Opinion and Editorial

Who wants to be a billionaire president?

Allan Jacob (Fine Print)
Filed on November 17, 2019 | Last updated on November 18, 2019 at 06.47 am

The wealthiest in America now showcase their philanthropy in presidential polls.

The wealthiest minority controls democracy to the detriment of the majority who are working class voters. Society is riven, we are told, as billionaire worship reaches its peak with high net worth individuals hijacking the electoral system. Merry men and women with money are now feeling empowered to run for office. There is no shame in seeking votes once the pursuit of wealth is done and the act of giving to communities and country begins.

That's because greed is the virtue that drives democracies. The money is never enough to fund election campaigns and sway voters. Cash buys influence, and lots of cash buy more influence among the masses.

Through the history of democracy, the rich have funded politicians and have charted the course of governments; they have indulged in privileged and elitist philanthropy that has further swayed policy-making to suit their interests and businesses.

Often the wealthy are portrayed as left of centre liberals. These days they revile US President Donald Trump with a vigour that was unheard of in the past. And they have kept at it. There is a severity in their campaigns to hate the most hated man on the planet even though Trump is one of them.

So the bored billionaire real estate tycoon, who had had enough sitting on the sidelines, firing people on TV shows, decided to take his business to an international audience by running for president in his quest for absolute power. His win in 2016 seems to have inspired other old rich kids on the block who want to make their mark on the world through the White House. Like Michael Bloomberg.

Now, I have nothing against Bloomberg, a former Mayor of New York City and a billionaire media mogul who has made a name for himself with his brand of news.

Branded news. Never thought of that phrase until now. But Bloomberg has made a success of it with his media empire. The billionaire recently joined the fray on the Democratic side because he's convinced other candidates lack the money and the spunk to bring down Trump who has lived a picaresque life and is going strong with his base backing him despite his failings on multiple fronts.

But Bloomberg may have a bone to pick with the disruptive socialist Elizabeth Warren more than with Trump, or let's say two bones if one adds conservative socialist Bernie Sanders to the list. The two Democratic candidates want to break the system in their hurry to bury the super-rich in American society. From free education to a wealth tax on the rich, they promise everything that means nothing to most people who are fed up with their elitist and often condescending liberalism.

One cannot miss it in their campaign, and their disconnect with the wealthiest minority is obvious to the observer. Warren believes Big Tech has grown too big for comfort and is leading the campaign to split up and shackle companies like Facebook who she thinks is monopolising information and has made its founder Mark Zuckerberg a billionaire. True, Zuck is worth $70 billion but he runs a super successful company that just made $6.09 billion in profits.

Bloomberg, who is worth $52.3 billion, believes Trump must be stopped and it can be done only by fellow billionaires like him. Warren's campaign is calling for a wealth tax of 6 cents on every dollar of net worth above $1 billion. It's an alternative model that is sacrificial in nature and Democratic candidates like Tom Steyer (another billionaire) is asking Bloomberg to support such a move. A philanthropist-president is what the 77-year former NYC mayor wants to become now that he has already donated $8 billion to charitable causes.

Then there are the younger Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Zuck who may be waiting in the wings to do their bit for America politically. They can consider a long-term shot for the presidency as older super rich people like Trump (worth $3.1 billion), Bloomberg and Steyer (worth a cool $1.6 billion), go to battle for the hearts and minds of the masses next year.

America has some 607 billionaires and the 2020 race is turning exciting even before it has taken off - and it appears that the campaign is rigged in favour of these good folks who can generate copious cash that drives consumption and generates jobs that run the economy.

But America's democracy has moved beyond profit to billionaire philanthropy. The new wise men have arrived and are making their agendas known to voters. They seek absolute power like Trump and are making the right noises about donating for causes.

Steyer was heard advising the much poorer candidates in the Democratic campaign to fly commercial airlines. He can afford private, but flies commercial, he insisted. And it's all for the climate.

The elites have stepped out of the shadows of political activism and influence-peddling in government, thanks to Trump's rise and his act of replenishing the swamp in D.C. with more super rich tycoons like him. At least he is proving to be an inspiration. Billionaires own the media, they control banks, they are the tech titans, they peddle groceries, and sell homes. Now they sell philanthropy.

If Bloomberg fails in his bid to unseat Trump, there will come a day - and not too soon - when the likes of Jeff Bezos, Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates could enter the fray. Even Kylie Jenner, who is worth a cool $1.1 billion, the youngest billionaire in the US at 22, may have political ambitions once she begins donating seriously for noble causes.

For the voter, the American presidency has become a gift from billionaires that keeps on giving. Trump's tenure may have made it a profitable venture. Let's hope the next phase is charitable.


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