Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bernie's Billionaires

Are you curious about the identities of the plutocrats buying the elections out from under us? Do you think it's unfair that gambling kingpin Sheldon Adelson and the polluting Koch Brothers are getting more than their share of outraged attention? Are you just a sucker for oligarchal egalitarianism?

Well, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has thoughtfully given them a fair shot at a fair share, and compiled a list of all kinds of extremely rich people and the amounts they've contributed to the SuperPacs. You'll be familiar with some of the names (for example, one of the Walton heirs made the cut), but most of them (to me at least) were complete unknowns. I am woefully behind in my Forbes 400 reading. So, I did some quick Googling and discovered that the vast majority on Bernie's List are (you guessed it) vulture capitalists and hedge fund managers. The quintessential Barbarians at the Gates, who make Mitt Romney, a mere quarter-billionaire, look like a loser.  But they all seem to be Romney donors, or at least  Republican/libertarian sugar daddies. If there's an Obama outlier lingering in the mix, I haven't found him yet. Help do the research, and let us know. Bernie left hotel heiress Penny Pritzker off the list, because there is no evidence yet that she's given any of her billions to Obama's SuperPac. She apparently was miffed about not getting a cabinet appointment last time. But since she was spotted catching a ride on Air Force One this week, she may have come back to the fold after all. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, to whet your appetites, here are a couple of profiles of the Overlords who did make the A-List:

Harold Simmons, net worth $9 billion, has donated $15.2 million to SuperPacs this year. He started out working for the federal government as a bank examiner, but soon smartened up and realized he could buy his own banks with borrowed money he essentially would never have to pay back. His current proclivities include chemicals, heavy metals and waste management. Before the Supreme Court obliged with its Citizens United ruling, Simmons got into trouble for exceeding the limit on campaign contributions. He was also charged with mail and wire fraud, but beat the rap. He got into trouble over a lead pollution case, too. He has contributed to both Rick Perry's campaign war chest and to Oprah Winfrey's charities. This behavior is typical of Bernie's Billionaires -- hedge fund managers that they are, they always hedge their bets and spread out a miniscule puddle of their ill-gotten gains to worthy causes. This is known as "greed-washing." David Koch, for example, named part of Lincoln Center after himself because he loves ballet as much as balkanization (the division of our natural resources into private little Kochdoms.)

Samuel Zell: this is the guy journalists love to hate, given his hostile takeover of newspapers (LA Times and Chicago Tribune). He's been implicated in the Rod Blagojevich corruption scandal, supposedly pressured by the former governor to fire Chicago Tribune staffers critical of him, in exchange for tax breaks related to Zell's purchase of Wrigley Field. But that investigation went nowhere, through lack of trying evidence. Zell is worth almost $5 billion, but has only given $270,000 to SuperPacs this year. While Sam has always leaned right in his giving, his wife was an early donor to Barack Obama and gives almost exclusively to Democrats.

All in all, Bernie's Billionaires have a combined net worth exceeding the total wealth of the bottom 43% of all Americans combined. And the millions, maybe soon to be billions of their SuperPac contributions are only what has been reported. When it comes to donating to the shady "non-profit" grassroots organizations fronting even more political war chests, there is no disclosure required. Congress saw to that just the other week, when the Disclose Act was defeated.


Jay - Ottawa said...

A Modest Counterproposal: Why Greed is Good

Open your minds a crack and understand why greed, which you condemn so self-righteously, is good – in fact, essential. Greed is the only hope for the human race. Many must be sacrificed so the few, our champions the superrich, may preserve the genes of the human race. Without billionaires, the race will not survive global warming/climate change/whatever the hell is going on – which is a dagger pointed at the heart of the human race, not to mention our household pets.

It is as unlikely that billions of poor (and near poor) should squeeze through the eye of the storm of global warming than that a camel might pass through the eye of a needle.

The globe is sick and will be getting much sicker before it gets well a few centuries down the line. There is no health insurance, public or private, to cover the globe. Global warming will trigger killer storms, melt ice into ocean rise swamping half the world's dwellings and places of business, plus droughts followed by famines, then population shifts involving great political perturbation leading to wars to cross borders countered by wars to defend borders …. I could go on, but I see you've already lost consciousness.

