KING IGNORAMUS

I don’t know who this toad Kevin O’Leary is, but somewhere in the great media world he has a job opining on the global situation. I don’t know what the rest of his body of work indicates, but this excerpt alone shows that he, and what’s more, whoever hired him, should be sent back to the saloon (or perhaps country club) where he was discovered. When his co-host reports a statistic from Oxfam that finds that the worth of the world’s 85 richest people is equal to that if the world’s 3.5 billion poorest people, O’Leary says “It’s fantastic. This is a great thing because. . . everybody gets the motivation to look up to the one percent and say I want become one of those people. I’m gonna fight hard to get up to the top.”

Think about it: the desperate poverty of billions is fantastic. Surely this is one of the most smug, self-satisfied, and ignorant observations ever made. Clearly the ingredient that is missing in many of those lives is not motivation. Often it is something like water. Or food. Motivation, my ass. This man has never known an instant of this sort of poverty in his life.

GO, ELIZABETH, GO!


With this appearance on CNBC last week, the Legend of Elizabeth Warren continues. Look how she shoots down these two smart-alecks who dare come at her armed with nothing more than some producers’ notes and a little cocktail party conversation. “No!” Elizabeth says, and they are gobsmacked. You know, I love Hilary Clinton, but whenever Elizabeth decides to run for president, I’m her guy.

APPLE: LIVING THE LIE

This was first published on The Washington Monthly’s site on May 25, 2013.

I have three laws of politics. I don’t know if they explain everything, but they often explain something, and that’s enough for me.

Malanowski’s First Law of Politics is that the rich and powerful will always act in their own self interest.

Malanowski’s Second Law is that the rich and powerful will then get the rest of us to act in their interest as well, usually by making us believe that we hold this interest in common.

Malanowski’s Third Law is that when the rest of us figure out ways to act in our own self-interests, the rich and powerful are likely to outlaw whatever we’ve come up with.

These laws came to mind this week when reading about the appearance of Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The Senators—a couple of them, anyway—wanted to hear about how Apple avoids paying so much tax. Cook, for his part, wanted to talk about how Apple actually pays so much tax.

As Floyd Norris explained in the Times, “What Apple did was transfer rights to its intellectual property to a subsidiary that was incorporated in Ireland — and therefore not subject to immediate United States taxation — but managed in California. Under Irish law, that freed the subsidiary from Irish taxation.”

In other word, Apple uses an artificial company to avoid taxes. Apple, in its defense, points out that this Irish subsidiary has rights to the company’s patents and trademarks in Asia, Africa and Europe, but not in North or South America. “Apple kept those rights in its United States operation,” says Norris, “It thus appears to pay more United States taxes than it could have.” So Apple uses sham company—and is a hero.

“Apple doesn’t use gimmicks,” Cook argued. He’s right, and that’s just the point. He doesn’t have to use gimmicks. The whole system has been gimmicked for him.

Were you or I ham-handed enough to invent something to avoid paying taxes—invent a child say, or identify a Irish business associate as a dependent—we would face prosecution. Apple sets up an Irish front, and it enjoys the support of legislators, judges, tax attorneys, accountants, and other high-minded people everywhere. Apple isn’t rigging the game; it’s playing a game that has been rigged for them—and against the broad middle class.

THE GREAT INSECURITY

Meet The PressIn the Times a couple of weeks ago, Thomas L. Friedman wrote one of the most interesting, alarming, and possibly prophetic pieces I have read this century. Let me quote it at length:

“It’s hard to have a conversation today with any worker, teacher, student or boss who doesn’t tell you some version of this: More things seem to be changing in my world than ever before, but I can’t quite put my finger on it, let alone know how to adapt. So let me try to put my finger on it: We now live in a 401(k) world — a world of defined contributions, not defined benefits — where everyone needs to pass the bar exam and no one can escape the most e-mailed list.

