Trump Saved Christian Nationalist Billionaires a Bundle in Taxes

Right-wing quant trader billionaires, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, gave Trump Breitbart, Bannon and Conway and helped make him president. Then they got a sweetheart deal on a 7 billion dollar tax bill. Steve O’Keefe joins Paul Jay on theAnalysis.news.

TRANSCRIPT

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to theAnalysis.news. I’ll be back in just a few seconds. We’re going to talk about the bizarre billionaire that made Donald Trump President and what he’s up to recently. That’s the story of Robert [Mercer] and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer. Don’t forget the donate button, subscribe button, and the share button—all the buttons.

So those of you that follow theAnalysis.news have probably heard me talk about the importance of the digital computer revolution. It really transformed the economy of the world, and of course, it made globalization on steroids. So the global supply chain, which had always existed, certainly, I mean always, meaning throughout the 20th century, took an enormous leap with digitization so that you could have a tube of toothpaste come off a Walmart shelf or something gets sold off Amazon, and there’s a factory in China that knows to make a new tube of toothpaste.

This had a great effect in many ways, one of which undermined the bargaining power of labour in the United States, Canada, and to some extent, Europe. In the U.S., it is one of the factors that led to the weakening of unions: the threat to move companies overseas to Mexico or to close down and move production to China. 

There was another effect of digitization and globalization. This was explained to me by a guy who was a stockbroker and was involved in some of the early hedge funds in the 1980s. He had begun life as a broker in the 1960s, and we were talking about what computerization had done. He said, well, imagine what it did on the stock market. Can you imagine, he says to me, running a hedge fund or doing something like quantitative trading, high-speed trading with a pencil and paper? Well, it can’t be done.

A lot of what takes place now on Wall Street is only possible because of algorithms and computerization. One of the most perverse products of all this is high-speed quantitative trading, where algorithms are created by hundreds and hundreds of some of the world’s leading mathematicians and physicists working at a place like Renaissance Technologies, which is one of the most successful quantitative traders. They make these minuscule trades all day long, sometimes more than minuscule, all based on these very sophisticated algorithms that manipulate the stock market.

One of the other things that came out of all of this is a whole brand new batch of billionaires. There’s always been a lot of multi-millionaires, and there are recently more billionaires, but now there are a lot more billionaires. They always certainly donated to political campaigns and had enormous clout in shaping American politics. There’s always been, and now there are more of what one could call activist billionaires. They don’t just donate some money to a campaign; they really weigh in and get involved in how they fund things, who they fund, and try to determine the outcome of state legislatures, governors and, of course, most importantly, who’s going to be President.

One of the more perverse outcomes or people to come out of this whole process some people call financialization, which is the process by which the big banks have essentially taken over most of the economy and turned most of what happens into a matter of speculation. If you look at the stock market, the S&P 500, the largest clout, the largest owners of almost everything now are either asset management companies, big investment banks, and speculators, high-speed speculators. One of the most perverse outcomes of this process of financialization is someone like Robert Mercer.

Robert Mercer was co-CEO of a company called Renaissance Technologies, which was wildly successful at figuring out how to juice the markets. His daughter is now his protege when it comes to political involvement. They created something called the ‘Medallion Fund‘, which was only open to employees of Renaissance Technologies former and past. In the last year, apparently, their results were up 76% on investment. They made 76%.

Now George Soros, on his best day, is happy to make 20%. Well, this ‘Medallion Fund’ also helps finance the foundation of the Mercers, who give all kinds of money to the far-right. Some of the money that Mercers have given in the past went to people like John Bolton, the insane former National Security Adviser to Donald Trump, who never saw a possible war he didn’t want to engage in.

At any rate, to delve more into the role of the Mercer family because they are still very much on the scene is Steve O’Keefe. He’s written a recent piece in CounterPunch, which I found quite interesting, and I wanted to share it with you and talk to Steve. So Steve is the author of several books. His most recent is Set the Page on Fire: Secrets of Successful Writers, based on interviews with over 250 writers and publishers.

During the ’90s, he was an editor for the counter-culture bookseller Loompanics Unlimited. I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it right. A self-proclaimed publisher of the world’s most controversial and unusual books. He’s a serious writer. He’s done freelance writing for publications like Harper’s, Wired, Internetworld, Whole Earth, Outside and Salon. He writes a column for a CounterPunch called Fecalnomics, and he’s written a recent piece on the Mercers. Thanks for joining me, Steve.

Steve O’Keefe

Yeah, thanks. It’s my pleasure, Paul.

Paul Jay

So I think it’s important, although we don’t need to go too much more into it, that Mercer is a symptom of what’s happening to American capitalism in a very increasingly degenerate stage of it. Mercer wasn’t the only one that made Trump President. Just quickly, Trump, after the Republican convention, and this thing about touching somebody’s private parts and the tape that came out, it looked like his campaign was going to go down the toilet. Big donors didn’t want anything to do with him, and then Mercer jumped in. The other parasite that jumped in was Sheldon Adelson. They were buddies at the casinos. So maybe pick up the story about the role of the Mercers here, and then we’ll kind of bring it more up to date.

Steve O’Keefe

Well, as you know, Mercer is an odd bird. He’s not a very public person. It’s hard to find any speeches that he’s made or any public pronouncements. He doesn’t issue news releases, for example. There’s one thing that he can’t stand, and that’s to be taxed. I have a book over my shoulder here, Dark Money, and it chronicles a number of these billionaires who are just fanatic, they’re odd people, and they’re doing things for odd reasons that don’t even make sense when you think about who they are.

