KK: Are Billionaires 'Running Our Lives'?


LR phrases the issue quite nimbly, sincerely, and to the point:


Votes can't be bought or sold, but they can be INFLUENCED. You keep skirting around this simple truth.

When one entity, a corporation or union or somesuch, can pour as much money as they want into advertising for a candidate, their voice is amplified 10,000x to voters across the country. It's a direct correlation. This influences peoples opinions. You are essentially calling the "riggers" idiots, because you claim this tactic doesn't work, that it doesn't affect the outcomes of elections. So people like the Kochs, who have amassed $50 billion between them are flushing $889 million down the toilet this election cycle for no reason at all? They're just delusional old men? Think about the implications you're making.


My argument from the beginning is that CU, which allows unlimited donations from corporations and unions is bad for the democratic process and thus the country as a whole.

Let's do a sample exercise. Say a TV ad that will get seen by 5 million people in Florida costs $100. Say the average donator can afford to give $1. It takes 100 people to make one ad in support of one candidate. Now along comes Soros. He drops off a check for $10,000. His ONE voice can produce 100 ads. The message Soros or Charles Koch or David Geffen advocates for isn't the point I'm driving at. The point I'm driving at is that those individuals have, by law, 10,000 times the ability to influence people by supporting one candidate or the other because they have the most money.

Whether Hillary (wait, forgot, Super PAC's aren't controlled by the candidates wink wink) takes that $8 mil and makes an attack ad, makes an ad about feminism and her mother, makes an ad about teachers unions, makes an ad about marriage equality, that isn't the point.


Dr. D thinks that he knows why Rick and LR are talking past each other.  Dr. D's brother (an Ivy League prof) talked past him for years until we both realized what the problem was.  PERHAPS it relates here.


Q1:  Is "influence" is a bad thing?  Note that --- > Donald Trump has a microphone.  You and I don't.  My brother would have regarded this situation as outrageous by its very nature.  I'm guessing that Rick (1) does not see this situation as outrageous and (2) it would have never occurred to Rick that the situation was outrageous.  So, I'm guessing this is why they keep mystifying each other.  (They can correct Dr. D where he's wrong!)

It could be that triangulating the issue down to THIS one has the potential to resolve the whole discussion.  Is it a bad thing that Pepsi and Ford and Trump and Soros can talk to America, more loudly than Suzy Mainstreet can talk to it?


Q2:  Is the average person in the street --- > capable of coming to a rational decision about her own vote, even after she has "been exposed to" the voices of only eight politicians?

In my 53 years, I've come to see this as one of the main differences between right and left.  I've got a lot of confidence in Suzy Mainstreet.  This goes to the day the Founding Fathers framed the Constitution.

Sure, Suzy is influenced by the loudest microphones.  But she isn't controlled by them, and that's good enough for me.  Now, as you move from using private concerns to influence her --- > into using legislation on her, then the State does begin controlling her.


Q2a.  May I ask the (very) sincere Democrats here something?  Are you concerned that new immigrants will be unduly "influenced" after they are "exposed to" free government benefits?

I mean the question literally.  Does that seem like a healthy thing to you, that millions of new voters come in and vote for the side that pushes entitlements?  Or do you see that as resulting in society's well-being?  If so, why is this type of centralized "influence" a healthy one?


Q3.  If Trump and Soros and Pfizer and Microsoft and Goldman Sachs should not have the lead in "influencing" politics, who should?

Who influences the microphones in Cuba, or Denmark, or China?  The totalitarian state determines this.  You're going to have SOME way of winnowing the microphones down to a dozen or so.  What is the best way to do this - Saudi Arabia's way or the U.S.A.'s way?


Q4.  Is YOUR life being "run" by billionaires?

Personally, I'm using an iPhone 5s.  Apple "influenced" me to buy it.  Nevertheless I don't feel a slave to Apple, even 1% a slave, on any level.  When Ford, or Apple, or Nintendo, become powerful industrial concerns, a whole whale of a lot of market efficiencies result that benefit me.  As an American, I'm sitting here smartphone in one hand, latte in the other, watching the internet and Facebook and the free vote --- > place more influence onto the politicians than they place onto me.

I don't feel AT ALL that billionaires are running MY life.  Tell me where I'm going wrong.  :- )


My brother used to say that a poor person didn't have the "freedom" to travel to DisneyWorld, and so rich people shouldn't have that "freedom" either.  It took me two years to realize that he was using "capability" in the first sense, and "authority" in the other sense.  He meant that if any one person lacked the capacity to (say) go on a cruise vacation, then every other person should have his authority to do so taken away by the State.  That way everything would be "fair!"

On the right, voters simply don't believe that it is "unfair" for two different Americans to be situated in different life circumstances.  Originally the country was about the American Dream -- the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.  Not a Department of Happiness.  This paradigm views government as a non-parental entity, put in place to stop crime and build roads.  


If a 1400 A.D. Michael Jackson invented a little slingshot, and traded 50 of them for currency sticks, he'd be the richest man in the village - and everybody in the village would have slingshots.  NOW the question for my brother was:  what if villager #51 wanted a slingshot also?  Should Michael Jackson 1400 AD be allowed to have 51 sticks in his bank account?

I think most people on the right say, transaction #51 is good for the village, all things considered.  Most people on the left seem to say, You've got to stop Jackson from getting those 51 sticks, at any cost.  

At least, those were the terms on which we two argued it :- )  In my particular family, this argument seemed to resolve down to a general resentment that Jackson had 51 sticks and I only had two.  From there, I could build 9,000 theoretical arguments as to the damage Jackson could do with his 51 sticks, the control he would have of the village, his undue influence, etc.  In reality, he just sold us slingshots (or hit records!) every one of which was a benefit to peoples' lives.  And he never did do much with his pile of sticks.


