Our fate is in the hands of a class that considers risking Armageddon an acceptable part of their business model. Big oil companies ignore the dire consequences of climate change to maximize return on their investment in fossil fuels. The military-industrial-congressional complex risk nuclear annihilation and regional war, for profit and as an ‘economic development strategy’.
Climate crisis and nuclear weapons threaten life on earth, yet a climate denier is President and the bloated military budget includes a trillion-dollar investment in a new generation of nuclear weapons.
The Trump administration is a dangerous cabal of conmen, criminals, extremist billionaires, and far-right ideologues – but it’s not an aberration.
It’s the inevitable product of extreme parasitical capitalism which has created activist billionaires who manipulate elections and concentrated ownership of most major corporations into massive investment firms.
Rana Foroohar of the Financial Times writes:
“The financial sector represents only 7 percent of the U.S. economy but takes around 25 percent of all corporate profit while creating only 4 percent of all jobs. 
The immense amounts of capital needed for the industrial and digital revolutions created unparalleled power for the big banks and financial institutions. They now own dominant positions in the industrial-military complex, fossil fuels, the media, big tech and everything else that’s important.
Huge financial services institutions have emerged as the goliaths of the sector. Sometimes called asset managers or money managers, they invest money on behalf of institutional clients like governments, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, endowments, and very wealthy individuals.
These giant asset managers, on behalf of their clients, mostly invest in index funds that are a type of mutual fund with a portfolio constructed to match or track the components of a financial market index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500).
The money managers have enormous power as they invest trillions of dollars across a spectrum of companies and vote those shares on behalf of their clients. While they don’t get involved in day to day oversight, these giant asset managers do vote on management changes, board elections, mergers and acquisitions, special shareholder proposals and thus wield great influence on the CEOs of these companies. The big funds often vote together further strengthening their power.
Financialization of the economy produced two shadow banksthat tower over the rest of the corporate world. Blackrock and Vanguard with other smaller money management firms, control 90% of the S&P 500 public companies, including fossil fuel companies, arms manufacturers and major U.S. media outlets that own ‘mainstream’ news.
The top three financial services firms manage 14 trillion dollars of assets. That’s around the size of China’s 2019 GDP. Blackrock is the largest with 6.2 trillion, followed by Vanguard at 5.3 trillion and State Street Global Advisors at 2.5 trillion.
Trump was elected with the decisive support of two smaller parasites, the casino billionaire and drug money launderer Sheldon Adelson, and high-speed trader, far-right billionaire Robert Mercer (who funded Steve Bannon, Breitbart News, Cambridge Analytica, and John Bolton’s SuperPAC). But Adelson and Mercer pale in significance to the real powerhouses of the financial sector who support and enable Trump.
Bloomberg News writes:
“Imagine a world in which two asset managers call the shots, in which their wealth exceeds current U.S. GDP and where almost every hedge fund, government, and retiree is a customer. It’s closer than you think. BlackRock Inc. and Vanguard Group — already the world’s largest money managers — are less than a decade from managing a total of $20 trillion, according to Bloomberg News calculations.”
Financialization drew millions of people into the stock markets, relying on money managers.
NYU economist Edward N. Wolff writes:
“Almost half of all households owned stock shares either directly or indirectly through mutual funds, trusts, or various pension accounts.”
That’s half the U.S. population whose fate is tied to the Blackrocks of this world. But there is a big discrepancy as to who really benefits from the markets. Wolff writes:
“The richest 10% of households controlled 84% of the total value of these stocks in 2016.”
Blackrock and Vanguard are among the top ten shareholders in all four major US banks. Institutional investors own 68% of Goldman Sachs. The ten largest stockholders of Exxon Mobileare also financial services firms. The same goes for Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet (Google) and so on.
This gives finance enormous political power and control over the economic policies of the federal government. When needed, the U.S. government is the “firefighter in chief” rescuing the finance sector and the stock markets when periodic crises or financial speculation and shenanigans cause a meltdown. The Federal Reserve and the U.S. Department of the Treasury manage global capitalism primarily on behalf of the finance sector. The leaders of finance go back and forth between the private sector and senior roles in The U.S. Department of the Treasury – no matter which party is in power.
The lords of finance own the corporate news media.
The financial services sector owns the controlling interest in all the media companies that own major news networks (except Bloomberg and the Washington Post which are privately owned).
The ten largest stockholders of Disney Corporation are financial services institutions. Disney owns ABC including its news division, and much, much more. The ownership structure of the other media monopolies is similarly heavily owned by the financial sector. ViacomCBS is 85% owned by financial institutions as is Comcast which owns NBC. AT&T, which owns Time Warner and thus CNN, is 56% owned by institutional investors. The New York Times is 93% owned by institutional investors.
Blackrock and Vanguard are in the top three investors in every one of the media companies listed above, except for Newscorp (Foxnews), where Vanguard is 2nd and Blackrock is 9th.
Trump turned out to be great for finance
In 2017 Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, said Trump’s economic policies represented a “bucket list of things we’d like to see done.”
