What’s wrong with billionaires?

Bloomberg’s performance in his first debate was a non-performance. Was he a deer in the headlights, or a posh autocrat genuinely surprised by insubordination from the riff-raff?

It’s hard to tell, because he was very passive in the face of some blistering personal attacks. Of course, if you’re being nailed for sexism and racism, I guess there are few good retorts.  

“Good one, Elizabeth, but you’re just a histrionic woman, so who cares!” (No, he didn’t say that).

On the other hand, a multi-billionaire scoffing at plans for correcting financial inequality didn’t work, either. 

“This is ridiculous…we tried that…it was called communism.”(Yes, he said that. And nope, we never tried communism). 

So, calm down, Mr. Mayor, and get ready for the next debate.

On the other hand, maybe Bernie and Elizabeth and Pete could calm down a little bit, too. It’s one thing to deride an economic system where people live paycheck to paycheck, hold two, even three, jobs to survive, and where inequality is a real and devastating problem. And it’s one thing to attack politicians who lie, cheat and steal to accumulate their wealth. 

But it’s entirely another thing to attack people who have achieved wealth honestly. 

What’s wrong with being that kind of billionaire? I’d love to be one. I’d like my kids to be billionaires – the whole family, my friends, my neighbors.

When I was in my formative years, being a millionaire was the height of success. Of course, that was when a dime bought you a cup of coffee. Today coffee is twenty times that at Starbucks. Which explains why Howard Schultzis a $3 billionaire. 

Billionaires are the new millionaires. Inflation. 

But billionaires are now bad guys if they run for President, at least according to Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, and others.

I don’t know how much he spent on the first Presidential campaign, but George Washington was one of the richest guys of that era. So were Jefferson and many of the early Presidents, except for Adams. 

That was way before millionaires. (I wonder if they were called “hundredaires” or “thousandaires” then.)  

Politicians weren’t automatically hated for their money until recently. In fact, Roosevelt was loved by most of the country. Not so last week where “billionaire” became an epithet.

Buttigieg- “A billionaire who thinks that money ought to be

the root of all power”. 

Warren – “A billionaire who calls women “fat broads” and “horse-faced lesbians” and, “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”

Sanders – “billionaires like Mr. Bloomberg seeing huge expansions of their wealth while a half-a-million people sleep out on the street tonight.” He also accused Buttigeig of being support by “46 billionaires.”

I could understand their anger if Bloomberg had gotten his money by lying, cheating, stealing, and self-dealing like a Mafia Don. But he didn’t. He went from paperboy to billionaire by following the rules. 

Until recently, that was the American Dream.  

Bill Gates is another example. He made his fortune by bringing something new to the table. Ditto Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Jeff Bezos is worth $150 billion because he invented a new retail model. Warren Buffet made $88 billion by sage investing.

There’s an irony to this piling on. With “Citizens United”, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates of money from corporations to buy and control politicians.  Now comes a guy with so much money he doesn’t need “Citizens United” money. He cannot be bought – or controlled – by anyone.  

And he’s attacked for having the money to remain independent.

There are lots of reasons to vote against Bloomberg: “stop and Frisk”, arrogance, old-school sexism, lack of charisma, lack of empathy for the poor, among others. 

But working your way up from paperboy to billionaire shouldn’t be one of them.

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The Enemy Of Good

It looks like the Democratic Presidential contenders, those who a left, are locked and loaded, ammunition at the ready.

The ammunition against Bernie is his age, his angry-old-man, no-compromise rhetoric, his free college, free healthcare, housing for the homeless, lack of support for gun control … 

For Warren, it’s her age, her “fight!, fight!, fight!” rhetoric, free college and healthcare, taxing people with over $50 million net worth, increasing taxes on corporations…

There’s Mayor Pete’s youth, his candor about being gay, his unpopularity with blacks and hispanics, his small city government experience…

Amy Klobuchar has ideas that are solid, but not exciting, a reputation of spewing vitriol at her staff, a record of over-zealous prosecuting of blacks when she was a county attorney…

Tom Steyer has no political experience, none. He does have a lot of money, but as of this writing, only 2% backing nationally…

Tulsi Gabbard has less than 1% backing, so…

And then there’s aging Joe Biden, he who was on the wrong side of the school busing issue, the guy with the longest career in politics, but that includes some big mistakes, and who looked like a deer in the headlights during some the debates. Oh, and his numbers are melting like ice cream on a summer day… 

And finally, there is the really, really, really old rich guy, Mike Bloomberg, the one who made “stop and frisk” famous, the guy with a history of racist and sexist comments, the one is trying to buy his way into the Presidency one hundred million at a time… 

Those are the candidates and at least some of the ammunition each is firing at the others. The common flaw: not one is perfect.

The sniping has increased in recent days as moderate democrats shake in their boots at the possibility that Bernie might go all the way and liberals shake in their boots at the possibility he won’t. Both extremes shake and shiver at the lack of democracy in a billionaire – their billionaire, to be sure – actually blowing every other Democratic candidate away, like leaves on a front porch. It seems so incongruous to them, a Democratic billionaire. Not since Franklin Roosevelt has a Democrat come from big money.