Certainly there is a point at which the Robber Barons are abusing the system.  I can think of two ways in which *I* worry about it:  Big Pharma, and the monolithic NYT/MSNBC microphone that was supposed to be a free press.  The "intellectual heights" of our society -- colleges, Hollywood, the media -- all have huge microphones and they all push left.  Despite this, Republicans have held the White House for 24 of the last 36 years.  The media influences us, but still does not control us.

I would certainly favor checks-and-balances on those two sectors.



Obviously we're getting close to SOME kind of tipping point.  Donald Trump looks odds-on to push through the Republican apparatus and take that nomination.  Bernie Sanders seems obviously the choice of the Democratic voter, although he may be stopped by the apparatus for reasons totally opaque to Dr. D.


TONE, amigos.  Let's be excruciatingly friendly and polite on this one.

'ave at me,

Dr D




Your post could lead to a hundred issue arguments, and a thousand comments.

So let me just deal with your initial premise: bilionaires running our lives.

The simple answer--the ONLY answer--is absolutely they are.   But if we choose to focus on the impact of their money on individual election years, you bypass the wider truth.  They don't come out of the woodword every four years and stupidly start throwing money around.  They have worked for decades, day by day, to influence every person in America on their view of their own goverment.  And that view is one that is uniformly friendly to their personal and corporate interests.

Let me use this analogy.  When we're seven years old, and start hearing the words of the pledge of allegiance, we are absolutely convinced that America is great because we believe in 'liberty and justice for all.'  Now, you may come to the conclusion in later years that you have no liberty if anyone takes one tax dollar from you...or that justice only applies to white people.  Whatever.  The point is that if something is repeated enough to you when you're seven, you're probably going to believe it.  (Same holds true for the words repeated by school kids in every other country).

What the Koch brothers and associates have done is work assiduously, day by day, dollar by dollar, to (one must say systematically and ingeniously) infiltrate the processes of electoral politics and communication to make us all seven years old again.  

There is talk about a 'third party' candidate.  But we already have a third party--it's the oligarchs.  The ones Sanders warns about speech after speech.  We see the RNC and the DNC humbled and wonder what in the world is happening.  It should be obvious--the oligarchs have taken over.

So I guess this really comes down to your personal depiction of 'Big Brother'--is it those pernicious socialists...or the oligarchs?  


So Donald Trump is trying to influence YOU in the way you look at immigrants.  Is he succeeding?  Or is your current position on Syrian refugees one that you freely chose?

:: shrug :: George Soros, and NBC, and the NYT, are trying to influence me.  I retain my own attitudes and dispositions.  In that sense, they're not running my life.

Help me out here Diderot.  Why should I be afraid of what George Soros will do to MY mind?


I don't know any illegal immigrants (that i'm aware of).  I've never walked through a Syrian refugee settlement.  So, just like everyone else, this is an abstraction for which I have to accept information from someone. Choose your poison, right?  (BTW,  I'm smiling at your attempts to draw me out on Soros--No dice!  :)  )

Beyond that, let me take a meta example.  Donld Trump assures us that America is a 'disaster' in every way.  Government is, entirely, a mess.  (Except for our heroic veterans).

From this, you can choose to respond in two ways.  First, maybe the news sources and other politicians you trust say exactly the same thing.

But you also have first hand experience.  Yep, those peope down at the DMV are morons.  On the other hand, when my garage caught on fire, our local fire department guys were here so fast I coulcn't believe it.  And I have to admit, my daughter's third grade teacher is really teriffic.

So there's conflicting information.  Which you process together to come to your current opinion.

What I'm saying is that the first part of this equation...where you listen to what your 'experts' are saying...has been manipulated for at least 40 years by the billionaires you cited to begin with.  That is what the billionaires (many) have been busy doing.

And you may say, well, that may be true for some candidates, but love him or hate him, Trump is his own man.  He owes allegiance to no one.

To which I would point out that his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is a former state director of one of the Koch brothers biggest think tanks.  It's the same playbook.  



with great respect, let me offer this:

Through the ages your point about the invisible, nefarious controlling force has been a popular one.  Rather than the "oligarchs", however, western history has seen (time and place dependant) the Knights Templar, the Masons, the Elders of Zion, International Jewry, Illuminati, Skull and Bones, J.P. Morgan & J.D. Rockefeller, The Rothschilds, Cecil Rhodes and the Knights of the Round Table, the NWO, Bernard Baruch and George Steinbrenner.

Well, maybe not George.

True believers will say, I suppose, that they are all one and the same and that this amorphous nebulae, without benevolence, shape shifts over the centuries to fit time and place.  

Humbug, I say.

As to the fear that money buys elections, I find it interesting that the left is sure that they themselves are too intelligent to be swayed by the Soros millions, but the bourgeois or proletariat right isn't capable of resisting the Koch's evil witchcraft.  

Money corrupts everybody else, but not me, is the basic line. Or Fox News does the corrupting:  I've had good friends tell me that Bill O'Reilly is the Prince of Darkness and Rachel Maddow is the Princess of Light and Truth.

I don't trust Ted Cruz, any more than I do Barack Obama or Lois Lerner, to tell me which messages are political electioneering.  I'm a bit down on voters right now; a Trotskyite pretending to be Robin Hood winning on one side and Boss Tweed pretending to be Boss Hogg* winning on the other will do that to a guy!

It isn't money that rots politics, it's the voters with 5-second attention spans and "Gimme, Gimme!!" attitudes that are doing the better job of it.

With respect,


*I like that "Boss" line.  It isn't as spot on as the Trotskyite deal, but it is more clever (if less accurate).


Let me draw distinctions on a couple of your points.

1) I'm not arguing electioneering (a separate argument).  I'm arguing the leverage of influence over decades, masterfully carried out. In way that persuades people to believe what they believe...and vote the way they do.  I believe a hundred years from now people will be studying how this has been carried out--whether the effort is ultimately successful or not.

