Yes, George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy “Game of Thrones” on HBO has brilliantly captured today’s America, our world being ripped apart by endless civil wars between greed-driven ruling-capitalist families to gain control of the “Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms.”
The mythical “Game of Thrones” captures today’s raging battles between capitalism and democracy, the plutocratic kingdoms of the Super Rich, their war chests of billions, high-tech arsenals and their ruthless armies of mercenary lobbyists battling to control billions of citizens, trillions in wealth and priceless natural resources.
Look closely: “Game of Thrones” is America’s alternative history, with Washington as ground zero for the world’s 147 nations in a time warp with the magical continents of Westeros and Essos, where the battles between the Shadow Kingdoms of Capitalism rage on, for our civilization, our planet, all fighting for the Iron Throne.
Today you can feel these two “Games” converging — the metaphoric epic fantasies of Martin’s “Thrones” and the dysfunctional reality of America’s “cryptocracy,” a government where politicians are mere fronts, pawns, puppets for the ruling Shadow Kingdoms that are building a critical flashpoint from the nuclear core of Forbes World 1,000 Billionaires, including Wall Street’s bank CEOs, private equity, hedge fund managers, their armies of high-paid lobbyists and all other special interests getting richer playing a very brutal “Game of Thrones” in Washington.
Yes, these brutal wars are fought daily for new storehouses of wealth in federal budget decisions, industry regulations, interest-rate adjustments, tax loopholes and waivers, stimulus grants, loan rebates — all with an over-powering impact on America’s GDP, $15 trillion economy and $3.5 trillion budget … and on your job, your career, your future.
Here are some examples of the Capitalist Shadow Kingdoms in action:
Capitalist battlefield for the Iron Throne of the Shadow Kingdoms
America’s Shadow Kingdoms have unlimited war chests to hire mercenary armies of lobbyists to fight their battles against the 535 elected members of Congress, the Federal Reserve System and the White House command center with its 23 Cabinet officers and more than 5,000 appointed presidential staffers. Lobbyists are at work everywhere influencing, manipulating, controlling, dominating these Washington political pawns.
Shadow armies vastly outnumber their political opponents. There are more than 13,000 registered, and a total of 42,000 de facto, lobbyists, and an estimated 261,000 in the “influence-lobbying complex” throughout America. No contest here. Not only do the capitalists mercenaries outnumber Washington pawns by 10 to 1 to 25 to 1, the compensation of lobbyists is usually several times the government workers’ pay, often in the millions, and many are former elected politicians and staffers who come with years of experience as well as huge war chests and the backing of powerful special interests.
1. Wall Street Shadow Banking Kingdom
In Mother Jones shortly after the 2008 bank bailout, Kevin Drum wrote the “Wall Street lobbyists don’t just have influence in Washington. They own it lock, stock, and barrel … Congress, the president and the Fed were persuaded to let all this happen in the first place.” Illinois Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin punctuated the point: “Even after nearly destroying the world banks are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill … frankly own the place.”
When bank lobbyists killed Glass-Steagall and deregulated derivatives in 1999: “Wall Street was officially turned into a casino. Banks could literally bet on anything.” Banks lobbied through the ‘80s and ‘90s, spent $209 million in 1998 alone, “got what they wanted,” and “were free to gamble customers’ funds in any way they wanted.” New York banks became “the world’s biggest hedge funds.”
Politicians turned into puppets: The Center for Responsive Politics says Sen. Charles Schumer got $1.7 million in donations from “Big Finance” back then, Sen. Harry Reid $1 million, Sen. Christopher Dodd, $745,000.
Drum calls lobbying “the world’s second-oldest profession.” In the voting booth it’s one-man-one-vote. In Washington’s “Game of Thrones” money buys votes. Big spenders? See OpenSecrets.org. In the 2011-2012 election cycle: Defense lobby, $27 million. Farm lobby, $90 million. Health care was the No. 2 at $260 million. The finance lobby was at the top with $656 million, over 10 times the $60 million two decades ago.
2. Health-care Industry’s Shadow Kingdom
When Obamacare was debated, the Center for Public Integrity wrote: “Lobbyists Swarm Capitol to Influence Health Reform … more than 1,750 companies and organizations hired about 4,525 lobbyists — eight for each member of Congress — to influence health-reform bills,” that included everyone in the industry, “health-care interests and advocacy groups to giant corporations, small businesses, American Indian tribes, religious groups, and universities.”
