Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Profit In Politics & Pandering


Who is behind all these political organizations which keep SPAMing me and telling me I've already joined their cause?

I noted in a very early posting that most organizations go into self-preservation mode early on, and serve the needs of the founders and employees.  There's a lot of profit in non-profit!  And in most cases, folks don't look too closely at the accounting.

PACs and other political organizations are particularly troublesome.  You donate to a PAC and some of that money goes to people working there, others goes to media companies to prepare online or television ads.  Some actually goes to candidates!  Some goes to other PACs which in turn starts the whole thing over again.  It becomes a real trip down the rabbit-hole trying to figure out what these people are doing with your money.

Today, in the e-mail, I get this latest plea.  Now, I am not picking on this particular PAC, because I have received literally dozens of such pleas in recent months, all from organizations of various names, each claiming I have "joined" their cause, and of course, each asking for yet more money.  I just used this one because it arrived today;

You're on the team! 
Welcome to Integrity First PAC! 
We’re a digital-first grassroots organization dedicated to holding Republicans in Congress accountable and supporting Democratic leaders who put their integrity first. 
You’re joining a nationwide organization with over 300,000 supporters taking action to advance a Democratic agenda. In 2020, we had major success thanks to supporters like you. Here’s what we accomplished:

Now, with Joe Biden’s administration, we’re dedicated to helping advance progress on all the critical issues of our day.

And when the GOP obstructs or attacks, we’ll be there to fight back. Thanks for joining us. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get in on all the action.

-- Integrity First PAC

Like I said, I am not picking on this one PAC, they just happened to be the one that e-mailed me today.  They all suck, in my opinion, as they all claim I have joined their cause, when in fact, they merely bought my name from an e-mail list, which was sold to them by Democratic candidates I contributed to.   Lesson learned - don't do that again!  Just kidding, but..... it is something to think about and something candidates should think about, too.

But why should I donate money to this pathetic PAC?  I mean, raising a million dollars isn't squat these days, particularly from 300,000 people (an average of $3.33 per person!).  And if you spelunk their financial data, it turns out a minority of this money actually went to candidates.  What's more, only one officer of the PAC is listed.  I think this guy is running the whole deal from his living room.

Weirder still, it seems that about a third of the million dollars they raised went to an internet media company, which according to their profile, is apparently staffed entirely by seventh-graders.  Or maybe everyone looks young to me these days, living as I do, on old people island.

But that is the nature of these deals.  I donate money to this PAC and where it goes, well, I have no idea.  Some goes to a media company, who draws salaries to make online ads, I guess.  And judging from the number of employees they have, a lot of salaries.  So the PAC in question acts as a "feeder" to plow money into this media company.  Build up a few dozen PACs and your media company is fully funded - or that's the way it appears, anyway.  Or it would be a good strategy.

The problem I have with this model - besides the insulting technique of congratulating me for joining a cause I have yet to join - is that they make vague promises of what they are going to do with my money.  "Integrity" they say, without irony.  Apparently, they turned Arizona blue and spent only a million bucks doing so.  I guess I should give them my money, as after all, they are very efficient with it.  Flip a whole State for a lousy million!  The NRA should take lessons from them!

Are these PACs all scams? I never said that. The people running them are no doubt politically motivated, but then again, some are drawing salaries, and the PACs are donating money to organizations which hire people who draw salaries - and often not insubstantial ones. I stopped donating money to Public Broadcasting when I realized that the CEOs of these content companies like NPR were taking home millions of dollars a year - at the expense of local public broadcasting.  They fire the local announcer for "Afternoon Classics" and pay the franchise fee for "Performance Today" - the Casey Kasem of classical music.  Public Broadcasting is no longer public, but basically a for-profit (salary) enterprise for huge media conglomerates.  These PACs - maybe more of the same thing?

If I want to donate money to a candidate, I should just send that candidate money.  PACs are fine and all for Billionaires who want to skirt the election finance laws - you can donate to a PAC all you want to (Citizens United) and they can direct money to the media companies for attack ads and whatnot.  But for the small donor like me - the guy sending in $10 or $100 or even $1000, donating directly to a campaign is probably a more efficient use of my donation.  There are fewer layers of people between me and the candidate.

I just wish the candidate didn't sell my name to these PAC mailing lists.

But this brings us to our second topic - Pandering.  Both sides of the political spectrum pander to ludicrous far-out whack-jobs with weird proposals and even weirder beliefs.  The whole Qanonsense thing is just bizarre, but it generates a lot of money for people who sell books and t-shirts and put on seminars or radio shows or whatnot.  And Republican politicians realize that it doesn't pay to denounce Qanonsense, and in fact, you are better off dog-whistling to it, so with a wink and a nod, the "true believers" know you are "one of them" and will be the first to hang Hillary when the time comes.  Send in your money!

