Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Billionaires Should Get Fair Trials... Fair Is Always An Important Part Of Justice


What does it take to accumulate a billion dollars? I mean psychologically. What kind of people have the drive to devote themselves to that onerous task and what kind of people come out of inheriting it? Last year we looked at Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson's examination into the lives and psychologies of those born into great wealth. But yesterday I somehow wound up grappling with the inherited wealth of dangerous predators and sociopaths like Sheldon Adelson and Frank VanderSloot and the Koch brothers, who both inherited great wealth and then went on to increase it to levels where it has become a great danger to society and an existential threat to democracy. That's what these arrogant billionaires all have in common, in fact: their threat to society and democracy.

Yesterday Forbes was teasing a March profile on Adelson-- a criminal gambling magnate who should have been locked up long ago-- by reporting that he claims he might give Gingrich $100 million to help him buy the presidency. He whines to the interviewer that he's treated unfairly by his critics. “Those people are either jealous or professional critics. They like to trash other people. It’s unfair that I’ve been treated unfair-- but it doesn’t stop me. I might give $10 million or $100 million to Gingrich.”
Adelson, 78,  certainly can afford to: With a net worth of roughly $25 billion, that $11 million, which jolted Gingrich’s flatlining presidential bid back to life, equates to 0.044% of his fortune. For someone with a $1 million net worth, the equivalent would be $440, or a two-night stay at Adelson’s Venetian casino. Adelson could personally fund an entire presidential campaign-- say, $1 billion or so-- and not even notice.

That's a very dangerous flaw in how we govern ourselves. No individuals, especially not sociopaths, as almost all billionaires are by the nature of their billionaireness-- should be in a position to endanger society because they have gamed the system so they are basically untaxed. Eisenhower had it about right when his administration taxed people with this kind of wealth something like 90%. Anything less leaves society vulnerable to their whims and deprecations. Even Adelson realizes something is wrong with the very wealthy being able to buy out democracy and not even notice the expenditure. “I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections. But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it."

Glenn Greewald's courageous portrait of another crooked billionaire, Romney's finance bigwig Frank VanderSloot, paints a picture even more threatening to society. A pyramid scheme health supplements magnate from Idaho (Melaleuca) and rabid homophobe, VanderSloot is determined to seize the White House for his Mormon Church and Romney is the vehicle. He and his wife contributed immense amounts of money towards Prop 8 in California, denying equality to gay couples. And now he and his companies have given at least a million dollars to Romney's campaign. And, as Greenwald emphasizes in his story, VanderSloot has a predilection of threatening to sue anyone and everyone-- from Forbes to small time local bloggers-- who attempts to expose his shady practices in any way. He concludes that "Anyone who is the national finance co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign deserves probing, substantial scrutiny. That’s equally true of someone who continues to use their vast wealth to influence the outcome of our elections and our most inflammatory political debates. And it’s certainly true of someone who has made it a regular practice of threatening journalists, bloggers and activists who shine light on his political and business practices." One of the most legitimate functions of government is to protect society and individuals from powerful predators like VanderSloot. (Rachel Maddow reported on Vandersloot Monday night and it's embedded below.)

And that brings us to the Kochs, longtime right-wing financiers who have been thrust into the public eye more and more in the last couple of years as they've made a blatant power grab for neo-fascist, anti-democratic forces in America on a level not seen here since the attempted military coup against FDR by right-wing elites. Monday, Wisconsin's Democratic Party chairman, Mike Tate, exasperated with the Koch's meddling in his state, responded to Koch's threats against Wisconsin like this:
"I think I speak for most Wisconsinites when I say to David Koch, 'Get out of Wisconsin and take Scott Walker's dangerous agenda with you.' This disturbing interview shows a man in David Koch who believes that because of his wealth, he should be able to dictate what happens in a place he hopes to convert into a plantation state for his low-wage, low-benefits, no-rights companies. Wisconsin cannot let David Koch or Scott Walker buy Wisconsin and break our middle class."

This is what David Koch had to say about his efforts to basically purchase Wisconsin:
"What Scott Walker is doing with the public unions in Wisconsin is critically important. He's an impressive guy and he's very courageous," Koch says after a benefit dinner of salmon and white wine. "If the unions win the recall, there will be no stopping union power."

Asked about union comments, Koch's spokeswoman is quick to moderate them.

"Koch companies support voluntary associations, and where they so choose, we recognize employees' rights to be represented and bargain collectively," Nicholas says in emailed remarks.

"We think the best workplace relationships are fostered when the employer works directly with its employees. It is a mischaracterization of our principles to say this means we oppose unions or want to dismantle all unions."

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At 1:59 PM, Blogger Daro said...

"Those people are either jealous or professional critics. They like to trash other people."

That old trope. If the poor are just jealous then you can say the rich are just spiteful. An acquaintance of mine who drives Ferraris and Lambo's by turn freely admits he does it to generate this envy.


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