Internet billionaire Nick Hanauer warns of coming revolution
- 30 June 2014
A review of the best commentary on and around the world...
Nick Hanauer, internet entrepreneur, has a message for his fellow "zillionaires": the revolution is coming.
Mr Hanauer, an early investor in internet retail giant Amazon, says like many of his fellow one-percenters, he owns his own yacht, multiple homes and private jet. He says he acquired all his wealth by seeing the potential of the internet and acting on it.
Now, he writes in Politico magazine, he sees a different kind of future, and the outlook for people like him is not a bright one:
If we don't do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn't eventually come out.
Do you think the US is special or different, he asks. You're wrong. No nation is immune, he says - just ask the Russian tsars or the French aristocracy.
Things are going to change, he says, and when they do it will happen quickly - but it doesn't have to be this way.
Mr Hanauer endorses what he calls "middle-out" economics. He advocates raising the minimum wage and endorses Seattle's recent move to raise the lowest hourly wage for an employee in the city jurisdiction to $15 (£8.80).
By paying Americans a "living wage", he writes, it will relieve some of the burden on the federal government to provide programs like food stamps, rent assistance and medical-care subsidies. That will help conservatives get their wish of trimming government spending.
He concludes that while the public is starting to view the capitalist system as broken, it can still work as long as it is regulated.
"It can be managed either to benefit the few in the near term or the many in the long term," he writes. "The work of democracies is to bend it to the latter."
Rick Newman of Yahoo Finance thinks Mr Hanauer is getting a bit too worked up, however.
"The rich ought to chill out," he writes. "While the masses may envy their wealth, there's no evidence of a revolution brewing, or even a well-behaved civil disturbance."
He agrees that Mr Hanauer has identified some disturbing trends and that steps should be taken to address income inequality.
"It's nearly inevitable there will be government spending cuts and, yes, tax hikes, when the government's finances become unsustainable, which could take a decade or more," he says. "When it happens, the politicians in Washington will find ways to spread the pain around, and America will muddle through."
Pitchforks or muddling. It seems these are the choices.
Sympathy for Saddam - Although Iraqi political groups continue to pressure Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to step down, replacing him will not necessarily bring change to Iraq, writes Hussain Abdul-Hussain for Now.
"Whether through American military power, a la Iraq, or through popular revolts such as those in Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, the removal of dictators shakes things up," he says. He argues that democracy rarely prevails in post-dictatorial states.
In hindsight, Abdul-Hussain contends that rulers like Saddam Hussein and even Mr Maliki are not anomalies, but are products of society, its ethics and expectations. In that light, he writes that the ouster and killing of Hussein did little to bring democracy or stability to the region.
Abdul-Hussain argues that to create real change, solutions must be developed from the bottom up. "People who oversee solutions should have a deep understanding of the socio-economic constructs of Arab societies and an awareness of their histories," he concludes.
Standing in the face of defeat - Despite his opposition to the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has affirmed that he "will now work with him".
"When we encounter setbacks, we don't throw in the towel: we redouble our resolve," Mr Cameron penned in an opinion piece for the Telegraph. "The task of reforming Europe and securing Britain's place in a reformed Europe was always going to be a long and tough campaign - and this is just one battle in that campaign."
Mr Cameron had contended that rather than the European Parliament, the European Council, which is composed of elected heads of states, should have selected the candidates for the commission, as was done in the past.
"There was no need to depart from that practice this time, even if the relevant treaties permitted a majority vote," he writes. "The approach I took wasn't just my position, or a Conservative position - it was, and is, a British position, shared by Labour and the Liberal Democrats."
Jordan and the Isis threat - As the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) continues to gain control of the northern territory of Iraq and the surrounding region, Jordan's military and special operations forces have been able to stop the militant group's advance so far, writes Theodore Karasik of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis for Al Arabiya.
"There were concerns that Isis' momentum, plus sleeper cells and admirers of the terrorist group in eastern Jordan, would help to create a back door for the fighters to slip into the country," Mr Karasik says.
But in recent weeks, he writes, Jordan has increased its military strength along its borders and in Iraq. The government is also preparing a "counter-narrative campaign", with powerful domestic clerics. "These men will need to be watched carefully by all for what they say next to counter Isis' discourse," he concludes.
Russian opposition to fracking - Nato head Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently said that Russia is backing anti-fracking movements throughout the continent in an attempt to reinforce its energy eminence in Europe.
Keith Johnson for Foreign Policy magazine agrees, writing:
It is part of Russia's broader use of soft power and covert means to complement its more overt efforts to reassert influence in Europe and keep countries there from developing alternatives to an energy addiction worth $100m [£58.5m] a day to Moscow.
According to Johnson, if fracking in Europe were to increase, it could boost the continent's energy independence, weakening its reliance on Russian gas.
BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day
Regional commentators respond to President Barack Obama's request for $500m (£294m) to support "moderate" rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad's government in the Syrian civil war.
"This is at the moment the whole contribution the president is willing to make to demonstrate that he is clinging to the policy of toppling Assad - no military intervention, no no-fly zones and no anti-aircraft weapons." - Zvi Barel in Israel's Ha'aretz.
"Allocating $500m to aid terrorists in Syria shows that the Syrian people are under direct US attack, especially when America's lackeys in the region have given terrorists who claim to be the opposition in Syria tens and even hundreds of billions of dollars, to burn all the values held dear by Syrian citizens and to destroy everything Syrians have built over the past decades." - Muhi al-Din al-Muhammad in Syria's Tishrin.
"The only way to deal with terrorist groups that have flourished in a climate of chaos is through the use of force, and that primarily requires the presence of powers ready to use force in the right manner, focusing on one enemy instead of fighting various groups. Such is the case of the Free [Syrian] Army in Syria, viewed as moderate opposition by the US administration." - Editorial in Saudi Arabia's Al-Watan.
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