Thursday, November 15, 2018

Operation Inherent Resolve - Creating Terrorists

According to legislation passed by Congress in January 2013, the position of Lead Inspector General was created to oversee America's overseas contingency operations.  Under this legislation, the Inspectors General of the Department of Defense, Department of State and United States Agency for International Development must supply reports to Congress on a quarterly basis for certain operations.  The most recent report supplies us with a very interesting look at the American-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) which has the following mission:

"In conjunction with partner forces Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) defeats ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and sets conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability."

In Iraq, American forces are partnered with the Iraqi Army and Air Force, the Counter Terrorism Service, the Federal Police and the Kurdish Peshmerga.  In Syria, American forces are partnered with the Syrian Democratic Forces and their partner, the Syrian Arab Coalition.  Their mission includes:

"...disrupting the Islamic State's ability to command and control fighters, remove their safe havens, interrupt their revenue streams that fund their operations, destroy their equipment and kill their fighters.  The ultimate goal is to eliminate their effectiveness as an organized force on the battlefield."

The Department of Defense has repeatedly stated that its goal under Operation Inherent Resolve is to achieve the "enduring defeat" of the Islamic State.

According to Syria Live Map, ISIS is now controlling a relatively small part of the sparsely populated border frontier between Syria and Iraq:

This is a substantial improvement over the presence of ISIS back in October 2015 as shown on this map:

One would think that Operation Inherent Resolve has been a resounding success.  According to the most recent report from the Lead Inspector General (Lead IG), ISIS now controls only one percent of the territory that it once held in Syria.  However, there are substantial caveats to this success which is reflected in the Lead Inspector General's most recent report.  Let's look at them in turn:

1.) ISIS has now moved underground and has maintained its bureaucratic structures and fund- raising   abilities (i.e. drug trafficking, extortion, cash reserves) in place.  The Lead IG notes that this has raised concerns about the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces to operate without the assistance of the United States, raising the concerns of a resurgence of the Islamic State.  This raises questions about the "enduring defeat" of ISIS and how long it will be necessary for American troops to remain in both Iraq and Syria.

2.) The Islamic State's retention of desert terrain along the border frontier between Syria and Iraq allows their fighters to launch insurgency-style attacks against U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic forces in northeast Syria.  ISIS also retains its ability to operate in Iraq between Anbar and Diyala provinces with both desert and mountain terrain making it difficult for Iraqi Security Forces to defeat them.  The report notes that it could take years to eliminate ISIS from rural Syria and Iraq.

3.) A lower than expected outflow of foreign fighters from ISIS suggests that many of them are hiding in plain sight in sympathetic communities in both Iraq and Syria.

Let's close this section with a quote from the report:

"With ISIS defeated territorially in Iraq and remaining only in small pockets in Syria, the United States and the United Nations this quarter emphasized concerns that the terrorist organization was successfully moving underground.  A report drafted by a UN Security Council monitoring committee stated in July that ISIS was in the process of “reverting from a proto-State structure to a covert network.”  The report said that despite territorial losses in 2018, ISIS had “rallied,” due in part to a brief loss of momentum by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and was able to “prepare for the next phase of its evolution into a global covert network.”

The DoD reported to the DoD OIG this quarter that ISIS transitioned to a clandestine insurgency in Iraq and was no longer conducting conventional operations.  In Syria, the DoD said, ISIS continued to function as a “hybrid conventional fighting force”—operating both as soldiers and insurgents—in areas of Syria that remain under its control.  The DoD also said ISIS was working to “bolster its sleeper cells” and predicted that ISIS remnants would continue to operate as “geographically dispersed criminal gangs that clandestinely seek to return to insurgent operations.”" (my bold)

It is estimated that ISIS membership still ranges between 20,000 and 30,000 members, roughly equally split between Syria and Iraq.  The ability of these members to take effective actions is classified by the Department of Defense so we have no real idea of their capabilities to rebuild or reinvent themselves as an insurgent force.

In September, Congress appropriated $1.35 billion, down 23 percent from fiscal 2018 levels, to the Counter-ISIS Train and Equip Fund which supports the Department of Defense's fight against ISIS in both Syria and Iraq.  This fund provides assistance to vetted Syrian opposition fighters, the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga.  The Iraqi Security Forces are heavily reliant on American-sourced intelligence operations to launch their attacks against ISIS and the Department of Defense notes that it will take "...a generation of Iraqi officers with continuous exposure to Coalition (i.e. American) advisors to change cultures and institutions that inhibit the establishment of a self-reliant Iraqi fighting force."  In the case of Syria, the sectarian divisions in the nation could make it vulnerable to an ISIS-led insurgency which could bolster ISIS' ability to rebuild itself.   