2) I'm not equating our current situation with mysterious forces/influences of the past...in your examples, where they rose only to the level of suspicion.  In our current case, no allegations need be leveled--it's a matter of quoting the perpetrators of this influence in their own words.  They're proud of it.  As Hillary Clinton said recently, when asked whether she still believed in a vast right wing conspiracy, (paraphrasing only slightly)..."Of course--but maybe not a conspiracy anymore, since it's so out in the open."  Chapter and verse is readily available.

3) This isn't a matter of right vs. left.  Do I think liberals are 'smarter' than conservatives?  No.  I ascribe to Churchill's quote: "people don't get to be conservative until they have something to conserve."  Or, in an even a more hackneyed version, "where you stand depends on where you sit."  There are smart people on both sides of the fence.  But the majority--again on both sides--don't lead lives that let them investigate politicians and their claims as closely as do people here.  Now, here's my incendiary difference: clueless liberals run off at the mouth aimlessly and (largely) harmlessly; clueless conservatives elect people intent on destroying democracy. I expect a lot of people disagree.  But that's what i believe.

And I'll conclude by saying that given your own position and experience, I really value interchanges with people like you.  I've essentially sworn off lefty websites.  What's the fun in being in the middle of a bunch of people who agree with you?


And I realized last night, after hopping in bed, that I should have pointed out that you certainly weren't linking those past groups to your current argument.  



Because people were trying to control the amount of money used in voter education (or influencing, vote buying, dumbing down, whatever, choose your term). Whatever your solution to corral the evils of money in politics, it will likely create a problem even worse. SuperDEdooper Pacs maybe. Or Cuba.  

George Will likes to compare, quite regularly, the amount of money spent selling Tortilla chips compared to influencing an election. I haven't seen his reiteration this year, but Tortilla chips, potato chips, whatever he uses, the lowly product always comes out ahead. Hey, people's jobs are dependent on the product being sold. Even Bernie Sanders has thousands of folks who would LOVE to be paid to spread his message. Is it right to deprive them of this opportunity?

On a personal note: I recently took my frustration on the politics of resentment on poor LR, and you, gentle readers. Nuff said there, if you don't know what I am referring to, consider yourself fortunate. But if you do, then for that, I apologize.


You're a model of what makes the Think Tank what it is.  That you're capable of getting a bit irritable is more amusing than anything.  You've still got about 900 grouchy days to go, to catch up to me!

Your second sentence above ++ Whatever your solution to corral the evils of money in politics, it will likely create a problem even worse ++ that's my impression too.  But I'm sure we agree there comes *some* point at which the U.S. government has to level out abuses of power.

Personally I don't think it's an "abuse of power" that Corporation X merely speaks to me loudly.  For me, abuses of power in America go more to the question of when I am being silenced, suppressed, censored, etc.

SOMEbody is going to be speaking to me loudly.  The last 8 years, it has mostly been President Obama.  How do we select the people with the microphones?  If Facebook selects the microphones, that's going to be "abuse of power" by Zuckerberg, isn't it?


Try to corner the pigs any way you want...and they will still slip away.  Money will find a way.

But to me this is like saying that since auto accidents will always happen, what's the use having a seat belt law?

lr's picture

That it's hard to find a good starting spot. Great post, fairly asked questions, and you summed mine and Ricks particular problem up pretty well. Regarding influence as you've described it, here's what I think most of America believes.

Your Q1. I wasn't talking about whether Trump (or Hillary or Cruz) should or shouldn't have a microphone. The prime, first principle I kept driving at is that corporations shouldn't get to pump unlimited money into the electoral process. It' unfair, period, and over 80% of the country agrees with that principle. The rise of Sanders and *Trump against the establishment is a clear signal that a lot of people understand what's going on and don't like it. We KNOW that advertising works. I'm guessing you didn't stumble into an Apple store one day and buy an iPhone on a whim. So do we agree then that people are influenced by adverstising, whether consciously or subconsciously?

This leads to your Q2, is Suzy capable of making her own rational decisions. Sure some Suzys are. Let me ask this though. Are there Suzys and Johnnys out there that have a hard time sifting through advertising (or propoganda) and coming to the *right conclusion? The answer is clearly yes. And Pepsi and Soros and Koch know this. They've known it for a loooong time.

We're sitting down to eat, so I'll leave it at that. I'm sure others will offer better insight into the other questions you raised anyway.


LR writes (actual quote): "Are there Suzys and Johnnys out there that have a hard time sifting through advertising (or propoganda) and coming to the *right conclusion? The answer is clearly yes. And Pepsi and Soros and Koch know this. They've known it for a loooong time."

You can bet, however, that Pepsi and Koch are truly believing they are leading people to what they believe is the "right conclusion." Free markets are better than regulations, Pepsi is better than Coke.

Koch is concerned people are not getting the whole truth and thus coming to the wrong conclusion. So they spend the money necessary to make Suzy and Johnny more knowledgeable.

And they may need a little more money to do so than allowed to spend. But if they are kept from spending it on elections, they will go elsewhere.

Instapundit blogger Glen Reynolds has suggested they would get more bang from their buck if they bought media outlets instead of campaigns and advertising. In particular Women's Magazines like Ladies Home Journal, Cosmo, etc.  But struggling newspapers might be good buys as well. These outlets subtly (and overtly) educate their readers into the, ahem, right conclusions.



just bought the Las Vegas Review Journal (which regularly investigated him)...and also owns the Isreal Hayom paper in Israel.

