Saturday, January 08, 2022

Who Wants To Play Monopoly?


I'm sure everyone has played the Parker Brothers board game "Monopoly" and tried to dominate all the properties and garner as much of the money as possible, but I'm not talking about board games. I'm talking about real life monopoly where a handful of individuals or corporations own the lion's share of the marketplace. Have you ever wondered who the real life monopoly players were? Well, if so, read on.

As many of you should know, only six corporations own 90%+ of all media. That includes movies, video games, publishers, magazines, newspapers, TV, cable, and practically all news outlets. That means just six corporations whose political and social agendas shape or influence our opinions on nearly every issue. To put it another way, those six corporations call the tune that we are forced to dance to.

While it's possible to find outside sources, most Americans either don't know where to look or they're too tired from work or just to frustrated to bother. Besides, most "go to" sources out there are biased one way or the other. There are too few non-partisan sources, such as this one, to go to. That means many American's turn to various distractions such at TV, videos or video games, movies, and so on; all of which are owned by those very same six corporations and reflect their political agendas.

So, if we weren't going to watch TV or play video games, what are we going to do? How about heading to the refrigerator for something to eat? Well, hate to break it to you, but you have the same problem. Four corporations control just over 50% of the market representing 79% of the groceries we buy. Not only that, just four companies---Walmart, Kroger, Costco, and Ahold Delhaize (the parent of companies like Food Lion, Giant Food, Stop & Shop, and Freshdirect) control 65% of the retail market.

As an aside, farmers receive only 15 cents of every dollar consumers spend on groceries. The rest goes for processing and marketing. Meanwhile, farmers received approximately $424.4 billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies from 1995 to 2020 (that includes $20 billion just under the Trump Administration). However, the majority of that money didn't go to the average small family farm. It went to the largest 15% of corporate owned farms which typically earn a million dollars or more a year.

In terms of meat processing, four companies---JBS, Tyson, Cargill, and  Marfrig---control  85% of the market while three companies, JBS, Tyson, and Hormel, control 66% of the pork market and four companies---JBS, Tyson, Purdue, and Sanderson Farms--- control 51% of the poultry industry. The same report points out that five corporations control 85% of processed pork market in Germany.

JBS alone received $78 million dollars in taxpayer based subsidies as part of a farm bailout during a trade war with China. JBS is 20% owned by the Brazilian Development Bank. In 2017, Brazilian authorities handed out the highest fines ever against JBS officials on corruption charges, including the bribery of 1,900 government officials. 

In terms of agrochemicals, such as fertilizer, four companies----ChemChina, Bayer, BASF, and Corveta own 65.8% of the market. The same companies, plus Limagrain, dominate 53.2 of the commercial seed market. In the world of "animal pharma", which makes veterinary supplies, medicines, and devices for farm and other animals, 58.3% of the market is controlled by only five companies, Zoetis, Elanco, Boehringer, Ingelheim, and Merck.

While Cargill, a global food company, is privately held, most of the other key players are owned by investment firms, banks, and pension funds; investing to the tune of $478 billion dollars in the meat and dairy market from 2015 to 2020. The major investors are Blackrock, Capital Group, Vanguard, and Norway's government pension fund! By the way, thanks to the blunder which is Citizens United, the food industry spent $175 million dollars lobbying government officials and making campaign contributions during the 2020 election cycle.

When it comes to the tech industry, which impacts nearly everything, just five companies virtually dominate the entire industry. Those companies are Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.

Between them, they control or influence around 80% of the technology we use every day. In fact, their combined wealth makes up 15% of the entire S&P 500. I bet no one is laughing at those high school geeks now! Of course, the tech industry, like everything else, needs electricity to operate. So who dominates the energy market?

The three primary sources of energy for the United States is oil, natural gas, and coal, with oil and gas accounting for 60% of all energy produced and used.  Renewable energy such as wind, hydro, and solar makes up a tiny fraction of America's energy source, and if the leading companies controlling the energy market have any say in it (and they do), renewable sources will never be a major player.

The industrial sector makes use of 32% of all energy produced. This is followed by the transportation sector which uses 29%,  which is closely followed by the residential sector which uses around 20%. The commercial sector, which includes businesses, hospitals, schools, etc., consumes 18%.

When it comes to production of all this energy, the largest global company is ExxonMobil, followed by Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Total, and British Petroleum. PetroChina and Sinopec make up the sixth and seventh spots. Others in the top 20 producers include a third Chinese company, CNOOC Limited (15th), Italy's Eni (10th), and Halliburton, a U.S. company, in 20th place. Together these 20 companies nearly dominate the entire energy industry.

You may be interested to learn that the oil and gas industry donated around $8,708,787.00 dollars in the 2020 election cycle. Of that Donald Trump received $3,773,155.00. Joe Biden, the only Democrat to receive money among the top five candidates, got a paltry $1,609,976.