And through it all, Trump’s people are quietly hoping the fighting continues, just as it did in 2016. But now, instead of just Hillary and Bernie taking each other down, all of them taking all of them down. It’s a Republican dream: a repeat of the bitter anger that depressed Democratic turnout and left an astonished Trump alone at the finish line.

And that will happen, unless the Democrats disengage their circular firing squad.

Here’s a novel idea for Democratic candidates: concentrate on what you can and will do for the country instead of what others can’t or won’t do. 

Bernie’s idea of universal healthcare isn’t new; it’s already successful in numerous other countries. He has, for years, worked on legislation with both Democrats and Republicans. He’s genuine, authentic.

Warren’s plans are well thought out and will help solve many national problems. She, too, is the real deal.

Klobuchar is highly electable, smart, and pragmatic.

Pete is clearly brilliant and part of the next generation of leaders.

Steyer is self-made and laser focused on Climate Change- THE problem of our time, heck of all time.

Bloomberg is self-made and has successfully governed the biggest city in the country.

Biden has real experience on the national and international stage, has been there and done that for decades, with grace and civility. 

Gabbard… Ok, not much there, compared to the others.

The common asset: they’re all good.

As each competes by targeting the others’ flaws, they are fully capable of convincing voters that not one of them is good enough to be President, that Democratic voters should just throw up their hands and walk away as many did in 2016. Trump’s dream.

They are also capable of choosing the person who, although not perfect, will do the most good for the country, who will solve, not all, but many of the myriad problems we face as a nation and a world. 

And a great example why perfect is the enemy of good.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

The New “Trump Culture” Syllabus

Most of you may not know it yet, but it looks like Trump is going to win the presidency again. I know; it’s a surprise. But it’s what the Trump people tell me.

They’ve also offered to help us adjust and move on with life, which is nice, don’t you think?

Where most of us were brought up with traditional American values, such as George Washington’s respect for truth (“I cannot tell a lie”), and Lincoln’s aversion to stealing and cheating (walking miles to return a man’s change), Trump has forged his success in life by following his own value system: lying, cheating, and stealing.

So, to help us and future generations adjust to the America’s new “Trump Culture”, he has instructed his Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, to design courses for elementary, high school, and college in LCS: Lying, Cheating, and Stealing.

She has immediately bent to the task.

One offering in LCS for elementary schools is titled: “The Dog Ate My Homework”. In this course children will be encouraged to skip their homework and then to come up with better lies than the old “the dog ate my homework”. 

For example: blaming someone else (“my Mom spilled her bottle of wine on it” or “my father used it for potty training my big brother”). 

Then there is the Fox News’ “What about…? ” technique:  (“What about Charlie? He skipped his homework once last year!”), or  “What about Miss B’s class – she says homework is optional”). 

Any student who comes up with Trump’s famous elementary school response, “What are you talking about? I already turned it in. You gave me a A!” – also gets an A.

The high school courses are a bit more challenging. In the class “Founding a Charitable Foundation”, for example, students are instructed to collect money for charities, then use the money for themselves instead of giving it to the people who need it. What they actually buy doesn’t matter, although hiring an artist to do a portrait of oneself gets extra credit.

As you might expect the LCS college courses are even more demanding. One first year “Work-Study” program, for example, challenges students to follow in the master’s path. They are given $10,000 dollars and told to hire a contractor (any kind – house painter, plumber, builder) to do a job (say, renovate the classroom), and then, once it is completed, tell the contractor they did a lousy job and refuse to pay. 

Justice Department lawyers will defend students from lawsuits and countersue recalcitrant contractors for abuse to minors. 

Graduate level LCS courses combine many of the lessons learned at lower levels with some independent work. 

Masters candidates are required to get elected to local political office by instilling fear in the populace. Then, once elected, they have six months to bring town morale to new lows and turn voters against each other. Six months may sound a little demanding, but these courses are preparations for life in Trump Culture, don’t forget, and excellence in Lying, Cheating, or Stealing is key to success.

Ph.D level LCS courses offer independent study under the guidance of experts in the field. 

VP Mike Pence will teach a course in ignoring what’s right in front to your face. He will escort students to various US Border Patrol locations where they will see and participate in separating children from their parents and forcing them into detention centers where they are given Emergency Thermal Blankets for warmth, limited medical support, and inadequate food, water, and sanitation. Students will be graded on their ability to ignore their consciences and extol the sanctity of these places, all the while wearing a beatific smile.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is currently designing course in Russian Foreign Policy. Little is known at this point, but it is tentatively titled ““Playing up to Putin”. They expect strong attendance, as President Trump may give some lectures himself.

Attorney General Bill Barr will teach a course on the Power of The Presidency. It is a lecture course, only. No discussion.

It is unconfirmed at this point, but rumor has it that the Military Academies with be introducing a new required LCS course:  “Deserting Allies On The Battlefield”. 

Now, I know some of you may find this news disturbing, even reprehensible. You may simply not believe it. 

If so, I think that’s sad, frankly, very sad. 

I mean, would I lie to you?

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)