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Islamic State has evolved from a more-or-less conventional fighting force to an insurgency/terrorist force that likely still retains its abilities to act as both locally and internationally, one of the unintended consequences of meddling in the Middle East.  If Washington is truly serious about eliminating any future threat from ISIS, it appears that the American military will be on the front lines of the conflict for decades to come.  Additionally, given the Islamic State's ability to morph into an insurgency force, one would almost think that Washington has forgotten the hard-learned lessons that were taught by the creation of al Qaeda out of the remains of Afghanistan's anti-Russian mujahideen, wouldn't one?

So much for the ideas of "increasing regional stability" and the "enduring defeat" of ISIS.   

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

How Palestinians and Israelis View Each Other and the Prospect for Lasting Peace

With the Gaza-Israel conflict regularly rearing its deadly head and with Israel's military having an obvious advantage over the Palestinians , a brief look at how Israel views its neighbours will provide us with a better understanding of the conflict.

Each of the two sides in the Palestine - Israel conflict has its own narrative which is used to justify the actions that it takes.  In the case of Israel, they claim the constant threats to their civilians, their historical attachment to the land that goes back to Biblical times and the promise of God, the 1948 partition plan implemented by the United Nation and the necessity of having a homeland which will protect them from a repetition of the Second World War holocaust.  Palestinians focus on their unceremonious removal from the lands that they held for hundreds of years, their continued subjugation at the hands of Israel, the restrictions on trade that have punished their economy and the military imbalance that results in the deaths of far more Palestinians than Israelis.  As well, both sides downgrade the suffering of the other side; the Israelis rationalize their occupation of their Promised Land by minimizing the impact of their condescension toward Palestinians who are treated much like Jews were treated by Germans during the Second World War and the Palestinians rationalize their refusal to accept opportunities for a peaceful solution and their rabidly anti-Israel leadership.

Much of the conflict between the two groups can be attributed to the Six-Day War.  Israel's conquering of Gaza and the West Bank resulted in the "acquisition" of 661,700 West Bank inhabitants and 354,700 Gaza Strip inhabitants (according to Israel's 1967 census).  Under United Nation Resolution 242, Israel was to withdraw to the 1967 borders as shown here:

Since it is pretty obvious that Israel has no intention of withdrawing from either the Gaza or the West Bank, let's look at how Israelis and Palestinians feel about each other and the prospect for a two- state solution from a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research:

1.) Support for a two-state solution: support stands at 46 percent among both Palestinians and Israeli Jews.  This is down from 51 percent of Palestinians and 58.5 percent of Israelis in 2016.  Among Israeli Arabs, support stands at 83 percent.  

2.) Support for a permanent peace agreement package: The peace package includes a de-militarized Palestinian state, an Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line with equal territorial exchange, family unification in Israel of 100,000 Palestinian refugees, West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Temple Mount under Palestinian sovereignty and the Jewish Quarter and Western wall under Israeli control.  Support for this package stands at 40 percent for Palestinians and 35 percent of Israeli Jews.  This compares to 39 percent of Palestinians and 46 percent of Israeli Jews in 2016.  Among Israeli Arabs, support stands at 85 percent.

Here is a graphic showing how Israeli and Palestinian support for the peace package has varied with time:

Interestingly, only 23 percent of Israeli Jews support the concept of a split Jerusalem as a capital city and 66 percent oppose the arrangements for splitting the Old City of Jerusalem.

3.) Viability of a two-state solution in light of the Israeli settlements: 42 percent of Israelis and 60 percent of Palestinians believe that settlements have spread too much for the two-state solution to be viable.

Here is a graphic showing how the support for a two-state solution varies with Palestinian political affiliation:

Here is a graphic showing how the support for a two-state solution varies with Jewish religiosity:

4.) Expectations of the establishment of a Palestinian state in the next five years: 75 percent of Palestinians and 73 percent of Israeli Jews do not believe that a Palestinian state will be established in the next five years.  

5.) Armed struggle: 38 percent (up from 20 percent in 2017) of Palestinians opt to wage an armed struggle against Israeli occupation and 18 percent (up from 12 percent in 2017) of Israeli Jews called for a definitive war with the Palestinians.

6.) Fear toward the other side: 46 percent of Palestinians fear Israeli soldiers and armed settlers compared to 57 percent of Israeli Jews who fear Palestinians.  Among Jewish settlers, 79 percent feel fear towards Palestinians. 

