Last week, the U.S. Intelligence Community issued its Annual Threat Assessment. It cited the usual suspects – China, Russia, Iran, North Korea – as our most determined adversaries. It even gave lip service to the climate crisis and other global challenges such as “human and health security,… as the planet emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and confronts economic issues spurred by both energy and food insecurity.”
Our intelligent operatives acknowledge, “It is not an exhaustive assessment of all global challenges.” They’ve got that right.
One of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. today is trying to stem inflationary trends without diving off into a recession. Anyone who shops for food knows that prices seem to be rising on a weekly basis. Weather has hurt some crop production. But, the cost of transporting food from fields to markets has exploded. Because:
• Exxon-Mobil, Marathon and Phillips 66 reported more than $82.5 billion in profits last year;
• Chevron reported $35.5 billion in profits in 2022;
• United Kingdom Shell profited $40 billion last year;
• British Petroleum netted $28.5 billion in profits – while also cutting its donation pledges.
(And, for good measure, last week Common Dreams reported, “BP and Shell CEOs see pay double as workers struggle to heat homes.”)
National Public Radio reported last week that Americans “went from record savings to record debt in just two years.” Both situations reflect the usage and price of oil products. NPR cites Jill Schlesinger, CBS News business analyst as observing, “We saw Americans across the income stream save a lot of money. I mean a lot of money.”
The NPR story continues:
“Schlesinger says stimulus checks, lockdown and pay raises had people in really strong financial shape, with the highest personal savings rate on record. ‘But then 2022 starts and inflation doesn’t go down,’ says Schlesinger. ‘And then we saw many people plow through those pandemic era savings, left with nothing.’”
And why doesn’t the inflation go down? Look at those profit figures again. I guess our travel slowdown during the pandemic panicked the oilygarchs. They needed to get those profits back into the stratosphere.
What these corporations have in common is that, despite where their headquarters might be located, they are multinational operations with octopus-like tentacles reaching around the globe – and attempting to squeeze it dry.
Their greed-driven destruction of Earth’s climate rivals price gouging as the best sign that they have no loyalties except to their bottom lines. They don’t care that they’re causing hardships in their home countries. It is this extreme greed that has some wags calling our era “last-stage capitalism,” identifying it as the disease it is with the dangers it poses.
Economic instability is one of the worldwide dangers mentioned by the intelligence report. Hard times can lead to bad times without a unified front. In this country, that unity is assaulted daily by Fox News, with more revelations every day about how its commentators deliberately lied about the 2020 election, knowingly lied repeatedly.
Or as Stephen Colbert observed last week: ”Fox News doesn’t believe a word they say ― and neither should you.”
We should remember that Fox News is just one tentacle of the Murdoch family’s News Corporation conglomerate that pushes disinformation in Australia and the U.K. as well as here.
Nearly 40 years ago, in an interview on an Australian Variety Show, Linda Ronstadt, commenting on the lack of credibility in the press, told Don Lane: “Your press down there is really…I mean, you gave us Rupert Murdoch. Eeww! Thanks a lot….Thanks a lot you guys. Take him back. We don’t need him here.”
She continued: “He’s very irresponsible, too. I mean, you see these screaming headlines in his newspapers about politics or a shooting or a killing. They’re only made to inflame….It’s plain old irresponsible….It’s bad for journalism. It’s bad for journalism. It’s bad for the responsible journalists out there trying to do their jobs.”
That was back when the country as a whole knew better and tried to act better. And we were proud of those facts.
In England, one of the Murdoch papers was fined for hacking into and tapping the phones of celebrities and their friends – which even broke up some friendships because the celebs thought their pals were leaking info that only they had been told.
But, sensationalism sells.
The allegation in the Dominion Voting Systems is that Fox just kept lying in order to placate Trump’s fascist base with what it wanted to hear – facts notwithstanding. Keep the ratings high and the ad money rolling in.
A multinational company, News Corp has no loyalties to its readers and viewers in any of its countries. The only loyalty is to its bottom line.
Without any apparent awareness or irony, the Threat Assessment cites the danger from Transnational Organized Crime, saying the global gangs, “threaten U.S. and allied public safety, undermine the integrity of the international financial system, and erode the rule of law in partner nations.”
And, while “TCOs view human trafficking, including sex trafficking and forced labor, and smuggling as low risk crimes of opportunity motivated by financial gain,” their legal multinational corporate counterparts have taken the practical precautionary step of purchasing legislators – in this country, most Republicans and half the Democrats – to ensure that their price gouging remains legal.
The Threat Assessment states:
“First, great powers, rising regional powers, as well as an evolving array of non-state actors, will vie for dominance in the global order, as well as compete to set the emerging conditions and the rules that will shape that order for decades to come.”
These “non-state actors” are identified as terrorists organizations. But, the multinational corporations and their allies are vying for dominance as well – and, thus far, doing a very good stealth job of setting, “the rules that will shape that order for decades to come.”
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)