Saturday, January 20, 2018

Can One Family Of Psychotic, Fascist Billionaires Turn 250 Years Of American History On Its Head? Meet The Mercers


Because I was asked to share a dais honoring us both, I've been covering the Mercer family-- dangerous American fascists-- longer than most. I persuaded our hosts to have two seperate ceremonies so I never got a chance to meet Mercer in person, probably a mistake. At the time he was the biggest single donor to the Ted Cruz presidential campaign-- bad enough-- although he soon took over the Trumpanzee circus and started calling all the shots at his campaign through family vassals Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Patrick Caddell, Jeff Sessions and David Bossie, as well three nefarious far right firms he controls-- Breitbart News, Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center, and, most importantly, the dark data firm Cambridge Analytica.

American mainstream media hasn't given the Mercers nearly the exposure they deserve, primarily because the Mercers are media phobic and refuse to do interviews. This week, Keith Boag, for Canada's biggest media outlet, the CBC, asked the question about Mercer's ultimate goal in helping to place Trump in the White House. David Magerman is a former employee of Mercer’s hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies, and he's suing Mercer. He told Boag that "If the world knew what [Mercer] was trying to do, they wouldn’t stand for it."
Seen from a distance, Mercer can appear like a Bond movie villain. A computer scientist-turned hedge fund billionaire, he is reclusive and taciturn. He does not do interviews. He stays out of sight sailing the world in his luxurious, high-tech super yacht, Sea Owl, or holed up in his Long Island estate, Owl’s Nest, while plotting the political transformation of America.

But when he backed Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and helped install Bannon to run it, people began asking more seriously, “Who is this man?”

Mercer barely talks to anyone. Trump once joked at a party that the longest conversation he’s ever had with “Bob” was just “two words.” That’s an anecdote from Jane Mayer’s 2017 profile of Mercer in the New Yorker, which, like most of what’s been written about him, was based on evidence from people such as Magerman.

Magerman is a multi-millionaire-- the lower nine-figure range, he said-- who, like many employees at Renaissance Technologies, became rich through his relationship with Mercer. Unlike most of them, Magerman is not afraid to be publicly critical of how Mercer has used his money in politics.

“People weren’t aware of what was going on [in 2016]. It looked like some eccentric billionaire was giving money to political causes the way people normally do,” Magerman said. “I knew that he was actually trying to do something different than that.”

Mercer’s fortune and Bannon’s media instincts combined with a shared ideology to produce the anti-liberal, anti-Clinton ecosystem that includes Breitbart, the conservative non-profit Citizens United, the book Clinton Cash and much more. Together, they oversaw the data analysis company Cambridge Analytica, whose impact on the UK’s Brexit referendum and the 2016 U.S. election remain troublesomely murky.

For a long time, even Magerman didn’t know about Mercer’s political interests or his ultra-libertarian, minimalist-government goals.

“When I read all that, I felt not only did I have to do something,” Magerman said, “but I’d been negligent in not doing something earlier.”

...Magerman thinks Mercer has bought special access to impose “extra-societal” views on the Trump administration.

Magerman, who now spends much of his time at his sprawling estate in the wealthy Philadelphia suburb of Merion Station, is uncommonly thoughtful about the impact on U.S. political life of rich people like himself, and especially the ones he calls “the instant billionaires,” like Mercer.

“The ultra-wealthy of today differ from the ultra-wealthy in past eras in that they have, a lot of them, no stake in the infrastructure of society,” Magerman said. He’s seen that their wealth does not depend on the health and stability of the country. In fact, they get rich on volatility and instability.

Organizations that track who spends money in politics have noted the same thing. Sarah Bryner, research director at the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, said “hedge fund wealth is a sort of recent phenomenon, at least in the campaign finance world.”

“It’s not like you’re working for [big banks such as] Chase or Wells Fargo, in a very well-regulated and huge industry” with obvious policy aims.