If you'd only pitched this idea to him a decade ago, you could be a multil-millionaire!

lr's picture

For the record, the asterisk in front of the word right meant objective truths. Things that aren't up for debate, like tobacco causes cancer or the Holocaust happened. (I'd include AGW but that would create a real s*^#storm)

If you had just come out about 10 comments ago and said, as you just did, that "Koch is concerned people are not getting the whole truth and thus coming to the wrong conclusion. So they spend the money necessary to make Suzy and Johnny more knowledgeable" we coulda shut this thing down a long time ago. Glad you finally said it though. When you suggest Koch and Pepsi have absolute conviction that they're objectively educating the general public, the game is lost.


At some point we trust them to sift through the ideas, or we don't.  

Wasn't it King George and John Hancock who had a disagreement over this?  Is royalty (Kings, or college profs, or news anchors) needed to "parent" the average commoner into the "correct" ideas?  Or will we have a government OF the people as well as FOR the people?

I find that my wife's aunt, and her 100 IQ, is much closer to us* in reasoning power than we assume.  ;- )  She is quite capable of hearing out the elites and determining her own fate.


If the problem is merely --- > ensuring that Suzy and Johnny have access to facts, personally I think we're doing better at it than we used to.  

We've got (1) the internet, we've finally got (2) Fox and Drudge to call baloney on NBC and the NYT (and vice versa), we've got (3) Facebook and Twitter and blogs to put info into the hands of the people, so --- > Suzy is well able to hear both sides of the Syrian refugee issue if she is so inclined.  More so than she was in 1980.

The U.S.A. never had a time in its history wherein every Johnny Mainstreet was systematically brought to a post-baccalaureate level of edumacation.  Such has never been a sine qua non for our Republic to work, has it?  

Those who choose to participate with gusto, do so.  Billionaires aren't stopping them now, any more than yellow journalists did a hundred years ago.

Or not :- )


lr's picture

Would love to have a chat with her, see where she comes down on (off the top of my head) GMO's, climate change, gay marriage, Citizen's United, or fracking. Obviously I'm being a litte funny, but in my experience around the Thanksgiving table and on the couch afterwards watching the Lions get trounced, the amount of misinformation and just flat out objectively false "facts" presented in these settings is quite groan inducing. I know we can ALL relate. Now, I'm not saying for one second that I have it all figured out, by any means. I'm ignorant on a great many things. I like to think though that one of my strengths is the ability to recognize when I'm out of my depth on a particular issue and wait until I really take time to study up before I feel comfortable having a strong opinion. And I don't think that trait is widespread across the voters.

I agree with you whole heartedly that people today have a much easier time educating themselves on the issue of the day. And yet, we are reminded by public policy polling that:

"9% of voters think the government adds fluoride to our water supply for sinister reasons"

"13% of voters think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ"

"20% of voters believe there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism"

"14% of voters believe in Bigfoot"

" 37% of voters believe global warming is a hoax"

and "4% of voters say they believe “lizard people” control our societies by gaining political power"


I wonder if any in the 100 IQ crowd were polled.


The question remains:  is it their country?  Or would we be better off if the elites "parented" them?


Your point is well taken; Suzy Mainstreet is unlikely to be able to tick off the DNC or RNC talking points on her fingers.  But!  She has something else:  she has common sense, a worldview and a detached belief system.  Her intuition, her judgment, and her life experiences give her a basic reaction to the immigration/terrorist problem.  

She probably feels that she would like to be generous to immigrants, until it's too costly to do so.

Benjamin Franklin's GENIUS - or his FATAL ERROR - was that the common sense of the man in the street would correct excesses!


Whether Suzy is right or whether she is wrong, the question is whether it's her country or ours (Yours and mine, as the intelligentsia).

I agree with William F. Buckley:  I'd rather be governed by 12 people out of the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty.  The Founding Fathers agreed.  Perhaps in the year 2016 AD, we no longer believe that?

lr's picture

I think we generally agree, this country is based on the idea that the people get to choose the direction it goes, crash, boom or otherwise. One of the funny, or tragic (depending on your gag reflex) things is that in this country, for the most part, we get what we deserve. Why are the Kardashians popular? Because enough people pay them attention. Why is gay marriage sweeping the country? Because enough people are starting to demand it. Why did we to go war in Iraq? Because enough elected officials signed off on it.

The point I'm driving at is that this ideal of being a country where Suzy and Johnny get to (for better or worse) make fundamentally profound decisions of its direction is being corrupted and poisoned when it is allowable, by law, for those with the most money to have the largest effect on important decisions. Do we agree on that?


Conservatives are being frozen out. This has a much greater impact on society than Koch or industry when it comes to information. and the corruption is rife. Recently, Dinesh D'Souza was disinvited from speaking at Gonzaga for PC reasons. If a student wishes to receive a conservative alternative, they MUST go outside academia, or find that lonely brave scholar who isn't afraid to stand alone - assuming he wasn't screwed out of appointments or being published for daring to counter the prevailing political winds of correct thinking.

My son at the UW spoke of attending a recent Trump "rally" there (not as a supporter, but out of curiosity - student are supposed to be curious after all). This turned into, as he described it, about five Trump supporters surrounded by a hundred or so angry and noisy detractors with bullhorns, shouting them down. He described the surreal scene, as the Trump supporters stayed silent, and the only response they gave was that they had food available should anyone be hungry. Makes one wonder what happened to the "free speech" movement of the 60's.

The conservative is a lonely voice, and made to feel most unwelcome. I was surprised it was still this way since my days, when ROTC was the evil presence. This form of fascism I would say most certainly comes from the top: administration and faculty.

Then there is Hollywood, setting the trends for correct thought. Let me know if there is a single conservative comment made on the stage When we have the Oscars. Yeah, right. Keep your head down, and your offers rolling in. I would suggest it is going to be tougher to be an outspoken conservative in Tinseltown than a black person should you be looking for equal opportunity


I think the concern, for me anyway, is more about the influence the money has on the elected, rather than the voters. Certainly some big money donors are ideologically driven, but I am guessing, with no data, that most of the political money prefers front running and is party agnostic, concerned almost exclusively with rice bowl breakage prevention, and only if they are really lucky, rice bowl enhancement.

