It's almost time for the annual Davos boondoggle where the world's richest and most powerful financiers, politicians, artists and celebrities fly in on their private jets while surrounding by bodyguards and sit down (before partying among ultra exclusive DJs) to discuss the world's ills (which they created) such as the omni-present "global warming" (the type which apparently ignores the carbon emissions from private jets) and which can only be solved by paying a major bank (say Goldman Sachs) billions in carbon credit commissions, not to mention social upheaval and populist anger (the type which bodyguards are so skilled at neutralizing) and where not surprisingly nationalism once again ranks as the biggest
threat risk to attempts to impose a globalist world order.
In other words, it is "A Reunion For People Who Broke The World" where a hotdog back in 2015 cost 38 Swiss Francs.
Which incidentally may have something to do with the reason why populism and nationalism remain the biggest fears for the world's "globalist" elite. Well, that and the fact that as Bloomberg notes, said elite is "richer than ever."
According to Bloomberg calculations, in the decade spanning the year right after the financial crisis, a staple of the Davos billionaire crowd such as David Rubenstein has more than doubled his fortune since 2009. JPM CEO Jamie Dimon has more than tripled his net worth. And Stephen Schwarzman has increased his wealth six-fold.
Considering the economic and political tumult of the past decade, from Lehman Brothers to Brexit to Donald Trump, to some - such as Bloomberg's Tom Metcalf and Simon Kennedy (whose billionaire employer Michael Bloomberg has grown tired with Davos and is launching his own rival version of the World Economic Forum), "it’s a remarkable" that the fortunes of a dozen 2009 Davos attendees have soared by a combined $175 billion (except for George Soros who has lost 61% of his net worth).
... even as household wealth for the lower and middle-classes has declined.
A counterpoint: in light of the $16 trillion in assets purchased by the world's central banks, it is neither "remarkable" nor surprising that the world's richest have only gotten richer in the past decade, nor is it remarkable - or in need of an explanation that involves Russian hacking - that as global resentment at the increasingly concentrated wealth of an ultra powerful cabal comprising a handful of people has hit unprecedented levels, the outcomes were Brexit, Trump's election and the Yellow Vest protest movement in France. Just as it is not a coincidence that neither Donald Trump, nor Theresa May or Emanuel Macron will be present in Davos this year.
Meanwhile, the anger and resentment - or "nationalism" as the Davos crowd calls it - at the ultra-rich is only set to grow: the data illustrate the ever-widening gap between the true haves — those in the 0.1% — and the have-nots of a global economy; using UBS and PwC data, global billionaire wealth has grown from $3.4 trillion in 2009 to $8.9 trillion in 2017.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world has gotten poorer (especially when indexing for the true rate of inflation).
What Bloomberg gets right is that "central bank actions to fight the financial crisis—record low interest rates and bond-buying programs—have underpinned this ballooning wealth by driving up the prices of stocks and other assets."
“Ten years ago, ironically at the lows of the market, what you wanted to own was capital and if you did own capital you did incredibly well,” said Michael Hartnett, Bank of America Corp.'s chief investment strategist.
And yet, somewhat amusingly, instead of focusing their anger on the Fed and the world's central banks, the world's population (which for the most part is unable to comprehend the nuances of creating $16 trillion in reserves out of thin air) and financial punditry is focusing on the political divide that followed the election of Trump, or the Brexit vote, when instead they should have been analyzing what events made Trump and Brexit possible in the first place.
Then again, so many financial journalists work for either one billionaire (Michael Bloomberg) or another (the Economist is partially owned by the Agnelli and Rothschild families) that one can see a certain conflict of interest there.
For those with minimal or no assets, it’s been a more challenging decade. Wages have stagnated and while equity markets have risen, fewer U.S. adults are invested in the stock market than in 2009. Compensation for chief executive officers in America’s largest firms is now 312 times the annual average pay of the typical worker, compared with about 200 times in 2009, 58 times in 1989 and 20 times in 1965, according to a 2018 report by the Economic Policy Institute.
Yet while some of the most prominent politicians are now eager to avoid the stigma of being seen at a place where only the world's richest hobnob while eating CHF 38 hotdogs, others have no such qualms. Case in point, Jamie Dimon is returning to Davos with JPMorgan larger and more profitable than ever. Blackstone's Steve Schwarzman "recognizable in his tan winter coat over suit" has built his private equity giant into the world’s largest alternative asset manager with $457 billion of assets as of Sept. 30, 2018, up from $95 billion at the end of 2008.
Meanwhile, lest some assume that the top 0.01% are suddenly worried about their image and are willing to skip this epic boondoggle, Davos remains as popular as ever. The forum, which this year bears the perfectly apt title of "Globalization 4.0", is expected to host 3,000 people. Among other events, George Soros this year is hosting a dinner at which he will speak and Dimon's JPMorgan is throwing a cocktail party. Bill Gates will be present again, as will billionaire Carlyle Group co-founder Rubenstein, who hosts a show on Bloomberg Television (and whose fortune has doubled over the past decade).
What is also amusing are the soundbites across the years, such as this one from Ken Rogoff at the 2009 meeting: “Everyone I spoke to says it’s the grimmest Davos they’ve ever been to. The mood has been very depressed." The intervening years have given attendees plenty of reasons for cheer. Business owners and financiers have benefited from the longest bull market in history while the benefits from an era of cheap money and recent U.S. tax cuts have largely flowed to the wealthy.
As a result, the world - when measured by its Gini coefficient - has never been more unequal.
But the most hilarious irony of every single Davos meeting, is that virtually every year in the past decade the agenda has repeatedly flagged inequality as one of the chief risks to a stable society. So what happened next? Why the global economy’s bifurcation has only quickened, with the rich getting even richer, yet so very eager to "complain" all about it during next year's Davos meeting.
“The financial crisis was the kind of event that shakes things out, but it didn’t happen 10 years ago,” said Anand Giridharadas, author of ‘Winner Takes All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.’ “The same rigging that caused the crisis ensured the losses were socialized.”
And speaking of the "rigging that caused the crisis", it was these billionaires that were behind it and instead of discussing ways to prevent their mistakes from leading to another global financial crisis, all they care about is how to perpetuate the divergence, even as they "lament" it year after year, before departing in their private jets after a few epic parties... at which point they proceed to complain about global warming.
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Some wonder if amid the growing backlash against the globalist establishment, the Davos pow-wow has peaked. Over the past year, Bank of America CIO Mochael Hartnett said he has detected a transition in which “Joe Six Pack” will benefit relatively more as central banks withdraw easy money, populist politicians win at the ballot box and nationalism tops globalization.
“Wall Street has done worse lately while Main Street has done better,” he said. “You’re going to be in that world for the foreseeable future and I can only see that world accelerating.”
Well, he was right... until the S&P hit 2,400 at which point the withdrawal of the so-called easy money ended and the Fed once again hinted that the easy money would flow because - at the end of the day - it is the dozen or so billionaires listed above who matter when it comes to monetary and fiscal policies, not the billions who make less than a dozen dollar per day.
In short: nothing will change.