Summary of Who Rules America? | Documentary | American Politics | Governing System

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The documentary "Who Rules America?" explores the concentration of power within media corporations, the influence of money and special interests in politics, and the dominance of Wall Street. Currently, only six major media corporations dominate American media, with mutual fund companies as their major shareholders, and a lack of diversity within these corporations. The documentary highlights the growing economic inequality in the country, with a ruling class, a bourgeoisie class, and the hope of upward mobility through the American dream. The documentary calls out the financial industry for being its own worst enemy due to its short-term profit motives and the financial crisis that inevitably resulted from its deregulatory moves. The concentration of power in financial markets was also examined, with just ten companies dominating all stock ownership. Additionally, the video argues that the American people do not organize themselves in their districts to mitigate the power of special interests, leading to a small group of traders, investors, and asset managers controlling the markets and causing risk for taxpayers.

  • 00:00:00 In this section, the issue of media ownership is explored, with Thomas Jefferson's belief that a free media is essential for a free nation being referenced. Currently, six major media corporations dominate American media, with the boards of these corporations also having links to U.S oil companies and military contractors. These media corporations are mostly owned by mutual fund companies, which are not held accountable to the public, but are major shareholders in the media companies. The role of media coverage in politics is also questioned, with common cause questioning whether the media is helping to strengthen or divide democracy, and the issue of cable channels that only show one side of the political spectrum is raised as a concern.
  • 00:05:00 In this section, the documentary explores how the American media tends to reflect the views of the government and the people who shape its views, resulting in less coverage of local and state-based politics. The moguls and titans of media and industry, who shape the narrative for the American people, are part of the problem. Although the media is not totally biased, it is seen as a significant part of the problem. Media Watch groups are also concerned about the lack of diversity within the media that makes it unrepresentative of the country it serves in racial, ethnic, and gender terms. Award-winning journalist Chris Hedges believes the press ultimately covers up for power, especially when reporting on elections.
  • 00:10:00 In this section, experts discuss the influence of media companies on American society and politics. The New York Times, in particular, is described as an institution that promotes a particular ideology, catering primarily to a managerial perspective while disseminating uninformed and pro-business views. The larger context in which media companies exist is highlighted, with their increasing tendency to behave like businesses and pay their top executives huge salaries and bonuses like bankers. As a result, self-censorship among those at the top arises, leading to a one-sided media discourse that influences public opinion and shapes policy decisions. The media's tendency to avoid discussing class differences and inequalities perpetuates the hope that the working class can become middle class and reinforces the idea of the American dream.
  • 00:15:00 In this section, the documentary highlights the reality of class and working class in America, while people have been trained not to think in those terms. There is a growing economic inequality in the country with a ruling class, a bourgeoisie class, and the madness of the consumer society. Some media outlets, like Fox News, are more comfortable presenting a right-wing political line and help shift many media outlets to the right. While the advent of digital media has provided access to more people for coalition building and participatory democracy, there is still corporate control and government censorship. The media still revolves around the political elite with authority, but when talking to ordinary Americans, many feel that they're also seeing different points of view. Additionally, propaganda is effective in the US due to the appearance of debates, even though the media does not often cover the people behind the scenes who run things.
  • 00:20:00 In this section, the video explores how the corporate media in the United States is integrated with the military-industrial complex and other industries, such as oil and gas, resulting in very little scrutiny or investigation into their activities. The media is heavily dependent on advertising revenue, so they are very careful about what they say and tend to avoid topics that may conflict with their advertisers. This lack of transparency and scrutiny is highlighted by the financial crisis, which demonstrated how significant wealth demands significant transparency. At the same time, the media has become so pervasive and overwhelming that many Americans suffer from information overload, making it difficult to hold members of Congress accountable. Finally, the video argues that media criticism tends to focus on what is being covered and not covered, rather than how media narratives shape how we think, and is now among the forces ruling America.
  • 00:25:00 In this section, the video discusses how the American political system is being governed by a small, powerful elite group of people who operate beyond the Constitution and outside of the reach of government. The system is also being hijacked by those who spend millions of dollars to elect or defeat certain candidates, and the rules in Washington are being written by corporate lobbyists representing the biggest corporate interests in the country. Lobbyists are mostly white men and women who are well-dressed and come from the country club, rarely seeing African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or Muslims. Money and special interests are now in control, and three respected watchdog organizations agree that the majority of Congresspeople are products of the system with a bias towards corporate interests. The video explains that the top 100 donors have given 77% of the money going to Super PACs, meaning that a tiny elite that can afford to make influential contributions dominates the political scene in America.
  • 00:30:00 In this section, the video explores the problem of independent expenditures in American politics- a 'secret pot of cash' being collected by groups that do not disclose where the money is coming from, which is often highly influential in campaign advertising. The video shows data that reveals that a small minority is controlling the political process in America, with very few millionaires funding all politics. Financial institutions and real estate giants are the largest contributors to political campaigns, which drowns out the voices of regular people. Thus, the democracy in America is under threat because of this phenomenon, and this is a bipartisan problem. Despite President Obama showing support for change in 2008, there has not been much change, and two billion dollars have been spent on political campaigns.
  • 00:35:00 In this section, the documentary examines the informal network of people who hold power in America and make major policy decisions. This network includes politicians, think tanks, and the military, along with small but well-funded lobby groups such as the pro-Israel or pro-military lobbies. Although there may be disagreements among these groups, they are more united than divided, with differences covering only methods, not goals. The documentary also notes that the distorted system of electoral representation in America, combined with Big Money and powerful interest groups, means that those who hold high positions in politics and moneyed interests rule the country. The documentary raises concerns about how donations from financial institutions have impacted government regulations and the financial crisis, citing the example of JP Morgan's lobbyists fighting a new rule that could have prevented their multi-billion dollar loss.
  • 00:40:00 In this section, the documentary highlights the problems that banks face and how they are their own worst enemies due to their short-term profit motives. Public Citizen later played a role in outlawing insider trading by members of Congress on information they obtained in hearings and investigations. Additionally, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. explains how the system was historically set up to serve states rights and special interests, resulting in a dysfunctional Congress. The documentary introduces us to a former Congressional staffer who worked on Capitol Hill for 12 years and agrees to talk with the producers on how decisions get made. He calls out how an untold number of members of Congress spend 60% of their time raising funds, and they have to raise millions of dollars just to be competitive to go on television. The documentary reveals that the American people are the victims of this process with increasing heavy-handedness of the economic system manipulating the political system. The documentary highlights the struggle between people power and economic power to control and determine the economic system.
  • 00:45:00 In this section, the video discusses how members of Congress rely heavily on young, often inexperienced staffers to make major decisions on policies. These staffers are often in significant debt due to student loans and high rents in Washington D.C., which leads them to be more susceptible to being bought off by special interests and big donors. Despite many Americans believing that there is a conspiracy by an unaccountable secret cabal that operates like a power center beyond democratic control, the video argues that the real issue is that the American people do not organize themselves in their districts to mitigate the power of special interests. The video also highlights Wall Street's financial clout in today's America and how it is a key Power Center that often controls politics and society.
  • 00:50:00 In this section, the documentary explores how Wall Street has grown in power economically and politically, leading to a series of deregulatory moves that have been enabled by the political influence of Wall Street. This has caused the functioning of the economy to be disastrous, as deregulation made the 2008 crash inevitable. The capitalist economy is inherently unstable, and while markets are much more efficient than centralized controls, that doesn't mean there should be absolutely no control at all. Financial markets are much more efficient than centralized controls, but just a handful of large financial firms now dominate the global economy, leading to CEOs, financiers, and executives of a few investment banks and hedge funds becoming rich and powerful by controlling specialized high-stakes markets.
  • 00:55:00 In this section, the video highlights the concentration of power in the financial markets. A small group of traders, investors, and asset managers have structured the markets to increase their own wealth and power by keeping interest rates close to zero to make it cheap for people who are borrowing money to speculate freely. However, this practice comes with a high risk of causing a crash, and when they make a bad bet, taxpayers carry the burden with austerity programs or a bailout/quantitative easing program. The video also sheds on light on studies revealing that just ten companies dominate all stock ownership, creating a monopoly on wealth and power. The financial crisis made people aware of how self-styled masters created a crash that lost tens of millions of people their jobs and homes, crashing retirement plans and pushing 200 million people worldwide into dire poverty. Lobbying efforts were also highlighted in this section, showing Wall Street's disproportionate power to influence Congress to protect their interests by hiring 28 lobbyists per member of Congress.

