Global Billionaire Wealth Surges $4 Trillion Over Pandemic

As over 2.8 million people have died globally from COVID in the past year, the wealth of the world’s billionaires has surged.

The planet’s 2,365 billionaires have seen their wealth increase $4 trillion, or 54 percent, during the pandemic year. Their combined wealth rose from $8.04 trillion to $12.39 trillion between March 18, 2020 and March 18, 2021.

Thirteen billionaires saw their wealth increase over 500 percent (see the “500 Percent Club” below). Many of them are connected to companies that benefited enormously from the conditions of the pandemic, including having their competition shut down or diminished.

There are 270 new billionaires on this year’s global list, while 91 billionaires fell off the list.

The analysis was conducted for the Patriotic Millionaires (and their affiliated UK Millionaires) and Millionaires for Humanity by the Institute for Policy Studies –Program on

— source Institute for Policy Studies | Chuck Collins, Omar Ocampo | Mar 31, 2021

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Over 25 Years, World’s Wealthiest 5% Behind Over One-Third of Global Emissions Growth

As world leaders prepare for this November’s United Nations Climate Conference in Scotland, a new report from the Cambridge Sustainability Commission reveals that the world’s wealthiest 5% were responsible for well over a third of all global emissions growth between 1990 and 2015.

The report, entitled Changing Our Ways: Behavior Change and the Climate Crisis, found that nearly half the growth in absolute global emissions were cause by the world’s richest 10%, with the most affluent 5% alone contributing 37%.

“In the year when the U.K. hosts COP26, and while the government continues to reward some of Britain’s biggest polluters through tax credits, the commission report shows why this is precisely the wrong way to meet the U.K.’s climate targets,” the report’s introduction states.

The authors of the report urge United Kingdom policymakers to focus on this so-called “polluter elite” in an effort to persuade wealthy people to adopt more sustainable behavior, while providing “affordable, available low-carbon alternatives to poorer households.”

— source | Brett Wilkins | Apr 13, 2021

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Global Military Spending Tops $2 Trillion for First Time in History

Global military expenditures surpassed $2 trillion for the first time ever last year, with the United States spending more on its war-making capacity than the next nine nations combined, according to new data published Monday. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported an all-time high of $2.1 trillion in worldwide military spending for 2021, a 0.7% increase from 2020 levels and the seventh straight year of increased expenditures. With $801 billion—or 38% of total global military spending—the United States spent more in 2021 than the next nine nations combined: China ($293 billion), India ($76.6 billion), the United Kingdom ($68.4 billion), Russia ($65.9 billion), France ($56.6 billion), Germany ($56 billion), Saudi Arabia ($55.6 billion), Japan ($54.1 billion), and South Korea ($50.2 billion).

— source | Apr 25, 2022

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25 years of Bank of England independence shows we need a new approach

This week marks 25 years since arguably the biggest change to UK economic policy that no one voted for – the handing over of control of monetary policy and inflation to the Bank of England, a newly ‘independent’ central bank.

Established in 1694 and nationalised in 1945, the Bank of England has always had a close relationship with the government, from its early history helping the government finance its wars, to its post-war role guiding investment towards the government’s industrial priorities. But the role of the Bank of England has often flown under the radar of mainstream political debate. It therefore probably came as a surprise to most people when one of New Labour’s first acts of government in 1997 was to grant operational independence to the Bank of England – something that was absent from the manifesto they had just been elected on.

What this meant in practice was that the Bank of England was tasked with targeting inflation at 2% and given independence over monetary policy (setting the price of money through interest rates) to decide how to do this. The idea was that this would take the ‘printing presses’ away from elected politicians, who New Labour feared the public (and financial markets) didn’t trust not to turn on for short-term popularity. While this may sound like a well meaning idea, it has turned out to be unfit for purpose.

This separation of economic policy between fiscal authorities like the Treasury and independent central banks like the Bank of England has ended up exacerbating the crises of the

— source | Simon Youel | May 6, 2022

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The Economic Consequences of the War

In 1919, the renowned British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace, a book that would prove controversial indeed. In it, he warned that the draconian terms imposed on defeated Germany after what was then known as the Great War — which we now call World War I — would have ruinous consequences not just for that country but all of Europe. Today, I’ve adapted his title to explore the economic consequences of the (less than great) war now underway — the one in Ukraine, of course — not just for those directly involved but for the rest of the world.

Not surprisingly, following Russia’s February 24th invasion, coverage has focused mainly on the day-to-day fighting; the destruction of Ukrainian economic assets, ranging from buildings and bridges to factories and whole cities; the plight of both Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced people, or IDPs; and the mounting evidence of atrocities. The war’s potential long-term economic effects in and beyond Ukraine haven’t attracted nearly as much attention, for understandable reasons. They’re less visceral and, by definition, less immediate. Yet the war will take a huge economic toll, not just on Ukraine but on desperately poor people living thousands of miles away. Wealthier countries will experience the ill effects of the war, too, but be better able to cope with them.

