Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wisconsin Oligarchs: What They Bought - What They Paid

Oligarchs Taste Victory but Discover the Cost

Of course, MeanMesa was disappointed with the results of the Wisconsin recall election, but -- given the enduring, cheery outlook of this little blog -- the next step must be to look for a ray of hope amid the dismal reality.  Yes, Governor Walker's penchant for inspiring further class division seems to be on track for the moment, and, yes, the only slightly less rich oligarchs standing in the "out of state" shadows are smiling broadly, but is there a "silver lining" lurking just below the obvious here?

A "New Owner" of Wisconsin. (image source)

That would be, "is everything as dark as it looks?" or "is there a silver lining" lurking just below the final vote count in the recall election?

When considered in the first blush, the Citizens United advance seems to be unstoppable.  The prospect of the oligarchic ambition of finally decimating the last bones of the Republic during its final descent seems to be an unavoidable horror.  No matter what resistance is raised among those still cognizant of the democracy, the massive wealth and unbridled avarice of the conquerors may not only seem destined to inevitably carry this day -- but every day to follow.

Worse, these early defeats will not be mere startling exceptions in this grisly forecast.  Outrages such as the Wisconsin recall will be seen as little more than "testing the spears" when set next to what will almost certainly follow.

This post has two primary points to make.

"Are the oligarchs prepared to continue to pay this much?"

Not long after the onset of the Civil War the incredibly awful price of the social division which had precipitated it began to become clear.  By the end of the Civil War the horror had become unavoidably manifest.  By then, the blood, pain and death had visited every home in both the North and the South.

However, as we "look for the light," we must consider the price the wealth class has paid for the Wisconsin victory.

Current estimates are that Governor Walker's oligarch cash amounted to between $25 and $30 Mn.  Some estimates ranged as high as $60 Mn.  Right here, we must also note that the brave pro-democracy forces were able to raise around $4 to $6 Mn.  [MeanMesa sent a few bucks to opposition candidate Barret.]

Of course, the oligarch owned media dutifully reported the money side of the contest with "news" conveniently absent any specifics, always implying that,  money-wise, both sides were financed with roughly equal resources.  Also glaringly absent from the "news" stories was any estimate -- or even mention -- of the "ROI" ["return on investment"] the oligarch class was anticipating in return from their cash commitment to the Walker.

But, well, let's look at the numbers.

Slipping painlessly past any difficulties with the presumption that "cash delivers votes," we can consider the admittedly over simplified ratios emerging in such a subjective conclusion.  Further, because the oligarchs, thanks to their wonderfully awful "quality of being," are ruthlessly pragmatic.  In this case, we can assume that this "oligarchic pragmatism" will have no difficulty whatsoever in "bottom-lining" their, uh, campaign contributions.

Because, inebriated in their glee over their new ownership of the State of Wisconsin, they have "slipped the surly bonds" of logical mathematics, they will attribute their "victorious new ownership" in terms of the amount of their "contributions" cast roughshod into an adolescent ratio with the "margin of error" in the vote, or, as they see it, the size of their victory.

$35 Mn = 1.33 Mn votes for the Governor.
$5 Mn = 1.11 Mn votes for the recall

Careening even more recklessly into this overly simplified mode of considering the outcomes, we can do a fast "fly by" of equation subtraction and reach two  "equally unfounded" arguments -- one with respect to what was required to win the election and one which considers what was actually "paid" to sway each strategic element in deciding the contest, that is, for each vote in the election's now famous, "liberty" and "free market" margin.

Each oligarch, sitting impatiently with his gold plated abacus in hand, will calculate the cost of his astonishing good fortune something like this.

1.  $30 Mn delivered the .22 Mn votes in the final differential
2.  $30,000,000/220,000 votes = around $14 per vote

Of course, the billionaires who recently purchased Wisconsin can afford such an expenditure quite comfortably given their expectation of a now, more than ever, exceptionally delirious looting festival once they take possession.  Although $30 Mn may seem to be quite the "pile" to the likes of MeanMesa visitors, the picture's spectacular quality dims considerably when the true scope of things is considered.

Gee, which state shall we buy next?  
Perhaps, I should think of what might be attractive on my charm bracelet.
 (image source)

If you are a billionaire, this means that you have wealth amounting to 1,000 million dollars.  The full purchase price of Wisconsin would amount to only 30 of the 1,000 millions that you have.

However, we now must look even further "down the field"  if we are still interested in what the horizon may look like to our Wisconsin plutocrat.  In 2008 130 Mn votes were cast in the Presidential election, about 70 Mn for Obama and about 60 Mn for John McCain.

Slipping back into our "mathematically pragmatic" calculations, this would leave the margin about around 10 million votes.  If you are an oligarch with the ambition of finally subduing all remaining resistance in the old democracy, this means that you would need to "finance" the shift of a few more than 5 million votes to win the 2012 Presidential election.