7.) General conditions in the Palestinian Territories: 69 percent of Gaza Palestinians and 72 percent of West Bank Palestinians describe conditions in their respective home territories as bad or very bad with a significant increase from 46 percent in June 2017 for Palestinians living in the West Bank.  Among Israeli Jews, 46 percent describe conditions as good or very good.

As we can see from this posting, there is a significant worsening of the attitudes of both Israeli Jews and Palestinians towards each other and the prospect of a lasting and peaceful solution to a war that took place prior to the lives of many Israelis and Palestinians.   

In closing, here is an interesting video that clearly shows the Israeli attitude toward its Palestinian neighbours:

While every American administration since 1948 has proclaimed that it has the ultimate solution to the Middle East brouhaha, it is pretty clear that, unless there is a significant change in the mindset of both Israeli Jews and Palestinians, there is no hope for a peaceful resolution of a five decade-long crisis.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sanctions on Iran's Oil - The Unintended Consequences

With the United States putting sanctions on Iran's oil production, a move that has driven a wedge between Washington and its European allies, National Security Advisor John Bolton has weighed in yet again on Iran as shown here:

Here's a quote:

"I think the sanctions in the aggregate are already having an enormous effect on Iran. You know, when the president announced we were withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in May of this year, big businesses that had prospects or even some trade and investment with Iran weren’t going to wait for the sanctions actually to take effect. They’ve pulled out. They’ve cut back in many ways, and I think we’ve already seen the consequences in Iran. The rial, the currency’s declined about 70 percent since the sanctions, inflation has quadrupled, the country is in recession. You’re seeing riots and demonstrations all around the country just provoked by ordinary citizens. So I think this is going to cut into Iran’s ability to continue their nuclear program, the financed terrorism, and to engage in military activity around the Middle East, and I think we’re already seeing that."

One would almost get the impression that Mr. Bolton is positively gleeful over the suffering that American-led (American-forced) sanctions have created for Iranian civilians.

When looking at the oil import waivers which have been generously granted by Washington to China, India, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece, Taiwan and Turkey, here's what Mr. Bolton had to say:

"The aim is to drive Iranian oil exports to zero. We're working with other countries to get alternative supplies for countries that are buying and I think that's critical over an extended period of time. 

I think we've said for a long time, zero should mean zero. But some countries that, for the last three or four years, had been able to purchase oil from Iran needs some time to get down to zero. 

These are not permanent waivers, no way, we're going to do everything we can to squeeze Iran hard.  As the British say, to make -- to squeeze them until the Pips (ph) squeak.

...Rick Perry and the Energy department have done a fantastic job since the president pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal to talk to other countries, to get their production up, to find oil that's suitable for the refineries in countries that had been purchasing from Iran. We've ramped up our own production in America. I think we can get to a point where nobody responsible needs to buy oil from Iran." (my bolds)

Let's look at some background.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Iran has the world's fourth-largest proven reserves of oil totalling 157 billion barrels.  This is nearly 10 percent of the world's total crude oil reserves and 13 percent of OPEC's reserves.  In 2017, Iran produced nearly 4.7 million barrels of oil and other liquids per day in 2017.

Here is a map showing Iran's largest oil fields:

Iran also has 0.5 billion barrels of proved and probable oil reserves in the Caspian Sea but very little upstream activity has taken place to exploit these resources.

Here is a map showing Iran's oil infrastructure:

Here is a graphic showing how Iran's oil production has been impacted by sanctions since 2011:

Here is a graphic showing Iran's monthly crude oil and condensate exports:

Iran resumed exporting oil to Europe in 2016 following the signing and implementation of the JCPOA nuclear deal.  At that time, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Poland and Spain resumed their purchases of Iranian oil.

Lastly, here is a graphic showing the destinations for Iran's oil export in 2017:

With Donald Trump being front and centre in the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, let's take a quick look at what he had to say about high global oil prices:

If we think that oil prices are high now, just think how high will they climb when millions of barrels of Iranian oil are taken off the market every day, particularly given that global oil demand keeps rising as shown here:

Let's close this posting with response by Javad Zarif, Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the imposition of the most recent sanctions by the United States:

Here's a quote:

"We have weathered difficult times in the face of 40 years of American hostility relying solely on our own resources, and today we and our partners across the globe will ensure that our people are least affected by this indiscriminate assault in the economic warfare that directly targets the Iranian people.

