Even in an Occupy world, most Americans don’t know exactly how the 1 percent does what it does. The money media haven’t explained it, and the 1 percent likes things that way.
That’s how Robert Greenwald explained why he and the Brave New Foundation created a new video series. Each short video—one minute apiece—lays out the truth about a different one-percenter. They let their audience choose the subjects. They solicited suggestions on nominees, narrowed them down to thirty, and let their audience vote. The new videos represent five of the top vote-getters, with more videos on the way.
Jamie Dimon, the infamous CEO of JPMorgan Chase, is back to doing what he does best: defending the bankers of the 1% against the petulant 99%. “Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I just don’t get it,” he said at a recent investors conference. “Sometimes there’s a bad apple, yet we denigrate the whole.”
Dimon says this as if he’s not one of the baddest apples in the barrel. Let’s review a few of his misdeeds:
Under his leadership, JPMorgan Chase “misled” investors (that’s “defrauded,” in plain English) on mortgage sales to help spur the financial crisis. The company then successfully lobbied for a $25 billion bailout and $391 billion in virtually interest-free loans.
He leaked false information about Washington Mutual’s finances so he could buy the company at a bargain price.
JPMorgan Chase was part of the “robo-signing” scandal in which banks foreclosed on homes without verifying that such action was legal and justified.
He hid the fact that one of JPMorgan Chase’s risky derivatives deals, known as “Squared,” was actually designed in part by a hedge fund that bet against a good chunk of the deal.
JPMorgan Chase recently engaged in bid-rigging and made illegal payments to win bond deals from municipal governments across the country.
This staggering lack of self-awareness is not limited to Dimon. A spate of one-percenters have been defending their tarnished image by insisting that they’re the ones who create jobs and allow the economy to succeed. They’re calling their critics “imbeciles” and saying an attack on them is an attack on “the very productive.”
Let’s forget, for a moment, that jobs are actually created when middle-class and lower-income consumers have enough money in their pockets to drive up demand. Let’s just look at what some of worst of the 1% have done to exploit the 99% and make our economy worse, not better.
Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs touted mortgage assets to clients while privately betting $10 billion they’d fail — fostering the kind of excessive risk-taking that caused the financial meltdown. Oh, and then he lied to Congress about it.
Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Financial deceived investors into buying risky “subprime” mortgages, leading to thousands of foreclosures. He kept the law off his back by allowing key senators to take out mortgages for which the usual fees and rules didn’t apply.
Brian Moynihan of Bank of America overcharged customers for overdraft fees and kicked up to 10,000 people out of their homes illegally.
Darrell Issa, a Congressman from California who’s worth between $240-500 million, pressured federal regulators to back off a lawsuit against Goldman Sachs while holding millions in company assets. He also intervened in Congress on behalf of Merrill Lynch while being a major customer of the firm.
Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto, has established a virtual monopoly on the food supply by putting his company’s patented, genetically modified seed in about 95% of U.S. soybeans, 80% of U.S. corn, and massive amounts of other crops. Indeed, his company is helping destroy the American heartland by intimidating small farmers with frivolous lawsuits and intense pressure not to work with Monsanto’s competitors. (The ideal of “competitive markets” is invoked only when a company is trying to avoid regulation.)
This list could go on, of course — and it does, at the Who Are the 1 Percent website, where people are voting to determine which corporate bad guys I’ll make videos exposing. We started this vote, which will close by Christmas, to fight those who are making their fortunes on the backs of the 99%. Jamie Dimon is one of our nominees, and those who visit the site can rate him and many others on a scale of “ho-hum” to “pure evil.”
After all, the so-called “bad apples” actually reflect a systemic problem: those who use their wealth for destructive purposes are rewarded instead of punished, even when their tactics are illegal. Wealth doesn’t always come from making products that people enjoy or investing in small companies à la George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. Things really are worse for the 99% because of a rigged system that allows certain rich people to play by different rules than everyone else.
So, Jamie Dimon, are you bad just because you’re successful? No. You’re bad because your success comes at everyone else’s expense. You’re right about one thing, though: you just don’t get it.
Our vote on the 1% has been vigorous since it started last week, with thousands of people rating nominees representing Wall Street, dirty energy, war profiteering, and more. We’re going to make videos exposing the ones our audience thinks are doing the most to exploit the 99% — and so far, the most unpopular of the bunch are media mogul Rupert Murdoch and the democracy-crushing Koch Brothers.
