Follow the Money

This famous quote from the film Deep Throat about the Nixon Watergate Scandal holds truer today than ever. The danger is that we have become accustomed to it. We no longer take umbrage at the misuse of money – it’s how all the games are played. Worse, while inflation remains idle, the ante to play with real money rises rapidly. Thought about differently, real money (starting around one mil) is an artificial inflation: the rest of us don’t have ‘real’ money. Citizens United couldn’t exist in Nixon’s day. Which is worse, breaking a door lock to get some records or pulling billions of dollars out of the economy to be distributed to slush funds and kickbacks?

The mariner noticed the hubbub about “rigged” elections. Boy, are they ever! But not in the simple-minded manner trumped up by the Trump campaign. The pundits are correct (this time): the manner by which we engage both parties and today control sham voting with automation makes it very difficult to overtake a precinct election site…. if one has one, Alabama.[1]

In a post on February 10, 2016, mariner covered a lead article from the Atlantic magazine for that month. It is important to briefly review the article at this moment when vote rigging is in the limelight but hardly the true threat that a tide of cash infusion can be. The article was about a small group of billionaires taking over the election of Governor for a democratic state: Illinois.

“The richest man in Illinois does not often give speeches. But on a warm spring day two years ago, Kenneth C. Griffin, the billionaire founder of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, rose before a black-tie dinner of the Economic Club of Chicago to deliver an urgent plea to the city’s elite.

They had stood silently, Mr. Griffin told them, as politicians spent too much and drove businesses and jobs from the state. They had refused to help those who would take on the reigning powers in the Illinois Capitol. “It is time for us to do something,” he implored.

Their response came quickly. In the months since, Mr. Griffin and a small group of rich supporters — not just from Chicago, but also from New York City and Los Angeles, southern Florida and Texas — have poured tens of millions of dollars into the state, a concentration of political money without precedent in Illinois history.

Their wealth has forcefully shifted the state’s balance of power. Last year, the families helped elect as governor Bruce Rauner, a Griffin friend and former private equity executive from the Chicago suburbs, who estimates his own fortune at more than $500 million. Now they are rallying behind Mr. Rauner’s agenda: to cut spending and overhaul the state’s pension system, impose term limits and weaken public employee unions.”

If the reader follows Illinois news, they know Rauner has stalled passage of a democratic budget even to today. Schools and colleges across the state are laying off staff; public schools and private ones have begun shortening school years, some are forced to cut sports programs (a few are in violation of Title Nine). Public Works has dropped their state-wide schedule.

In particular, the Griffin group is after Unions; Rauner has pushed hard to eliminate them, prohibit participation in elections, and limit dues. The confrontation over schools and unions has soured Rauner’s Governorship. Illinois is too long a blue state, too many union members, too many city dwellers. The legislature is democratic in both houses. Even five determined billionaires can’t make a bought Governorship become permanent. It isn’t over yet; Rauner is contributing significant amounts to all Republican officeholders, including conservative democrats. Will money buy a more conservative government next election?

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There is a second source that rigs elections: the news media. News media really do know the truth of campaigns; they just avoid low viewership approaches to political coverage; dull stuff like facts, policy, government expense and specific changes to entitlement, insurance, taxes, and banking regulations – a simple example: do you know the minimum wage endorsed by any Presidential candidate?

Also avoided is unaltered factual analysis by experts (pundits specifically cannot be experts except on Fareed Zacharia’s Global Public Square, CSPAN, and a few Bloomberg and PBS specials). What makes a pundit an expert is the ability to simultaneously speak and comprehend four other pundits speaking at the same time to the dismay our comprehension. A viewer never heard two people talk at the same time on Bill Moyer’s show. But then you never watched, did you! It is best to subscribe to a few good printed sources like Atlantic, Economist, Washington Post, New York Times and other quality printed sources. Don’t try to cover the rainbow of opinions; you don’t have the intellectual stamina to read Mother Earth, The Washington Inquirer, The Nation, and the American Conservative in the same day. Choose quality, centrist sources.

Instead of providing good, balanced news and informational analysis, news media hired on as Donald’s campaign team. On the cable channels, it evolved into an 18 hour blitz of South Park.

The solution to this rip-off by the press is to relieve the news department of the responsibility to be a profit center (follow the money). Then newscasters won’t be forced to choose between news and entertainment (profit). Or you could get your news from elite sources that already exist and are mentioned above.

Ancient Mariner

[1] The last large scale vote intrusion may have been the Chicago Teamsters ‘assuring’ Joe Kennedy that Jack would win Chicago. Computers prevent bullish, physical intrusions. However, as evidenced in the hacking of the current election, computers have other weaknesses. One has often wondered whether the Teamsters were the original source for the assassinations of Jack and Bobby to pay back Joe for the boys coming after the Teamsters when they assumed office. What doesn’t fit this theory is the assassination of Martin Luther King. The common victim was progressivism.