Category Archives: Wealth

Uncle Sam remains globe’s biggest arms peddler


Share of arms sales of the world’s 100 companies for 2015, by country The Top 100 classifies companies according to the country in which they are headquartered, so sales by an overseas subsidiary will be counted towards the total for the parent company’s country. The Top 100 does not include the entire arms industry in each country covered, only the largest companies. The category ‘Other’ consists of countries whose companies’ arms sales comprise less than 1% of the total: Australia, Brazil, Finland, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine. From the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Share of arms sales of the world’s 100 companies for 2015, by country
The Top 100 classifies companies according to the country in which they are headquartered, so sales by an overseas subsidiary will be counted towards the total for the parent company’s country. The Top 100 does not include the entire arms industry in each country covered, only the largest companies. The category ‘Other’ consists of countries whose companies’ arms sales comprise less than 1% of the total: Australia, Brazil, Finland, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine. From the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

From the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute:

Sales of arms and military services by the largest arms-producing and military services companies—the SIPRI Top 100—totalled $370.7 billion in 2015 according to new data on the international arms industry released today by SIPRI.

The sales of arms and military services companies in the SIPRI Top 100 have fallen for the fifth consecutive year. However, at only a 0.6 per cent decline, the slight decrease may signal a possible reversal of the downward sales trend observed since 2011.

US companies still way ahead despite falling revenues

Companies based in the United States continue to dominate the Top 100 with total arms sales amounting to $209.7 billion for 2015. Arms sales by US companies in the Top 100 decreased by 2.9 per cent compared with 2014—the fifth consecutive year of decline.

‘Lockheed Martin remains the largest arms producer in the world,’ says Aude Fleurant, Director of SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘However, US companies’ arms sales are constrained by caps on US military spending, delays in deliveries of major weapon systems and the strength of the US dollar, which has negatively affected export sales.’

Many of the larger US arms-producing companies divested their military services activities after 2010 due to falling demand. A number of the new, smaller companies created by this process have consolidated and have built up sufficient revenue to rank in the Top 100 for 2015; three such companies are CSRA, Engility and Pacific Architects and Engineers.

 West European arms sales up in 2015 after falls in 2014

Arms sales by companies in Western Europe listed in the SIPRI Top 100 for 2015 rose by 6.6 per cent in real terms compared with 2014, with total combined revenues from arms sales amounting to $95.7 billion. This increase contrasts with the notable drop in West European companies’ revenues from arms sales recorded between 2013 and 2014.

The combined arms sales of the six French companies listed in the Top 100 totalled $21.4 billion in 2015, a rise of 13.1 per cent compared with 2014, when most of those companies recorded a fall in arms sales. The increase in French companies’ arms sales has acted as an important driver for the recent growth in arms sales in Western Europe.

‘Major arms export deals in 2015, such as those to Egypt and Qatar, have increased French arms companies’ sales,’ says Fleurant. ‘A 67.5 per cent surge in arms sales by Dassault Aviation Group seems to be mainly the result of such exports.’

The three German companies listed in the Top 100 continued to increase their combined sales (by 7.4 per cent) in 2015. Companies in the Top 100 based in the United Kingdom reversed the downward trend recorded in 2014 with a 2.8 per cent rise in their combined arms sales in 2015.

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Aussie students hoist the Pharma Bro’s petard


Remember Pharma Bro?

That’s the nickname of Martin Shkreli, the greedy investor who plunged into the depths of infamy when he upped the price of a vital malaria drug by 30 times when it bought the only company that makes it.

Well, it seems some Australian students found a way to make the pils, which Shkreli priced at $750 a pop for a mere two bucks.

In other words, you could buy 375 of their pills from what one of Pharma Bro’s would cost you, before an internal furor forced him to cut the price to a mere $375.

Besides malaria, the drug is used to treat toxoplasmosis [previously], a disease caused by exposure to cats, and parasitical infections sometimes found in AIDS patients.

Well, it looks like the price will be coming down, and very soon.

From euronews:

The man who became a global figure of greed after hiking the price of a life-saving drug by 5000 percent in the US, may have just met his match.

Last year, US entrepreneur Martin Shkreli bought Turing Pharmaceuticals and almost immediately increased the price of the medicine Daraprim in the US from $13.50 to $750.

Now a group of school students in Australia has replicated a key-ingredient in the medicine for just $2.

Daraprim is an anti-parasitic drug used to treat malaria and HIV patients.

One of the students taking part in the experiments, Brandon Lee said: “It was a lot of trial and error, the process. We had to repeat a lot of the reactions and try different reaction conditions in order to see which materials in which things would react to make the Daraprim. But, yeah, it was a rollercoaster of emotions sometimes. I think because we are high school students we are able to relate to a larger audience, able to relate to the general public and show that even ordinary high school students like us, are able to make this drug for a pretty low price.”

Trump appointee ensures a Citizens United regime


No surprise here.

American politics has become a plaything of plutocrats, and the latest Trump appointment ensures that things will only get worse as one citizen, one vote is fully transformed into one dollar, one vote.

From the Intercept:

Don McGahn, soon to be Donald Trump’s White House counsel, bears as much responsibility as any single person for turning America’s campaign finance system into something akin to a gigantic, clogged septic tank.

From 2008 to 2013, McGahn was one of the six members of the Federal Election Commission, the government agency in charge of civil enforcement of campaign finance laws. While there, he led a GOP campaign that essentially ground enforcement of election laws to a halt.

“I’ve always thought of McGahn’s appointment as an FEC commissioner as analogous to appointing an anarchist to be chief of police,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president at Common Cause. “He’s largely responsible for destroying the FEC as a functioning law enforcement agency, and seemingly takes great pride in this fact. McGahn has demonstrated a much stronger interest in expanding the money-in-politics swamp than draining it.”