Would you think a guy like Mercer, who is a scientist and a quant, would be involved in an anti-vaccine—

Paul Jay

Quant meaning quantitative trader?

Steve O’Keefe

That’s right — would he be involved in an anti-vaccine movement? And yet, at the moment that they saw that being anti-vaccine would be another way to slow down the machine, everything they’re doing is just to slow down the other side. So funding the anti-vaccine movement, I would never associate somebody like Mercer or [Charles] Koch with that, but they don’t mind.

When they stopped the shutdown in Wisconsin when they were first shutting down due to the Coronavirus, they showed up at the courthouse with signs already made. I mean, this is a very typical dark money, Charles Koch-type operation, and these billionaires will do anything to stop a fine or stop a tax.

Now, Hillary Clinton was proposing a rapid trading tax prior to the 2016 election, and that’s what set Mercer against her. She wanted to tax the quantitative trades that they’re making where you hold securities for less than a day. Then also, John McCain wanted to tax high-speed trading. He also had money flooded against him by Mercer in his election campaign in Arizona before he passed away. Mercer, no surprise, has poured tons of money into Republicans for Senate in Arizona. For some reason, he’s just fixated on that seat. So is he going to be there this year? You bet. He has not gone away.

Paul Jay

Talk about that $7 billion fine.

Steve O’Keefe

Look at Renaissance. In 2015, they faced a $6.8 billion tax bill that they refused to pay. So it would be natural to try to do whatever you can. I would spend a few tens of millions of dollars if I could get out of a $6.8 billion tax debt. So they did put money into Trump’s campaign. He won. He put a friend of his in as an IRS [Internal Revenue Service] Commissioner, a guy named [Charles P.] Rettig, who owns Trump properties in Hawaii.

So this is Trump. He goes down to this who’s ever bought list. Who’s ever bought this thing for me? Let’s make them Secretary or whatever, or Commissioner of who knows what. So they never press this fine against, or not even a fine, that’s taxes owed against Renaissance the entire time Trump was President. Within days of Biden’s inauguration, they cut a deal with the IRS on that loan. So I imagine Trump’s guy was still in there when they covered it.

Paul Jay

But the deal, if I understand it correctly, was to pay the original tax bill, not interest, no penalty.

Steve O’Keefe

That’s right, like who gets a deal of the amount that you owe with no interest or penalties—

Paul Jay

Six years later, and if you’re making 60-70% on your money. If you postponed it for six years, you probably made enough to pay the bill.

Steve O’Keefe

It’s outrageous. We’re down here as citizens, and we think our vote counts. We take it very seriously, who we’re going to vote for and who we’re going to cast our ballot for. It’s our one ability to say something to the man. And some guy comes in at the end with $10 million and says, here, do what I say instead. So the voters, you see it now in the politics in the United States, the voters don’t stand a chance. They can’t get [Joe] Manchin or [Kyrsten] Sinema to bend on this Build Back Better plan. They can’t get voting rights passed, and Republicans are great because we’ll just disenfranchise the hell out of everybody since it’s okay.

There’s no reason to believe that if they get voting rights passed, this new Supreme Court will find it constitutional. I mean, a better Supreme Court found it unconstitutional a few years ago. So what chance is there that the final judicial review of the voting rights legislation is not going to just smack it right back down again and let the States do whatever they want.

Paul Jay

There is one thing I think I’d add to the Mercer story. I think he’s more dangerous than someone that didn’t want to pay taxes. Robert and Rebekah Mercer, to all indications, are true believers. They really are Christian nationalists. In the same way, [Adolf] Hitler believed in metaphysics, these guys believe in Christian nationalist metaphysics. If you look at who they funded over the years— the reason I know this is I exec produced a documentary about the Mercers a few years ago. They would fund the most far-right Christian evangelical type of outfits and right-wing politics. For example, when they really poured money into Trump, they funded John Bolton’s super PAC. So they were into this Boltnest vision of American power and use of military power.

Also, most importantly, in terms of the Trump presidency, Mercer owned Breitbart or was the biggest investor, at any rate, in Breitbart News. He not only, first of all, supported Ted Cruz. Unfortunately for them, Ted Cruz looks far too much like a corpse to ever win a nomination of any kind.

Steve O’Keefe

And that was because that was the Koch networks man in the race. It was Ted Cruz.

Paul Jay

Oh, is that right? Yeah, well, that’s an interesting relationship on its own. The Mercers to the Koch, because sometimes they go with Koch and sometimes they’re further Right than the Koch’s.

Steve O’Keefe

Right, that’s correct.

Paul Jay

Then when Trump wins the presidency, he doesn’t just give money to fuel the Trump campaign. He gives them Steve Bannon, who ran Breitbart. He gives Kellyanne Conway. He gives him the leadership to run the campaign, and then, most importantly, maybe you can talk a bit about this. He gives them Cambridge Analytica, which has taken everything they’ve learned from the algorithms that juice the stock market. If I understand it correctly, they take every single piece of data, every dollar of sales, every piece of news since the company was founded; it could go back to the beginning of the 20th century, and their algorithms churn that together with modern-day data about what’s expected of the stock. That’s why they have such sophisticated mathematical brains. Well, Cambridge figured out how to do that with the electoral process. They were able to figure out an individual’s voting and political preference.