I get the example of ads and the iPhone, but if the iPhone was a crappy product, ads won’t give it legs. The movie industry has known this for a long time.

So how does voter-as-consumer discern whether the political product their vote bought them is a good product? I think here it is helpful to look past rhetoric to actual results.

Let’s do a quickie high-level overview (like from space, through binoculars with a wobbly focus knob) of the favorite greed-is-good poster child, the financial industry. Way back in the 90’s, Clinton and Greenspan set the regulatory table so that banks consolidated and got very big (and this was an international phenomenon). Couple that with those marvelous financial “innovations” of securitization and derivatives. The former is supposedly regulated by the ’33 and ’34 Securities Acts and the SEC, to insure market transparency and prevent fraud.  But as things turned out, securitization, particularly of debt instruments derivatively sliced and diced, was rampant with fraud. The derivatives “shadow” market was never regulated, thanks to the neo-liberal/neo-conservative “free market” mantra. (Here’s a clue – an opaque market with no price discovery is not “free.”)

After a decade or so, these so-called masters of the universe managed to blow themselves up so badly that not only did they lose everything they had made over the past 15 years (oh wait, bailout), but they came very close to blowing up the world’s financial infrastructure.

Now, here we are, almost a decade later, and there has been no prosecutions for fraud, no jail time, no derivatives market regulation, no end of the too big to fail banks that remain incredibly fragile. Plus, as a bonus, we have suffered a dismantling of our industrial jobs base, unprecedented income and wealth disparity, and a rapidly shrinking middle class. And that is after 3 different presidents representing both parties. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Personally, I think many people realize they got stuck with a crappy product. Hence, the crazies are leading the pack. Bernie scares the financial establishment because he has painted a bullseye on their forehead. Trump scares them too, I guess because he is self-funded and therefore uncontrollable, but even worse, he is unpredictable – can’t you see him breaking one or more of their rice-bowls just to see the look on their faces?

What is great about this campaign, to me, is that both of Bernie and Donald have the means to get their message out and reach the voters, and they seem to have more than a puncher’s chance at the nomination(s). That to me is the sign of a system on its way back to health.


And the lefty-progressive do-gooding requirements that banks make sub-prime loans to high-risk home buyers who could have never qualified for loans otherwise (and who had high default rates, go figure), which caused those same banks to peddle "bundles" of loans to other financial institutions in order to mitigate their increased risk exposure had not one thing to do with any of it.



No doubt that helped grease the skids, but consider the economic incentives of making those loans. The orginators filled out standard forms, maybe they fudged here and there, and sent it upstream, collecting a fee. From there, the loan may have been sold several times, also with fees involved, until it finally ends up in a pool of loans, in a trust, which instructs the trustee to divide the income into tiers. The first tier receives a priority distribution on the income up to x%, the second tier then receives income up to y%, and so on. Then the first tier is rated AAA, so it can be purchased by retirement funds, insurance companies and other custodians of retirement and other savings who are required to invest only in "safe" AAA rated investments. Now, notice that in this chain of transactions, no one retains any recourse liability. Does the originator care if there is default? Why should he, if he does not have to pay back his fees, or be responsible for any damages. 

It is a system designed so that no one has any skin in the game, except, of course, the sucker who buys the "AAA" investment. Actually, not true, as that would be the custodian, who also has no skin in the game. The ultimate sucker is the retired teacher, sanitation worker, teamster, etc., whose safe AAA investment just lost 80% of its value. That is not how a free market operates. And then when the designers and perpetrators of this system face its collapse, they get bailed out. Heads I win, tails you lose. As Harry Gondorf would say, the fix is in.

This system where no one has skin in the game is unsustainable, and it will collapse again, worse than 2008. Unfortunately, it will be accompanied by a great deal of collateral economic damage.


Are you saying the banks had no self-interest in writing risky mortgages?

Or that they were somehow forced to bundle them?

Bonus question: do you think repeal of Glass-Stegall was a good thing?  (And yes, I know who was President when that was proposed.)


Correct, the loan originators have no skin in the game. That is what securitization is about. Remember Bailey Bank in "Its A Wonderful Life"where there was a local bank that kept the loan in house and serviced it for its entire 30 year term? That was replaced by a system that allows a bank to sell the loan immediately, as long as it is on standard forms and meets the right qualification requirements. Immediate profit, no blow back risk? Sign me up!

As for Glass Steagall, I think it is an imprtant piece, but the securitization and derivatives markets did most of the damage. There was an interesting recent interview with Bernanke, in which he expressed puzzlement on the nostalgic wish for G/S reinstatement. He said that G/S would not have prevented the 2008 crisis, because most of the problems came from non-investment  banking acts, AIG for example. However, I do think that G/S should be reinstated because retail banking should be managed like a public utility. Mr. Banker, if you want to go 100mph with your hair on fire, great, just not with my savings account (or taxpayer guaranty) at risk. Before all this financial "reform" investment banks like Goldman operated as general partnerships! That is having skin in the game.


The Kochs truly believe their message is correct. Objectively so. Now, Pepsi may either think they nailed the formula, or they may just be creating an impression that helps folks subjectively prefer their product. I'll grant the latter.

So, it is strange that we are willing to allow Pepsi to spend as much as they want to sell their dubious proposition: that Pepsi is better than Coke. BUT, we are going to limit the ability of people to give what they believe is valid information in determining important issues because it is in some way "unfair." Unfair to who? Not the voter. His vote counts as much as Koch's. Each gets one vote. But equality of vote does not mean equality of outcome. Some people are more persuasive than others. Should they be made to shut up? Suppose they are *correct?  

