from the pages of April 1996


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Forbes: Capitalist Tool

By Bob Harris

This article is written right around Groundhog day, when there are still enough Republicans running for President to mount a production of Twelve Angry Men.

They all have two things in common: number one, none of the them look like they've had sex since Beowulf was written, and number two, they're all scrambling to raise enough money to buy enough TV ads to convince us to forget about number one.

You want to know how much money means to the process? Look who's out of the race already.

Arlen Specter is out, because he has no money. Pete Wilson is out, because he has no money. See a pattern here?

Dan Quayle and Colin Powell are also out, claiming their families are more important than their careers. For the first time in their lives. In case you never studied Iran-Contra, they're both accomplished liars. Truth is, neither one was able to raise enough money to begin a campaign.

Bob Dole has the most corporate PAC money. Guess what? He's the front-runner by a mile. See a pattern here?

Here's the deal: in every election for decades, the candidate in each party with the most money has won the nomination. It's that simple. The whole primary thing has become little more than a complex form of nationwide focus group testing, in which various issues and slogans are test-marketed by each party for use in the general election campaign in the fall.

Pat Buchanan will still be around, if only in that 30 percent pain-in-the-ass frighten-the-moderates fashion that makes him the Jesse Jackson of the GOP. But he doesn't have much money, so he'll probably snuff it just before the convention and settle for another Leni Reifenstahl keynote speech from hell in which he promises a balanced budget, school prayer, and living space in the east.

Bob Dornan will be gone, because Americans don't like to vote for someone who looks like he might bite them. And he has no money.

Alan Keyes will still be in the race, because he is not sane. Have you heard this guy talk? Rarely in public life do we find a man in such need of stronger medication. But Keyes has no money, so he has no chance.

Dick Lugar will be gone. He has no money. Also his name is too cool for words.

Who's doing the GOP names, anyway?

There's an anti-drug fanatic named Gramm. A guy who wants to trim welfare named Bob Dole. Another whose whole career is eternally haunted by his cover-up of a political murder -- Specter. Two “family values” types who want to increase the military and kill gun control named Dick Armey and Dick Lugar. There's even a sex maniac named Packwood.

So I guess the next Republican president will be some guy named Fuckthepoor.

Or maybe he'll just call himself Steve Forbes.

Americans everywhere are asking: What kind of guy is Steve Forbes?

Well, you already know that he inherited every dollar he ever saw, that he never worked a day of real labor in his life, and that he has no firm political views whatsoever beyond a desire to exclude himself from any obligation to the public good.

You already know that the Forbes family business is an eponymous investment magazine. And you already know that running that magazine is the only job Stevie Boy ever had. So hey, let's look at his magazine -- I've got the January 22 issue right here -- and see what we find out.

The cover is a strikingly goofy studio photo of some rich old white guy named Charlie Munger, who it turns out knows how to pick stocks and is therefore rich enough to buy up the ocean and charge rent to the fish. Charlie's supposed to be standing on a beach -- a lot of wannabe rich folks dream about living free and easy on the beach, even as they call people who actually do that “bums” and wouldn't dream of going near them -- but he's actually posing on a lump of brown dirt in front of a big picture of a beach. It's really goofy and sort of phony looking.

OK, that's a superficial observation, I know. But Steve Forbes is pretty goofy and sort of phony looking himself, so we're one-for-one.

The magazine is about 50 percent ad space -- that's pretty normal -- with ads for Fidelity Investments, Godiva Chocolates, BMW, and Rolex. Pretty rich stuff.

Well, Steve Forbes is pretty rich. We knew that, but still we're two-for-two.

Tell you what. Let's actually read some of this stuff and see what Little Stevie is really all about.

Page 44: an approving article about how Wal-Mart is driving neighborhood supermarkets out of business. That's nice.

Page 66: an article denouncing the American Bar Association as “leftist” and calling for the abolition of the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal help to the poor.

Page 98: a commentary equating the evidence of carcinogenic effects from dioxin, PCBs, power lines, and microwave ovens to those of women's underwear.

I swear I didn't make that up.

What else? Let's look at some of the main articles, the big features of this month's issue: “Vagit Alekperov is the John D. Rockefeller of modern Russia. With guile, arm-twisting, and barely disguised bribery, he's creating a world-class oil company.”

Two things: (1) it's nice to see such an open admission that Rockefeller was a thug, and (2) the scary part is that Forbes is openly advocating thuggery.

Here's a two-page ad from the Republic of Indonesia, showing a couple of smiling locals in pricey suits cutting a deal on a cell phone. The caption reads: “Think Big... Indonesia...a strong pro-business government and culture... Today's Big Opportunity.”

This is the same Indonesia which is cutting down its forests, letting American mining companies cyanide-leach entire ecosystems to death, and raping the people of Timor.

“Pro-business.” Hmm. That's one way to put it.

“Will Burma become an Asian tiger?” On page 52 there's a long story about how Burma's such a nifty place to invest your money.

This is the same Burma (Myanmar, actually, and it has been for the better part of a decade) which is a closed police state and an international human rights pariah. This is the Burma where much of the population and their traditional lands are being decimated to make room for a U.S. Oil pipeline, and where dissent is often met with immediate violent death.

And Forbes is encouraging investment there.

Gee, it sounds like Steve Forbes is the kind of guy who wouldn't give a shit about anything besides rich folks making even more money, no matter how many people get screwed, live in misery, or die as a result.

Is that right? Are we three-for-three?

Let's look at his stand on the issue, singular: the Flat Tax. It's simple. Under Forbes's system, inheritances -- like how he got every dime of his money -- will not be taxed. At all. Zip.

Under Forbes's system, capital gains and dividends -- Forbes's income from owning stuff -- will not be taxed. At all. Zip, zero, nada.

Under Forbes's system, a rich boy who makes a million a year on his stocks and bonds owes nothing, but his workers all pay a full taxload, with no deductions.

That's the plan. The rich get richer. Everyone else suffers. See a pattern here?

We're three-for-three.

To review: Once upon a time, Malcolm Forbes built a publishing fortune by pimping propaganda for pirates, polluters, and third-world dictators. Now Little Stevie has the loot and he doesn't want to share. He even wants to change all the rules so that everybody else has to share but him, and he's willing to buy the White House to do it.

And Steve Forbes is calling himself a populist outsider, a champion of the working man.

Oh. One last prediction. By the time you read this, a few newspaper writers and TV reporters will have figured out Little Stevie's hustle. Some of them will point out that his greed is the only issue he's remotely concerned about. Some will even gently tell the public that this is a bad thing. And that will be about the extent of the outrage.

Steve Forbes and what he represents aren't anything unusual; they're standard operating procedure. Steve Forbes can get away with trying to buy the government because he's who the government is for. Clinton and Dole are really just hired help. Steve Forbes is the real deal.

Are you tired of political system controlled by the rich?

Vote for Forbes. Eliminate the middle man.