percent of the US Congress on any legislation favoring Israel. AIPAC (the America-Israel Political Affairs Committee), with one hundred thousand members and 100 full time agents writes over 100 pieces of Congressional legislation affecting US trade, military aid, and sanctions policies favoring Israel every year.

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