“Here is what I mean: Something really big happened in the world’s wiring in the last decade, but it was obscured by the financial crisis and post-9/11. We went from a connected world to a hyperconnected world. I’m always struck that Facebook, Twitter, 4G, iPhones, iPads, high-speech broadband, ubiquitous wireless and Web-enabled cellphones, the cloud, Big Data, cellphone apps and Skype did not exist or were in their infancy a decade ago when I wrote a book called The World Is Flat. All of that came since then, and the combination of these tools of connectivity and creativity has created a global education, commercial, communication and innovation platform on which more people can start stuff, collaborate on stuff, learn stuff, make stuff (and destroy stuff) with more other people than ever before.
“What’s exciting is that this platform empowers individuals to access learning, retrain, engage in commerce, seek or advertise a job, invent, invest and crowd source — all online. But this huge expansion in an individual’s ability to do all these things comes with one big difference: more now rests on you.

“If you are self-motivated, wow, this world is tailored for you. The boundaries are all gone. But if you’re not self-motivated, this world will be a challenge because the walls, ceilings and floors that protected people are also disappearing. That is what I mean when I say “it is a 401(k) world.” Government will do less for you. Companies will do less for you. Unions can do less for you. There will be fewer limits, but also fewer guarantees. Your specific contribution will define your specific benefits much more. Just showing up will not cut it. ‘’

There is so much about this column that struck me at the core. I do feel that the world is changing far beyond my understanding. It is astonishing that the i-Phone and Facebook and so on have become so amazingly significant in so short a time. I find it bewildering that Twitter has been enthusiastically adopted by so many people; to me, it is like a newfangled dance whose steps I cannot master, choreographed to music I just can’t stand. By extension, it is also amazing that so many things that were once significant are fading away. I’m talking about books, and newspapers, and cinema, but more generally, the idea of cooperation—-cooperation in government, yes, but cooperation in the workplace. The idea that “we’re all in this together’’ seems to mean less, and less, and less.

More now rests on you. This is a frightening thought. The major reason is that I know how very limited I am. However good my best is, I know I am not at my best every day. And however good my average performance is, I know I am not average every day. In the world I lived in most of my life, I was confident that if I hit for a high average, my company would carry me through the rest. If I was in a slump, or ill, or on vacation (there’s a long-gone idea), somebody else at my magazine would be brilliant that week or month, and I would be supportive, and encouraging, and find some other way to contribute as I concentrated on the next cycle. Working in a group, valuing the group—that was important. Apparently that’s not so today.

Think about this quote from Friedman: “What’s exciting is that this platform empowers individuals to access learning, retrain, engage in commerce, seek or advertise a job, invent, invest and crowd source — all online.’’ Does it allow someone to just work? I’m not so sure; I don’t think Friedman is sure. But not everyone wants to live the thrillingly unstable world of the freelancer—going from gig to gig, bobbing along in the current, flush when the money is in and scrimping when it stops. Most people don’t want that. They want a job, a house, health insurance, reasonable security. We’re seeing a world that is being divided between the secure and the insecure, and between those who are insecure and are fine with it, and those who are not. Friedman, a man who is personally very secure, thinks the insecurity is great. I don’t. I see people buying guns and gold, and getting it while they can.

Friedman finds the “more rests on you’’ society exciting. I think it’s scary. It’s a return toLeviathan_by_Thomas_Hobbes Hobbes’ state of nature. It is a return to where there is a war of all against all. “”In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently, not culture of the earth, no navigation, nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Hyperbolic on my part? The Tsarnaev brothers were recently empowered to access learning online. How exciting was that?

There is a fast-moving kleptopoly that is taking over the world, taking ownership of things that we don’t even necessarily think of as ownable. It’s like when the European colonists came to America and took ownership of a continent whose inhabitants never thought of ownability. Napster just stole the ability of artists to control the sale of their music. Google now controls vast amounts of the world’s public domain books. Some drug company is trying to patent the human genome! When people talk about the exciting world of driverless cars and trucks that just around the corner, well, Brother and Sister Teamster, say goodbye to your job. When people talk about the exciting world of online education, they are actually talking about eliminating and/or cheapening teachers’ jobs.

