Toxic American Billionaires

Mike Booth looks at the political role of American billionaires’ money, both at home and abroad.

Are They Entitled to Determine Who Governs?

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As Things Stand Right Now It Seems They Are

The power of money in the United States is nothing new. There have always been powerful monied interests and they have always wanted to feather their nests. But in recent times–coinciding roughly with the rise of the Internet–the number of the super-rich and their companies and their level of wealth has grown so dramatically that it’s no longer a question of quantitative change. We’re looking at qualitative issues. It’s a whole new world.

Little by little big-money interests have chipped away at the law of the land, tilting the playing field in their own favor: diminishing controls on financial transactions, undermining the power of unions, buying influence in legislatures and the judiciary, and using sophisticated big-data techniques to tailor election pitches to different sectors of voters. Aside from that science-fiction-scary development, the most nefarious tool in their bag of tricks is a 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case. This is a landmark U.S. constitutional law, campaign finance, and corporate law case dealing with regulation of political campaign spending by organizations. The court ruled that companies and interest groups had greatly-extended freedom to finance political campaigns. That made it possible for powerful interests to virtually buy lawmakers and write their own laws for lackey representatives and senators to pass assembly-line fashion. This direct money-for-power move might be conceived as a creeping coup d’etat that has reached the pinnacle of American democracy: the presidency itself.

Robert Mercer “Comes Out” on the National–and International–Stage

Robert_MercerLook no farther than the 2016 presidential election, where, according to France24.com,  billionaire, Robert Mercer, owner of fabulously profitable Renaissance Technologies and big-data pioneer Cambridge Analytica, risked his anonymity to donate more than $11 million to the Donald Trump campaign. Mercer’s largesse was not limited to cold cash. He also donated the services of Cambridge Analytica, a company with a highly-detailed database on some 220 million Americans, and capable of turning that data into votes.

Then, with President Donald Trump comfortably ensconced in office, the politically-inclined American mega-rich were off to peddle their tainted wares in Europe. This move inspires two impertinent questions:

  1. What convoluted missionary spirit moves these billionaires to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign nations?
  2. Are such actions ethical or even legal?

The answer to the first question we can only guess. My best guess is that they form part of a cabal of super-rich Americans and their Continental running dogs intent upon controlling the entire world and that they consider fiddling with the inner workings of other people’s countries mere business as usual. A case can be made for affirming that Trump’s United States has almost achieved–or inherited–the dream that Adolph Hitler failed to make a reality: world domination. A cold-eyed look at today’s geopolitical situation would certainly suggest that, given the Americans’ 800-1,000 military bases scattered willy-nilly around the world, and the US dictating policy from Washington to Ulaanbaatar and back. That said, it’s probably irrelevant, as one suspects the United States is as close to total collapse as it is to tying the definitive ribbon on the world domination project.

NATO Can Help

With the US essentially under their control, the American billionaires’ next move was on

Jens Stoltenberg
Nato Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg

the world’s second economic power: Europe. It shouldn’t be too complicated from their point of view. After all, NATO has all its European members under total surveillance–down to drone overflights–and with key elements, like NATO Secretary General, the Norwegian, Jens Stoltenberg, and others, in influential positions. The American view of NATO’s role in Europe defies gravity. They say that the “Atlantic Alliance” is there to protect Europe from the Russians, when they know that NATO’s principal mission is to permit them to drag European armed forces into any specious war Washington cares to start. If not, what are troops from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization doing so far from those cold northern waters in Iraq and Afghanistan? Despite the Afghan parliament’s call for foreign troops to leave their country, on March 6, 2018, Stoltenberg announced that NATO troops would be staying. (Source: al Jazeera). And we’re still waiting for the last of the American troops to be pulled out of Iraq.

According to NATO’s own website,

NATO is a crisis management organisation that has the capacity to undertake a wide range of military operations and missions.

NATO is an active and leading contributor to peace and security on the international stage. It promotes democratic values and is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. However, if diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military capacity to undertake crisis management operations alone or in cooperation with other countries and international organisations.

So, now you know. NATO’s raison d’etre is “crisis management.” And it contributes to “peace and security” as well as occasional campaigns of domestic terrorism in Europe, which they forgot to mention. As for the legality of the uninvited actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, it looks dubious on both counts. Though the gringo oligarchies are not short of septic think tanks capable of convincing you of the contrary.

According to The Guardian (5 July 2018) there are essentially two tribes of American-billionaire political players, those, like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers who back the Republicans, and Democratic backers such as Tom Steyer, George Soros, and Michael Bloomberg. And let’s not forget the right-wing team that Steve Bannon, ex-Breitbart (where our old friend, Robert Mercer, is part owner) and ex-white House (where he was ousted for playing too fast and loose). These two groups of heavy hitters disagree on everything, with one important exception: They’re all rabidly anti-Russian.

The visceral anti-Communism of Americans is rooted in the mortal fear of their own capitalists after seeing the promise of Russian Communism in the 20’s and early 30’s of the last century. The all-powerful bankers and industrialists saw that, in theory, Communism was a better idea capable of taking over the world if it were permitted to prosper.

Luckily for them, Communism, like all of the world’s great ideas—Christianity, the power of science–was soon perverted by its own practitioners to the point where it became  irrecognizable and inviable. Nevertheless, it has proved useful for them as a scarecrow until our own times. The Russians are coming!

Meanwhile, ordinary American voters in this ghoulish democratic process are reduced virtually to what The Guardian refers to as watching a “spectator sport.”

American Benefactors Disembark in Europe

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage, principal Brexit promoter–and traitor.