130,000,000 voters in a Presidential election/2 candidates
 = 65,000,000 each
$1 Bn on each side directed to winning 65,000,000 votes.
A "winning increment" -- purchased at $14 per vote -- breaks
 the 65,000,000/65,000,000 deadlock, delivering the Presidency.

The 2008 Obama election victory was around 10,000,000 [10 Mn] votes.  If Citizens United cash can "secure" 1/2 of Obama's victory margin, 5 Mn votes, the race becomes a "cash toss up."

So much for democracy.

If the "price per vote" rate in Wisconsin has any merit, this move would require about $14 per vote switched, a paltry $70 Mn.  The amount currently budgeted for this task by the oligarch party is $1 Bn.  This is, theoretically, enough to not just "sway" the 5 million votes you will need to subdue the election, but enough, in fact, to blanket the election very, very richly.

Of course we must remember that the oligarchs will need to over top the Obama spending by this amount.  He plans to have a $1 Bn war chest also.  Still, given the cash which has already "flown into the coop" during the Republican Primary, this is chump change.  If they find themselves positioned to drop a closely targeted $70 or $100 Mn dollars at exactly the right time and place during the general election, they can win.

Second, "Why was it possible?"

The clear mechanism through which the cash was transformed into an election advantage in Wisconsin was the possibility it introduced with media purchases to credibly protect the populist falsehoods presented by the Governor.  He found himself in the awkward position of absolutely needing to misrepresent the common facts of his record while relying on his Citizens United financed media saturation to protect him from the any effective challenge or contradiction.

However, how in the world would something like this ever become a campaign advantage?  Wasn't the Governor ever nervous about his felonius campaign lines being seen through by voters?

Amazingly, the Governor didn't need to be nervous at all.  Perhaps even more interesting, although the media saturation made possible by the Citizens United cash certainly helped, the Governor would have, most likely, not suffered any significant "fact rash" reaction from the 1.33 Mn Wisconsonites who ultimately protected his looting scheme from the recall.

This second part of the post deals precisely with this.

To assist MeanMesa visitors in making the fundamental principle in play right here entirely comfortable, let's meander through a few highly presumptive, electoral "something or other" propositions which have, quite grotesquely, become "mistaken certainties."

The premise:  The more money a candidate has to spend, the more likely it is that he will win an election.

The "something or other" propositions:

1. The more money a candidate has, the better elected officer he will become.

2. If a candidate were not really the best choice all along, his campaign wouldn't have such an immense war chest.

3. If a candidate doesn't have an immense war chest, he is probably a loser.

4. Rich people are rich because they are smart.  Rich people are richer than me because they are smarter than me.  The smart money will always find the best candidate, so I'm going with their choice.

5. If a candidate has a huge war chest, he SHOULD be elected.

These could drabble long until the list reached electoral infinity.  However, boiled down to the bones, the general idea is that the more money a candidate can spend, the more people will vote for him.  He becomes more familiar to them the more they see him and hear him.  When he becomes more familiar, he becomes more trustworthy.  When he says the same -- unexamined -- things more and more frequently, when he becomes trustworthy and when when he becomes credible because he always says the same things, he deserves to be elected.

He becomes a "safe" electoral choice.

America's raging, cultural codependency takes it from there.

This explains exactly what is happening to us and to our democracy.  Voters have thoroughly adopted the idea that the predictably hard work of actually examining a candidate's campaign rhetoric amounts to an unfair responsibility.  This hearty indulgence extends beyond election day.  Once the election is over, voters firmly believe that their job is done.

Everything said and done during the campaign is forgotten.

If this were not to be the case with Governor Walker, the remainder of his tenure in office would be nightmarish.  It won't be.

Please spend a few extra minutes with this MeanMesa article and take a look at this previous posting.

Oh sure, there were a few "rough edges" for the state because of the recall effort, but the "ruffled feathers" should calm down quickly enough, right?

No.  The State of Wisconsin has been shredded, and it will remain shredded for a long time. The Governor carefully crafted a campaign which directly addressed the lowest elements of his base.  It was composed of fear of basically the same shade as the fear of a caveman.  It exploited the jealousy of those who drew pay checks absent the wages and benefits of those who enjoyed the outcome of collective bargaining. 

The Governor's campaign, no doubt well serviced by hate mongers such as Karl Rove and others, divided the State to the maximum possible level, and it was in this brutally divided State where the Governor found the votes he needed.  Of course what remained of Wisconsin after election day was a wreckage of social division and paranoia -- on both sides of the "fight."  What Wisconsin will realize now is that it was manipulated into having a "fight" which, when considered in cooler moments, wasn't actually a fight for anything it particularly wanted.

Wisconsin -- after being groomed into a Republican paradise. (image source)
In the rare moments when physicists describe cosmology in wax poetics, they refer to black holes this way: "They stop time, and they eat light."

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