Humanosity says…The rise of populism has transformed politics across the Western world. Although populism isn’t a new phenomenon, in its latest incarnation nationalism is being sold as the only way that the common person can take back control of their laws and borders. What the ordinary person doesn’t realise is the hidden link between populists and the ultra-wealthy.
These ultra-wealthy are using their money to influence politics to curb the power of democracies to constrain them. Worse it’s being done with little or transparency. It makes disturbing reading and is something all citizens should be aware of.
The Guardian has taken a look at this situation and describes this in this way “politics makes strange bedfellows, but few alliances are more surprising than the one linking the ultra-rich to ultra-nationalists. What could the wealthiest people in the world have in common with those upending politics in the name of the “forgotten man?”
The Hidden Hand
The goals of this alliance for the ultra-nationalists is phrased as ‘talking back control’ which usually means from foreigners. It’s also a fairly naked power grab by those politicians seeking a route to power.
For the ultra-rich it’s about dismantling the international organisations, alliances and institutions that place constraints on their power. It’s easier to control or influence a national government than an international organisation.
As the Guardian states:
a world without the EU, or without the Global Magnitsky Act, is one in which the people who appeared in the Panama Papers can get even richer and expand their influence over an increasing share of the world’s governments and resources.
In the UK those papers controlled by oligarchs; The Sun, Times, Telegraph and the Express seem to be part of the project. These newspapers play their part by treating the narratives of Brexit, the rise of populism and the success of Trump as a separate story from stories about the Panama and Paradise Papers. The latter stories reveal the lengths to which the ultra-wealthy will go to escape efforts to put limits on their wealth which is the source of their power.
They help to push the narrative that ultra-nationalists are out to help the little guy and supporting them is
an effort to regain local control, protect national boundaries and reassert the dominance of local ethnic groups. What has been sold to working-class and middle-class voters as “a war for the little guy” is in practical terms the wish list of the ultra-wealthy worldwide.
Some of the Key Players
If you were to take a cursory look at the actions a few of the key players in this drama then the link between the ultra-nationalists and the ultra-wealthy becomes obvious.
The US billionaire Robert Mercer was revealed in the Paradise Papers to have a $60m offshore fund which he used to bankroll not just the Trump election campaign in 2016 but also pro Brexit campaign. His interests in funding political causes only began in earnest after he was fined by US tax authorities for tax evasion. The full story of this can be found here
According to the New Statesman, Arron Banks motivation for funding Brexit campaigns may have been influenced by the costly financial impact on a set of new international regulatory requirements on his insurance companies
What links both these wealthy political donors is Steve Bannon, the strategist who is credited with masterminding Donald Trump’s path to the White House. For Bannon, Trump’s capture of the White House was part of a larger campaign which he described as “deconstruction of the administrative state”
According to the article in the Washington Post, the focus of his project is on tax systems, financial oversight and the sorts of public accountability that mainly affect the ultra-wealthy. Considering that Mercer was the man who bankrolled Breitbart news, the platform that made Bannon a household name, this focus is hardly surprising.
The ultimate irony is that the playbook which Bannon is now offering to European populists is based on railing against a global elite who are using their wealth to work against the common man. yet those very campaigns are funded by members of that elite from offshore tax havens.
Populist ultra-nationalism is a project bought and paid for by global elites and their tax haven wealth.
The goal of the ultra-wealthy is not to destroy the nation-state but it is to weaken the international alliances and institutions that constrain them. If they form a pact with authoritarian politicians then by capturing the state they can weaken the power of democracy whilst keeping things like roads, airports and educational systems that produce the workers that they need. George Monbiot has gone further and believes that there is a right-wing insurrection, led by the ultra-wealthy, to usurp democracy.
Perhaps the scariest revelations come from wealth managers, the very people the ultra-wealthy turn to minimise constraints on their wealth. Many state that their clients’ ideologies and their use of the offshore financial system are “openly hostile to democracy”
Perhaps the most telling example of what many of the ultra-wealthy are thinking comes from a Swiss-based wealth manager. According to the Guardian:
her clients saw themselves as “above nationality and laws”. Of their belief that any legal limitations placed on them were de facto illegitimate, she added: “It’s potentially very dangerous.”