Most voters want to make right decisions. To do so, they need information.  If more money is spent to provide *correct information to the voter, likely no one would object.  That's why we have schools: we spend a lot of money to educate, and we assume *correct information is provided in them. And this belief allows us to make the funding compulsory. I imagine, for some people, the idea that some people get more *correct information than others, because their schools are superior, is so unfair that they would prefer to equalize the amount of *correct information. And if this meant providing less to the superior school to level the playing field, then so be it. My hunch, however, is that people want access to more, not less, information to discern truth so that they can exercise their vote correctly. But they will also like to see fewer TV ads and yard signs littering the byways. Well, we do have laws against unsightliness. But free speech is a tricky thing.

This all assumes politics is a civic endeavor to promote the general welfare, and people earnestly wish to do so by voting.

But politics is also, and perhaps foremost, a struggle between factions for power and control. So we truly fear when one side is able to exert an unfair advantage.

Strange that we contest with argument and reason then. Why not just separate factions and split power accordingly? Because people have reason and will use it to change their minds and their factions. We honor that. But it happens when we provide argument and information. 

If the voter is wishing to vote as a civic duty to properly shape the course of the nation, then he wants more, not less information. He wants good information, of course. That's why he trusts his neighbor's opinion. Or his Facebook friend's. Probably moreso than the TV ad, which makes a strong case as well, but is untrustworthy - who hasn't bought a piece of junk that worked like a charm on TV?

I suppose we could boil every race down to 100 words, shut down all debate, and pass out voters pamphlets. Would that be fair? Would that be preferable? 

Most political advertising I find detestable, and a waste, at least for my vote. But in Thomas Jefferson's age, newspapers were partisan rags - completely devoid of objectivity. No doubt some rags were better funded. Still, this man of the enlightenment is reported as saying that if he were to choose between government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, he would not hesitate to choose the latter. I am not sure how *that* works, but it suggests that Jefferson saw the importantance of a very open and wild process of disseminating information. Perhaps it was because the King of England saw no reason for the colonies to be filled with false ideas regarding the *correctness of his position.


The Left fears Big Business far more than they fear Big Government, even though the government is far more powerful than any business and has the guns to enforce its will. They see government as inherently benevolent, and any corruption is the result of nefarious outside forces. That means the Left sees corporate influence as a root problem that needs to be addressed directly. In reality, corporate influence is a symptom of Big Government. That is, the whole reason it is worthwhile to spend millions of dollars to support certain candidates and lobby the government is because the government is now deeply involved in every aspect of our lives which means there is a huge potential payoff to getting involved in politics. If the government only concerned itself with policing the streets and putting out fires, the tax code was super simple with no deductions or loopholes, and there were no regulations, subsidies or mandates, then there would be no point in spending money on politics because it wouldn't get you anywhere. The idea that you can have Big Government that is free from corporate influence is a fantasy. On the contrary, the bigger the government, the bigger the corporate influence. If you try to regulate the corporate spending, businesses will find new avenues to get money to politicians (as they did when campaign finance reform was passed in 2002). If you outright ban it, then the influence will be done illegally (just look at any Communist country).

Let's take ObamaCare as an example. This law has a massive amount of regulations, subsidies, mandates and so on. For instance, not only are people required to buy health insurance from private companies, but those insurance plans are required to cover a whole range of things. Insurance companies are also required to accept anyone who applies, regardless of their health status, and the amount that the companies can spend on administration and advertising is capped. Now doesn't it make sense that insurance companies are going to try to be heavily involved in how such a major law is written? Does anyone seriously expect them to just sit on their hands and let themselves be regulated without doing anything at all? Of course not! And really, wouldn't it be extremely unfair to allow the government to heavily regulate insurance companies but not let the insurance companies take part in the politcal process?

The simple fact is that you can not talk about the degree that special interests influence our government without discussing the scope of government. The two are not separate issues, but inextricably connected. So to answer the question in the headline, No, billionaires are not running our lives, the government is. Billionaires just get a bigger say in how their lives are run.


Is there any logical way you can describe what 'the left' thinks given the standoff between Hillary and Bernie?  Any way you can incorporate 'the right' that includes the beliefs of Donald Trump and Jeb Bush and Rand Paul?  Any way at all that you could define what 'the blacks' think...or do?  I think most of the country has moved beyond that. Similarly, I wouldn't say that the Koch brothers and Warren Buffett somehow align as defining 'big business'.  (Sorry for sounding preachy--but this bugs me no matter what side it comes from).

On your main point, yes, it's only logical that business would want to get involved--and they should.  Why would they not have a voice?  But we're beyond that.  I'm going to take a wild (non-sourced) guess that 90% of Congress is controlled by big business.  Not 'involvement'--ownership.

And of course this works both ways.  The treasonous acts of Joe Lieberman (then a Democrat) servicing the accounting firms are what allowed Enron to happen.  

And if you draw up a petition to tear up the tax code and start from scratch...justifying every section therein...I'll be the first to sign up.


I don't think it moves us forward to deny that the Democrat Party wants to enlarge government and that the Republican Party wants to reduce it.

As you say, Diderot, nuance can always be found.  Just, I vote that we also discuss things in terms simple enough to understand.  Higher taxes are consistently a plank in the DNC platform; reduced taxes are consistently a plank in the RNC platform.

You also know which party is going to say what on abortion, marriage rights, gun control, environment, the NEA, etc.  

The Bing Political Index stacks every candidate up neatly on all these issues and assigns them a number.


But yeah.  Every Democrat or Republican reserves his/her right to vary from the party platform :- )


Based on the minimal amount of public access, and from what was leaked in 2014 on these proposed agreements, the TransAtlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), several sources have the belief that many of these PLANKS could and eventually will be controlled by a GLOBAL commission that will have the ability to not only fine companies, but also fine and JAIL individuals. NOT the US courts. Not Congress. A GLOBAL group with control over many things that most of us believe that we the PEOPLE of the USA should be able to control... or at least vote on.