It’s not that I begrudge the rulers of the universe their cut. Hardly; as Jesus might have said, the rich with you. But for most of my life, the rich took their cut and allowed the rest to dribble down, sustaining the poor and rewarding the rest of us for our industry and bidability. But then came Reagan and Greenspan, and the dogma of the free market. Then came Milken and the takeover artists, who forced business owners to squeeze labor and cut excess and maximize the shareholders’ end. So the rich can keep becoming richer. In April, the Pew Research Center found that from 2009 to 2011, the richest 7% of Americans saw their net worth climb an average $697,651 — equal to a 28% gain—while the rest of the country saw their net worth drop an average $6,079, the equivalent of a 4% loss. The share of wealth held by the top 7% rose to 63% in 2011, up from 56% in 2009. Pew said this disparity is a result of stocks and bonds rallying over these years, while the housing market remained flat.

You have to believe that years from now, this period may be perceived as The Great Digital Con, when fortunes were yanked away, and the moral basis of society was fundamentally altered for the worse. And Thomas Friedman stands to be remembered as its visionary apologist.

I’d be happier with the Leviathan.

THE MOST IMPORTANT ARTICLE OF THE CENTURY. . .

. . .so far, anyway, has appeared in The American Conservative. It is called “Revolt of the Rich,”and it is by by Mike Lofgren, who spent 16 years as a Republican staffer on House and Senate Budget Committees. In the article, he makes a case that very few other Republicans are willing to advocate: not only is wealth not the be-all and end-all of existence, but it is actually a pernicious and corrupting force. In the article, Lofgren calls the super rich “the new secessionists,” by which he does “not mean secession by physical withdrawal from the territory of the state. . . withdrawal into enclaves, an internal immigration, whereby the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it.” And, as Lofgren argues, this separatism causes the super rich to be antagonistic, if not downright hostile, to any government programs that try to sustain or support those who live in the country of the less well off.

But they don’t stop with hostility; “The objective of the predatory super-rich and their political handmaidens is to discredit and destroy the traditional nation state and auction its resources to themselves.”

“After the 2008 collapse,” write Lofgren, “the rich, rather than having the modesty to temper their demands, this time have made the calculated bet that they are politically invulnerable—Wall Street moguls angrily and successfully rejected executive-compensation limits even for banks that had been bailed out by taxpayer funds.” With the Supreme Court removing “the last constraints on the legalized corruption of politicians” and with the American standard of living falling at the fastest rate in decades, conservatives face disturbing questions. “Almost all conservatives who care to vote congregate in the Republican Party. But Republican ideology celebrates outsourcing, globalization, and takeovers as the glorious fruits of capitalism’s “creative destruction.” As a former Republican congressional staff member, I saw for myself how GOP proponents of globalized vulture capitalism, such as Grover Norquist, Dick Armey, Phil Gramm, and Lawrence Kudlow, extolled the offshoring and financialization process as an unalloyed benefit. They were quick to denounce as socialism any attempt to mitigate its impact on society. Yet their ideology is nothing more than an upside-down utopianism, an absolutist twin of Marxism. If millions of people’s interests get damaged in the process of implementing their ideology, it is a necessary outcome of scientific laws of economics that must never be tampered with, just as Lenin believed that his version of materialist laws were final and inexorable.

“If a morally acceptable American conservatism is ever to extricate itself from a pseudo-scientific inverted Marxist economic theory, it must grasp that order, tradition, and stability are not coterminous with an uncritical worship of the Almighty Dollar, nor with obeisance to the demands of the wealthy. Conservatives need to think about the world they want: do they really desire a social Darwinist dystopia?”

Many people on the left have been offering this kind of critique, but I’m not aware of other conservatives who have been willing to advance the heretical idea that the drunken binge of marketism that has governed our politics for more than three decades needs to ratcheted back. Three cheers for Lofgren for stating so emphatically that the right’s addiction to money is destroying the country.

Lofgren’s article, no doubt, is from his new book The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted, which I am going to buy right now. I will be curious to see how much he makes of this Old?New Secessionists comparison. I think there is quite a bit there. Many of the Old Secessionists were super rich as well, and many put their wealth and their lifestyle above the good of the country.

BURNING BANKS


I must say I kind of love this painting by Alex Schaefer, a Los Angeles artist. I really appreciate this peacefully anarchic protest. According to the website at Hive Gallery, where this and other paintings in this series are being exhibited, “Alex wants us to “get over our apathy”…to let the regulators, economists, bankers know “that we recognize the problems.” And that the federal bank is made up of “monsters and racketeers.” Hear, hear!

