There are smart guys, and there are really smart guys. Self made billionaires are smart guys, but in politics they’re really not that bright. The Kochs are smart as hell, but the bulk of their political money doesn’t actually accomplish anything. On the left the Bloombergs and Steyers of the world piss their money away on gun control, climate change and other fantasies, And don’t get me started on the incredibly stupid way Soros throws money around.
Then there’s Jeff Bezos and Carlos Slim. They buy the flagships of American journalism. That’s smart money.
Slim’s got a nice piece of the New York Times, but Bezos owns the Washington Post whole, and it’s beginning to show. Everybody who works there knows his politics, and the paper is evolving in that direction. I’ve watched it pretty closely the last two years and I see signs. It’s a gradual process. Bezos bought a brand, and he wants to maintain its mainstream prestige. But he bought a media outlet for two reasons. One was to make money, of course. Bezos doesn’t believe in philanthropy. But there easier ways for Bezos to make money. He wants political influence.
This is a big deal. The WaPo has vast journalistic resources at its disposal and remains one of the big foot journals in this country. In the past, most of Bezos’ limited political contributions have been those you would expect of a man in his business. He contributes to Washington’s two U.S. Senators, but not because they’re Democrats, but because they’re from his adopted state of Washington. He contributes to Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, where Amazon has issues. He spent big to support gay marriage in the state of Washington, but he also gave to Meg Whitman when she ran for Governor of California as a Republican.
He started his business in Washington to avoid sales taxes. He donated heavily to defeat a Washington state initiative to raise the income tax on the wealthy. The most he’s said publicly about his politics is that “… for profit models improve the world more than philanthropy models…” That’s an unreconstructed capitalist talking.
Most people get their politics from their parents, and Bezos is apparently no exception. He’s been described as a libertarian, and has contributed to Reason Inc. Like Rubio and Cruz, he mainly learned about life and politics from a Cuban exile — his father.
Not his biological father, but his real father, the man who married his mother when he was four, adopted him, and from whom he gets his name. This man, Miguel Bezos, fled Cuba alone when he was fifteen, worked his way through the University of Albuquerque and got a job as an engineer at Exxon.
What sort of life lessons must Miguel have imparted to little Jeff? Bezos is a secretive man, and doesn’t talk a lot about himself. So we have to use our imaginations. I suspect young Jeff heard the same sorts of stories and life lessons that little Marco and Ted heard from their Dads:
We’re lucky to be Americans.
Unless you remember where you were, what you were doing, and who you were with on this date 52 years ago you don’t really understand what a black swan is. They come from nowhere, and change everything. They cannot be anticipated, though they can be exploited, as demonstrated so brilliantly by Lyndon Johnson. To this day we live with the political consequences of a president assassinated by a communist. Some things are so traumatic they take forever to get over.
Even in benighted California there are glimmers of hope. A couple Republicans are filing an initiative that would take around $8 billion that’s currently dedicated to high speed rail and spend it on water projects. It would also give humans priority over other creatures when it comes to water.
This is an absolutely brilliant idea, and if they can’t raise the money to get the signatures there really is no hope in this state. High speed rail is a colossal boondoggle. It will never be built, because no one in their right mind would put a nickel into it. California’s voters did, but they are often not right in the mind. If they have to choose between this ridiculous project and water, I think they’ll make the obvious choice, and Jerry Brown’s great legacy will be a few miles of abandoned track in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley.
We’ll call it the Moonbeam Express.