Steve O’Keefe

I think you’re giving them too much credit because it turns out that it isn’t necessarily the math that yields the 76% return. It’s the source of the data. They’re willing to buy data on the dark market and use that data and the advantages that that data gives them. I don’t think it’s the result of them having so much data that they’re able to crunch with amazing accuracy how people are going to make decisions. I think they are cheating. When you look at it, they’re cheating.

Paul Jay

But they’re really good at it because they all have to be cheating. There’s no reason all the other quantitative guys—

Steve O’Keefe

Because Cambridge Analytica’s story is the story of cheating. They developed this—

Paul Jay

Just one thing. They got to be good at that because all of them have to be cheating, and that Medallion fund is way ahead of everybody else. So they’re good at cheating.

Steve O’Keefe

That’s right. They are very good at cheating. They have been for a long time. In a lot of ways, that has been the quantitative model for a long time. Stephen Cohen, who I believe is on the list of the ten billionaires whose wealth doubled as Oxfam [Oxford Committee for Famine Relief], recently reported. If the ten richest people had a 99% tax on just their profits since the pandemic started, that would be enough to alleviate poverty in the world right now. Anyway, Stephen A. Cohen is on that list, Sach Capital.

Back when I was coming up, Sach Capital was always in the news like The Wall Street Journal. They were closing in on them for insider trading. He earned his high returns by paying people who would go sit in the cafeteria or go to the same Church as an employee of some company and get next to them and talk to them and then offer them ten grand for just minutes of board meetings or something like that. So all the people underneath Stephen Cohen ended up getting convicted, like Raj Rajaratnam.

There was an Indian named Raj Rajaratnam, I believe. And he was an associate of Stephen Cohen. Well, now Stephen Cohen owns the Mets. He’s got, again, one of these sophisticated trading businesses.

Paul Jay

Let’s go back to Cambridge. Tell people what Cambridge did and all that.

Steve O’Keefe

Cambridge, they developed a personality —

Paul Jay

The primary ownership was Mercer, but Steve Bannon had a big piece of it too.

Steve O’Keefe

At that time, Cambridge came out of a company called SCL [Strategic Communication Laboratories] Group. SCL Group, I believe, had associations with Michael Flynn, General Michael Flynn, even at that time and Erik Prince, but Cambridge did not have that association. Mercer was a funder of SCL Group. So out of that comes this Cambridge Analytica, and then the way they picked the name was just ridiculous, as you can imagine, looking for some snotty name.

Paul Jay

Well, I heard how they picked the name. One of the mathematicians that were in on developing some of the early algorithms was from Cambridge, and they said, oh, that’s going to make it look legitimate. Let’s call it Cambridge.

Steve O’Keefe

So they developed a personality quiz for people to play on Facebook to see what type you are, what type of person you are. People on Facebook shared this quiz, and it became very popular but not enormously popular. It got shared a few hundred thousand times. But through those few hundred thousand shares, they figured that they could reach through to the friends of every person who took the test. So if I had taken the test, the personality quiz, they would gain access to all of my friends’ profiles. So through this exponential access, they were able to download 78 million Facebook profiles. Then that information was used during Brexit to target messages about another one of Mercer’s investments.

Paul Jay

If people want, there’s a very good movie on Netflix about Brexit. It might be called Brexit, and it tells the story of how Cambridge accomplished this and helped sway the Brexit vote.

Steve O’Keefe

So please look at my article on CounterPunch. Look at this documentary on Netflix, and look at some of Paul Jay’s earlier work here.

Paul Jay

Go on with the Cambridge story. Go on with how they use this data from Facebook.

Steve O’Keefe

So then, that data is used to create psychographic profiles of voters. So during Brexit, that was used in creating messaging. I can’t remember the details of the specific messages they came up with that they thought would persuade voters and how they got those messages to them. Still, I do know that when the Trump campaign won the Republican nomination, Mercer merged that database with the Republican National Party’s voter database. Those two databases were merged by Trump. The owner of that giant frigging database became not the Republican Party but Trumps.

The Trump campaign owns that database, which is a merger of the 78 million purloin Facebook profiles that Mercer had, plus the 200 and some million voter profiles that the RNC [Republican National Committee] had. So when the RNC merged their database with Trump when he won, he got the tickets. He got the keys to the database that they had, and he had Mercer on the other side, merging the two. A lot of people think that that famous server in Lewis [New York] was sending mysterious messages back and forth to a bank in Moscow or something like that. I don’t know if you remember this.

It came up during the [Robert] Mueller thing about a server and Lewis, New York. It showed continuous suspicious activity, like backing up a database. It’s believed that this augmented database is now not only owned by Trump but also owned by Vladimir [Putin].

Paul Jay

Well, maybe not. I want to be careful on that because that’s in very speculative territory, whereas the Cambridge stuff isn’t.

Steve O’Keefe

That these databases were merged is not speculative.

Paul Jay

No, I mean that the Russian government has that list.

Steve O’Keefe

The RNC no longer has. They don’t have Trump —

Paul Jay

No, I’m only talking about whether the Russians have that list or not.

Steve O’Keefe

Yes, that is quite speculative about whether the Russians have that complete list.

Paul Jay

I always thought it was very interesting that all the attention of the Democratic Party and the Mueller investigation was all about the Russians when the real story was Cambridge Analytica, which was a foreign company because it’s incorporated in England.