...the unconditional support for two clients, Saudi Arabia and Israel, blinds the U.S. to their appalling atrocities that have resulted in global indignation and engendered insecurity to us all, the U.S. itself included."

Seeing that Iran has such massive oil reserves and an oil infrastructure that has been widely undercapitalized over the past forty years, one has to wonder what Washington's real agenda is in Iran.  What exactly is the Trump Administration's end game?  As we all know, sometimes Washington's political actions result in unintended consequences; in this case, potentially creating the perfect environment for higher oil prices.  Additionally, given that Iran has remained a state outside the control of Washington for the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama and Trump Administrations, I would suggest that without drastic actions, Iran's leadership is not leaving anytime soon. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Peace Behind Me, War in Front of Me - China Prepares for War

A rather interesting new video began to circulate in China on August 1, 2018, the nation's Army Day.  Here is the video "I am a Chinese Soldier" in all of its nationalistic glory:

There is no English version of this video, however, I think that you can generally get the idea from the scenes presented.  Fortunately, the fine folks at National Interest have translated the narration for us:

"Who am I?

I am the one the mother cannot reach at the door.

I am the wife who is reluctant to hang up the phone.

I am a stranger who dares not approach in the eyes of my son.

I am the concern and pride of my loved ones.

Peace behind me, war in front of me.

Pick up the steel gun, we must let go of the children.

Put on the military uniform, we must give up comfort and ease.

Fighting the battlefield, the character of the man.

From the military to the country, there is no regret in this life.

I am a Chinese soldier.

I am a soldier of the people.

I am the guardian of a good life."

I would have to say that the line "Peace behind me, war in front of me" is the most sobering part of the narration; it clearly states that, from the Chinese perspective, war is inevitable.  The video which clearly shows off the nation's high tech weaponry also outlines the sacrifices that members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) will make as they serve their nation and their people.

According to Global Firepower, China is ranked number three out of 136 nations considered to be a military power, following the United States in first place and Russia in second place.  Here are a few key statistics about China's military and its ultimate manpower potential, a key part of any war:

- 2.183 million active personnel
- 510,000 reserve personnel
- 2.693 million total military personnel
- 19.55 million reaching military age
- 619 million fit-for-service
- 750 million available for service

Let's compare this to the United States:

- 1.282 million active personnel
- 801,220 reserve personnel
- 2.083 million total military personnel
- 4.22 million reaching military age
- 120.025 million fit-for-service
- 145.215 million available for service

...and Russia:

- 1.014 million active personnel
- 2.573 reserve personnel
- 3.586 million total military personnel
- 1.355 million reaching military age
- 47 million fit-for-service
- 70 million available for service

Obviously, in a long war with high rates of attrition, the nation with the most human resources to draw from is more likely to win if all else is equal (or more-or-less equal).  Given America's history of a shrinking military when measured in terms of manpower, this could prove to be yet another problem if the United States decides to declare war against one (or more, God help us) of its current headline enemies as shown here:

Here is an interesting quote from John Spencer, a former infantry company commander in Iraq, about the servicemen that he was forced to lead:

"In 2008, when I was an infantry company commander in charge of over 140 soldiers in Baghdad, I saw firsthand how the declining number of volunteers is hurting the military. Thirty-six of my men were forced to deploy even though their terms of service were up, a controversial military policy known as “stop loss” or the “back door draft.” To meet the bare minimum number of soldiers, my unit took men who were medically unfit to fight. I had soldiers that could not leave our compound because they were medically prohibited from wearing their body armor or classified as mentally unfit. I had soldiers taking anti-depression, sleeping, anxiety and other drugs. I had a mentally unstable private viciously attack his sergeant, causing lifelong damage, and multiple other problem soldiers that detracted from the combat performance of my unit. This was symptomatic throughout the Army."

He also notes that the current difficulties facing the United States in its attempts to assemble a full force dates back to 1973 when the draft was eliminated.

Under the current reality, it will be interesting to see if the United States adopts a divide and conquer strategy with China and Russia, partnering up with one of its two current foes since, at the very least, it is clearly out-manned and is increasingly under threat technologically.  Given that any war with either foe will most like be fought in foreign territory, the United States faces the ever present logistical problems of recruiting and transporting sufficient military personnel into the theatre of operations in a very short timeframe to push back any moves by opposing forces. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The China - Pakistan Economic Corridor and the New Global Trade Reality

While it got zero traction in the Western media, the announcement of a recent strategic trade partnership between Pakistan and China would appear to be a harbinger of how the world will continue to work around the United States trade agenda.

