Sunday, May 22, 2016

WEALTH AND POWER


There is a symbiotic relationship between wealth and power. People use wealth to get power and they use power to get wealth. The object of both is the same: they enhance freedom.

The more money you have, the more power you have, the more you can do, and the more you can control what other people do.

Typically, people in government have money. Of the 55 men who met in Philadelphia to draft our federal constitution, 39 were lawyers. Others included wealthy farmers, land speculators, and merchants.

From the very first days of our nation’s history, members of  Congress have had sources of income in addition to their their compensation as Senators or Representatives.

The same is true today. Thirty-five percent of the members of the House and fifty-one percent of the Senate are lawyers. Other occupations include teachers, physicians, professors, business owners and executives.

Congress has been called a millionaires club. Forty percent of the members of the House and fifty-seven percent of the Senators report having a net worth in excess of one million dollars. This compares with just over three percent of the population generally.

The Presidential election of 2016 is shaping up to be a contest between wealth and power. Hillary Clinton would be a poster child for the politician who uses power to gain wealth. Both she and her husband have worked the speaking circuit to gather six figure appearance fees. Their charitable foundation has been notoriously benefitted by their political preeminence and power.

The Clinton’s are reported to have amassed a net worth in excess of 15 million dollars.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is obviously a candidate bent on using wealth to gain political power. He has outspokenly claimed to have spent his own money to gain the Republican nomination.

Megyn Kelly asked Trump how he would feel about his candidacy if he doesn’t win.  He answered bluntly that he would consider the whole process a waste of time, money and effort. Trump is, at the core, an entrepreneur. He considers the money he has spent getting the Republican nomination as an investment, not an expense.

I can’t help musing over how Donald Trump might profit by being elected.

Federal law requires office holders to disclose all of their assets, unless they are placed in a blind trust, managed by an independent financial institution.

I doubt that the law requires office holders to disclose all the assets of members of their families. Indeed, there would be a strong constitutional challenge to any federal law that would require a person to disclose their assets just because a relative was elected to federal office.

Assuming that the Trump financial empire is the property of members of his family, it is doubtful that full disclosure can be required.

Of course, Mr. Trump has never been very secretive about what he or his family owns. The name “Trump” is notoriously featured on his real estate holdings, and his food, beverage and clothing lines.

The Obama and Clinton administrations have been fairly well known to steer government spending toward favored contactors, but not to family members. Jimmy Carter’s younger brother Billy attempted to cash in on President Carter’s fame, but Billy Beer never prospered and lasted only a couple of years.

No doubt there would be a public outcry over news that members of the United States armed forces were eating Trump Steaks or wearing Trump socks.

Be that as it may, I will gladly predict that if Donald Trump is elected President of the United States, he will not leave office impoverished.

Indeed, we can expect that Trump University will be revived and accredited.

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia; an achievement he insisted be noted on his tombstone.  It’s what Presidents do.

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