- The Grasberg Mine complex from space
Denny has a post on the economy with a video that's worth a watch. One tidbit of info from the video ... the top 1% used to take home about 10% of the total income, now it takes home more than 20%, and the super-rich have 40% of the nation's entire wealth. All this money at the top has given the super-rich lots of political power ...
When I heard this, I realized I lived in a plutocracy :(.
[...] plutocracy is a reference to a disproportionate influence the wealthy have on political process in contemporary society: for example, according to Kevin Phillips, author and political strategist to U.S. President Richard Nixon, the United States is a plutocracy in which there is a "fusion of money and government." The wealthy minority exerts influence over the political arena via many methods .... Within government bureaucracy, there is often the problem of a revolving door: the employees of government regulatory bodies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States, often transition to and from employment with the same companies they are supposed to regulate.
This reminded me of a past post I had on an American company that runs the largest gold mine in the world in New Guinea, and which has guys like Henry Kissinger on the board (read more about Kissinger and the mine at National Catholic Reporter). So often I hear justifications for our involvement in other countries' politics based on the needs of the downtrodden - well, there are downtrodden people in New Guinea who've needed our help for some time but we've been doing the opposite of helping them. Here's just the beginning of a quite long article from 2005 in the New York Times that describes how the rich and the powerful in our government are disenfranchising people and destroying the environment for gold ....
Below a Mountain of Wealth, a River of Waste
By JANE PERLEZ and RAYMOND BONNER
Published: December 27, 2005
JAKARTA, Indonesia - The closest most people will ever get to remote Papua, or the operations of Freeport-McMoRan, is a computer tour using Google Earth to swoop down over the rain forests and glacier-capped mountains where the American company mines the world's largest gold reserve.
With a few taps on a keyboard, satellite images quickly reveal the deepening spiral that Freeport has bored out of its Grasberg mine as it pursues a virtually bottomless store of gold hidden inside. They also show a spreading soot-colored bruise of almost a billion tons of mine waste that the New Orleans-based company has dumped directly into a jungle river of what had been one of the world's last untouched landscapes.
What is far harder to discern is the intricate web of political and military ties that have helped shield Freeport from the rising pressures that other gold miners have faced to clean up their practices. Only lightly touched by a scant regulatory regime, and cloaked in the protection of the military, Freeport has managed to maintain a nearly impenetrable redoubt on the easternmost Indonesian province as it taps one of the country's richest assets.
Months of investigation by The New York Times revealed a level of contacts and financial support to the military not fully disclosed by Freeport, despite years of requests by shareholders concerned about potential violations of American laws and the company's relations with a military whose human rights record is so blighted that the United States severed ties for a dozen years until November.
Company records obtained by The Times show that from 1998 through 2004, Freeport gave military and police generals, colonels, majors and captains, and military units, nearly $20 million. Individual commanders received tens of thousands of dollars, in one case up to $150,000, according to the documents. They were provided by an individual close to Freeport and confirmed as authentic by current and former employees ......