Elaine Weintraub, a current FEC commissioner, overlapped with McGahn’s entire tenure. McGahn and his two fellow GOP appointees, she recalled, possessed a “very strong ideological opposition to campaign finance laws in general.”

This ideology — that essentially all limits on campaign contributions and spending are unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment — was developed by a loose affiliation of conservative lawyers including McGahn, beginning in the late 1990s. It started bearing fruit a decade later with a series of court decisions, including the Citizens United ruling in 2010. McGahn’s page on his law firm’s website describes him as one of the “architects of the campaign finance revolution.”

Chart of the Day: The elephant in the room


blog-econ

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, offering a sharp critique of neoliberalism which notes:

U.S. leaders seemingly assumed that economic inequality among citizens would not significantly increase as a result of their policies. This is because they believed in the “trickle down” theory, whereby an increase in the number of wealthy people and large corporations would stimulate the economy and gradually benefit poor people and smaller businesses.

But this trickle down never happened.

Manufacturers moved their production facilities to emerging economies with cheap labor, such as China. Laborers in developed economies were forced to take lower-paid work. Investors started demanding more dividends from successful companies, leading them to prioritize payments to investors over increasing the salaries and benefits of their employees. Large corporations transferred their profits to tax havens to evade taxation.

>snip<

[W]hite laborers — the driving force of Trump’s victory — have fallen to a position of vulnerability over the past 30 years of neoliberalist policy. Perhaps it was a matter of course that their distrust of established politics could not be overturned.

Real estate tycoon Donald Trump is undoubtedly a “winner” in the stratified society. The policies he proposes, such as improving infrastructure, have the potential to boost the economy for the time being. But they also include generous tax reductions for the rich and lower corporate taxes, which could go in the opposite direction of the attempts to rectify disparity.

The many contradictions contained in Trump’s policies are the result of an attempt to attract a wide range of voters.

Headline of the day: Family Feud, plutocratic edition


From the London Daily Mail:

Rockefellers at war: Famous family feud after some descendants speak out against ExxonMobil – the company to which they owe their fortune – for downplaying climate change truth

  • Some members of the Rockefeller family are speaking out against ExxonMobil, which grew from ancestor John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil 
  • The descendants had funded research, showing that ExxonMobil knew more about global warming earlier than they let on 
  • They now want the company to apologize for its past 
  • Not all in the family agree with this contingent however 
  • ‘I don’t think denouncing a family legacy is the best way to go about doing this,’ Ariana Rockefeller said

Disabled Greeks oppose new austerity regime


We should give austerity a new name: Call it the Reverse Robin Hood Doctrine.

Austerity is the regime imposed on the world’s debt-ridden poor nations to qualify them for loans to pay the corporations and banksters of the world’s richest nations.

To make those payments, the debt-plagued countries are forced to slash programs designed to help the nation’s afflicted, poor, sick, and otherwise afflicted.

The latest crisis, the Great Recession, brought Greece to its knees, and the government sought loans from the Troika, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

Needless to say, austerity was imposed, forcing drastic cuts in the national healthcare system, the selloff of public assets [including power companies, transit systems, ports, and much more], as well as drastic cuts in public pensions and paychecks, as well as reduced social benefits payments imposed on those who could least afford the loss.

The austerity regime prompted voter to elect a government which promised them an end to austerity, but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has knuckled under, and new rounds of deprivation are underway.

Some of those most deeply impacted are now expressing their outrage.

From Kathimerini:

Disabled people and patients with chronic illnesses from around Greece protested in central Athens Friday against austerity measures as the government races to clinch a new deal with bailout lenders.

Protesters in wheelchairs carried black balloons while deaf demonstrators wore white gloves as they used sign language to join chants of anti-government slogans.

Disabled groups are seeking exemptions from budget austerity measures imposed under the country’s international bailout agreements.

Unemployment among people with disabilities was more than double the national jobless rate of 23 percent with poverty levels also sharply higher, according to Yannis Vardakastanis, head of the National Confederation of Disabled People of Greece.

“We want to live in dignity,” Vardakastanis, who is blind, told the AP. “It’s the obligation of the government and European institutions to stop us from being further isolated, impoverished and discriminated against.”

Greece is currently finalizing a new package of economic measures that would make home foreclosures and business firings easier. The measures are required in exchange for new bailout loan payouts and talks on debt relief measures.

Shame on the Troika, and shame on Tsipras.

Chart of the Day: European celebratory isolation


blog-drinks

From Eurostat, which reports:

13.0% of the population aged 16 or over living in the European Union (EU) reported in 2014 not being able to get together with friends/family for a drink or meal at least once a month due to lack of resources, while 17.8% could not afford to regularly participate in a leisure activity.

Working age people (aged 25 to 64) were slightly more affected. The shares in this age group stood at 13.9% and 19.6% respectively, while they were 11.0% and 16.3% for young people (aged 16 to 24) and 11.2% and 13.5% for the elderly (aged 65 or over).

Around one third of the population in Hungary (36.5%), Romania (35.7%) and Bulgaria (30.0%) said they could not afford to get together with friends/family for a drink/meal at least once a month. High shares were also observed in Greece (20.7%), Malta (19.2%), Ireland (18.4%) and Lithuania (17.4%). The elderly in Romania are particularly affected: in the age group over 65, the share there reaches 43.0%. In Hungary, the share is higher among the young (40.0%).

At the opposite end the scale, the share was below 1% in all age groups in Sweden. Less than 5% of the population feel unable to get together with friends/family for a drink/meal at least once a month also in Finland (1.5%), Denmark (3.2%), the Netherlands (3.3%), the Czech Republic (3.4%) and Luxembourg (4.1%).