I noted before that the worst thing you can do, as a politician, is actually solve one of these intractable problems.  If you abolish Obamacare, you have to come up with an alternative.  So instead, you cook up designed-to-fail lawsuits and laws, and then shrug your shoulders and hope the constituents forgot all about your promises by them.  But of course, by then, half the rebel-flag waving supporters in the trailer park are on Obamacare, but of course they won't admit it. "It's the Affordable Care Act!" they say.

Ditto for abortion - you want a nice festering issue that the local pastor can rail against from the pulpit.  But woe be to the politician who actually outlaws abortion and thus removes this issue from the debate.  It is akin to the gay marriage issue, which is why a conservative Supreme Court legalized it - to pull the rug out from under the Democrats (while giving Republican lawmakers cover).  Democrats, flummoxed by not having that issue to run on, move on to "transgender pronouns" which makes them look ridiculous.  Nice move SCOTUS!

So Democrats talk about "Slave Reparations" every decade, and make quite a show about "doing a study" on it, or setting up a committee to investigate it.  But they know it is a non-starter.  They can count votes in the House and Senate.  Most Americans can't - they secretly believe the President rules by fiat - and by that, I don't mean an Italian car. There simply are not enough votes for slave reparations, free college, blanket student loan forgiveness, and basic free money or whatever.  They also know that voting for these things is political suicide.  It is only if you can get the money people on board, that you can pass such things.  And banks don't profit from student loan forgiveness.

Many on the Left complain about Obamacare - preferring a "single payer" government-run insurance plan instead, such as "Medicare for All".  And who knows?  Maybe that would work.  Medicare certainly works for Seniors.  But before you jump on that bandwagon, go ask your Granddad about his "Medicare Supplemental Insurance" premiums, particularly the "Part D" for prescriptions.  They can get pretty pricey!  And if you miss the arbitrary government deadlines (just like Obamacare) you are pretty much screwed.  But the point is moot - unless you can count the votes, pining for such solutions is just pointless.

The point is - and I did have one - is that Obamacare succeeded because it was a huge handout to the insurance companies and the medical industry.  My "healthcare provider" (insurance company) pesters me to get a colonoscopy, as under Obamacare, these things are covered.  And maybe this is a good thing - encouraging people to eat right and take better care of themselves and reduce medical costs in the long run.  But in the short run, well, the premiums went through the roof.  Funny thing, but when you tell people medical care is free, they tend to seek out more of it - whether needed or not.  And I know a plethora of people who seek out sleep studies and CPAP machines but would never dream of giving up on fast food, snack cakes, or heaven forbid, drinking.  Patient, heal thyself.  But why bother when we have developed a whole new science of obesity medicine!

I digress, yet again.  But pandering to voters is an old game - saying you support (or better yet, implying you support) causes and ideas that will never come to fruition, by design - in order to get the plebes to vote for you.  Meanwhile, the bread-and-butter business of government goes on as before, with hardly anyone noticing what is going on, other than the people (and corporations, who are people too, right?) who often benefit from such actions. While we pine and protest for nonsense, the real workings of government go on, not behind closed doors, but right out in the open.

That's how you get the rebel-flag flying redneck in the trailer park to vote against his own Social Security raise or to cancel his health insurance or food stamps.  It's how you get the wealthy urban liberal to vote to increase his taxes.  You use these never-ending "window-dressing" issues to distract - like any good magician - while you do the real business, right there in the open, if anyone bothered to look.

And the media is a big help here, as they love to publish articles about these pie-in-the-sky ideas, as they generate click revenue.  No one will click on an article about pork subsidies in the latest farm bill, even if it affects them more and is actual legislation that will pass.  They will click on anything with Bernie Sanders ugly grimace on it - whether they love him or hate him.  He's the Howard Stern of Politics!

So what's the answer?  There isn't one.  And why do you keep asking me?   This sort of nonsense has been going on since time began and won't end anytime soon,, because it works so well.  On a personal level, my only suggestion is to obsess less about politics and just discard wacky ideas that have no hope of going anywhere.  This stuff doesn't profit you personally and it may, in fact, drive people away.

I know several couples on our island who lose friends over politics.  I'm still friends with them, even though the husband tries to provoke me with shit like, "Well, I saw in the paper today that your President did something stupid again...." as if I had sworn eternal loyalty to Biden by voting for him, and not just making a pragmatic decision not to vote for a clearly insane person.  Funny thing that, he never talks about the crazy crap Trump does.  Usually his wife "shushes" him, though, after he says shit like this, and I try not to rise to the bait.  But then I ask myself, why do I need friends who bait me?

Obsessing about politics is a loser's game.  Just vote and leave it at that.