Steve O’Keefe

And supposedly had worked with Putin on the disinformation in the Brexit campaign.

Paul Jay

Maybe, I’m going to keep saying maybe because I have yet to see any real proof. 

Steve O’Keefe

I don’t think Vladimir Putin and Robert Mercer are unknown to each other. Let’s put it that way.

Paul Jay

Well, maybe. Anyway, I assume so. Mercer is putting serious money into John Bolton. He was allied with the Koch brothers in various ways but did support a very hawkish foreign policy, which was also directed at the Russians. I mean, Bolton is no pal of the Russians. So it’s complicated. I just don’t want to sound like there’s some definitive information here. We don’t know on the Russian side.

Steve O’Keefe

Right, it is complicated with the Russians. I agree, and I think that what Mercer is into now through Emerdata [Limited], in which he is a partner, is more similar to what Russia is doing with its Wagner groups of various mercenaries travelling around. We can work our way up to that if you want.

Paul Jay

I’m sure from what Cambridge did, I would expect every large country in the world is trying to replicate for their own interests. Once it’s known how to do it, they’re all doing it.

Steve O’Keefe

Yeah, just like what the Houthi did to Saudi Arabia. Every little country is trying to figure out how to get these drones to go attack somebody’s oil depot.

Paul Jay

Alright, let’s go back to this. So they merged the list, and what did they do with it?

Steve O’Keefe

Asymmetric information warfare and what they did was they took this information and used it to find out where known Trump supporters were, who they were next to, who they worked with and who they lived near that could be persuaded to vote for Trump. So they literally targeted people based on whether their Facebook connections were connected in Facebook to someone who liked Trump. They would try to literally get these people to pass messages through so they could bypass folks’ filters and receive these messages in support of Trump.

I’ve never believed the rhetoric around social media being the thing that threw this campaign, the 2016 campaign. No, social media was used to deliver a lot of messages, but I really don’t see that the actions of the social media moguls had any impact one way or another. People just—

Paul Jay

Well, I think it ties more in terms of what you were saying. I remember at the time, Jared Kushner was bragging in a big article, I think maybe in Time magazine, about how the Democrats spent all their money on television and how useless that was, and we spent all our money on Facebook. He didn’t talk about why they spent so much money on Facebook. They were able to understand it. Correct me if I’m wrong. They were able to micro-target all these individuals with ads that were designed for that person.

Steve O’Keefe

That’s correct. They were practically custom-designed, one person at a time. It was almost amazing. This was only possible because of Mercers, Cambridge Analytica. Now he had some kind of a falling out with Trump. I don’t know where they are today, but he put a ton of money into Trump’s re-election PAC. So I think that’s being reported.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I’ve read two accounts of that. One is he started getting so much attention, Mercer and Rebekah, because of their role in 2016, they didn’t like all the heat. They didn’t want to be so much in the public eye, so they pushed back. There’s also some talk that they just thought Trump was getting too erratic, which is hard to understand given how erratic Robert and Rebekah Mercer are.

But maybe there’s a broader, deeper story here, which is this rise of this Christian nationalist quasi-fascist movement that Trump is a vehicle for. With or without Trump, the real backbone of this movement are the billionaires and multi-millionaires who believe either as the Koch brothers do, which is American workers should be as close to outright slaves as they can be in terms of labour law-breaking unions or like the Mercers. I don’t think the Koch brothers are such zealots in terms of religious fanaticism, but there are a lot of multi-millionaires and billionaires who are.

Steve O’Keefe

Well, I think you’re not right about that because Charles Koch is.

Paul Jay

Maybe he is. Is he or he finances that?

Steve O’Keefe

David Koch is not, but David Koch is gone. He’s been gone for a while. So there are no Koch brothers anymore. It’s just Charles, and he is much more conservative. He is much more right-wing and Christian than David was.

Paul Jay

David did some interesting stuff. David teamed up with George Soros to fund this Foreign Policy Institute that’s quite critical of U.S. foreign policy.

Steve O’Keefe

He’s not a bad guy. I’ve met him once, and he’s very likable, but his brother Charles is bad news. So for anyone seeing this, don’t fall for the grandfatherly PR [public relations] crusade that Charles Koch has been on to clean up his reputation in the past couple of years. He’s sprinkling money here and there on left-wing media to try to furnish his reputation. However, behind the scenes, he is still funding things like ‘stop the steal’, and he’s still funding things like anti-vax, and he is still funding some of the craziest people in the House of Representatives in the United States. Mike Pompeo is a big Charles Koch guy. I think he is as right-wing as any of the other ones, and I think this is the problem.

Paul Jay

So in terms of what the Koch brothers, as you said, it isn’t brothers anymore. I’m just so used to saying that. But it’s Charles Koch who is further to the Right and more on the same page as Robert Mercer, you’re saying. What happened after January 6th, and people are talking about a real rising, unfairly, and well-financed organized network that’s planning for some kind of disruptions if the Republicans lose in 2022, which is looking like they will, in fact, do significantly well. But particularly for 2024, a much more organized and coherent plan that if it is Trump and he loses. So what are these guys up to, and how big is this funding network? What kind of power do they have?

Steve O’Keefe

Well, the power keeps concentrating as the wealth keeps concentrating. So as the concentration of wealth has put more and more enormous sums into the hands of such few people, those few people are able to do an incredible amount of damage with just one person supporting their point of view.

