Can a single phone call from a billionaire to the U.S. President cause a major change in policy? That’s what’s argued in a politics awash with money that billionaires know how to use.
Ron Unz, a provocative writer in charge of the Unz Review, suggests that multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson could phone President Trump and tell him to stop picking on Huawei, China’s enormous telecom equipment manufacturer that is accused of violating the sanctions against Iran. Just as you wish, replies the President, who has received many millions in campaign contributions from the casino magnate. American political campaigns are dependent on money, the more the better. That being the case, money rules even in the case of a politician as flamboyantly self-assertive as President Trump.
But why should Adelson, who lobbied Trump to abandon the nuclear pact with Iran, now want to do anything to help Iran? Once again money. In the Unz fanciful scenario, China threatens to shut down Adelson’s lucrative casinos in Macau unless he helps out. Adelson bows to the superior force – money.
That’s speculative. In real life, Adelson keeps using his money to bring down Iran, even to the point of advocating dropping an atomic bomb on the Iranian desert as a suitable warning against the regime’s nuclear program. This matches Trump adviser John Bolton, who writes: “To stop Iran, bomb Iran.”
Other billionaires are doubtless making their own phone calls. There’s Robert Mercer, hedge fund manager and computer whiz, who was Trump’s top donor in the 2016 campaign. He has also contributed heavily to groups backing Bolton. And there’s Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, who scoffs at negotiating with Iran. “When you do business with the devil, you’re in deep trouble, and I think Iran is the devil.”
It must be said that billions of dollars don’t always make for consistency of viewpoint or reliability. A position today can be changed tomorrow with money to smooth the transition. And to be sure, some billionaires oppose Trump. Tom Steyer is spending millions on a grassroots campaign to remove Trump from office, calling him “an immediate danger to the health and safety of America.” Trump in turn calls Steyer “wacky and totally unhinged.”
There will be no let-up in billionaire politicking in the run-up to the 2020 election since CEO pay has reached an average $18.6 million a year as compared to $47,000 for the average worker, turning a gap into a chasm. Rule by wealth occurs on a local level as well. In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has just signed a bill authorizing three new costly toll roads slicing needlessly through the scenic state. They’re supported above all by the state’s richest man, billionaire Thomas Petterffy whose property is on the route of one of the roads. Critics call them “toll roads to nowhere.”
Who could ask for a better issue for Democrats, traditionally fighting for equality, though now distracted with impeachment and multiple identities? Are the Democratic Presidential candidates too wealthy themselves to notice a majority of voters who have been left way behind? Or don’t they want to question the wealth of the billionaires who can get them elected?