The oil and gas industry gave $63.6 million dollars to the Republican Party while the Democrat Party got just $13.3 million dollars during the 1990 to 2020 election cycles. Thus far in the 2021/22 election, the GOP has received $8 million compared to the Democrat's $2.4 million. How's that for influence buying? 

With all that money, it's got to go somewhere! So, who are movers and shakers in the financial industry? The financial industry is highly diverse. It includes everything from banks, to fund managers, to holding companies, insurance companies (commercial and retail), to lenders and collection agencies. 

However, if we're looking at assets held or controlled, there are roughly 30 or so leading companies which dominate the U.S. financial market. The top ten (from tenth to first) are Blackrock, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, JP Morgan Chase, Visa, and Berkshire Hathaway. Also in the top 30 are Travelers (29th), Capital One (23rd), and Goldman Sachs (13th).

Globally, it's a slightly different story. While Berkshire Hathaway is still number one, the next five companies are all Chinese (Ping An Insurance Group, ICBC Banking, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, and China Life Insurance). Next is the German company (and the parent of my old company, Euler Hermes) Allianz, which is a financial conglomerate.  

In eighth place is another Chinese company, Bank of China, followed by JP Morgan Chase, and AXA Insurance. Other companies in the top 30 include 12 American companies, eight Chinese, four French, four English, four Japanese, two German, two Canadian, and a smattering of Indian, Italian, Swiss, Spanish, and Dutch. Notably absent are those from Hong Kong, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, or Singapore.

As we all know, nothing happens in Washington without palms getting greased in one fashion or another. As with any other industry, the financial sector made its presence felt in the 2020 election cycle. Wall Street executives, directly, trade associations, PACs, lobbying, and so forth, spent $2.9 billion on the 2020 election cycle. Of that, $1.9 billion went specifically to candidates running for a federal office. 

47% of that $1.9 billion went to Republican candidates while 53% went to Democrats, with $74 million going to Joe Biden. So much for the Democratic Party being one of the working class! If we were to include money coming from the real estate investors and insurance companies, along with the financial industry, the money spent jumps up to $250 million dollars to support Biden.

 Meanwhile, "The Donald", who made his living in real estate investment and development, received only $103 million from those same industries. Five U.S. senators received a combined $300 million, including Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

The same study showed that lobbying efforts by these same industries spent a whooping $932 million dollars for the same election cycle. Who spent the most? Apparently the top spenders were Blackstone, American Bankers Association, Charles Schwab, Susquehanna International, Bain Capital, and Renaissance Technologies. All I can say is that I hope they got what they paid for (well, maybe not).

Some groups and individuals would have you believe that America is "turning socialist" (or Communist. They use the two different ideologies interchangeably). Obviously if that was true, none of the above would be happening since socialism is the ownership of production by the workers and Communism is the ownership of everything by the state.

America is a Corportracy, a form of fascism, meaning a close partnership or even "hand-in-glove" relationship between corporations and government. As you'll note from the above, that's clearly what we have. Like any system, it has managers or overseers. Those managers are the uber wealthy Oligarchs who own or control these corporations. What they want they get, and it's usually at our expense.

Studies have shown that, on average, the wealthiest 10% of American's typically get what they want from government about 65% of the time. When average American's oppose a policy the super wealthy support (like the Wall Street bailout under President Obama), the rich usually win as they did in that instance.  The same argument can be made when it comes to tax cuts, low/no interest federal loans, bailouts, subsidizes, or foreign policy matters.

This isn't the work of would-be "socialists" or Communists. This is the work of an powerful and unbelievably rich Oligarchy where party means absolutely nothing except a means to divide us. They have an agenda and it's not the restoration of our former Republic or furthering the spread of democracy. This is about power and control. As George Carlin once said, "it's a big club and you and I ain't in it".  It's time we had our own club. It's time we stop playing Monopoly by their rules.

If you want to know more, please take a look at the links below. If you enjoyed the article, please consider passing along to others and don't forget to subscribe. It's free! Lastly please be sure to "like" us on Facebook or whatever platform you use to read A/O. It helps with the algorithms and keeps our articles in circulation.


Companies: dominating the market from farm to display case

America's food monopolies and power imbalances

Just a Few Companies Control the Meat Industry. Can a NewApproach Level the Playing Field?

GAFAM: The Big Five Tech Companies Facts

Lobbying spending of oil and gas companies in the UnitedStates

Disturbing data: The rich and powerful get their policiesadopted even if opposed by most voters

The Top 30 largest US financial companies in 2021

List of the largest financial services companies by revenue

Wall Street execs, employees spent $2.9 billion to influenceWashington during the 2020 election, study shows

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