So what they do and what they’re doing now is they’re funding resistance to the Build Back Better plan and resistance to breaking the filibuster in the Senate. Now, if you look at the way the United States is set up, the Senate is not a Democratic body. They don’t often say that, but it is not a Democratic body. There are two senators per state, and if you have 50 million people in your state or 50,000, it’s the same two votes you get. So A, it is not a Democratic body, B, it has the 60-vote threshold to stop debate, the so-called filibuster. When you put the math of the States together, the undemocratic States with the undemocratic filibuster, you allow 11% representative senators representing 11% of the population are able to wag the dog. They are able to control what the other 89% of the people can do. This is why you can get legislation that is stopped, that has even 80% popularity in the United States, such as assault weapons restrictions. Now even Obama thought he could get that through, and he could not get that through. It’s just amazing. Even something that 90% of Americans agree on cannot get past this filibuster. The reason is these dark money people know the game, and they target the representatives from the States that have a small population.

Paul Jay

It doesn’t take nearly as much money to sway a small State as a big State.

Steve O’Keefe

And with the Supreme Court now just locked up with Conservatives, the Senate is the only place left that they can stand that’s not Democratic. The vote for President is supposedly Democratic unless it goes into the electoral college, in which case it instantly—

Paul Jay

Well, it does go into the electoral college.

Steve O’Keefe

Yes, Yes, it does. That is an undemocratic body because it’s based on the same math as a Senate, two per State. Now, if you look at what all this big money is rolling up to, what are they going to do? They’re doing a constitutional convention, the convention of States. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it or done a program on it yet.

Paul Jay

I haven’t done a program on it. I’ve heard of it.

Steve O’Keefe

Of States funded primarily by Charles Koch and dark money groups associated with Charles Koch, and what they want is they want to sort of trick Americans into having a constitutional convention where they then rewrite the Constitution to protect corporations. So the trick is they’re going to call a constitutional convention for the purpose of a Balanced Budget Amendment. So they’re just waiting for the right fiscal crisis to come along and then the Balanced Budget Amendment. They’re going to get 34 States to agree to have this convention. They’ve got 31 now if you believe their math. They have 31 that are willing to have this convention today, and they need 34 in order to call a constitutional convention.

Paul Jay

And what would a Balanced Budget Amendment mean for people?

Steve O’Keefe

Well, the thing is, once you have the constitutional convention, it’s not limited to the Balanced Budget Amendment. There’s no way to have a single-issue constitutional convent. At that point, they wanted to make abortion illegal inside the framework of the United States Constitution, among other changes that they sought to the Constitution.

They also have a plan to make it so that it takes 80% of the States to alter the Constitution. So, in other words, they only want 34 States to have the convention, but they want 80% of the States required to change what the convention comes up with. This is the kicker in a constitutional convention; every State only gets one vote. That’s one vote per State. They only need 26 States in a constitutional convention to agree with them to pass a new Constitution. Also, they only need 26 States to scrap the convention being only about the balanced budget and to add other items to the agenda of the convention.

So you’re going to see corporations trying to lock up their privileged position in a new Constitution written by dark money, and this is not a fantasy. What surprises me is the bedfellows that they’re willing to get in bed with in order to get this deal done. Charles Koch really hates Donald Trump, and there was a big split. He finally came in on Moneywise. He put money in. He put money in so that he could get his guys in charge of energy and environment so that he could get [Mike] Pompeo in, and so that he could get Rick Perry in. Some of these other fellows that—

Paul Jay

I think it’s not just about corporate power in the sense that I don’t know how much more corporate power corporations need. I think there really is an ideological, cultural component here that a lot of these guys are true believers in a Christian theocratic authoritarian state. It’s not just about the money.

Steve O’Keefe

I think you’re right, and I don’t know what’s going to come behind that because part of the abortionist part of this as well. There is behind that, you’ll see, Steve Bannon now repeatedly referred to the Judeo Christians. So apparently, they want to make it clear that they include Jews, but they don’t include Islam. So you’ll hear them say Judeo-Christian all the time, and I think a lot of the dark money people, they just assume, skip the Judeo part and have it be all Christian.

Paul Jay

Well, they need the Jewish part for the apocalypse. It’s part of the narrative. Of course, all the Jews are going to go to hell, but they need the Jewish part.

Steve O’Keefe

It just shows the book Dark Money by Jane Mayer. I should give her credit because she really has been one of the earliest ones on this. There was one of these nut job billionaires that was always funding anti-Hillary Clinton stuff, anti-Bill Clinton stuff, anti-Hillary Clinton stuff. And Hillary finally had a meeting with the guy. They sat down, and he turned out to not have anything against her that much. He stopped spending money on her after that meeting. It was just something to do. These people are not well psychologically. I don’t think you can rise to the top of the corporate system without having character flaws that just blind you to what people think are normal behaviours.

Paul Jay

There are some serious fracture lines in the elite corporate world. Clearly, most of the elites wanted Trump gone after he wasn’t going to peacefully transition. I’ve made this point many times, but one of the things I think doesn’t get enough attention is that at 2:10 in the afternoon, when the doors of Capitol Hill are breached, at 3:04 in the afternoon, the association of American Manufacturers issued a press release calling on [Mike] Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump.

