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I haven't seen Batman 3 yet.

I probably won't see it unless it's showing on a plane flight to Australia. And I'm having trouble sleeping. And it's free. And comes with a drink.

But I was thinking about was how much it costs to be Batman. Not just the suit and the gadgets, I'm talking about the rent on the secret lair, and the private floor at Wayne Industries and the R&D and Morgan Freeman's health insurance: the whole Bat-paratus. It's got to be close to 100 million dollars.

100 million dollars to fight a bad, corrupt government.

Citizens United should be Bruce Wayne's best friend.

By using his newfound right to funnel millions of dollars anonymously into political campaigns, Bruce Wayne should have been able to singlehandedly stuff City Hall with good people, the people he's hand selected, and change the city through good government. Even Bloomberg only spent $65 million on getting elected in 2009. He wouldn't have to be Mike Bloomberg either and stand in front of everyone. He could have masked his identity by creating a Gotham SuperPAC and pulling the strings behind closed doors.

What's more, if Bruce Wayne were to have spent his money on fixing the government instead of building a Bat Wing and a Tumbler and whatever else he was building, he could have worked to improve things other than crime: he could have worked to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse; he could have improved Gotham's schools and reduced juvenile crime. Instead of destroying roads and buildings with his reckless vigilantism, he could have worked to improve Gotham's infrastructure. He could have made sure there were programs in place to do outreach to people in need of Mental Health services and made sure Arkham Asylum wasn't a revolving door for the criminally insane.

I seem to remember in Batman Begins, Bruce's father, Tom, talking about the importance of this as philanthropy. Now maybe Tom Wayne's philanthropy might have simply been protecting the Wayne's considerable investment in Gotham City. It's not much fun being the wealthiest person in an unlivable slum.

Sadly, Bruce Wayne - arch-conservative and Ayn Randian- decides it's more important to pursue private goals of being a ninja and cosplay vigilantism than to take care of the millions of people of Gotham abandoned by their government.

Advantage Bloomberg.


Watching the convention last night, I was struck by how cheap it all looked (NB: I was watching it on PBS, so it's totally possible that they were using Fischer Price cameras or something). I've been watching these conventions since 1996, and they haven't changed at all. Dais, speaker, one camera, reaction shots of people cheering and then a panel discussion of talking heads between speakers.

It all looks strangely cheap to me.

Currently, 812 SuperPACs have raised $350 million. That sounds like a lot of money until you place it next to the $2.5 billion that the presidential campaign is projected to cost. And for those of you who think that $2.5 billion dollars ought to go to something more useful like health care keep in mind:

In 2009, the United States federal, state and local governments, corporations and individuals, together spent $2.5 trillion, $8,047 per person, on health care.
So maybe spending $2.5 billion dollars to help determine how $2.5 trillion dollars is going to be spent makes some sense.

And if you watch people who are contributing big money to the SuperPacs, guys like Sheldon Adelson are giving away money to try to hang on to their money. Adelson wants very much to see the federal estate tax repealed. He probably should. He's worth over $20 billion dollars and he's nearly 80 years old. When he dies, he'll have a tax debt of close to$8 billion dollars for the federal government. (Oh, and yo- if you check my math and I'm incorrect it's not because I'm trying to be tricky, it's because I'm actually bad at this stuff).

My point here is that for Adelson to donate twenty or thirty or forty-two million dollars on the chance that his contributions will substantially lower the rate of taxes his estate has to shell out makes sense. In fact, I think there's an easy argument to be made that if Mitt Romney were to promise him the repeal of the Estate Tax should Mitt be elected, it would make sense for Adelson to spend ten times as much money.

The same goes for the Koch brothers and all the other names that get trotted out as SuperPac high rollers. The elected officials of the United States with the help of appointed judges have created a system whereby extremely wealthy people look at the US government as a financial services company where money is paid to protect investments and maximize return.

So then what surprises me is how low the stakes are. The sum total of the SuperPACS - and these are the organizations that threaten to tip the balance of power in US elections - is only $50 million dollars more than how much it cost to make Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End(2007).

I think twenty years from now 2012's spending will seem quaint.

There's always been money in Washington, but for a while the government passed laws mandating people's names be attached to the money they donated. Now, money can be exchanged for influence on the privacy of a yacht flying a Cayman Islands flag. [Oh, yeah, the yacht was called "Cracker Bay"]

Among those attending was Mel Sembler, a former top supporter of President George W. Bush and Charlie Moncrief, an oil executive from Texas, and his wife Kit. Other guests covered up their nametags as they exited for waiting busses and SUVs to take them to their next event.
Kit Moncrief said she and her husband had pledged to raise $1 million for Romney. When asked about the fundraising, she said:
"We don't like it either, but it's the system," she said
Protecting your investments for only a million dollars? What's not to like?

Batman would call it a bargain.

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