Here is the announcement dated November 5, 2018 as reported on Pakistan's Ministry of Information web portal:

Here is the key sentence:

"He pointed out that both the sides have agreed to do trade in Chinese currency which will help reduce burden on our foreign exchange reserves in dollar."

This means that in bilateral trade between the two nations, Pakistan and China will no longer have to rely on the U.S. dollar for transactions.  This is a rather critical issue since bilateral trade over between the two nations has grown at an annual rate of 18.8 percent over the past five years.  As well, this is a very significant change given the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC, a trade corridor that is a pilot project of China's massive Belt and Road Initiative.

CPEC is a framework of infrastructure that will physically link China and Pakistan through improved road, rail and air transportation systems which will enhance trade through the implementation of a win-win model (unlike the U.S. model which seems predicated on a win-lose philosophy).  The potential of the two nations will strengthen their respective economies with China offering advantages in infrastructure construction and manufacturing expertise and Pakistan offering its human and natural resource potential.  Areas of co-operation and development include:

1.) Regional Connectivity:

Transport Infrastructure
Energy Hub/flows
Logistic Hub/flows
Trade & Commerce
Connectivity/Harmonization/Integration of civilizations

2.) Diverse Investment opportunities

3.) Industrial Cooperation

4.) Financial Cooperation

5.) Agricultural Cooperation

6.) Tourism

7.) Educational linkage

8.) Human resource development

9.) Health Care 

CPEC will also have a significant positive impact on the economies of neighbouring nations including Iran, an issue that will certainly reduce Iran's need to bow to the wishes of the United States and its ever-growing anti-Iran sanctions.

The long-term plan will be implemented over the decade and a half between 2017 and 2030 and covers China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the entirety of Pakistan.  Here are the three-pronged goals of CPEC:

By 2020, the CPEC strive to take the initial shape, major bottlenecks to Pakistan’s economic and social development shall be basically addressed, and the CPEC shall start to boost the economic growth along it for both countries.

By 2025, the CPEC building strive to be basically done, the industrial system approximately complete, major economic functions brought into play in a holistic way, the people’s livelihood along the CPEC significantly improved, regional economic development more balanced, and all the goals of Vision 2025 achieved.

By 2030, the CPEC building strive to be entirely accomplished, the endogenous mechanism for sustainable economic growth in place, the CPEC’s role in stimulating economic growth in Central Asia and South Asia brought into holistic play, and South Asia shall grow into an international economic zone with global influence.

Here is a map showing CPEC's proposed and existing road infrastructure:

Here is a map showing CPEC's proposed and existing rail infrastructure:

In addition, there is a substantial fibre optic project underway to ensure that the region has the necessary technology to conduct business as well as pipeline, wind, solar, LNG and coal projects and, most importantly, the development of the Gwadar deep water port located on the Arabian Sea.  The development of the port at Gwadar is Pakistan's largest infrastructure project since its independence and its full development could cost in excess of three-quarters of a trillion dollars.  Here is a map showing the location of Gwadar (at the centre of the map) which is located proximal to the mouth of the Persian Gulf which is located on the left side of the map:

As you can see on this map from Deloitte, China will benefit greatly from the port at Gwadar as it will significantly shorten the transit distance for exported goods that are produced in China  as well as oil that China imports from the Middle East:

Here are the approximate costs of the key components of CPEC:

Energy - $33.793 billion

Transportation Infrastructure - $9.784 billion

Gwadar - $792.62 billion

The recent moves by China and Pakistan to avoid the United States dollar when it comes to bilateral trade is a method that other nations are using to avoid geopolitical pressures that are part of Washington's I win and you lose trade philosophy.  Once other nations see that trade can, in fact, successfully take place without the use of the U.S. dollar, the flight from the dollar as the world's currency of choice will lead to a new global trade reality.  The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor  and the adoption of the yuan as its trade currency of choice could well prove to be a harbinger of the future.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Power of America's Dynasties

Let's open this posting with two definitions:

Plutocracy: - a state or society governed by the wealthy.

Oligarchy: a small group of people having control of a country or organization.

Now, let's look at three quotes:

"Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of a plutocracy."

Theodore Roosevelt

"We’ve been saturated with cultural images and a kind of cultural deification of wealth and those who have wealth. They present people of immense wealth as somehow leaders, oracles even. We don’t grasp internally what an oligarchic class is finally about, or how venal and morally bankrupt they are. We need to recover the language of class warfare to grasp what is happening to us. And we need to shatter this self-delusion that somehow if, as Obama says, we work hard enough and study hard enough, we can be one of them."