Murdoch, whom we’ve dubbed “the Propagandist,” has a net worth of about $7.4 billion and uses his right-wing media empire to put ideology over truth. One commenter at our voting website assailed him for using “sensationalism, fear, lies, and distortions to achieve” his ideological ends.
Charles and David Koch, “the Puppeteers,” are familiar to Brave New Foundation fans who have seen our Koch Brothers Exposed campaign, which details how their factories spew obscene amounts of pollution while giving them the wealth (about $50 billion) to bankroll groups fighting worker rights, climate change science, and Wall Street regulation.
We’ve got a lot of great (or rather, awful) nominees, but these two are in the lead because, as commenter Sharonc put it, “they foster and enable all the other people on the list.” On a rating scale of “ho-hum” to “pure evil,” our audience has given both Murdoch and the Koch brothers an average rating of…pure evil.
Who else do you want us expose? Which financial fraudster? Which big polluter? Which union buster? Which hedge fund operator? Tell us by rating our nominees.
Here’s who’s now rounding out the top ten — for now:
Dick Cheney (Halliburton/White House): Did business with brutal regimes in Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Burma–then became Vice President and took a massive payday from his former company.
Rush Limbaugh: Spews racist bile while making about $1 million a week.
Erik Prince (Blackwater/Xe): Oversaw mercenary force that killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.
Rob Walton (Walmart): Busts unions and underpays workers yet has net worth of $21 billion.
Jamie Dimon (JPMorgan Chase): Defrauded customers on mortgages, then took $25 billion bailout.
Paul Singer (Elliott Hedge Fund Management): Buys poor countries’ defaulted debt for cheap and then forces full payment, plus interest.
Angelo Mozilo (Countrywide Financial): deceived investors into buying risky “subprime” mortgages, leading to thousands of foreclosures and contributing to the recession.
The vote is far from over, though. Nominees like Darrell Issa, Pete Peterson, and Hugh Grant (the Monsanto CEO, not the English charmer) are nipping at their heels. But we can expose only the worst ones. Who will it be? Tell us.
Brave New Foundation recently launched WhoAreTheOnePercent.com, and the voting process for determining the top one-percenters is now live. Robert Greenwald and Thom Hartmann discuss the latest with this campaign.
Brave New Foundation (BNF) has launched a new campaign that lets you vote for who you think is the most dangerous member of the top 1 percent. Included among the nominees are oil billionaires and right-wing magnates Charles & David Koch, JP MorganChase CEO Jamie Rubin, and Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein. Brave New Foundation will make a series of videos investigating the members of the one percent who get the most votes. BNF has made a promotional video for the campaign. Watch it:
We at Brave New Foundation have launched a website where you can vote on some of the most infamous members of the 1% — financial fraudsters, union-busters, weapons contractors, and more. Then we’ll make a series of videos exposing the ones that you rank as the very worst. As our friends at Fox News might put it: We film. You decide.
Let’s look at some examples. Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, is one of our nominees. He touted mortgage assets to clients while privately betting $10 billion they’d fail. Then he lied to Congress by claiming that Goldman Sachs had not, in fact, bet against its own clients. These actions helped spur the excessive risk-taking that led to the financial meltdown and put millions out of a job.
Or take a look at Paul Singer, who has earned the nickname “the vulture capitalist.” He exploits poor nations by buying their defaulted debt for cheap and forcing them to pay in full–plus interest. The Congo was one of Singer’s victims. That country had just gotten out of a civil war and half of its citizens live on less than a dollar a day. To Singer, that was a business opportunity. He bought the Congo’s debt for pennies on the dollar and then sued to win far, far more than he had paid for it.
Of course, simply bandying names about isn’t the point. The point is that the activists fueling social movements like Occupy need to be able to understand exactly how oppression works and which individuals are controlling the process. Where would our nation be if, in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, activists had spoken only of the systemic issue of segregation and didn’t have George Wallace and Bull Connor to single out as perpetrators? We at Brave New Foundation are helping build a narrative so that citizens can draw a straight line between the cheats and bullies misusing their wealth and the economic predicament in which our country is now ensnared.
We aren’t alone in this effort. Our partners include progressive media truth tellers like AlterNet, TruthOut, the Nation, PoliticusUSA, CARE2, the Center for Media and Democracy, the Young Turks, Campaign for America’s Future, Free Speech TV, Thom Hartmann, and MichaelMoore.com.
So who do you think deserves to be exposed? Vote and make your voice heard. With the Occupy movement at a critical point, this is the moment to double down on illuminating our nation’s vast inequalities and–just as important–how things got this way. This is a chance to take our democracy back.