Elon Musk and Billionaires v Politicians

“Who do you trust less? Billionaires or Politicians,” Elon Musk asked in a tweet.

No one cares what I think. No one cares what you think. No one cares what Elon Musk thinks. Elon Musk doesn’t care what Elon Musk thinks, in this particular poll anyway. He wants to know what we think, but he doesn’t really care what we think either. If he asked, “Who do you trust more?” that might hint at some narcissism on Musk’s part, but “Who do you trust less” is intended to reveal to virtue signalers, in the political offices of both parties, that they’re not as popular as their fellow ivory tower dwellers tell them they are. I still believe Musk missed the mark however. He should’ve asked who can do you more harm?

“The billionaire, Elon Musk, conducted this poll on his Twitter page, so he received the results he expected. As MSN.com reported, As of Friday afternoon, the poll had amassed over 3 million votes, and 75.7% of participants selected “Politicians” as who they trust less, while 24.3% selected “Billionaires.””

Again, this was Elon Musk’s poll, conducted on his Twitter page with his followers, so the results are skewed. If a politician was bold enough to conduct a similar poll on their Twitter page, they would probably receive the results they expect. If we dug deep into these polls and analyzed the results, we would find that it doesn’t matter. Trust is often based on personal preference, and it doesn’t really matter who we trust less, if neither party can do us harm.

Without going into the details of the two parties concerned, because it feels unnecessary, the politician is obviously in charge of more levers of power that can do us harm. On the flipside, an individual who favors politicians could ask, “Which party can help us more the billionaire or the politician?”

To which we would reply, “All conditions being perfect, the politician.” That’s the bullet point, but the subpoints say, “As long as that politician is honest, and their prime directive is helping people in a purely altruistic manner. If that were the case, the politician would focus their efforts at problem solving. They would seek the best solution, regardless the politics, but how many politicians in  federal government do that?”

Some suggest the primary goal of every politician in Washington D.C., is to get reelected. If that’s the case, how many politicians help us solve our problems in a way that doesn’t serve their favorite special interest groups’ cause? When we see those three words, special interest groups, we naturally think of the other political party’s special interest groups, but special interest groups come in all stripes, and they influence politicians of all stripes. Just about every politician claims they don’t accept special interest money, but just about every politician does, Having said that, the relationship between the two might involve a genuine hand holding mission, but how often do politicians pick winners and losers in an industry, because one corporation aligns with their views better than the other? (Note: We can usually tell when a politician is picking winners and losers, if their primary defense is “We’re not picking winners and losers here.”)

Between the two, I think we could make the general point that politicians care more than the billionaire does. A billionaire, if they’re any good at what they do, is focused almost entirely on what’s best for their corporation. Their corporation provides a good or service that helps their fellow man, but their mission is not altruistic. They’re interested in whatever generates the most profit for their company. If their corporation happens to help their fellow man, that’s gravy, but it’s not their prime directive.

The very idea of entering public service suggests that the politician is more concerned with their fellow man, but how many of them know anything about private industry? If they’re going to solve problems, regardless the politics involved, they should be able serve public and private concerns, so some experience in private industry could prove helpful. Yet, some politicians consider working in private industry the equivalent of working behind enemy lines.

Most politicians, from both sides, appear to have the best intentions, but how often do they break what doesn’t need fixed? They might write, or vote for, legislation with the best intentions in mind, but they often campaign, in the next election, on the idea that they need to fix what they just broke.

It doesn’t matter if we trust or distrust a billionaire, because their ability to directly help or hurt our lives is minimal by comparison. Who’s the most powerful billionaire in the United States? What’s the most powerful move he could make? If they fulfill our worst fears, what recourse do we have? We can go to their competition.

Bashing billionaires and politicians is so easy. As much as we hate to admit it, both parties have accomplished more in their lives than most of us ever will, and that leads to jealousy, hatred, and a desire to boycott, protest, and demonize everything they do.

“Billionaires spend their own money, whereas politicians spend our money.” Stephen Crowder responded to Elon Musk’s tweet. “I think it’s obvious who we should be more concerned about.” Those who trust billionaires less could argue that they spend our money, because we give them our money for their products or services, but if those products or services are inferior, or too expensive, they won’t receive our money, and the marketplace will eventually crush them. If government officials provide inferior services, and we decide not to give them our money, based on their performance, we could face stiff penalties and possible jail time. As Crowder alludes, why would we be concerned if a billionaire is dishonest, greedy, or a criminal? How much can their actions affect our lives? Why should we be concerned about dishonest, greedy, or criminal politicians, because they can have a much more direct effect on our lives.

What happens if a billionaire goes on an irresponsible spending spree with their money? They can help the economy, create jobs, and they can spread the wealth around to those who create products and services around the world.

What happens if a politician goes on an irresponsible spending spree with other people’s money? They’ll need more of our money to spend, so they’ll take more. If they cannot find a way to do that, they’ll print money, or borrow it, which will create inflation, increase deficits and debts, and damage the long-term economy for their short-term goals. Even if some of their money reaches its intended source, how much of it will be siphoned off by various bureaucracies? How much of it will be wasted through various redundancies, fraud, and abuse? We’ve witnessed such examples through various stimulus packages that were ravaged by waste, fraud and abuse. In the meantime, money equals power and greater freedom, and the net result for the citizen they represent is less power and freedom.

