Who Wants to Run the World?

David Rothkopf: When you look at the United States at the moment and you think about our future one of the things that you might ask is, what are we good at?  We used to be good at creating jobs, but we’re not so good at creating jobs.  We used to be good at building bridges or highways or infrastructure.  We’re clearly not doing that.  We haven’t done that for 50 years.  We used to lead the world in innovation, but the innovation is coming from other places.  In that past 10 years, what have we led the world in?  And the one thing we’ve really led the world in is creating inequality.  We have become accidentally and unfortunately a world leader in this and we’re coming out of a decade in which the results have been kind of horrifying.  For the first time in US history we’ve had a decade in which we’ve had a net loss of jobs, but we’ve also seen social mobility decrease and inequality continue to increase so much so that last year, which was a year of recovery for the United States, 93% of the benefits of the recovery went to the top 1% of the population and the 450 richest Americans have a net worth equivalent to the 150 million poorest Americans.  That’s not just an interesting cocktail party statistic.  That’s a complete breakdown of our society as it was envisioned as an opportunity society.

Technology, industrialism and capitalism have made America richer on an average basis.  They have made our GDP go up on an average basis.  And for most of American history, when GDP goes up everybody benefits.  Jobs are created.  When productivity goes up, everybody benefits.  Money is passed on down through the system.  But somehow over the course of the past decade or two what has happened is more and more of the benefits from economic growth have gone to fewer and fewer of the people because executive compensation has gotten to the point where CEOs, instead of making 50 or 60 times what an employee made 30 years ago, they may now make 300 times or 400 times what an employee made, where taxes for the people at the very top are at the lowest level they’ve ever been in American history by a dramatic, dramatic amount.  In the middle of World War II the highest tax rate for the richest Americans was 92% or 93%, almost three times what it is today.

So that has had an effect, and of course if you’re in a really privileged position in a privileged industry in Wall Street or you’re at the top of a big company, we have got the system set up that you can influence political outcomes.  You can influence who gets to pick the regulators.  You can influence who gets to pick the judges in a way that almost guarantees that as the rules get written, even if there is little regulatory squeeze or pinch here or there, net net you’re going to benefit, and the rest of society is going to fall behind.  And so we’ve essentially institutionalized inequality and we’ve accelerated in so doing the sort of descent into evermore unequal society. 

So through democratic means we need to create institutions that have the power to counterbalance, to reign in, to regulate, to ensure that companies and the rich pay their share and advance our interest as a society as a whole, that we get away from the notion that the purpose of our society is simply wealth creation, simply having the highest GDP.  You know you can have a society with a very high GDP that’s all one company and most of the people are living in poverty, and that’s what we’ve seen in the past decade.  GDP goes up, but the life of the majority of people goes down.  

The problem gets worse when you deal at a global level because national power stops at borders, but global corporations are able to operate out in a space where there is no regulation at all, whether that’s in global derivates or it’s in internet commerce, or it’s simply their ability to go from one tax regime or one IP regime in one country and go to another place that has a more lax regime and sort of venue shop around the world.  And so we need those governance mechanisms on a global stage as well as on a national stage, and that challenge is even greater because here an individual could cast a vote, file a referendum, run for office, have an impact through existing institutions.  We don’t have the institutions on the global level to provide that counterbalance. 

As Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, David Rothkopf oversaw the International Trade Administration under Clinton. Now he's arguing that the deregulation which occurred during the 1990's unleashed an epic rivalry not between nation-states, but between business and government.

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

Sponsored
  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Why a federal judge ordered White House to restore Jim Acosta's press badge

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration likely violated the reporter's Fifth Amendment rights when it stripped his press credentials earlier this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
  • The judge described the ruling as narrow, and didn't rule one way or the other on violations of the First Amendment.
  • The case is still open, and the administration may choose to appeal the ruling.
Keep reading Show less