I'll quote from Politico's 2012 campaign cash: $1 billion vs $1 billion. Read it and weep.
Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s campaign, party committees and super PAC allies are all-but assured of raising $1 billion on each side of the campaign ledger by Election Day.
Obama’s side has already pulled in $969 million, while Team Romney’s raised $919 million, according to a POLITICO analysis of Federal Election Commission data.
Yet, while Obama’s side has outraised Romney, it’s the Republican and his allies who came into October with a $43 million cash lead on the strength of a somewhat risky big-money hoarding strategy.
Team Romney was criticized for sitting on reserves over the summer while the Obama camp flooded the airwaves with attack ads, but Romney’s October ad spending binge seems to have come at an optimal time. The GOP nominee surged on the strength of a strong performance in the first debate, and polls indicated that he closed the gap with Obama as voters gave him another look.
Are we supposed to believe that all this cash—these numbers do not include Super-Pac money—is being raised and spent merely to woo voters?
That is exactly what we are expected to believe.
Are we supposed to believe that all this money comes with no strings attached? That beneficent donors want no favors, that they are merely trying to do the right thing in the Most Important Election of Our Lifetime?
Again, it appears that is exactly what we are expected to believe.
Straightforwardly, anyone who doesn't believe these incredible but widely accepted premises might conclude that we don't live in a democracy. They might conclude, with considerable justification, that we live in a corrupt kleptocracy. And if we don't live in a democracy, then why have so many Americans been so busy these last 22 months pretending that we do?
BILL MOYERS — Left unanswered, left unanswered where does this vast inequality take America?
CHRYSTIA FREELAND — Well, I think to a very bad place. And I see two real and present dangers. One is that you see an increase of the political capture.
BILL MOYERS — Of what?CHRYSTIA FREELAND — Of the political capture. So of the people at the very, very top, capturing the political system. And most crucially, I think something that an economist, a guy called Willem Buiter, who's the chief economist at Citigroup, he calls it cognitive capture. Where he says, look, it's not like this vast conspiracy. It's not as if, you know, everyone is on the payroll of the plutocrats.
Cognitive capture. That's a phrase I've been looking for for some time now. Freeland continues—
And this guy, okay, he is now the chief economist of Citigroup. He wrote this when he was an academic economist. But so it's, he's hardly, you know, some kind of Marxist on the barricades. His argument was that part of the reason the financial crisis happened is the entire intellectual establishment, not just people inside investment banks, but regulators, academic economists, financial journalists, had all been captured by the financial sector's vision of how the economy should work. And in particular, light touch regulation.
And I think there is a broader cognitive capture of, you know, you might call it the intellectual class, the public intellectuals, around maybe the inevitability of plutocracy. You know, as Matt [Taibbi] was saying, this notion that if you're poor, it's your own fault. You're part of this dependent 47 percent. Unions are very bad. All of that sort of stuff.
So I think that that cognitive capture increases. And I think what you see increasingly is, you know, elites like to think of themselves as acting in the collective interest, even as they act in their personal vested interest. And so what I think you'll end up seeing is social mobility, which is already decreasing in the United States, being increasingly squeezed. You see particularly powerful sectors, finance, oil. I would say the technology sector is going to be next in line, getting lots of government subsidies.
Cognitive capture does not end with the "intellectual class." No one can say how many people will vote on November 6, but it would not be surprising if upwards of 150 million Americans cast a vote for Hopey-Changey or the Bane Capitalist. That's a lot of "captured" people.
Cognitive capture might be viewed as a euphemism for the loaded term brainwashed. The same elites "who like to think of themselves as acting in the collective interest" also own the Mainstream Media, which is where most Americans get whatever "news" those elites think they ought to hear. Bear in mind that filtering of the "news" typically reflects cognitive capture as defined above. Filtering only rarely follows upon a conspiracy to omit crucial information or put out misleading information or outright lies. Those who run the networks and other "news" outlets have internalized the values they were hired to transmit. In short, nearly everyone involved believes their own bullshit.
Thus, as I noted yesterday, the election and coverage of it has focused on jobs, not income, has focused on the middle class, not the poor, and has altogether ignored the grotesque wealth & income inequality Moyers alludes to in the interview quote above.
We might broadly divide Americans up into four classes.
- the out-and-out corrupt — the elites who use K-Street lobbyists, well-chosen regulators or political appointees to collect payback from the politicians they bought (or rented) during the general election. Put your conspiracies here.
- the captured — the "intellectual classes" Freeland refers to, but this group also includes the Dazed & Confused (those who will only vote). So-called "intellectuals" include all those who benefit one way or another from the existing political system (e.g. various economists, charitable foundations, think-tankers, etc.).
- the discouraged — disenfranshised Americans who won't vote because there is nothing in it for them. This group includes most of the invisible poor.
- the astonished — those who are stunned and dismayed to see how fucked up things have become in America. These people understand that nothing good can happen working within the existing political system. They also know that, as fucked up as things are now, there's still plenty of opportunity for things to get way more fucked up in the future.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Boiling Frog plays a substantial role in cognitive capture. Here's what I wrote on January 23, 2011—
Why does the boiling frog story apply to people if not to actual frogs? The answer is simple. Human beings are built to adapt to new conditions. Generally speaking, they don't notice gradual change, they simply get used to it. People were designed by Nature to react quickly to sudden changes. They were not designed to notice that this year, and for many years before that, conditions got a little worse than they were the year before. Humans live in an eternal present. This observation is well-known to those who study such things. It is not original with me.
However we explain it, we must come to grips with the fact that the majority of Americans are still engaged with a political system which is rigged against them. For one reason or another, those who will merely cast a ballot refuse to acknowledge that participating in The Best Election Money Can Buy is pointless. It tells us a lot about how humans work, this love affair with futile exercises.
I think I'll leave it at that.