Shattered Ukraine

Some expect this war to last years, even decades, though that estimate seems far too bleak. What we do know, however, is that, even two months in, Ukraine’s economic losses and

— source | Rajan Menon | May 3, 2022

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Weapon Makers Reap “Bonanza” from War

it’s routine in the sense that it’s the military-industrial complex in action, but it’s extraordinary in the sense that it was very specifically to coordinate how to arm Ukraine and how these companies would profit from it. So, the Pentagon has been giving missiles, anti-tank, anti-air missiles, and other equipment through its existing stocks that it already has, and then it’s going to pay these companies to replenish those stocks. And so, the discussion was: How quickly can you crank out these weapons? Do you need new production lines? Do you need more money to make it happen more quickly? So, it was really, in part, about how — how best these companies could profit from the war.

And they’ve been posturing as if they’re some sort of bastions of promoting democracy because they’re arming Ukraine, but, of course, they’re also sending weapons to Yemen that are being used to bomb school buses and civilians, killing thousands of people. So, really, they’ll sell to anybody with the money, but they’re using the Ukraine crisis to sort of try to remold their image.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Bill, could you talk about the relative size we’re talking about here — this is now about more than $3 billion from the Biden administration to Ukraine — in terms of the context of what this means to these companies, this increased amount of money not only now, but, clearly, there will be security needs for years, and maybe decades, into the future?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, this is a bonanza for the companies. You know, they’re going to profit from this in so many ways, it makes my head spin. But you’ve got the $3 billion in direct arms, which is a substantial amount for these companies. Then you’ve got countries like Germany increasing their Pentagon — military budgets to buy things like Lockheed Martin F-35s for billions of dollars, or Poland buying General Dynamics tanks. And then you’ve got several flows of money. There’s a Pentagon program to arm Ukraine. There’s a State Department aid program to help

— source | Apr 15, 2022

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Discussing Crypto, the Left & Technofeudalism

In the early 2010s, before your stint in the Greek government, you worked as economist-in-residence for Valve, a prominent gaming company. In what ways were your skills as an economics expert in game theory useful for dissecting the economics of virtual worlds? And, in turn, what kinds of insights, if any, on the inner workings of the real economy did you gain through that experience?
Ten years ago, the metaverse was already up and running within gaming communities. Valve’s games had already spawned economies so large that Valve was both excited and spooked. Some digital assets that had previously been distributed for free (via the game’s drops) began to trade for tens of thousands of dollars on eBay, well before anyone had thought of NFTs.
What if the prices of these spontaneously lucrative items and activities were to crash? That was what kept the people at Valve awake at night. You can see this from the email with which I was approached: ‘I have been following your blog for a while… Here at my company we were discussing an issue of linking economies in two virtual environments (creating a shared currency), and wrestling with some of the thornier problems of balance of payments, when it occurred to me “this is Germany and Greece”, a thought that wouldn’t have occurred to me without having followed your blog’.
My reasons for getting involved were many. One was the prospect of studying an economy as an omniscient researcher: Since I would have access to the full data set in real time, I did not need statistics! Another was the lure of playing ‘god’; i.e. being able to do with these digital economies things that no economist can do in the ‘real’ world, e.g. alter

— source | Yanis Varoufakis | 23/04/2022

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Covid had devastating toll on poor and low-income communities in US

The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on poor and low-income communities across America is laid bare in a new report released on Monday that concludes that while the virus did not discriminate between rich and poor, society and government did.

As the US draws close to the terrible landmark of 1 million deaths from coronavirus, the glaringly disproportionate human toll that has been exacted is exposed by the Poor People’s Pandemic Report. Based on a data analysis of more than 3,000 counties across the US, it finds that people in poorer counties have died overall at almost twice the rate of those in richer counties.

Looking at the most deadly surges of the virus, the disparity in death rates grows even more pronounced. During the third pandemic wave in the US, over the winter of 2020 and

— source | Ed Pilkington | 4 Apr 2022

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Capitalists & Thieves Who Got Rich While We Got Sick

these are the early weeks of the pandemic, late April, early May 2020, really scary times, no vaccine, masks in short supply, our hospitals overrun. And this contractor, who I had found in federal purchasing data, had really come out of nowhere and had a really sizable deal that stood out. But in addition to that, he was supplying, supposedly, 6 million masks to the Veterans Administration, which oversees the largest hospital network in the country. So he had a pretty vital role in our pandemic response. And just sort of doing the due diligence, I wondered how he got this deal, and called him, and he ended up saying I could tag along on this private jet, and in doing so, over the course of maybe 72 hours, flying first to Georgia and then to Chicago, realized that he didn’t have any masks. He had claimed that they were, you know, bought out from under him. Next, he had a new line on masks. It involved some interesting characters. And slowly but surely, as I’m sort of observing this, I began to wonder if the whole thing was made up and if in fact he had conspired to defraud the federal government.

And, you know, we didn’t know everything then, but this was really crucial information that I felt the American public needed to know, so we reported what we knew. And that really set me off on more than a year of reporting, following around not just federal contractors but people who entered this space, sort of seeing the chaos cascading down from the federal government

— source | Apr 12, 2022

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