Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Money Makes the World Go…. Commentary on the Role of Big $$ in Political Life (with Asides about Twitter and Covid)

Joseph Keppler cartoon, "The Bosses of the Senate," from Puck, 1889, at Wikimedia Commons

Robert Reich explains succinctly who exacerbates the culture-war tensions in the US and why that "who" is doing this: 

The central goal of the corporate and financial backers of Trump authoritarianism has been to split the bottom 90 percent of Americans into warring factions so they don’t look upward and see where all the wealth and power have gone.

As Alec MacGillis and Sergio Hernandez note, after the attempted insurrection of January 6 and the vote of 147 Congresspersons against certifying the 2020 election results, many corporations announced they were withholding fundings from those 147 Representatives. But:

But ProPublica has now created a tool to track and assess this remarkable shift: an app that has collected all of the campaign contributions that Fortune 500 corporations made to the 147 over the past two years. All told, at least 228 of the Fortune 500 — representing more than two-thirds of the 300-odd companies that have political action committees — have given to the 147, for a total of more than $13 million. 

Money talks. Money talks loudly and clearly in the US political process, and the Supremes have assured that it does so at this point in history even more loudly than ever. In my view, this is at the root of the problem with the New York Times pinpointed by Oliver Willis here

[I]t is useless to operate from a position of weakness, begging the Times to “do better.” Unfortunately they have repeatedly shown a disinterest in doing better and while they are responsive to abusive conservative criticism, they have been institutionally dismissive of critiques from anything left of center. ...

Discard the idea that the Times wants to do the right thing but just got waylaid or thrown off mission. They produce what they want to produce, and they do so because it is influential and brings in revenue (nobody ever got fired for a negative Hillary Clinton story, for instance). ...

The New York Times is the problem, and we have to keep pointing that out no matter what

And speaking of money talking loudly and clearly in the political process, in his last two postings at his Ground Truths substack site, Eric Topol says that he is now posting his summaries of the latest Covid information at that site because of Twitter's current "instability." In this penultimate posting, Topol offers the following good advice for those seeking to deal with the possibility of a new wave of infections in the winter months:

In the weeks ahead, it is smart to anticipate a new wave of spread. If you haven’t had a recent booster (within 6 months), it would be wise to get one. Not to worry that the bivalent booster may not be any better than the original one—it will still augment and broaden your immunity and protection against severe disease. And the benefit is very important if you’re age 50 and older, with >90% reduction death and >80% reduction hospitalization. Furthermore, since we can’t rely on vaccines/boosters to significantly prevent infections, use of N95/KN95 masks in the right settings is important for maintaining protection.

And speaking of the "instability" Musk has now created at Twitter, in the emailed preface to his Popular Information newsletter today (this statement is not in the newsletter itself, only in the email in which it's transmitted to readers), Judd Legum says, "In just five days, the [Twitter] account we use to promote Popular Information has lost more than 8,000 followers as some chose to leave the platform."

As Judd Legum notes, this development is creating serious challenges for Popular Information, which has relied heavily in the past on Twitter to promote itself and obtain new subscribers. 

Super-rich people definitely have overweening influence on the political process. And they intend to consolidate and extend that influence in every way possible.

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