These proposed agreements will control WORLD trade (manufacturing of goods, natural resource consumption and restrictions, environmental impact - READ CLIMATE CHANGE  and GLOBAL fair wage scales - No wonder UNIONS are against this - just to name a few) and World economics ( fair wealth and resource redistribution, WORLD healthcare - you thought Obamacare was bad, WORLD security plans - Goodbye second amendment, and national ID cards just to name a few more).

Luckily the Republicans in Congress have already said that they will not fight Obama on this, as this Congress does not want to cost the Republicans the election later this year. The guess is these agreements will be voted on sometime in the next 6 weeks or so... and I wonder how much will ever be written about it or even discussed in these election discussions.

Please do your own research, although it is hard since these agreements are not publically available - and probably never will. However, DO not trust me. Look it up yourself. If the rumors are true though, there may be very little difference between Republicans and Democrats in the not too distant future.     


If CPB's generaizations are fair, then do you also agree that since money will always corrupt government, we should just back off and let it happen?

The idea that you can have Big Government that is free from corporate influence is a fantasy. On the contrary, the bigger the government, the bigger the corporate influence. If you try to regulate the corporate spending, businesses will find new avenues to get money to politicians (as they did when campaign finance reform was passed in 2002). If you outright ban it, then the influence will be done illegally (just look at any Communist country).

There's no shortage of GOP politicians who would be happy doing away with the EPA entirely.

Would you be happy having your kids drink the water in Flint?



I'm not personally a fan of the idea of closing down the EPA, but these agencies should not be used to bypass the wishes and laws of Congress. Obama was trying to use it to shut down "dirty" coal power plants (just like all infrastructure in America is "crumbling," all coal is "dirty"). But he wasn't trying to close down dirty coal because of respiratory issues. The issue was global warm...er, climate change. 

Now, however we feel about climate change, I think it is a stretch to say that the EPA was created to put America's coal fired power plants out of business because they have a very negligable effect on raising CO2 and global temperatures - especially if it s done as an end run around Congress. The big energy fight when I was in college was dirty nuclear power, which of course is great for limiting CO2, but they put out that nasty nuclear waste. That's a job for the EPA, keeping nuclear waste out of our water suppies and such. 

I don't know how much, if any, Koch money was spent lobbying the Supreme Court here in this case.  But a lot of employees of coal fired plants probably were thankful if it had an impact on that August body (very few bodies are "August" but the Supreme Court certainly is). The Court was very concerned that ideology was trumping people's livelihoods, the need for power, the need for power at affordable prices, etc.

West Virginia used to be a solidly Democratic state. You can't drive through there without seeing road after building after park after turnpike named for Senator Robert Byrd, who knew how to bring home the bacon. Certainly a lot of money has been poured into the political system by billionaires to affect climate change policy - mostly on the liberal end I would say. I would not be surprised if there are billionaires spending more than the Kochs to change the debate. My guess is a lot of liberals feel this money is important in order to counter the deviousness of the Kochs. 

The left has a powerful and well funded, non-crumbling, media instrastructure. Labor union money (mostly teachers, government employees, service employees) alone pour in the most money to affect elections. I don't see alot of outcry from the left regarding the money pouring into this machine to affect outcomes. It's as if this is "clean" money, whereas Koch, the NRA, and Wall Street is "dirty" money.

Anyway, a lot of Conservatives feel that with the media (Press, Hollywood, Network news etc.) and academia controlling so much of the debate, we are pretty nervous about putting down the one similar weapon we have in this battle of ideas. We are concerned it may be unilaterally disarming. Actually, I personally am more concerned, like the Supreme Court, about the constitutionality of such a thing. but we already have to fight tooth and nail with the Clinton and Obama machines to get Wall Street money. Hillary sure did make a lot of money giving speeches to Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions.  



I'll just respond by saying:

  • If you think there is such a thing as 'clean coal'
  • If you don't believe there is such a thing as climate change
  • If you don't beieve the EPA has been gutted by Tea Party budget cuts
  • If you think that somehow the left is contributing even a small fraction of what the Koch brothers do to influence enviironmental issues

...then I'd say we're working from such different data sets that there really isn't point in continuing.


While Flint was under an Emergency Manager, the city council still had to approve the switch to the Flint River as the municipal water supply.  I know a bit about councils; they should have been all over making sure that the new system was potable and safe. The vote has been described by some as "largely ceremonial" due to the emergency manager situation, however, councillors still should been on top of the issue, as Flint had been warned of the dangers of switching by a contracted engineer.  And if the Detroit water system hadn't essentially held Flint hostage, as they were leaving, then the whole problem would have been averted before it began.

Heck, Flint wasn't even sure where it's lead pipes were.  Such an audit should have been done long ago.  

There is more than enough blame to go around here.  The state and the EM certainly are due their share.  But decades of Flint council's  and public works departments doing next to nothing about an antiquated system had much to do with it, as well.

And the EPA wasn't saving the day in Flint.  


Really makes me think. 

I remember the Obama stimulus program. What this really was was the Government version of "trickle down economics." I was personally surprised by how much money the biotech industry received. University laboratories got expensive new equipment. In many ways, it was Christmas time for NIH funded operations. I'm not sure how the minority communities were served here, except that many Universities are located in low income areas (Rush in Chicago, for example). The money trickled down to local restaurants, I suppose. Janitors and other blue collar workers in these institutions were helped in a roundabout way.

Why did this happen? Weren't we supposed to get money to fix our "crumbling infrastructure" (you can't say infrastructure these days without including the word "crumbling" in front of it - drinking game for next Sanders-Clinton debate). Obama said he was surprised by the lack of shovel ready projects. At the same time, those who apply regularly for government grants were well positioned to swoop in - they know the game and the rules.