Now that doesn’t happen an hour after the doorstep breach. In other words, this was all part of a plan, that this guy had gone nuts, he did what we wanted for four years, and now he’s out of his mind and [Joe] Biden ain’t so bad anyway. It’s not like he’s going to hurt the corporations all that much. So they wanted to get rid of him. 

There’s another fracture line which I think is fascinating. This is the split between the Trumpest forces and what the Cheney forces represent. The face of it, of course, is Liz Cheney. When the ten former Secretaries of Defence published their letter on January 4th in the Washington Post calling on the military to stay out of the elections, clearly a sign saying to the Trumpest attempted coup, you military better stay out of this.

That letter was organized by Liz and her dad and the Cheneys as representing the far, hard-right and further of corporate America. I did a piece called The Hard-Right Versus the Far-Right. There is a struggle there for leadership of this right-wing movement. It’s not like Dick Cheney has anything against authoritarian leadership. He was all for the imperial presidency. I don’t think he gives a shit about Liberal Democratic institutions, but what do you make of it? There is a real split there.

Steve O’Keefe

The global corporate stuff is not in cahoots with this insurrection business, and it’s because they want a smooth operating system. For example, Charles Koch is adamantly pro-immigration. He wants as many workers to flood across that border and reduce labour costs in the United States as possible, and he believes in it in a philosophical way. He believes that people should be allowed to move freely around the world to places of their choice.

That position is absolutely hated by much of the Right, who demonized immigrants and immigration. They certainly don’t agree that we should have open borders like the corporations do, but the corporations do want open borders, especially the ones run by these billionaire oligarchs because that’s the only way they get cheap labour is to have open borders. If you don’t let us move the factory to China, then you have to let us move the Chinese to the U.S., and so this is exactly what’s going on with deportation now to Mexico. A lot of people are being deported to Mexico and then taking jobs there, working for the same corporations that they just left. Only now at a substantially lower wage.

You look at people, who work in a call center in San Diego, and they get paid twice or three times as much as they get in the call center in Tijuana. If you get deported, that’s about the only job you can get down there. There’s a documentary on Al Jazeera this week about deportees.

Paul Jay

Then there’s got to be another obvious massive split. I think to some extent, this is the underlying issue that’s really facing the American elites, and that’s what to do with the climate crisis. It’s an existential threat. Certainly, the smart money understands this now, how serious the threat is. There’s a real division about what to do about it. Clearly, there’s not going to be effective climate policy without real government intervention, and regulation, even to the point of some kinds of nationalization and public ownership. Now all the elites hate all of that. On the other hand, some of them realize there really is a problem, and the government is going to have to at least regulate to some extent.

The other side of this is fossil fuel, which is the Kochs, and to some extent, private equity. They just want to continue the denial. There’s no way they want any serious legislation regulating fossil fuel, at least for 20-25 years, if ever. If they have to go to this kind of authoritarian, Christian nationalist stuff, which I think many of them also believe in, it’s not just the Machiavellian scheme, which it also is, but there’s a real split. Obviously, the Koch brothers have been financing anti-climate science for years.

Steve O’Keefe

Right, and they are climate deniers, and they also don’t support a minimum wage. I wonder if all the people in Trump’s group know that they’re anti-minimum wages. They’re certainly anti-labour laws. The whole history of the Koch brothers has been mostly anti-labour, and, of course, they are enormously involved in the petrochemical business and fuels and nitrogen fertilizer.

In fact, they’ve gone from being a company that makes those things to being a company that trades those things. So when you see electricity prices in Texas going through the roof, it’s because the Koch brothers knew this was coming, bought up all the supply, and then sold it back to them at these ridiculous prices. The book Koch Land is full of examples of how the Koch industries became a trading company that gets by on shortages, creates shortages, and then profits from them.

So all these things about being great mathematicians, no, a lot of it comes down to them cheating. So I don’t believe the great math stuff. I don’t believe it’s these super A.I’s doing all of it. I believe that there’s a lot of old-fashioned cheating going on in the background.

Paul Jay

Well, you may be right. I mean, the people I’ve talked to think it’s both because they all cheat, and then some are better at it than others, and some are better at the algorithms. Certainly, a lot of it is driven by algorithms. Even when you get the data that you’ve stolen, you still got to shove it into the A.I. machine. And maybe some A.Is are better than others. The results from the Medallion Fund are ridiculous, 76%. That’s better than the rest of the Renaissance does, too. So there’s something fishy going on there because most people can’t even get into this Mercer Medallion Fund.

Steve O’Keefe

It’s closed, as they say. I have a question for you. Do you think, Paul, that the United States is capable of reforming, or if it’s going to take an international body to get us to finally stop using so much carbon or to rein in our corporations?

Paul Jay

Well, there is no such international body, so I think that’s not even on the table. There is no international body that can tell the United States what to do within any time frame that matters. Maybe in 300 years, there will be something like that. The only international body that could do that would be aliens coming down in spaceships saying we’re going to blow you all up if you don’t do something about climate change. But so far, that ain’t happening.

No, I think there’s a best-case scenario, which is a little pie in the sky. Unfortunately, I do think there are sections of the elites in the financial sector. The most obvious one is Larry Fink from BlackRock, which is the largest asset manager. I think the one company now, I think, is $12 trillion under management. It’s insane. The top three asset managers have more money under their management than the GDP of China. It’s insane.