01:00:00 - 01:10:00

The video explores the relationship between Wall Street and American policy-making, highlighting the enormous influence that Wall Street has on American politics through donations to influential members of Congress and its ability to sabotage financial reforms. It suggests that former bank CEOs often hold high government positions, creating an incestuous relationship where Wall Street essentially powers American policy, and that algorithmic trading means computer systems have virtually unlimited credit. The video suggests that the American government does not represent ordinary people, and various powerful forces such as the military, corporations, media, and Wall Street often undermine democracy instead of strengthening it.

  • 01:00:00 In this section, we learn of Wall Street's significant impact on American politics through donations to influential members of Congress and clout to impact elections. Wall Street and the financial industry have enormous influence in the United States, which is demonstrated in their ability to sabotage financial reforms passed by Congress, with power that extends beyond a public fight. Wall Street and large banks are known to use their power and influence to bet against calamities as seen with betting investments, also called Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction, to make situations worse, paying off enormously in bonuses. The media presents it as a mistake, but this documentary suggests that the financial industry's actions were intentional and had far-reaching consequences.
  • 01:05:00 In this section, the video discusses the evolving relationship between Wall Street and American policy making. The video suggests that former bank CEOs often hold high government positions and return to honorary board chairs, creating an incestuous relationship where Wall Street essentially powers American policy. The video also notes that algorithmic trading means computer systems have virtually unlimited credit, and while they may not risk anything personally, the cost of a bad bet is generally a federal bailout, while successful bets result in substantial bonuses. The video ends with the suggestion that the American government does not represent the ordinary people, and their needs and aspirations are not subject to democratic consideration.
  • 01:10:00 In this section, the video discusses the battle for the soul of America and who rules the country. Various powerful forces such as the military, corporations, media, and Wall Street often undermine democracy instead of strengthening it. However, the belief in American democracy is almost like an article of religious faith, even though it is often rejected by establishment, academia, and the press. The idea of a power elite is an anathema to the opinion leaders because it might spur dissatisfaction and dissent. Despite this, with the age of the internet and global television, it is impossible to stop people from being exposed to counter-narratives to official myths.

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