Dr. Benjamin Dangl is a journalist, editor, and professor focusing on Latin American politics, social movements, and media. He has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America for over a decade, and teaches journalism at Champlain College in Vermont.
He has a PhD in history from McGill University, an MA in history from the University of Vermont, and a BA in writing and literature from Bard College. His doctoral dissertation is Centuries March the Streets: The Power of the Past in Bolivian Indigenous Movements, 1970-2000.
He is the author of the books The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press) and Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press). His first book, The Price of Fire, was also published in Spanish by Plural Editores in Bolivia, and in Tamil by The New Century Publishing House in India. He is a contributor to the books Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Latin American Issues (McGraw-Hill), Until the Rulers Obey: Voices from Latin American Social Movements (PM Press), and Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab (AK Press).
Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America and the US, covering protest movements, politics, grassroots activism, government and corporate corruption, and human rights issues. He has written hundreds of articles for publications including The Guardian, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times, and dozens of other media outlets. Dangl has received two Project Censored Awards for his investigative reports on US government and military intervention in Latin America, and has been interviewed on a variety of news programs including the Democracy Now! and National Public Radio.
He is the editor of Toward Freedom, a progressive perspective on world events, and the founder and editor of Upside Down World, an award-winning news and analysis outlet on politics and social movements in Latin America.
“Last year, I worked until midnight for a full month,” Forida explained. “I used to feel sick all the time. I was stressed about my son and then after I got home from work, I had to clean the house and cook and then go back to work again the next morning. I would go to bed at 2am and get up at 5.30am each day.”
Even with the combined income from her husband, Forida’s family barely had enough food to eat.
Meanwhile, a CEO from a top clothing brand would have to work only four days to earn what a garment worker in Bangladesh earns in a lifetime.
Forida’s story is included in a report released today by the anti-poverty organization Oxfam. The report, Reward Work, Not Wealth, reveals how the global economy empowers the richest 1% while hundreds of millions of people struggle to survive.
Oxfam found that 82% of the global wealth produced last year went to the richest 1% of the world’s population. In other words, four out of every five dollars of wealth created in 2017 went into the pockets of the 1%.
While a new billionaire was created every other day, the 3.7 billion people making up the poorest half of the world’s population saw no increase in their wealth last year.
“The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” said Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of Oxfam. “The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors.”
Oxfam reported that the 42 richest people now own as much wealth the poorest half of the world’s population.
Since 2010, billionaire wealth has risen annually by 13%, a rate six time higher than that of average workers.
Key factors contributing to this concentration of wealth, Oxfam found, are erosion of workers’ rights, corporate influence in political and labor policy-making, rewarding inherited wealth, tax evasion, and cutting costs to maximize profits for company owners.
“A perfect storm is driving up the bargaining power of those at the top while driving down the bargaining power of those at the bottom,” Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s Vice President for Policy and Campaigns, explained. “If such inequality remains unaddressed, it will trap people in poverty and further fracture our society.”
Oxfam pointed to President Trump’s policies as widening the gap between rich and poor, and empowering the 1% on the backs of the American working class.
Since taking office, Trump has chosen a cabinet with more billionaires in it than ever before in US history, and whose combined wealth is greater than the 100 million poorest Americans. Oxfam cited Trump’s proposed tax and healthcare reforms as policies favoring the super-rich.
Meanwhile, the three richest Americans own the same wealth as the poorest half of the country’s population.
Such data underlines the plight of the American poor. Oxfam’s report included a portrait of Dolores, a former poultry worker in Arkansas. She and her co-workers were provided so few bathroom breaks at the factory that they were forced to wear diapers to work.
“It was like having no worth,” Dolores said. “We would arrive at 5 in the morning… until 11 or 12 without using the bathroom… I was ashamed to tell them that I had to change my Pampers.”
Work in the US poultry industry has one of the highest rates of injury in the country. Oxfam found that “repetitive strain injuries can be so severe that after only one year on the production lines, some workers reported being unable to straighten their fingers, hold a spoon or even properly hold their children’s hands.”
Across the world, poor people’s labor fuels the rising concentration of wealth.
“Dangerous, poorly paid work for the many is supporting extreme wealth for the few,” Oxfam explained. “Women are in the worst work, and almost all the super-rich are men. Governments must create a more equal society by prioritizing ordinary workers and small-scale food producers instead of the rich and powerful.”
Top photo: Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair
The bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), had enormous bipartisan support in a vote of 89-9.
It includes $640 billion for the Pentagon – $37 billion more than Trump requested – and $60 billion for US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and beyond.
The NDAA approves an $80 billion annual increase for military spending, and authorized the production ninety-four F-35 jets, twenty-four more than the Pentagon requested.
The new bill allots millions to boost the militaries of other countries, including $705 million to Israel and $500 million to Ukraine.
The NDAA still has to be adjusted to align with the version of the bill passed by the House in June before Trump can sign into law, which is expected to happen later this year.
The Senate backing of the bill is part of a long tradition in US politics of bipartisan support for staggering military budgets.
In 2016, the US military budget made up one third of all global military expenditures.
The US already has a military budget that is larger than that of the next seven countries combined, including China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the UK, India, France, and Japan.
The passage of the bill comes at a time of increased tension between the US the North Korea, and a marked rise in bombing in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
The Pentagon recently reported that US planes have dropped 2,400 bombs in Afghanistan this year so far, up from the 1,337 dropped on the country in 2016. The US dropped 5,075 bombs in Iraq and Syria during the month of August, the highest monthly amount since the bombing campaigns against ISIS officially began in August of 2014.
Such bombing campaigns have surged across US administrations. In 2016 alone, under Obama, the US dropped 26,172 bombs in seven countries, primarily Iraq and Syria.
According to Air Wars, a non-profit organization monitoring casualties and coalition nations’ bombing of ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, 98,532 bombs have been dropped on these countries by coalition forces since the war on ISIS began.
In such a climate of war, eighty-nine senators voted for the NDAA on Monday, and only eight voted against it, including Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
Critics have pointed out the irony of most senators’ unquestioning bipartisan support for the $700 billion dollar military budget at a time when increased demands for Medicare for All and free tuition at public colleges and universities in the US are spreading.
One of Senator Sanders’ presidential campaign proposals during the 2016 election was to make tuition free at public colleges and universities. Democrats and Republicans alike said the plan was too costly. However, the $80 billion annual increase in military funding approved with the NDAA would cover the free tuition proposal, as The Intercept journalist Alex Emmons pointed out. Sanders’ plan would cost the government only $47 billion per year.
Of course, critics of US imperialism around the world have long denounced Washington’s extensive military reach and oversized war budget.
“Spent in the right way,” Joya said, “this huge amount could ensure peace and prosperity around the world.”