Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oligarchy Watch

I remember hearing a clip from the Republican debate while dozing off listening to BBC. I wasn’t happy about it – the reason I listen to BBC is because I want to hear what’s going on in the world, not the totally irrelevant kabuki theater sham that passes for elections in the US. I really wish they wouldn’t bother covering it. Nevertheless, one thing stood out – Mitt Romney offering a $10,000 bet to Rick Perry. I thought at the time, ten thousand dollars is more than many people are making in a year nowadays.

See, for someone like Romney, 10,000 dollars isn’t a lot of money. To him, it’s chump change. He probably has that in his wallet at any given time. To him, a $10,000 bet is like you and I betting a buck or two.

I assumed no one else would pick up on this but I was wrong, it’s been getting a lot of attention. Suddenly with the economy, people are aware of the difference between politicians and regular folks.

Yahoo! readers watching the debate were not impressed by Mitt Romney's suggestion that Rick Perry take a $10,000 bet on whether the former Massachusetts governor was really for individual health care mandates. Viewers expressed strong disapproval in the comments of our live blog: "$10,000 is more than some people make in a year," wrote one commenter. When we asked viewers, "Did you like seeing Mitt Romney ask Rick Perry to accept a $10,000 wager?," just 33 percent of the first 1,200 people who responded answered "yes." By the time the question closed at 11 p.m. with just over 25,000 votes, 70 percent of Yahoo! watchers said "no," they did not like the wager. You can watch a clip of the moment above.

NPR politics editor Neal Carruth commented on Twitter: "Suspect the $10,000 bet will remind people of this photo." The picture, from the Romney's days at Bain Capital, shows the candidate and his colleagues gleefully posing with money. Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online tweeted, "Memo to Romney: Please don't now say that proceeds from $10,000 bet would have gone to charity." Our own Zachary Roth crunched the numbers and calculated that $10,000 is .005 percent of Romney's net worth.

Twitter jumped on the $10,000 figure immediately. It spiked as a topic, with 3,400 real time tweets, according to an analysis by ABC and Blue Fin labs. Minutes after the debate ended, the moment was already on its way to becoming a meme—Reuters social media editor Anthony De Rosa noted that #What10kbuys was trending worldwide.

According to the Guardian:

Mitt Romney was accused of being out of touch with working-class America on Sunday, after the Republican presidential candidate tried to make an impromptu $10,000 bet during a TV debate.

The slip, at the time of high unemployment and a growing poverty divide, could damage Romney three weeks before the first of the Republican contests in Iowa.

His critics said the issue was not that he offered the bet but the size of it, consolidating Romney's reputation as a very rich man seeking to buy his way to power.

It's getting harder and harder for aristorcrats to passthemselves off as regular people. And that's a good thing. People are starting to see that we're ruled, not governed, as effectivley as serfs in the Middle Ages. The Guardian fills in the data on candidates' wealth:

Who is the wealthiest of them all?

Mitt Romney: The wealthiest candidate: in his last financial disclosure, during his 2008 White House bid, he put his personal wealth at between $190m and $250m, most of it from his time in business. About $42m has to be deducted from that, the amount of his own cash spent on the failed bid.

Jon Huntsman: Although at the bottom of the polls, he is runner-up in terms of wealth. He listed his personal assets this year as between $15m and $66m, much of it from a chemical company set up by his father.

Newt Gingrich: His finances appear shambolic, with his assets changing dramatically from year to year. He earned $2.5m last year, mainly, he says, from speeches and books but also, controversially, from his own consultancies, which his rivals say are for lobbying, a charge he denies. His consultancies have earned an estimated $100m over the past decade.

Ron Paul: His assets are between $2.29m and $5.3m, based on his disclosure in the 2008 White House race.

Rick Santorum: His personal assets, based on his financial disclosure when he was in the Senate in 2006, put him in the range of $522,000 to $1.8m.

Michele Bachmann: She is worth $1m to $2.5m, mostly profits from a therapy clinic (where gay people can allegedly pray to be "cured"). A family farm brings in $5,000 to $15,000. She is carrying $350,000 in debts: a $250,000 mortgage and a $100,000 business loan.

Rick Perry: A spokesman for the Texas governor's office put his wealth as of 2009 as $896,000, held in a blind trust. He has made his money mainly from buying and selling houses. He has debts of about $70,000, including a car loan for a Mercedes.

Meanwhile in Russia, the “opposition” to Putin consists of an oligarch who is Russia’s third richest man and owner of the New Jersey Nets:

Russia's third richest man has said that he would seek to challenge Vladimir Putin for the presidency, prompting speculation that the surprise move could be part of a Kremlin attempt to channel growing middle class opposition to Putin's regime.

Prokhorov has survived a series of scandals to build a fortune of an estimated £11.5bn. He was forced to sell his stake in the metals giant Norilsk Nickel on the eve of the financial crisis in 2008, after becoming embroiled in a prostitution scandal in France. He now owns part of a major gold producer and the New Jersey Nets basketball team in the US.

"Democracy" seems to be little more than picking which millionaire or billionaire will rule over you. Is it any wonder people are losing faith in democracy?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.