• Money To Burn.

    “I’m against very wealthy ­people attempting to or influencing elections, but as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it.”
    The above quote belongs to Sheldon Adelson, a big-time casino mogul who is currently the eight-richest man in the world. He's read the writing on the wall and now he's betting a cool $10 million on the RMoney Team after spending a fortune on Newt Gingrich. For a man with a net wealth of $20 billion, handing the pro-Romney super-PAC "Restore Our Future" and the Congressional Leadership Fund a total of $10 million is like giving those nice Girls Scouts $10 for a box of shortbreads. His wife also kicked in a cool $12.5 million to Restore Our Future, along with another $2.5 million to the CLF, for a total of $15 million. The amount of money being thrown around by well-heeled conservative interests is nothing to laugh off.

    If Citizens United gave the moneyed 0.1% the green light to influence American elections with pallets of cash, then the recent, hard-bought victory of Scott Walker in Wisconsin was akin to the first car pulling away from the intersection. If progressives are still wondering why Cory Booker kept close to his well-heeled Manhattan friends or why President Obama seems reluctant to piss off the Wall Street crowd, now you know why. Politics was always an arena where you had to pay to play, but Citizens United raised the cost of admission. Those who can afford to pay do while those who can't are stuck on the outside looking in.

    So what is this Adelson feller all about?

    A college dropout raised in Boston by poor Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Adelson pursued various business ventures before striking gold in the computer trade show industry. He used that money to revive the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He helped turn the Strip into a major convention destination and now owns resorts in Macao and Singapore.

    Adelson started out life as a Democrat. But in the 80s and 90s, as his wealth grew and he clashed with unionized hotel workers, he became a loyal Republican. He also supports conservative politicians and causes in Israel, where he owns the newspaper Israel Hayom. He also donates millions to charity, in particular medical research.

     This seems like an interesting turning point that's worth studying. You have to wonder what about the unions stuck in Adelson's craw so badly that he flipped from donkey to elephant:

    Adelson clearly loves both Romney and Gingrich’s fealty to the policies of Israel’s hard right government. But it’s also important to note that Adelson hates unions about as much as Ahab hated that white whale (except Adelson is sort of the white whale, too…never mind). Over 90% of the rooms on the Las Vegas Strip are unionized. The union, Culinary 226, is, arguably, the most powerful local union in the country, beloved by its membership, primarily, of housekeepers, and tolerated by the large game companies that dominate the strip.

    And like many billionaires, when it came to what seemed like a bunch of leeches siphoning off his hard-earned wealth, Adelson sought to get rid of this "problem" once and for all. Culinary 226 members earn 30-percent more than the national average and even non-union workers enjoy roughly the same wages thanks to their clout. You can imagine how much he'd save on this bottom line by making union membership a thing of the past.

    Adelson's penchant for playing sugar daddy to well-known politicians doesn't stop at the U.S. border. He's also well-known for being sweet on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As mentioned before, he also owns Israel Hayom, a Hebrew-language paper that's ardently pro-Netanyahu. The paper hasn't made a profit in years, unless you consider being a shameless promotional rag for Bibi while helping to turn Israeli political thought thoroughly conservative to be profit enough. And for a bit of schadenfreude (or Stockholm Syndrome), it's liberal paper Haaretz that's largely responsible for printing hard copies of Israel Hayom. Approximately 20 percent of Haaretz's revenue comes from Israel Hayom payments. What's more, 20 percent of the company's shares were purchased by former Yukos vice-president and right-winger Leonid Nevzlin.

    Well-heeled billionaires with world-wide ties influencing national elections and policies for their own advantage. It's something that puts the average citizen who wants to make a difference at a distinct disadvantage on the state and federal front. The recent wave of voter disenfranchisement is working its magic across numerous states, insuring that even local elections wind up skewed in favor of candidates most willing to carry multinational corporate water. Sheldon Adelson is just one among many well-heeled figures who are slowly but surely tilting the playing field in their favor and to the everlasting detriment of the rest of us.

    Meanwhile, a comment from the Las Vegas Sun article exemplifies what's wrong with America's mindset when it comes to the actual functions of unions:
    Station employees DON'T WANT a union! They got the same wages and better benefits of unionized joints. Why would they want to pay dues to these crooks? I go to Station because they are NOT union and avoid places that play footsies with these thugs.
    Because once the unions go away, so will the wages and benefits. Then you'll be dealing with places that hire real thugs instead of merely playing footsie with them, as the quality of employees will take a nosedive, along with service.

    I believe many people readily conflate unions with Jimmy Hoffa, mobsters and surly Teamsters hailing from Long Island and New Jersey. Others see unions as a group that's gotten fat and greedy on $75.00/hr wages while "the rest of us" get by with non-union jobs paying $10/hr or less. Some believe that if unions simply went away, employers would be magnanimous enough to raise their pay a little bit in response. These fallacies, combined with the constant anti-union drumbeat of conservative politicians, corporations and media outlets, help keep nationwide union support at an all-time low. People are convinced that they don't need unions to represent them and that the company will take care of them.

    Well, you can look to Wal-Mart as an example of how companies take care of their workers. Or you could look at how Amazon treats their workers. Here's a closer-to-home example of how companies take care of their workers, sans union representation.

    People don't realize what they have until it's gone. It'll happen with education, genuine electoral representation, voting rights and of course, unions. People will have to go back to selling their souls to the company store before they realize how good they had it and how stupid they were to give it all up.