High net worth individuals aren’t like that at all, she said. “With Mercer, we don’t really know much about why he’s getting involved.”

...The problem that Renaissance Technologies faced trying to predict market behaviour is, he said, essentially the same problem that Cambridge Analytica faces in voter analysis and persuasion.

Data analysts are largely skeptical that Cambridge Analytica could have had a decisive impact on the 2016 U.S. election or the Brexit referendum, but Magerman brushes that off with a reminder that so-called experts were also skeptical that computer algorithms could predict financial markets.

“They said there is no way they can do that with the data available,” he said. And yet, there’s Medallion [Renaissance Technologies' big money-maker, open only to employees], with its unheard-of nearly 80 per cent annualized returns. There's Cambridge Analytica, on the winning side of two political upsets.

And there is Mercer, a brilliant scientist at the helm of both companies.

In January 2017, before Trump’s inauguration, Magerman called Mercer to chat about politics and the new administration. He wanted to persuade Mercer to withdraw support from Trump.

They talked about Obamacare and the social safety net and disagreed about Trump’s positions on those issues. Then, Magerman says Mercer made a series of comments on U.S. society:
The United States began to go in the wrong direction after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s;
African-Americans were doing fine in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s before The Civil Rights Act;
The Civil Rights Act “infantilized” African Americans by making them dependent on government and removing any incentive to work;
The only racist people remaining in the U.S. are black; and
White people have no racial animus toward African-Americans anymore, and if there is any, it’s not something the government should be concerned with.
Magerman felt he couldn’t keep that to himself.

“I really thought I was just going to let people know what I know and that would be the end of it,” Magerman said of his decision to do an interview with the Wall Street Journal, which amounted to a warning flare about Mercer to anyone paying attention.

The story quoted Magerman saying that Mercer has contempt for the social safety net and that he now wants to use the money Magerman helped him make to “shrink government to the size of a pinhead.”

But the most sensational part was what Magerman relayed that Mercer had said to him on the phone one day. “I hear you’re going around saying I’m a white supremacist. That’s ridiculous.”

Magerman, having cleared his conscience in the Wall Street Journal, expected to go back to work at Renaissance Technologies. Instead, he was suspended.

“If they hadn’t suspended me, I think the story would have kind of died quickly,” he said, but that’s probably not true. After the article appeared, Magerman continued to talk to the media.

He wrote a piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer in which he said that, during the presidential election, Mercer “was effectively buying shares in the candidate” and “now owns a sizable share of the United States presidency” and that “Mercer has surrounded our president with his people, and his people have an outsized influence over the running of our country simply because Robert Mercer paid for their seats.”

After that, Magerman’s suspension was made permanent and he sued his boss for wrongful dismissal.

...Mercer was the third-largest Republican donor ($25.5 million) in the 2016 presidential race. In the New Yorker profile, a “high-level Renaissance employee” is quoted as saying, “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the president’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it all to fall down.”

I asked Magerman if he was the anonymous employee behind the quote. He said he couldn’t remember saying it, but it certainly sounded like something he would say.

Of course it does. One of Magerman’s cautions about “instant billionaires” is that they really don’t understand what the government is for. They didn’t get rich by providing the goods, services and infrastructure that bring people into direct contact with their community and its interests-- they got rich in financial markets, making money for the sake of it.

Often cited among the accomplishments of the Trump administration’s first year are the number of regulations that have been eliminated in the name of freeing businesses to create jobs. But the real shrinking of the role of government has been in Trump’s choice of cabinet members, whose aim seems to be to assail the policy goals of their departments.

Thus, the secretary of energy is someone who once campaigned to get rid of the Energy Department; the Secretary of Education has advocated against the public schools system; the Environmental Protection Agency director has a record of repeatedly suing the EPA; and the Attorney General has a reputation for opposing the expansion of civil rights.