“RESPECT THE LOSS”

According to an article in The Hill this morning, seven states–Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and Wisconsin, all headed by Republican governors–have decided to opt out of the provision in the Affordable Health Care Act that expands Medicaid. Another eight–Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, all of which except Missouri have Republican governors–are leaning that way. If it weren’t for the fact that some real people are going to continue to suffer hardships unnecessarily, this would make for an interesting experiment. Who will fare better, in terms of health, in terms of economics, and in terms of politics: those governors and states who take the money, or those who leave it on the table?

There are too many variable to make a good prediction, to be sure, but it says here that the Republicans will suffer. It feels too much like what Pete Wilson did in California in 1994. As an article in the current issue of The Economist reminds us, Wilson, a capable, savvy Republican governor in the conservative Reagan mold, “pushed aggressively for a law to deny public services and benefits to California’s growing number of illegal immigrants. This tarnished the Republican brand among Latino voters, many of whom might otherwise have been well disposed to a party with a pro-business, pro-family message.” As the article points out, no Republican currently holds statewide office in California, and no Republican has been elected to the Senate since 1988. Only 19 of the state’s 53 congressmen are Republicans, who have also lost their majority in the state assembly. Latino voters, obviously, remembered who tried to help them, and who sought to stigmatize them.

Yes, arguing by historical analogy is a fool’s game, but I can’t see how this decision to opt out is going to lead to the big Republican restoration. Quite the opposite, I believe. The poor, the working poor, the working class who are always just a prolonged illness or injury from a place on the welfare rolls–they are going to know that people like them in some states are a lot better off than they are, and the explanation for their suffering and anxiety will be obvious. The Republicans might have a shot, of course, if Joe Stalin was still parading ICBMs through Red Square or Osama bin Laden was still treating us to performances from Club Tora Bora, but there is nothing happening right now that is going to enable Republicans to Booga Booga the electorate into voting for them. They can’t pull a misdirection. The party that wants to deny health care to the working poor is the party who wants to preserve tax cuts for hedge funds operators. Their candidate is the multimillionare Mitt Romney, who famously said that he didn’t “care about the poor” because the poor would be taken care of, a covenant he has entrusted to lipless Mitch McConnell, who wants to repeal the health care act and replace it with something in which insuring 30 million uninsured people “isn’t the issue.”

When Terry Francona was the managing the Boston Red Sox, he was asked his reaction to some early season defeat. He wasn’t inclined to put too much weight on any one game, he said, but you did have to “respect the loss.” What a great phrase. There are reasons why a team loses. Sometimes it’s a fluke, sometimes it’s bad luck, sometimes it’s an uncharacteristic failure at an inopportune moment, and sometimes the other guy cheats. But game in and game out, the outcome has to do with one team’s weaknesses and the other team’s strengths, and until you understand that–until you respect the loss–the loser will just keep losing.

The Republicans lost the election of 2008, they lost the health care debate in Congress, and they lost last week in the Supreme Court, and still they do not respect the loss. Now a bunch of their governors are going to opt-out of expanding health care to the working poor just to make sure that everyone grasps just how un-American they are. Well boys and girls, welcome to the Hotel California.

OBAMA’S FATAL FLAW?

As Joe Nocera reminds us today in the Times, “Not a single top executive at any of the firms that nearly brought down the financial system has spent so much as a day in jail. . . .What is also true, and which is every bit as corrosive to our belief in the rule of law, is that the Justice Department has instead taken after the smallest of small fry — and then trumpeted those prosecutions as proof of how tough it is on mortgage fraud. It is a shameful way for the government to act.” Nocera goes on to point out that “the last time the federal government went after corporate crooks” was when the Justice Department vigorously prosecuted the executives of Enron, WorldCom and Tyco. “Amazing, isn’t it?” Nocera asks. “George W. Bush has turned out to be tougher on corporate crooks than Barack Obama.” Yes, amazing indeed.