I'll be honest, while much of the industries and hard hit businesses went under, and many friends I had lost their shirts and homes, our business did well, probably in large part because we sell to that sector. 

Now, I don't really thank the Government for this. The Feds screwed us much more often than helped us, and have pursued policies that from my vantage point seemed designed to put us out of business. Sometimes literally. There have been big shots within the Federal agencies who aggressively acted to deny us business. I have horror stories I won't regale you all with. We survived - the booming 90's were great for the industry overall but we were holding onto out butts thanks to Government bureaucratic b.s. - we had to lay off most all of our staff, who - because they acquired skills with us - all went on to bigger jobs and salaries. We had to diversify and retool, because Government was a cruel and fickle master.

Anyway, not sure how this all moves the conversation along. But I just wanted to say that a lot of us Conservatives do not see the Government as a big vending machine. We look at the world as a strange and complex place, and  look to see what works best for the greatest number of people. I think the free market works best in that regard.


As someone whose exposure to American politics is limited to this site, maybe some facebook headlines and a few comedy shows I have a question. 

Articles like this one... the-dnc-superdelegates-just-screwed-over-bernie-sanders-and-spit-in-the-faces-of-voters

Whats the deal with the whole deglegates situation. I have some vague recolection of an election where maybe Perot? won the publics vote but the delegates voted Bush? in to be President instead... 

Is this related at all to the 'rigged' elections? What purpose does superdelegates getting to vote however they please serve?


The idea is to have a fail-safe in case the public rallies behind a candidate who isn't electable. Of course, if the people's choice is nullified by the party the people would be furious which makes this a stupid system. In 2008 when there was chance of the superdelegates throwing the election to Hillary over Obama there was a huge amount of pressure put on them to pledge to support Obama if he won the most regular delegates. If this year the superdelegates decide things for Hillary then there would be pure chaos and half of Bernie's supporters wouldn't vote for her.

M's Watcher's picture

The superdelegates, made up of (bought) politicians and party hacks, count much more than ours.  If we don't like the two party system, independents should be encouraged to run (Bloomberg?).  Remember in the '70's, the WA legislature acted to minimize the threat of the third party, the Owl Party, which mocked the establishment.  A few of the party's candidates actually exceeded 3% of the vote in the general election.  That isn't much, but enough to make a difference between two major party candidates in a tight race.


The current primary process drives me nuts!  Candidates pour huge amounts of cash and resource into (rather) insignificant states as the nation's voters and press-types live and die on every quote or vote by every Floyd R. Turbow*.  

No insult to either great state intended, but you catch my drift.  

And somehow a few hollering caucusesers in Iowa and fewer wool-coated New Hampshire-ites get to set the political agenda for the nation.  On a rational basis, it makes no sense.

Truthfully, I would rather we go back to the smoke-filled rooms at the convention than this method.

Or, with more sense, schedule 4 or 5 multi-state super primary days, with ALL states in, perhaps even regionally, and let us see candidates appealing to multi-state voters, rather than camping out on the Turbow doorstep, kissing hands and shaking babies.

*You Carson fans (Johnny, not Ben) will remember Floyd well.



I do like the idea that a a bootstrap candidate like a Rick Santorum, a Kasich, or heck, a Jimmy Carter or Gene McCarthy can get into the game by retail politicking In an early state. Wouldn't super regional primaries hurt that?

Having said that, perhaps a modified form in which a state from each of four regions votes/caucuses the same day Iowa does. Then, a week later, a state from each region votes/caucuses the same day as New Hamphire. This allows the minor candidates to choose the place to make their mark, and offer more democracy in the early stages. 

Being a Republican in the state of Washington - Western half, it is very rare my vote counts for anything. If Washington caucused the same night Iowa did, that would be fun.  


I get the focus on advertising dollars, as it's the most visible manifestation of money in politics. It's also the least effective. Consider this - when Dick Cheney convened a group of folks to craft energy legislation, was there anyone in the room that wasn't representing major campaign contributors? When Democrats tossed out Obama's "opt in single payer" system in favor of a plan that poured metric tons of $$ into the insurance companies, does anyone really think they did that for altruistic reasons? Or that the flood of insurance comapny money into Democrat coffers had nothing to do with that legislation? When the Koch's fund a "policy institute", draft "model legislation", then get that legislation that they wrote passed into law, does anyone really think that would happen without the money they can pour into the Republican party, individual campaigns campaigns and SuperPac's that support the politicians who sponsored the bill? 

Maybe this is how it's supposed to be. Roberts certainly believes so and has said so repeatedly. One thing is for sure - money now matters far more than votes and my personal opinion is that paradigm violates the "one person, one vote" foundation of our democracy. Sure, we still get our one vote - it's just mostly irrelevant. Welcome to the age of Oligarchy in America. 


I don't get some of Ameria's fear of socialism, is it simple ignorance? Maybe thats easy for me to say being from a country whose incorporation of socialism is a few steps further than Americas.

Like in the article above:

The young Democrats swooning for Sanders appear unfamiliar with socialism’s century-long career, a dismal tale of ruination from Russia to Cuba to Venezuela. Indeed, are they even aware that China’s greatest reduction in poverty in human history correlates precisely with the degree to which it has given up socialism?

There are many many different forms of socialism, including American socialism (public schools, highways, librarys, military, postal service, student loans and grants, the prison system, social security, national parks, corporate subsitys and bailouts, food stamps, he sewer system, vacines etc,,,). Just look around the world and see the many differnt ways in which socialism is applied and practiced, Venusala, Denmark, New Zealand, Nazi Germany, Canada...

Doesn't Sanders claim Democratic Socialism which is diferent by very definition? Maybe you think it doesn't matter because it will lead to some loss of personal liberties but it seems strange to not allow for at very least, difference.