Sorry about splashing that pitcher of water in your face, but I still hadn't made my point about billionaires being our best hope for saving the human race. You see, only billionaires will have the means to afford survival – and they must survive if the race is to endure.

Who else but the super rich will be able to build forts on high ground in the most temperate climes surrounded by fresh water and armies of defenders? It is the billionaires who will command what is left in foodstuffs, potable water, clean (i.e., reprocessed) air, etc.

Why do you suppose Google is racing to digitalize all art, science and technology into an accessible Cloud of Data? So that the few (i.e., the superrich) who survive this century will not have to start over again from the Stone Age. What a drag that would be. Women's suffrage might take longer next time around if the race is pushed all the way back to the knuckle-dragging starting line.

Downsizing is good. Once the overpopulation of our world is thinned out significantly, thanks to global warming and whatever austerians can do to speed up the process beforehand, the race will be able to pick up where it left off before the full load of carbon waste hit the fan. Which it is about to do.

The government, as you know, is saving every word you and everyone else utters. This is not – listen up, Glen Greenwald - for tossing you into another Guantanamo. Internet bugging is good. Your thoughts and mine will still be available to the lucky remnant that survives to continue the march of civilization. Sardonicky will no doubt make it through every disaster climate change can throw at the race. There are gems in your Facebook account that will serve as wisdom markings in the 22nd Century and beyond for the progeny of our billionaire saviors.

Enough, with the pessimism. Respect your bankers; they are merely pooling resources for the challenge ahead. Look on the bright side. All is not lost as you yourself are sacrificed.

Do not ask what billionaires can do for you; ask what you can do for billionaires. Stop thinking about yourself, or the welfare of your family and class, or even the decline of once-great nation states. Something bigger is at stake. It's the race, stupid. Think racist, think elitist, think forward.

Billionaires are the heroes we keep wishing for. Can’t we just get along? Think of them as astronauts on a spaceship to survival in a brave new world. Only billionaires will be able to sail through the storms (literal and metaphorical) gathering force. Only they have the means to redeem the sins of our carbon-addicted past and the audacity to shepherd the race – and our dogs, cats and dressage horses – to a bright new day.

Denis Neville said...

"Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to its baser instincts." - Sophie Scholl, The White Rose

Jay - Ottawa said...

There he goes again with more of the same. Glen Greenwald, rubbing in the charges of Neil Barofsky in the latter's nasty, tell-all, deep background book against Bernanke and the Administration, says we only knew the half of it when it comes to the Wall Street bail out.

We knew enough, already. And it's unseemly for lefties and other people with suspect agendas like Barofsky to be piling on Obama, Bernanke and Geithner in this, their hour of need.

Denis Neville said...

“There is enough wealth to meet everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” - Gandhi

Greed has killed democracy. The plutocracy has never been so plutocratic. Greed is devouring the great heart of this nation. The United States has become the most unequal rich nation on earth. The ties that bind the human community have been severed.

"If it weren't for the message of mercy and pity in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn't want to be a human being. I would just as soon be a rattlesnake." - Kurt Vonnegut

The voice of the dispossessed:

“The banker man grows fatter
The working man grows thin
It’s all happened before and it’ll happen again
It’ll happen again
They’ll bet your life…

If I had me a gun
I’d find the bastards and shoot ‘em on sight
I’m a Jack of all trades
We’ll be alright
I’m a Jack of all trades
We’ll be alright”
- Bruce Springsteen, "Jack of All Trades," Wrecking Ball

Kat said...

more from the billionaire files:
Predictably, there is much cheering and commenters are prepared to shop, shop, shop at Amazon to show their support for this wonderful humanitarian!
Never mind the labor violations.
Never mind the tax dodging. Never mind the corporate welfare:
because Mr. Bezos has done the math and realizes for a tiny fraction of his wealth he can buy some most excellent PR and cast Amazon as a "liberal" brand. A support for marriage equality is not really going out on a limb when it comes to the bottom line.
And that is what it is all about. The bottom line.