11 March 2016

Unveiled: Cockburn's Theory of Cost-Plus Politics

Attached herewith is Andrew Cockburn’s* fabulous debunking of neoclassical political science.  He dissects the microeconomics of contemporary American politics, and in so doing uncovers what one might call a General Theory of Employment, Self Interest, and Money.  But unlike most critics, his research reveals a lower-cost, easily-tested alternative hypothesis.
This is a MUST READ blaster.  Before reading it, however, I urge you to take the following multiple choice quiz: 
Who are the Suckers in contemporary politics? 
(a) the people  
(b) the politicians  
(c) the big donors  
(d) the small donors  
(e) the people living off the money moving thru the political system
Now read the article (i.e., follow the money) and take the quiz again.
Chuck Spinney
* Caveat: I am biased, Cockburn a friend of over 30 years.

--------Excerpt --------

LETTER FROM WASHINGTON — From the April 2016 issue
Down the Tube
Television, turnout, and the election-industrial complex
By Andrew Cockburn, Harpers
“I never met a politician who started out to be a fund-raiser,” remarked Mike McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist and recipient of constant pleas for cash from lawmakers. For years, he has watched them dial for dollars and endure nightly gatherings convened for the extraction of donations — “grim affairs,” in his phrase — because they have been convinced such efforts are vital for survival at the polls. “Most of them run for office because they want to achieve something,” he told me. “But once they get there, they spend their time raising money. I don’t know a single one who enjoys it.” Ironically, he explained over a beer on K Street, most of the money they raise is wasted, especially on expensive TV campaigns that do nothing to move voters. The principal effect of these labors, he insisted, is to “feed the consultant class.”
My companion was referring to the strategists, pollsters, TV-ad makers, media buyers, direct-mail specialists, broadcasters, and other subcategories of what we should properly call the election-industrial complex. Amid an economy that has bumped along since the 2008 crash, this industry has enjoyed a staggering growth curve, barely matched in percentage terms even by its military counterpart, as candidates and campaigns rattle their begging bowls ever more furiously with each cycle.

Such manic spending is driven by a core belief of modern American politics: the votes can be bought if the check is big enough. “You now have the potential of two hundred people deciding who ends up being elected president every single time,” Barack Obama told a select group of donors gathered in Medina, Washington, in February 2012. “I mean, there are five or six people in this room tonight [who] could simply make a decision, ‘This will be the next president,’ and probably at least get a nomination.” Obama’s audience, which included several billionaires, had each paid $17,900 into his reelection coffers to attend. According to Ken Vogel, indefatigable chronicler of political money flows, the president’s jeremiad contained the obligatory reference to the brothers Koch and their famously bottomless war chest — an ever-reliable bogeyman, of course, for Democratic fund-raisers. (continued)