Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Sunday, February 16, 2020

Billionaires battle for the presidency

My wife and I watch Jeopardy, most evenings, for three reasons. Its host is Alex Trebek, a Canadian. It involves knowledge and intelligence. And it has no guns.

            But Jeopardy is not on any Canadian channel in our area. We have to watch it on Seattle’s KOMO. Which means that we’re suddenly seeing several advertisements every hour for Michael Bloomberg’s campaign to become U.S. president.

            Apparently Bloomberg has already spent $350 million U.S. on advertising. That’s about ten times more than Bernie Sanders has spent, so far.

            And there’s still most of a year to go.

            Given my bias, Bloomberg says all the right things. He’ll promote education. He’ll make sure all Americans have access to medical care. He’ll take on the gun lobby. He’ll protect women’s reproductive rights -- whatever that means; he hasn’t actually said he supports contraception and/or abortion.

            He even has Barack Obama campaigning for him.

            And he promises to defeat Donald Trump. I have such loathing for Trump that I would vote -- if I were an American -- for almost anybody else.

            Even another billionaire, who used to be a Republican.


Beyond imagining

            Bloomberg’s own Billionaires Index rates Trump at $2.5 billion, Bloomberg has about $60 billion.

            Robert McChesney  the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, calculates that Bloomberg “could spend $100 million every single day on his presidential campaign between now and election day in November -- and still have a net worth greater than $30 billion. He would remain one of the 30 richest people in the world.”

            $100 million a day!

            Bloomberg’s wealth boggles the mind. A stack 60 billion individual dollar bills would make a column more than 4000 miles high. That’s deep into outer space,  well beyond the International Space Station.

            If you put a dollar bill on the pile every second, you’d have to have started around the year 122, when Hadrian was emperor of Rome, to place the last dollar today.

            I cannot imagine how a person with that much money at his disposal can ever understand what it feels like to have your mortgage foreclosed by a pseudo-bank that got bailed out of its short-sighted investments by taxpayer dollars. What it feels like to know you’re going to die because you can’t afford monthly charges for the automatic insulin pump that will control your diabetes. What it feels like to send your children to school without breakfast, because the money ran out before the month did.


Money is power

            In today’s world, wealth is power. And power, as Lord Acton reminded us long ago, tends to corrupt.

            If wealth corrupts -- or at least distorts one’s vision -- do we solve the problem by throwing greater wealth at it?

            Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and special interest groups. He did. He appointed 193 of them to his administration in his first six months as president.

            You appoint people you already know. Even if Bloomberg’s promises are honest, he’ll appoint members of the uber-wealthy to run the country.

            Is the United States becoming a plutocracy -- a nation where only the wealthy can afford to run for the highest offices?

            To Jake Johnson, a staff writer for the Common Dreams news network, “Bloomberg’s attempt to buy the presidency is [already] a corruption of our democracy.”

            “This is the basic, fundamental problem of American society,” stormed Bloomberg’s opponent Bernie Sanders, who has based his campaign on small donors,  “that billionaires have extraordinary wealth and power over the economic and political life of this country.”

            “Why be like the Kochs,” McChesney asked, “and spend a fortune on other people running for office? You are the smart guy; spend it on yourself.”


No limits

            McChesney blames the slide into plutocracy -- if that’s what’s happening -- on “the U.S, Supreme Court decision that permits candidates to spent unlimited amounts of their own money on their own campaigns, especially in a period of breathtaking wealth inequality.”

            Bloomberg may well be the person to dump Trump. But, “If Bloomberg is successful,” Mc Chesney continues, “this could become the new normal. Presidential elections will be contests between the wealthy, who put their own money on the line. Bloomberg demonstrates that no one else could possibly compete with them in terms of resources.

            “The fading notion that this is a functional democracy will take another turn in the wrong direction.”

            Postscript: I’m glad I’m not an American, dealing with these dilemmas. And I am glad that Canada imposes spending limits on election campaigns.


Copyright © 2020 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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Last week’s column was purely speculative. I have no evidence that the Chinese government deliberately delayed the evacuation of Canadians in Wuhan, as retaliation for our arrest of Meng Wanzhou to comply with a U.S. extradition order. I was connecting the dots in my mind.

            My classmate from many years ago, Jane Downs Wallbrown, responded, “I never thought of it like that but it sure sounds logical to me.”

            Similarly, Tom Watson caught the “quid pro quo” allusion to other U.S. dealings: “Looks to me as if there are more than enough ‘quid pro quos’ to go around.”

            And for Jim Henderschedt it evoked a quotation:  “This is not at all original but it popped into my mind before I finished reading your article.... ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave/when first we practice to deceive’.”


Isabel Gibson was disturbed at the long delay in dealing with Meng's extradition. Canadian authorities arrested Meng as she passed through Vancouver International Airport en route to Mexico 0n December 1, 2018,. Two years later, she got her day in court.

            Isabel asked, “Are we so used to the wheels of justice grinding slowly that we think nothing of it taking two years for this case to be heard? Maybe we should have asked Kazakhstan to manage this for us.”

            I had commented that Kazakhstan had been more efficient than Canada in getting threatened citizens out of Wuhan.


Laurna Tallman focussed on the Huawei connection: “The expansion of Huawei's 5G network is far from benign. If that were the only reason for strained relations with China, it would be sufficient. The new network not only is ideal for spying, it interferes at the molecular level with the vast network of instruments that have made weather forecasting more accurate over the past 30 years (e.g., https://weather.com/news/news/2019-04-30-5g-networks-interfere-with-weather-forecasts).  The introduction of 5G is pushing the accuracy of weather predictions back to the 1980 levels, which has a massive negative impact on agriculture and transportation, not to mention the planning and organization of every single human being's life.

            “Compassion for people who feel entitled to travel for entertainment or business must be weighed with compassion for exponentially greater millions of other humans whose labour and willingness to stay home balances the ecological disasters fed by the travellers, including the potential for causing pandemics.

            “In short, I think the political issues are more complicated than the factors you address today.”






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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these links are spam.)

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures. Her Thanksgiving presentation on the old hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, Is, well, beautiful -- https://www.traditionaliconoclast.com/2019/10/13/for/

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



                       The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns.




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Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: election, Bloomberg, billionaire



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