Reuters reported in 2017 that Trump’s tax cut:
“Sliced corporate and individual income rates, also helped the company’s results in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31. BlackRock said on Friday it saw a $1.2 billion tax benefit related to the law and raised its quarterly cash dividend by 15 percent . . . The New York-based company’s shares were up 2.8 percent at midday. Its shares have gained 47 percent over the last year, including dividends.”
Although Fink was apparently poised to be Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury, when that didn’t quite work out, he joined Trump’s business advisory group (later disbanded after the Charlottesville events). Trump was a client of Fink’s company before he was president.
Trump’s “Make America Great Again” echoes Mussolini’s “Revolutionary Nationalism”
In spite of Trump’s obvious corruption and megalomania, much of the financial elite now embrace Trump as their standard-bearer (with noted exceptions like Soros and Bloomberg). Trump has weakened regulations, given large tax breaks to the rich, and shown the ability to win over sections of the working class with a Mussolini-like flair.
They may be playing with fire. It took Mussolini only five years to pass various laws that led to a one-party dictatorship. Even for the finance sector, this wouldn’t be the first choice. That said, they may prefer it to a real democratization of the economy and politics.
In an interview I conducted with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former Chief-of-Staff, Wilkerson told me, “imagine what would happen if there was a major terrorist attack against a big U.S. city. It would be the end of constitutional rights”. He did not rule out such an attack could be staged.
The assassination of an Iranian General was a dangerous provocation
Trump’s assassination of Iran’s Major General Qassem Soleimani is the kind of provocation that could create the conditions for such an event, staged or real. Perhaps it was Iran’s, so far, restrained reprisal that prevented the worst from happening.
From the very start, regime change in Iran has been foreign policy objective number one of the Trump administration. Trump has waged an economic war against the country, and this assassination was an outright act of war.
Regime change in Iran is a long-held U.S. foreign policy objective; the empire can’t tolerate “a regional power with ballistic missiles that can deter U.S. intervention.” The foreign policy hawks in both parties never accepted Obama’s willingness to accept Iran as a regional power.
In President Trump’s 2017 inaugural address he promised to:
“unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.”
What he meant was to “eradicate” the leadership of Iran and bring the country and its resources under the U.S. umbrella.
Trump didn’t actually mean “Radical Islamic Terrorism”, as he remains devoted to Saudi monarcho-fascism, the authentic source of “Radical Islamic Terrorism”.
Regime change in Iran is the primary foreign policy objective of the Saudi monarchy that seeks to dominate the region within the U.S. security alliance.
Blackrock has an office in Riyadh and in 2019 made “a substantial investment” in Saudi Aramco’s inaugural dollar bond. Larry Fink said “The region is not perfect. No region in the world is perfect . . . The fact that there are issues in the press doesn’t tell me I should run from a place; it tells me we should run to a place.”
Regime change in Iran is also a high priority for the Israeli state. Blackrock has major investments in Israel including listing its funds on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that can now be purchased in shekels.
The illegal assassination of Soleimani was meant to show the region that Trump is willing to fight without “restraint”, something he promised CIA officials in 2017. That means without the restraint of international or U.S. law. He also said the CIA would have a second chance to grab Iraq’s oil.
The Intercept analyzed television coverage of Trump’s assassination of Soleimani and found:
“Many of the pundits who appeared on national television or were quoted in major publications to praise the president’s actions have undisclosed ties to the defense industry”.
The pundits appeared on media effectively controlled by Blackrock and Vanguard.
The ten largest shareholders of the major arms manufacturers are also these same financial institutions. They own more than 75% of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon. Again, Vanguard and Blackrock are in the top tier of shareholders in all of them.
War and almost war are good for the arms business.
The corporate leadership of both major American political parties willingly collaborates with the financial-military-industrial complex, pursuing policies that strengthen the empire. Both parties have waged regime change wars that destroyed whole societies.
Big power rivalry is necessary to justify big-dollar military budgets. Ford Class Aircraft carriers can’t be justified by the ‘war on terror’. This helps explain the Russo-phobia in Washington. Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan justified Trump’s proposal for a Pentagon budget that was higher than they asked for, with three words: China, China, China. Russia and China have their own weapons manufacturers that also benefit from the arms race. Six of the top fifteen largest arms manufacturers in the world are now Chinese companies.
Blackrock and other Western investment funds are developing their presence in China, including developing index funds. This could mean Blackrock winds up owning shares of Chinese arms manufactures, while it also owns American weapons producers. Truly, they are merchants of death.
Both parties are dedicated to a nuclear war strategy that is primarily driven by commercial interest.
It was the Obama administration that committed to spending about a trillion dollars for nuclear arms modernization over the next few decades. Trump built on that legacy.
Daniel Ellsberg, who was a nuclear war strategist for Rand Corporation working with senior levels of the U.S. military in the late 1950s and early 60s, told theAnalysis.news that “there would be no ICBM’s if it wasn’t for the profit motive” and that there is no national security rationale for not reducing the nuclear arsenal to a handful of weapons. Ellsberg says the current strategy is driven by the interests of weapons manufacturers.
Russia and the United States remain on a ten-second hair-trigger, where a mistaken blip on a screen could trigger war and nuclear winter. Ellsberg calls it “institutional madness”.