The Health-care Kingdom lobby has been merciless its war for the Iron Throne, attacking with a relentless barrage of drones: “Among industries, 207 hospitals lined up to lobby, followed by 105 insurance companies and 85 manufacturing companies. Trade, advocacy, and professional organizations trumped them all with 745 registered groups that lobbied on health-reform bills.”
Lobbying is fought on a costly battlefield and this Shadow Kingdom has the war chest for big wars.
3. Federal Reserve Bank’s Shadow Kingdom
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is perhaps the biggest lobbyist among all the new “Lobbyists for Capitalism,” ruling his Shadow Kingdom and its enormous power over printing fiat trillions, competing with both Congress and the White House for money, power, regulations, laws.
Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim wrote a great piece on the Fed’s incestuous hiring policies, the expanding monetary bubble and looming problems ahead: “How the Federal Reserve Bought the Economics Profession:” Bernanke and the Fed “through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession … This dominance helps explain how, even after the Fed failed to foresee the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the central bank has largely escaped criticism from academic economists,” and why they’re almost certain to miss the next one.
4. Pentagon War Machine Shadow Kingdom
The Defense Department’s war machine controls 48% of the federal budget, roughly 42% of the military budgets of all world nations combined. The Pentagon is a self-perpetuating Capitalist Kingdom armed with a huge lobbying machine that is virtually guaranteed a huge chunk of our tax dollars.
A few years ago BusinessWeek columnist Ben Elgin wrote: “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Pork! … Boeing’s C-17 cargo aircraft cost $250 million apiece. The Pentagon says it has plenty.” But politicians only see jobs, votes, not waste.
No wonder it’s virtually impossible for a president to kill a project that provides jobs in 43 states, especially in a struggling slow-growth economy. Here the Pentagon War Machine lobbyists were in a bizarre conspiracy with politicians, labor unions, and government contractors in those 43 states. And with more than four times as many private federal contractors (over seven million) than related government workers (maybe a million and a half) we just keep wasting tax dollars.
The latest boondoggle, lobbyists pushing to keep making Bradley Tanks the Pentagon doesn’t need or want.
5. Chamber of Commerce Shadow Kingdom
Los Angeles Times columnist Tom Hamburger reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s mercenary lobbyists are “building a large-scale grass-roots political operation that has begun to rival those of the major political parties, funded by record-setting amounts of money raised from corporations and wealthy individuals,” rapidly signing some 6 million. A new “Friends of the U.S. Chamber, has been used to generate more than a million letters and e-mails to members of Congress,” initially to kill Obamacare.
“What makes this initiative possible is a swelling tide of money. The chamber spent more than $144 million on lobbying and grass-roots organizing … a 60% increase over 2008, and well beyond the spending of individual labor unions or the Democratic or Republican national committees.” And the Chamber Kingdom is expected to just keep expanding it’s power.
6. Energy’s Anti-Environment, Anti-Science Shadow Kingdom
Writing in Yes Magazine, James Hoggan, co-author of “Climate Cover-up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming,” asked: “Who’s Polluting the Climate Conversation? Money, Think tanks, and the Scientists-for-Hire Behind the Doubt and Denial.” The “loudest voices … dirty energy industries, with their paid experts and think tanks, who are promoting a view of science that serves their economic interests, regardless of what is actually true.”
Earlier this year Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell wrote: “As the World Burns: How Big Oil and Big Coal mounted one of the most aggressive lobbying campaigns in history to block progress on global warming … 2,800 lobbyists fighting climate-change legislation, vs 138 for alternative energy. The conservative Heritage Foundation, “long a purveyor of junk science favored by the energy industry,” got $500,000 from Exxon-Mobil and $3 million from Koch oil refineries.
7. New Shadow Kingdom of Black Swans and Dragons
So who among the mercenary warriors in Washington is the righteous Seventh Kingdom battling for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms? Agribusiness? Local Governments? High-Tech? Telecom? Maybe an unpredictable Black Swan will end these brutal wars empowering Capitalism at the expense of Democracy? Or maybe some new Kingdom will not only end the internecine wars of the Seven but reclaim the Iron Throne of Democracy?
Discover the truth by returning to Martin’s epic, there you will see the future in the return to power of Daenerys, the last survivor of Targaryen, the “Mother of Dragons” in the “Game of Thrones” … as she buys the “Unsullied,” an elite army of slave warriors set free … as she goes to war to reclaim her family’s lost throne … as she battles with the six Shadow Kingdoms.
Join Daenerys, go and speculate, with her you may also see the coming collapse of capitalism … but will you?
Paul B. Farrell is a MarketWatch columnist based in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Follow him on Twitter @MKTWFarrell.