The clout they have, and they call themselves passive, but it’s bullshit, even though it’s not all their money, it’s billionaire’s money, it’s pension fund money, it’s sovereign wealth fund money. But all that money, and then they go and buy these whole stock indexes. They get to vote for the shares. So when there are votes for the board, if management is doing what they want, they don’t have to get involved. They can be very passive, but if you look at the history of shareholder resolutions, particularly on climate issues, BlackRock has been very involved over the years in defeating many resolutions that would have pushed some companies into a better climate green policy to some extent anyway.

If you read the documents of BlackRock and others, they’re very aware now that this threat really is existential. As I said earlier, the problem is that to do something about it will require government regulation that these guys, in principle, hate. But maybe they’ll start to get it’s either that or like, just imagine if by 2030-2035 we hit 1.5 degrees warming. Let’s understand right now, we’re only at 1.2, and we already have many extreme weather events. So imagine 10-15 years, we’re already at 1.5, which is what they’re saying is very possible, very likely could hit two degrees by 2050. Tens of millions of people from the South have nowhere to go but North.

So then what? They think they got issues on their border now. It’s beyond belief. Whole countries are going to—

Steve O’Keefe

We’re all coming to Canada, Paul.

Paul Jay

There’s only one problem with that. We have a secret plan to build the wall, the real building of the wall. We’re building it. It’s the Canadians. I’m a dual citizen, but here I’m putting on my Canadian hat. If I had my American hat, I’d be on the other side of the wall.

Steve O’Keefe

I’d like to be on your side of the wall.

Paul Jay

Yeah, a lot of people I’m interviewing at the end of the interview they’re saying, okay, what does it take to get to Canada. Anyway, some of these elites, and it is reflected in the rhetoric of the Biden administration, if not the real policy, and they can’t even pass that. What I mean by that is the real policy was so dependent on carbon capture, which so far is pie in the sky. At least rhetorically, the Biden administration does get the urgency, which means a lot of their financial backers do get the urgency.

There are a lot of new heirs of big, big fortunes who are now getting a lot of money in the biggest transfer of wealth from one generation to the other in the history of the world, I suppose. That generation of wealth, many of them get the urgency of the climate, but none of this will be triggered unless there’s a real mass movement that puts enormous pressure from below, from the ground, and there are a lot of people organizing towards that end. The problem, obviously, is that in the end, you have to elect people who will actually pass legislation that’s effective and not just in appearance, but in reality effective.

The corporate Democrats are terrified of antagonizing the fossil fuel industry any more than they’ve already antagonized them, which means it goes back to Koch money and the people behind Joe Manchin in West Virginia. The only way this log jam gets broken is with a powerful mass movement. So far, it’s not there, but maybe as we head closer to 1.5 degrees and people really start to get how urgent and how near this crisis is, hopefully, it won’t be too late to do something about it.

Steve O’Keefe

We haven’t even curbed our rate of growth of carbon usage. Our greenhouse gases are still growing. They’re not even shrinking, much less shrinking at a fast enough rate. So you have to look at that and think, man, one way or another, we’re never going to catch up. Now, maybe that’s true what you say. When we get closer to 1.5, and things are direr, people make some changes.

Right now, you have to realize that every gallon of oil that’s in the ground is owned by somebody, and it’s pledged as collateral, or they’re used to a certain amount of income from it. So if you say ban the carbon, you could just ban gasoline engines in the United States in five years, and we could do that. That could be done in five years. And then there are problems with electric cars. I grant that. But you would have no more combustion engines in five years. And then all that oil that’s in the ground basically becomes worthless. What I’m getting at is the people who think they have $50 per barrel of whatever they own under the ground are going to find it all of a sudden turn to $1 per barrel or something.

So those are the people who go nuts like Mercer and try to buy a presidency to forestall that from happening. So I see that happening in the future, too. Even if we get close to having something of a reasonable climate policy, some billionaire is going to come in and offer to make the President’s children wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. All of a sudden, all of our dreams go right out the window.

Paul Jay

Well, I think we who think we understand this and want to do something about it, we really got to support the efforts. We need to get directly involved in organizing in that small number of States you talked about that have this ridiculous power in the Senate and in the Electoral College and these legislatures. Republican legislators are getting elected in States that used to never elect Republican legislatures because the corporate Democrats have just written these people off.

I get to talk in one way or another to a lot of people, including people that voted for Trump. The polling bears out what I’m about to say. A lot of them do get climate change as a serious problem, even if they are religious, even if they support Trump on all kinds of Trumpest type policies, because it’s not just Trump in some ways, it’s even more about Republican legislatures at the State level. Even though they agree on certain things with the Republican Party, a lot of it is they just think the Democrats are a failure, so they go to the next stop. A lot of them do get the climate problem, and there’s some polling by Pew

Steve O’Keefe

The point you made is important. A lot of them are not Trump supporters necessarily. They’re just giving the bird to the whole government. They’re sick of all of it. They know no matter who’s getting elected, they’re not getting what they’re hoping for. So I believe half of the Trump vote was just a screw you vote, and we like him because he’s hated. It was called a Boaty McBoat face vote. I don’t know if you know what a Boaty McBoat face is?

Paul Jay

Yeah, I know some of that is, but I think a lot of the votes are people of faith. There’s no reason not to use the term. I think they are, whether you agree or not. What do most of that 74-75 million people want? There’s a hardcore, maybe as much as 20% of that 75 million that is really, there’s no other word, fascistic. Their identities are tied up in white supremacism. They believe in authoritarianism. They believe in a kind of religious domineering Church.