The first intervention in Europe of these would-be exporters of American-style tutored democracy that we know of was during the Brexit campaign in the UK., where Mercer, who is allegedly a good friend of one of the main promoters of British secession from Europe, Nigel Farage, donated the invaluable services of his Cambridge Analytica. Farage is an extravagant, not-too-well-educated ex-trader, broadcaster, political wheeler-dealer, member of the European Parliament and one of the founding members of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). Although he belonged to the European Parliament, Farage was a figurehead in the campaign to leave the EU in 2016. In July of that year, when the Brexit referendum threw up a surprise decision in favor of leaving Europe, Farage announced his decision to resign from UKIP. “I want my life back,” he said. Most of the British press resorted to the familiar “rats abandoning a sinking ship” simile, but Ian Birrell, in The Guardian said it better: “We are seeing arsonists flee a burning building, having set it ablaze.”

What motivates American power brokers to extend their activity across the Atlantic? The obvious answer is that they want to drive a stake into the heart of Europe, the US’s principal competitor worldwide. Europe actually has more economic weight than the United States, including more billionaires. And the American interlopers’ disruption meshes nicely with NATO’s activities. Aren’t the Americans concerned that the Brexit clown show is leaving Great Britain in shambles both socially and economically? Actually no, that’s just collateral damage.

Enter the Koch Brothers

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If you are inclined to think that the American billionaire political activists are just dilettantes, let’s take a look at a couple of their leading players, the Koch Brothers. Business Insider describes them dispassionately:

Charles Koch is chairman and CEO of the multifaceted conglomerate Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in America. His younger brother David is the executive vice president. The company employs 100,000 people and generates $115 billion in sales from its diverse company, which makes everything from petrochemicals and Dixie Cups to raw clothing materials. Outspoken in the world of conservative politics, the Koch brothers, who have a combined net worth of $94.2 billion, also maintain immense political influence and pledged to spend, along with their vast donor network, some $750 million on 2016 campaigns and causes.

We have to go back to a Salon.com article from September 2015 written by Sean McElwee to find a summary of the activity of America’s premier private political meddlers, the Koch Brothers, who are willing to spend a handsome piece of their money on making the world see things their way. McElwee’s Salon article discusses a study carried out by political scientists who concluded:

The Koch brothers… generally combine public silence about policy with large financial contributions to political causes.” Though they intend to contribute nearly a billion dollars to influence the 2016 election cycle, they “generally make only vague political comments, if any comment at all.

McElwee dubs this “stealth politics” and offers a suggestion regarding how to neutralize its influence:

First, all political donations should be disclosed. While the Supreme Court has decimated most possibilities for robust campaign finance reform, this door remains open. An easy first step would be an executive order that mandates that government contractors disclose political donations. A recent Demos report by Naila Awan and Liz Kennedy finds that 80 percent of the largest 20 government contractors don’t disclose the money they contribute to 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) organizations.

A New (Privatized) Political Party?

In a subsequent article on Salon.com (January 31, 2016) McElwee likens the Koch Brothers’ activities to a new political party. They check all the boxes:

  • The Kochs now control a network that will likely outspend the Republican National Committee in 2016.
  • They have sophisticated data analytic capacities, as well as a surveillance operation.
  • They fund organizations that create model bills, run get-out-the-vote operations and recruit candidates.
  • That is, the Koch network shares all of the things a traditional party does, without being accountable to voters.

A 2016 Politico report revealed some details:

Koch and his brother David Koch have quietly assembled, piece by piece, a privatized political and policy advocacy operation like no other in American history that today includes hundreds of donors and employs 1,200 full-time, year-round staffers in 107 offices nationwide. That’s about 3½ times as many employees as the Republican National Committee and its congressional campaign arms had on their main payrolls last month, according to Politico’s analysis of tax and campaign documents and interviews with sources familiar with the network.

Not only are the Koch brothers building a massive political influence organization, but they’re also dragging the entire playing field to the extreme right. Look at Medicaid expansion, for example. Researchers have found that, despite generalized public support, including some Republican governors and business groups, Koch-backed organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity (AFP) fought vigorously against it. Given the comparative resources each group has at its disposal, with the Koch brothers growing stronger every day, will the GOP be fighting a losing battle? Not to mention the Democrats.

In a recent interview in The Guardian with Xan Brooks, American novelist Don DeLillo, whom she refers to as “America’s weather vane,” is fervently seeking the answer:

 “Oh, I think whatever’s going on now seems unique,” he says. “The question is whether the situation is terminal. I’m very reluctant to talk about Trump, simply because everybody else is. We’re deluged with information about Trump on every level – as a man, as a politician. But what’s significant to me is that all of his enormous mistakes and misstatements disappear within 24 hours. The national memory lasts 48 hours, at best. And there’s always something else coming at us down the pipeline. You can’t separate it all out. You get lost in the deluge.”

I’m working on a piece of fiction set three years in the future. But I’m not trying to imagine the future in the usual terms. I’m trying to imagine what has been torn apart and what can be put back together, and I don’t know the answer. I hope I can arrive at an answer through writing the fiction.”

A Grotesque Twist of Fate

It should be amply clear by now that the toxic American billionaires pose an imminent threat to any pretense of democracy on either side of the Atlantic. As a grotesque twist of fate would have it, one of them happens to be President of the United States.

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Author: Michael Booth

Michael Booth, the creator of TrumpAndAllTheRest.com, is a US-born expatriate journalist, publicist, author and online publisher who has lived in a Spanish village in the foothills of Sierra Nevada for the past five decades. Though better known abroad for his fine-art printmaking sites and online magazine, Booth's day job for the past decade and a half, until recently, was his communications agency, dedicated principally to designing and implementing Internet strategies for Spanish companies and institutions. His latest project is a photographic homage site to the Spanish village that adopted him many years ago: http://somospineros.com.

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