Just as most of the nation's attention turned to the first Presidential debate in Denver last week, the Sacramento Bee reported that Charles Munger, Jr. had ponied up $9.9 million to the Small Business Action Committee PAC, a committee dedicated to defeating Prop. 30 and passing Prop. 32. This brought Mr. Munger's total contribution to these efforts to $20 million since 17 September 2012, two short weeks. That's about $1.25 million a day.
One man, two weeks, $20 million. One uber-wealthy man trying to buy an election to protect tax cuts for himself and strip working men and women of their voice.
Folks, this is not an election; it's an auction. And if we let the highest bidders win, Californians -- all of us -- will lose.
So, who is Mr. Munger and what is he buying?
Charles Munger, Jr. inherited vast sums of money, from his father, Charles Munger, Sr., the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. He has apparently never had to work for money for even one day in his life. His wife is a partner of the corporate powerhouse law firm of Skadden Arps. They apparently missed the part of the adage about great wealth coming with great responsibility. Based on his actions in the past few months, he seems to believe that with great wealth comes the need to preserve great wealth.
What's he buying?
Prop. 30, the result of a compromise between the proponents of the Millionaires Tax of 2012 (of which Courage Campaign was a key part) and Governor Brown, would raise Mr. Munger's income taxes by a meager 3 percent for 7 years. Assuming that he has any income outside of tax-exempt government bonds (a whole other bundle of ironies), if Mr. Munger earns, say, $10 million a year on investments made by his father, he'd have to pay an additional $300,000 or so a year. So let's figure this out: Mr. Munger is willing to spend $20 million to prevent a tax bill of some $2.1 million payable over 7 years. Fuzzy math, and this is from a PhD in physics.
But there's more. Mr. Munger supports Prop. 32, which would put union members -- people like the firefighters who will keep his mansion(s) from burning down, nurses who will keep him alive, and teachers, who taught his kids to learn to hang onto the money he no doubt will pass along to them from his father's brilliant investing -- out of politics. See, if Mr. Munger and his friends Charles and David Koch (of Citizens United fame) can put the unions out of politics, he can build bigger walls around his houses, keep his money for generations and never have to worry about government again, except when he has fire, police or healthcare emergencies. I suppose he'd build his own fire, police and healthcare systems dedicated to those who earn over a million dollars a year if he could. That seems like a good solution for the grand inheritor.
Why are 30 and 32 related? Those pesky labor unions that care deeply about higher education (think community college, UC and CSU), K-12 education, security, fire and healthcare, put up money to help get Prop. 30 on the ballot and to help pass it. Mr. Munger understands that if he can take workers out of politics, he can build the world of his dreams, one which clearly leaves out not just 47 percent of Californians, but something more like 98 percent of us.
This is America. People are free to do as they please with their money. Mr. Munger could choose to be buried in it if he wanted to. Because this is America, we all have an obligation to stand up to Mr. Munger and his friends Charles and David Koch to assure that Prop. 32 goes down in flames. If Prop. 32 passes, Mr. Munger may well get more than he bargained for. Yes, he and Howard Ahmanson and the rest of the Lincoln Club that brought us Citizens United will walk the halls of Sacramento as owners, no questions asked. But then what?
If Mr. Munger, who has apparently never had to work for money even one day in his life, succeeds in rolling back paid sick leave, overtime, freedom of speech in the classrooms, the minimum wage, public health and who knows what else, what world will he inhabit? Perhaps it's that Mitt Romney/Ayn Rand paradise in which the 2 percent have all of the capital, education and power while the rest of us serve them.
You don't have to like labor unions to see that Mr. Munger, who may well be a stellar member of the academy, has no clue how society or the real world works. The primitive accumulation of capital ends badly.
Mr. Munger's vision opposes that of a democracy in which voices and votes count, not just money. One day, perhaps he will explain to us why his ideas and opinions are more valuable than those of nearly three million nurses, firefighters, teachers, bus drivers, subway repair people, garbage collectors and police. For now, we have the obligation to send him and his government by purchase to the ash heap of history.
We can beat him, but we have to think for ourselves.