Whatever explanation is eventually offered for this administration’s failure to prosecute high executives–and one very much wants to know what Tim Geithner or Larry Summers or for that matter Eric Holder, the sherpa of the Marc Rich pardon contributed to this discussion–this much is clear: if President Obama loses this election, the failure to hold financial titans legally, financially and morally responsible for this financial meltdown will be the factor that will have cost him re-election. His failure to channel voter anger in 2009 and 2010 cost him an enormous amount of political support and opened the door to the Tea Party movement. And now his failure to find people to blame for our predicament means that he has left himself wide open for the voters to put the blame on him. Even when mounting heads on pikes ameliorates not an ounce of suffering, it comforts the common people to see evidence that king is working on the problem.

It’s an odd strategy that the president has chosen. Obama’s team is trying to sully Mitt Romney through Bain, although Bain, for any and all the vulture capitalist sins it may have committed, is not at all connected to our current predicament. Meanwhile, Jamie Dimon loses another couple billion in a risky bet, and he still sits on the board of the New York Federal Reserve.

It’s a hard thing to swallow, but we need to face it: the president has shown himself to possess the courage to order Navy Seals to kill Osama bin Laden and to use drones to obliterate suspected terrorists, but he hasn’t shown that he has the courage to look in the eyes of the bankers and financiers who are his cultural peers and who have contributed to his campaigns, and to tell them “We are coming after Too Big To Fail, and we are coming after you.”

SERGEY BRIN: MEET THE NEW BOSS. . .

Here is an Iron Law of the modern era: When rich guys talk about freedom, hold on to your wallet. They are almost always talking about ways to make themselves more free to get more money.

Case in point: in an interview with The Guardian on Sunday, Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, said that the principles of openness and universal access that underpinned the creation of the internet are under threat. “Very powerful forces have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world”. Brin says that the threats come from governments increasingly trying to control access and communication by their citizens; the entertainment industry’s attempts to crack down on piracy; and the rise of “restrictive” walled gardens such as Facebook and Apple, which tightly control what software can be released on their platforms.

Brin has accumulated a fortune that Forbes says is worth $18.7 billion, by creating a powerful research tool that has almost achieved monopoly status in its ability to help find information. And what he seems to be objecting to is the ability of others to infringe on his monopoly.

Brin seems most reasonable when he objects to government interference in the ability of its citizens to use the web. Everyone hopes that the efforts of China, Iran, Russia, North Korea and Saudi Arabia soon collapses in failure. But Brin objects not only to traditionally authoritarian states, but also to Great Britain, which plans to monitor social media and web use. The UK is doing this in response to concerns about terrorism and about criminal activity. Now, anyone with half a brain knows that whenever a government monitors its citizens, the government itself has to be watched with a close and skeptical eye. But fighting terrorism, child pornography and cyber-bullying are activities squarely within the legitimate police power of the state. Do we want to stop terrorists from conspiring in restaurants but allow them to plot away in cyberspace? Don’t be daft.

Now look what else Brin objects to: the attempts of entertainment companies to fight piracy. Where is freedom under threat here? I don’t think stopping people from stealing the work of other people is a threat against freedom. It’s a pollution of the language to think otherwise. Brin also objects to the tight control Facebook and Apple exert over their platforms. “There’s a lot to be lost,” he said. “For example, all the information in apps – that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can’t search it.” He says that under such rules, he and co-founder Larry Page would not have been able to create Google. “You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive,” he said. “The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation.”

It seems to me that the main reason Brin is objecting to other people protecting their property is that it makes his property less valuable. He says that he’s concerned that having these kinds of regulations will stifle innovation. I’m sure he’s right. Look how locks and safes have stifled growth and innovation in the field of bank robbery.

It was interesting to place Brin’s spirited defense of freedom in light of Google’s announcement last week that it was going to split its stock. It seems that the freedom that Brin so staunchly champions in cyberspace is not something he values as much on such real world places as Wall Street. As Andrew Ross Sorkin reported in The New York Times on Monday (speaking of places that probably wished it could have preserved the value of its intellectual property on the internet), Brin, Page and company chairman Eric Schmidt “cleverly” created the stock split so that Google could issue a special new class of shares to current shareholders. The catch: the new class of shares has no voting rights. “In other words, the entire point of the stock split was to solidify the founders’ control of the company by diminishing the future voting power of the shareholders. So even as the founders continue a plan to sell some of their shares over the next three years through a program they enacted in 2009 and the company continues to issue new shares to employees, they have developed a plan to retain an iron grip over Google.” This decision will be put before shareholders at the company’s annual meeting, but since these three principles own two-thirds of the company, the result is a foregone conclusion: with every new non-voting share they sell, the voting shares they retain will be all the more powerful. “At a time when shareholders are increasingly seeking a bigger voice and more democracy,” says Sorkin, “Google is going the other way.”