"The screen of great fortunes without apparent cause is a crime forgotten, for it was properly done."

Now, let's take a look at America's plutocracy, thanks to a recent publication entitled Billionaire Bonanza 2018 by Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie at the Institute for Policy Studies.  According to the authors and apparent to the rest of us is that wealth has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of very few Americans.  

Here are two interesting comparisons:

1.) Minimum wealth required to make the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans: In 1982, a wealthy individual needed at least $75 million ($200 million in today's dollars) to be part of the Forbes 400; this has risen to $2.1 billion in 2018 meaning that 204 American billionaires didn't even make the 2018 list.

2.) Total wealth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans:  In 1982, the combined wealth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans totalled $92 billion ($242 billion in today's dollars) compared to $2.89 trillion in 2018.  This is more than the entire GDP of Great Britain, the world's fifth largest economy.  The average wealth on the 2018 Forbes 400 list is $7.2 billion, up 7.5 percent from 2018

Half of the total wealth of the Forbes 400 can be attributed to just 45 individuals with three individuals, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet owning a combined $348.7 billion, more wealth than the bottom half of the country combined and more than the combined wealth of 4 million typical American families.

In recent years, we've repeatedly heard about the "one percent".  According to an analysis by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, the top one percent of Americans consists of 1.6 million families with a net worth of at least $3.9 million which own 42 percent of the nation's total wealth.  The top 0.1 percent consist of 160,000 families with a net worth of at least $20.6 million which own 22 percent of the nation's total wealth.  The top 0.01 percent consist of 16,000 families with a net worth of at least $111 million which own 11 percent of the nation's wealth.  In contrast, the bottom 90 percent of American households own 23 percent of America's total wealth, about the same amount as the top 0.1 percent.

One of the greatest concerns about wealth in the United States is the existence of wealth dynasties.  Of the 400 wealthiest people in the United States, 136 have inherited their wealth from a previous generation (including the current president).  Here is a complete listing of the wealth of the top 15 dynasties which have total wealth of $618 billion:

The Walton, Koch and Mars dynasties have seen their wealth go up by nearly 6000 percent over the past three decades at the same time as Main Street Americans have seen their median household net worth stall and decline.  Here is a table showing the top three wealth dynasties and how their wealth has grown over the decades since 1982:

Let's close this section of this posting by looking at the world's wealthiest individual, Jeff Bezos.  Mr. Bezos of Amazon/Washington Post fame has total wealth of approximately $160 billion with his fortune rising by $78.5 billion in the last year alone.  To put his wealth into context that we can relate to, a full-time worker at Amazon making $15 an hour would have to work for 2.5 million years to make as much money as Mr. Bezos made in the last year alone.

Now, let's look at the wealth statistics for Main Street America.  Median household wealth in 1983 was $84,000 in 2018 dollars and has actually dropped to less than $82,000 in 2018.  While median household wealth did rise to a peak of $127,000 in 2007, the Great Recession wiped out these gains and Main Street America has not experienced wealth growth despite the soaring stock market, dropping unemployment and relatively healthy economic growth.  God help us all when the next recession hits!  In addition to stagnant wealth, 19 percent of American households have zero or negative wealth, up from one in six households in 1983 and 40 recent of households could not come up with $400 in emergency funding.  The average wealth of the bottom 40 percent of Americans dropped from a meagre $6900 in 1983 to a frightening negative $8900 in 2016.

Obviously the concentration of wealth in the United States is having a significant impact on governance, particularly at the federal level where Congress functions largely on the backs of donations from the some of the world's wealthiest individuals like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch family members.  Additionally, media owners like Jeff Bezos can play a significant role in swinging public opinion, propagandizing American voters to see things through his viewpoint.  These are but three examples of how America's plutocracy/oligarchy are controlling the narrative that drives Washington during both Democratic and Republican administrations.  These individuals have had an obvious impact on the implementation of legislation, particularly as it relates to taxation of their incomes and their estates.

I would encourage you to watch this interview with Chris Hedges which will provide you with an excellent summary of the plutocracy/oligarchy that is developing in the United States and its impact on American society and politics:

Since I opened this posting with a quote, let's close it with another quote that nicely summarizes the plight of Main Street Americans:

"The central issue is we’re developing into a plutocracy. We’ve got an enormous number of enormously rich people that have convinced themselves that they’re rich because they’re smart and constructive. And they don’t like government, and they don’t like to pay taxes.

Paul Volker - former Chair of the Federal Reserve