Monday, July 4

What happens in Sun Valley, the secret meeting of the unelected billionaire kings? | Hamilton Nolan

THere comes a time in every good gangster movie where all the villains band together in a remote hideout to make nefarious plans. If the good guys are smart, this is the time when they swoop in and arrest everyone. In real American life, however, we constantly squander these opportunities, opting instead to sit back and stare at the villains like a stunned bunch of paparazzi. It is never too late to change that.

Did you come to Allen & Co? conference in Sun Valley, Idaho last week? If you did, go straight to jail. The investment bank sponsors the annual schmoozefest and “Summer Camp for billionaires ”for the same reason companies give away their luxury goods in Oscar gift baskets: because if you spoil the rich enough, they may develop warm enough feelings for you to give you some business. day. In Sun Valley, every year, billionaires are entertained by mere millionaires; millionaires get enough deals to buy their third and fourth homes; And at some point, you may get a job as a housekeeper in one of those houses. This is the wonderful model of American capitalism in action: a small handful of wealthy people eat cake and an entire nation gathers downstream, hoping to pick up some crumbs that fall.

The Sun Valley conference is primarily known as a place where media and tech moguls gather to fish a little fly and strike multi-million dollar merger deals, as various members of the financial press flit around the periphery of the complex like a lots of tabloid tricks. desperate for a snapshot of Mark Zuckerberg in the season’s latest wool vest. More fundamentally, the conference is like Davos, a wealth concentration mechanism, disguised as something friendlier. Here, America’s richest mega-billionaires meet with the CEOs of America’s most powerful corporations, the CIA director, and America’s most useless pseudo-journalists (hello Anderson Cooper) to develop social connections and commercial that allow 0.00001% of salaried employees with higher incomes to continue working. accumulate a part of the wealth of our nation that already exceeds Rockefeller and Carnegie’s famous cartoonish Golden Age inequality. Everything that happens in Sun Valley will contribute to the ability of attendees like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Mike Bloomberg to increase their society-altering fortunes. They and their fellow billionaires earned more than 50% richer during the year of the pandemic, doing absolutely nothing but sitting back and watching their capital grow as millions of people around the world suffer and die. His power over the course of this country becomes more and more impregnable and inexplicable to anything other than his own whims. We are developing a private class of billionaire kings whose will is omnipotent and untouchable by any democratic force. This is the state of affairs that the Sun Valley conference serves to intensify. It is, by any reasonable measure, a threat to the long-term stability of our country that far exceeds anything the Taliban could imagine.

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However, there is a notable lack of Special Forces troops rappelling through the picturesque forests of Idaho to capture Oprah Winfrey and Tim Cook while rafting down the rapids. The collective wealth of the small group of people within that Sun Valley resort is estimated be a trillion dollars, which means that confiscating it all could end homelessness in America over the next decade, with a few hundred billion remaining. Rather than pursue this obviously good idea, we opted to leave all that wealth in the hands of the rich, so Sun Valley attendees Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson can use it to race each other to become the biggest jerk to ever go to space.

It is strange that a nation obsessed with identifying threats has developed a blind spot to the existential threat posed by the fact that the rich get infinitely richer. Americans stockpile weapons to fight invaders from imaginary homes, flee into gated communities to hide from imaginary street crime, and launch wars doomed forever to fight imaginary foreign terrorists. But 40 years of wage stagnation, rising inequality, and the nightmarish gig-ification of all aspects of economic life are not enough to lead us to take a cautious look at an annual conspiracy of all the people responsible for creating the conditions that they have done. impossible to work just one job and retire with dignity. People who, in fact, have swallowed all the money that no longer belongs to the mythical American middle class openly frolic in Sun Valley while we fear that Antifa will break the windows of some coffee shop. It’s enough to make me think that we’re not that good at threat assessment after all.

There is always next year. In 2022, billionaires will return to Sun Valley. By then, they will almost certainly be richer and more powerful, and they will control an even more grotesque share of everyone’s fruits of labor. They will have continued to destroy unions, consolidate control of industries, and exert a disproportionate influence over all of our lives, solely for their own benefit. The case for rounding them up and redistributing their wealth will only have gotten more compelling. And fortunately, we know exactly where they will all be.

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