Event Coverage Highlight
Peter Goodman Outlines ‘Long-term Forces’ Worsening Global Wealth Inequality
by Chad Bouchard
Billionaires and power brokers around the world have exploited the pandemic, as with other crises of the past, by securing government bailouts and shifting more wealth into their own hands, according to Peter Goodman, a former OPC governor and longtime business reporter at The New York Times.
On March 3, he discussed his new book on the subject, Davos Man: How the Billionaires Devoured the World, with OPC President Paula Dwyer serving as moderator.
The book suggests that this billionaire class, the so called “Davos Men,” have worsened wealth inequality, increased national deficits, dried up government resources to deal with social problems, and fueled the global rise of right-wing populist movements.
The book, published by Custom House on Jan. 18, profiles five representative “Davos Men,” members of the billionaire class, chronicling how their exploitation of the global pandemic has hastened a fifty-year trend of wealth centralization.
Figures Goodman profiled include Jamie Dimon, Marc Benioff, Larry Fink, Stephen Schwarzman and Jeff Bezos.
Goodman said conventional reporting has framed the rise of the extreme right, including President Donald Trump’s 2016 election and Brexit’s nativist underpinnings, as part of a backlash against immigration and other immediate pressures. But he said his research uncovered more insidious “longer-term forces” at work.
“It happened so steadily but gradually that they were almost invisible,” he said. “The systematic, bottom-up transfer of wealth from all of us to a handful of billionaires who can employ lobbyists and tax accountants and compliant think-tank researchers and can cultivate access journalists to insinuate into out political discourse this idea that when we organize our economies around returning wealth to people who already have most of it, we’ll all somehow magically benefit.”
He said the result of this long-term campaign has been to weaken governments, diminish health care, education, assistance for housing and public infrastructure.
Dwyer asked if Goodman had used these Davos Men as scapegoats, blaming them for a system they had simply benefitted from and operated within.
He called Dwyer’s question “emblematic of how we tend to attack stories in our journalism. We tend to speak in a kind of passive voice, and ascribe belief, as if we’re always having policy disagreements and somehow in different camps on the question of tax cuts for wealthy people – like it’s a perfectly reasonable proposition to argue, as Jamie Dimon did when he was leading the business roundtable on Trump tax cuts that were worth about $1.5 trillion with most of the benefits landing just – I guess – accidentally into the pockets of people like Jamie Dimon.”
Click the window below to watch a playlist of video clips from the program.