Other departments are reportedly withering from neglect, as key positions are filled by unqualified people or not filled at all. The tax cut bill passed in December is forecast to add about a trillion dollars to the federal deficit, forcing further restraint on future governments.

It’s hard to imagine that Mercer would be unhappy about any of that given his thoughts about the size of government and the observation that he “wants it all to fall down”-- and especially since his daughter Rebekah was part of the transition team that helped Trump choose his cabinet.



At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Can One Family Of Psychotic, Fascist Billionaires Turn 250 Years Of American History On Its Head?"

This is a Question???

As proudly ignorant as the American People are, they long ago began to allow media to lead them astray. Anyone with enough money can buy media time to spread their offal. Anyone with plenty of money can establish an entire media empire to spew their detritus across an entire continent, if not the entire world (although FAUX can't broadcast in Canada because their laws require "news" to be "truthful").

Trump is the perfect leader for such people, for his attention span is no longer than theirs, and they just shift topics right along with him and don't get bored.

If one were -as the Mercers are- seeking to establish a dictatorship with meek subjects, there is no place better on Earth to do so than the US of A. "WEER NUMB A' WUN!"

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This piece could have been very, VERY important. Instead it kind of waffled into a little tap dance around the most important topic since and because of 1980.

“The ultra-wealthy of today differ from the ultra-wealthy in past eras in that they have, a lot of them, no stake in the infrastructure of society”.

Exactly. And that is what I predicted in 1980 when Reagan cut taxes on the wealthy AND raised spending on the military.

The Eisenhower/JFK tax structure, straight line from FDR's New Deal, did two basic things:
1) balance the money creation and taxation such that the economy and society did not suffer any deep recessions nor did it enjoy explosive growth. Both of these things can be problematic.
2) disincentivised the unbounded greed we've seen that created the Great Depression, the SnL crisis, the ENRONS, etc and the 2008 crash. People still got rich by making stuff, inventing stuff and guiding businesses to profits and growth. They did not make money faster and faster by fraud and monetizing their corporate concerns.

Since 1980, because the money supply/taxation balance has been thrown off, the us government borrows money to give to the rich and to make corporations grow. The taxation side as well as the trade imbalance means the money created does not return. So, basically, the treasury exists to enrich the wealthy and create currency with which to buy goods from overseas.

This puts unearned money, by the trillions, into the accounts of the rich and, now, tbtf corporations. It means that making BILLIONS is done quickest by speculation and fraud and NOT by being a good CEO or inventor.
So then... what to do with the trillions sitting there in stasis? Well, the very smart ones; the ones who couldn't care less about a society or nation or anyone worth less than they... they decided to buy the government that will let them do any damn thing they want to multiply their trillions even more. So you have the kochs and mercers who want NO government at all buying it. You have others, like adelson, the waltons and some others who each have their own philosophy, buying theirs too.

If the usa survives as anything close to what it was in the '50s politically, we're going to have to tax all those billionaires back down to millionaires (low 7 figure types) and make them find an actual productive way to get richer. Most wouldn't know where to even start.

This means taxing income, taxing speculative transactions, regulating derivitives AND, probably most importantly, taxing WEALTH.

Imagine the free health care, free education, modernized infrastructure and renewable energy programs we could benefit from if we taxed the 10s of trillions of unearned wealth these motherfuckers have all enjoyed for the past 38 years.

At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of the 242 years of our history, only the period from '32 - '80 can be considered "different" than what we have today. This is the period between the great depression and the election of the first (of 6 so far) anti-FDR.

Other than those 48 years of high progressive taxation and government regulation of capitalism, the money pretty much did what it wanted and the 99.9% generally got ratfucked. Relevant to the mercers, we also saw civil rights and voting rights, which they hate... BECAUSE they hate.

So you can also accurately say the the mercers (, kochs, waltons, etc) want to return to the golden days before the New Deal and set up firewalls such that we never, ever return to the time after FDR.


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