Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Consider the billionaire

We hear a lot about billionaires these days.

Billionaire Donald Trump is leading the polls in the US presidential race.

Billionaire Koch brothers have committed to spending a billion dollars on the 2016 campaign.

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson perpetually maintains a far right stable of politicians in both Israel and the US.

So what is a "billionaire" and why do they so consistently favour right wing politicians?

Although Obama has made some noises about raising the minimum wage, it remains at $7.25 an hour. The millions of Americans making that minimum wage earn about $15,000 a year if they have the good fortune of working full time.

When an American worker works full time for minimum wage, they won't make a million dollars even if they start at age 15 and work till they're 70.

A thousand of those workers, working full time from age 15 to age 70, will not add up to a billion dollars.

Here's a guy who made more money last year than a thousand of those workers will make in their entire lives, even if they start at 15 and keep the pedal to the metal till they're 70.

Yup, that would be hedgie Steve Cohen, who made 1.3 billions last year. Oddly enough, that was kind of an off year for him. Steve has had a run of rotten luck with SEC investigations and that kind of stuff.

And what does Steve do in order to merit more money in one year than a thousand drool-wipers and diaper changers working in old-age homes across America will earn in their lifetimes?

He and his peers are the new Rumpelstiltskins.

They spin straw into gold.

Sometimes they do it by taking over companies and parting them out. The manufacturing part goes to China. The union contracts go into Chapter 11. The pension plans go into their pockets.

It's a winning formula!

Sometimes they do it via brazen paper shuffling with derivatives so complicated that it takes a team of math doctorates to figure them out.

That's the Rumpelstiltskin economy.

Now to be fair, not all billionaires have been paper shufflers. Those Koch boys actually run a real conglomerate that does real stuff and employs quite a lot of real people. They  have committed themselves to spending a billion dollars to make sure a billionaire-friendly candidate makes it to the White House in 2016.

That's the equivalent of the lifetime earnings of a thousand low wage workers, pressed into service for one election.

You can call that a lot of things, but you cannot call it democracy.

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