It’s not the politician’s fault that we take advantage of their best intentions, right? We could analyze this from a number of perspectives, but the final answer should end with a big fat “no one cares what they intended”. The numbers show results. The numbers show the politician failed. We should hold them to account for their failings, so that future politicians might insert whatever oversight they can to prevent fraud, waste and abuse. They don’t, and we reelect the politician based on their intentions. The billionaire’s best intentions are often held in check by numbers and meritorious results.

Who can do you more harm? Circa 2014, the federal government raised corporate taxes in the United States to some of the highest in the world. American corporations began moving their operations to other, more competitive countries to escape those taxes. Some politicians proposed that the best way to combat these moves was to make them illegal. If a governor, or a mayor lost a business to another state, and they threatened to make it illegal for a business to move to another state, they would be laughed out of their reelection campaign.

When politicians pass legislation that affects lower-level operations that most of us will never see, this affects the cost of doing business, and that cost is then passed onto the consumer through higher prices of their products and services. Some politicians propose fixed pricing to solve the problem of higher prices. Their intent is to prevent the consumer from getting hit by the corporation raising prices, but the primary reason the corporation raised prices was to pay for the politicians’ rules, regulations, and taxes. When the government imposes costs on corporations, and those corporations pass the costs onto the consumer, economists call this an incidence tax.

The rising costs rarely affect the politician, because the natural inclination of most consumers is that when prices rise, it is due to a CEO’s whim of wanting more profit. Increase the price, increase the profit, right? This line of thinking neglects the market. If corporation A raises prices because they want more profit, it opens the door for corporations B through F to sell more of their products at market prices. Their volume of sales will increase, until such point that the CEO of A realizes they don’t control the market as much as they thought. If one billionaire CEO were to raise prices, we would go to the competition. When an entire industry raises prices, however, it is often due to politicians’ whims.

If a politician raises taxes to force us to help pay for their spending, where are you going to go? If the politician is local, we can move to another locale, city or state. If they’re federal politicians, we can go to another country. We have options either way, of course, but I don’t think we’d get much push back when we say the politician can do more harm in this regard.

What’s the worst thing a billionaire can do to harm your life? They can raise prices, they can avoid paying taxes, and they can create a monopoly that harms the marketplace. They can also contribute money, time, and endorsements to a politician, but in the competition between who has access to the more levers of power over the individual, it’s not much of a contest.

Does a politician employ people? We hear politicians talk about creating jobs all the time, but what jobs do they create? New York Times Economist Paul Krugman once talked about how he thought politicians should create temporary jobs to help the economy over the hump. He suggested politicians create ditch digging jobs, where one set of workers digs a hole and another set of workers fills it up. I should thank Krugman, because this is the first time I’ve heard of someone state that politicians can actually create jobs. The jobs Krugman proposes would be pointless, of course, but at least it would put people to work, temporarily. That needless work would also be funded by taxpayers who worked hard earned for that money. How about the politicians in the federal government temporarily lift some needless regulations or temporarily lower corporate taxes, so private industries can temporarily hire more workers to get us over the hump? Krugman’s proposal keeps the levers of power in the hands of the politicians, who don’t create products, services, wealth, or jobs.

If the billionaires appease local politicians, and vice versa, the billionaire can almost single-handedly revive a community, a city, and in some cases an entire state by deciding where to locate a plant. The local politician’s job is to placate the billionaire, in this instance, with tax breaks and real estate, and to be present for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Other than that, the ability of a politician to create jobs obviously pales in comparison to the billionaire’s.

In the current era, the billionaire also has to be in an industry that will help the politician get reelected. The modern politician has more bullet points than they’ve had in the past, so creating jobs is no longer the prime directive of most politicians, unless the politician favors the corporation or industry. The politician can then run to their phones to contact their broker to buy shares in that company with their insider information.

How much oversight does an enterprising billionaire have on his daily activities, as it pertains to his business? The billionaire has to answer to the consumer, the media, shareholders, the corporate board, the security and exchange commission, the IRS, local and state governments, and other federal bureaucracies, and all their rules and laws. The politician has to answer to much of the same, but whose oversight is more intense?

Everybody hates the billionaire. We don’t trust them. We think they attained their wealth through ill-gotten gains, and we don’t trust them to use their place on the stage responsibly. We won’t buy their products or services to prove our point, and … and it just doesn’t matter. The billionaire will go on to sell their products to those who will buy them. If no one does, they’ll go out of business, and no one will talk about them anymore a month later. It doesn’t matter if we trust billionaires to be responsible, honest, or quality managers of their company. If they’re incompetent, dishonest, or even criminal, their company will eventually fold up. Whatever consumers, shareholders, workers they have left will be deeply affected, and the city, state, and locale their corporation called home will also be affected, but that pales in comparison to the damage a politician can do before being turned out of office. As we’ve witnessed in bygone years and modern times, it is often very difficult to expose them and get them out of office if they’re popular enough. In the meantime, a corrupt politician can do grave damage to those that they’re elected to represent.


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