I think most of those people, of the 75 million, want a life for their kids. They want a stable home. They want what they think will be a future. They want some decent values in their life to see how corrupt the culture is, which to a large extent it is. When I’ve talked to those people, I hear over and over again a significant number, even though they disagree with so many things I support, do think there’s a real climate crisis, and if that was the issue — like in the election in Virginia if the numbers of this Pew study I saw are correct, it was something like 20% of people that identify as seriously conservative Republicans, 20% think the climate crisis is real and one of their issues of high concern. Ten Percent put it in the top three of their issues.

Well, if you only got that 10% because you focused on climate, you might wedge off some of those people, but then you’ve got to have a real climate policy. This is where on the ground organizing is the real issue in electing some candidates who actually want real effective climate change. So far, the corporate Democrats are mostly rhetoric.

Steve O’Keefe

And really, there isn’t a good third-party option in the United States. Third parties are terribly prejudiced against in terms of trying to get on the ballot all across the country. It’s a daunting task. Republicans have tried to make it even more daunting with their control of State legislatures. They don’t want to make it easy for new parties to get on the ballot. So it’s really tough to get any kind of attraction there as you might have in Germany, where Green is now a member of the ruling party in Germany and has a seat at the table. Here, Green never has a seat at the table. You have to get a Democrat or Republican to take, like you say, to have a real climate policy.

Paul Jay

I do have to say the Green Party in Germany ain’t what it used to be. She’s the Foreign Minister, and I think she’s more pro-American than the more centrist party that she’s aligned with.

Steve O’Keefe

It is Green with a seat at the table, which is different and certainly not something we have here. Ralph Nader’s party, who’s never been successful at getting a member elected to Congress, and Bernie has at times said, look, my agenda is supported by 80% of the people in West Virginia. You go put up my agenda there, and it’s very popular.

Paul Jay

Well, in that primary, Sanders won every district in West Virginia.

Steve O’Keefe

Yeah. So you can see that there’s room to have somebody who has a platform that focuses on issues that are 80% popular and maybe forces their way through in this log jam.

Paul Jay

I’m going to be interviewing a woman next week who’s the Co-Director of a group called ‘West Virginia Can’t Wait’. They’re doing this. They’re really pushing a program, not within the framework of any party, and they’re supporting candidates within either party. Although they wind up being mostly Democrat because of the kind of program it is, it’s not partisan in that way. They’re just doing the hard work of knocking on doors and going to community meetings and workplaces, and that’s what it’s going to take everywhere.

To end off the interview, because I’m going to end practically every interview I do now with this, not with a plea to donate to theAnalysis.news, of course, we’d appreciate it. More importantly, find out who’s doing this kind of local organizing in whatever State you’re in and support it. There are organizations and organizers working in unions in communities all over the country really trying to get workers and ordinary people engaged in this kind of progressive agenda, and they don’t get any attention at all. There’s practically no news media coverage of them.

That’s where the hope is going to be. You got to hope for some kind of fracture in the elites. There’s got to be a movement that consolidates and strengthens the vote for Progressives in the big urban centers and really makes some inroads in rural America.

Steve O’Keefe

I also think a lot of what you’re doing, Paul, and revealing what these groups are doing is important because I know that dark money groups are dark for a reason. They know that when people have heard their agenda, what they really want to do, they don’t like it. They’re never going to win a popular vote. They know they’re never going to win a popular vote. So the only way they can make headway is to be secretive, to be quiet, to fund things that don’t look like them.

It’s you and people like you who are not funded by corporations who are going and revealing these connections. When people see that the same folks behind ‘Stop the Steal’ also want to stop the minimum wage, well, they’re probably not going to be as thrilled to be funded by such dark money groups. Yet, that’s how they operate, and that’s how they —

Paul Jay

Thank you, and let me just emphasize what you just said. It’s almost the main point of the agenda, other than they don’t want any kind of legislation that phases out fossil fuel. The whole rest of the agenda is to lower wages. Everything else is just a cover-up. The agenda, workers, is to lower your wages and weaken your ability to bargain for higher wages. That’s almost the entire banal, stupid agenda.

Steve O’Keefe

Don’t fall for them, sprinkling a little candy on your favourite issue, throwing a little money at it to make friends with you. In the background, that’s what they’re after, lowering your wages.

Paul Jay

Alright, thanks very much for joining me.

Steve O’Keefe

Thank you, Paul. It’s been a pleasure.

Paul Jay

Thank you for joining me on theAnalysis.news. Don’t forget, a little donation wouldn’t hurt, but I’m quite serious, find out who’s doing some local organizing and give them some money because they’re doing very hard and necessary work. But do subscribe, do share, and get on our email list at theAnalysis.news. Thanks again.

END

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2 Comments

  1. The only chance of seeing the U.S. reforming is if countries like Russia, China, India, France, Germany, Brazil, etc. continue to adopt alternatives to the U.S. dollar and then eventually force the U.S. to adopt a new healthier direction. However, I just don’t see the U.S. EVER admitting defeat. Nuclear war will ultimately be the final solution. What the U.S. can’t take by economic pressure will eventually try to take with military might.

  2. An international body?! Forgive me while I contain my laughter. The U.S. won’t even recognize the ICC!

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