It’s not threats to freedom that Brin wants to stop. It’s threats to his power.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

BETTER ADVICE FOR BLOOMIE

Like Neptune and Jupiter, there is gaseousness in the atmosphere of the planet Thomas L. Friedman, but we are nonetheless confident that intelligent life resides there. Quite intelligent, in fact; most days we are confident that we’ve learned something from reading Friedman’s columns, which usually deliver a much-needed macro view of America’s position.

Still, there are days when Friedman writes a column that makes you think that instead of making another trip to talk to small businessmen in Bangalore or economic planners in China, he should spend a political season at the knee of the county chairman of a political party or with the chief of staff of some US Senator, and learn something about votes, and how they’re cast and how they’re counted.

In today’s column in The New York Times, Friedman–perhaps seeking inspiration and finding himself sitting on it?–rides in a taxi that hits some potholes outside Union Station, and from there quickly moves to expressing the fond wish that New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg commit a selfless act of patriotism and spend tens of millions of dollars running as a third party candidate for president. “This election has to be about those hard choices, smart investments and shared sacrifices — how we set our economy on a clear-cut path of near-term, job-growing improvements in infrastructure and education and on a long-term pathway to serious fiscal, tax and entitlement reform. The next president has to have a mandate to do all of this. But, today, neither party is generating that mandate . . . .That’s why I still believe that the national debate would benefit from the entrance of a substantial independent candidate — like the straight-talking, socially moderate and fiscally conservative Bloomberg — who could challenge, and maybe even improve, both major-party presidential candidates by speaking honestly about what is needed to restore the foundations of America’s global leadership before we implode.”

Bloomberg doesn’t have to win in order to pull off this miracle, says Friedman, “or even stay in the race to the very end. Simply by running, participating in the debates and doing respectably in the polls — 15 to 20 percent — he could change the dynamic of the election.” The other candidates and Congress would gravitate towards him. “And, by taking part in the televised debates, he could impose a dose of reality on the election that would otherwise be missing.”

Here’s a dose of reality: the most likely beneficiary of a Bloomberg Third Party candidacy would be the far right. This is the most retrograde part of the electorate, the group most opposed to tax hikes, but also to the very idea of government with an activist agenda. Bloomberg would take votes away from Obama, and deny him the a portion of the moderate suburban vote that is uncomfortable of not outright alarmed by the right wing having such a big influence over the GOP. Romney’s dilemma right now is that he has to run to the middle to win, and his party isn’t keen to follow. But because Bloomberg is likely to absorb those votes, Romney could win a lot of swing states with around 40% of the vote, which means he wouldn’t have to move much at all. Romney would win, but he wouldn’t have a mandate to enact Bloomberg’s proposals. He wouldn’t have a mandate at all. The right wing would.

Here’s another dose of reality. Thanks to a third party candidate named Ralph Nader, America got the presidency of George W. Bush, ten years of war, mismanagement of the economy, and Supreme Court justices named John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

If Friedman is serious about this new sidelight of being Mike Bloomberg’s career counselor, may I suggest that he urge Bloomie not to spend his money in pyrrhic run for the presidency, and encourage Mike to become an investor. He should invest in the depleted stock of the Republican party in the northeast and Middle Atlantic and midwest and the Pacific coast states, and rebuild it into a going concern. Build a forward-thinking party in those places that will provide an alternative to the far right of the GOP and to the excesses of the Democrats. Create a party that is pro-business (not pro-billionare), pro-growth (not anti-tax), pro-Main Street (not pro-Wall Street), and pro-education and pro-opportunity, but skeptical about big government. It would be a large, inclusive party, with the kind of values Bloomberg at his best articulated during the Islamic Center controversy.

Bloomberg shouldn’t run a campaign in which not only he and his ideas would certainly lose. He should build a party that could actually elect him.