Jane Mayer, New Yorker staff writer and author of “Dark Money”, has now written a piece for the March 27 New Yorker, THE RECLUSIVE HEDGE-FUND TYCOON BEHIND THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY. Like “Dark Money”, which describes how Citizens United opened the flood gates to the right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers to buy into politics, the latest article, on hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, describes how Mercer’s money and computer savy were instrumental in the rise of Donald Trump. We are in “know your enemy” territory – the successful buying and subverting of our Democracy did not happen out of chance, but out of cunning. The forces that created it are still at work – they are rich and smart and they dominate the field. If we want our country to represent pluralistic values rather than the twisted fantasies of right-wing extremists, the time to expose them, confront them, take them on, and defeat them is now.
Here are some excerpts. On Mercer’s origin on the national scene: “Mercer is the co-C.E.O. of Renaissance Technologies, which is among the most profitable hedge funds in the country. A brilliant computer scientist, he helped transform the financial industry through the innovative use of trading algorithms.” Read that again. Mercer made his money from computer algorithms that gave him a decisive advantage in playing the stock market. Very smart. Probably legal. But it also means that his fund was, in effect, able to extract money from the market with access to information – the computer algorithms – that an average investor did not have access to. No, it is not insider trading, but in terms of undermining the investibility of the market, it has the same effect. When his computer trades with you, he has a critical advantage that will make money at your expense. Doesn’t that undermine the very concept of the market as an investment vehicle for anyone who does not have access to Mercer’s algorithm? Will you invest if you know the buyer has a house advantage?
Mayer goes on to describe how Citizens United gave Mercer free rein to use his new found wealth to influence politics and then details Mercer’s gravitation to right-wing politics and kooky ideas. For example, “[Nick Patterson, a former senior Renaissance employee] also recalled Mercer arguing that, during the Gulf War, the U.S. should simply have taken Iraq’s oil, “since it was there.” Trump, too, has said that the U.S. should have “kept the oil.” Expropriating another country’s natural resources is a violation of international law. Another onetime senior employee at Renaissance recalls hearing Mercer downplay the dangers posed by nuclear war. Mercer, speaking of the atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, argued that, outside of the immediate blast zones, the radiation actually made Japanese citizens healthier. The National Academy of Sciences has found no evidence to support this notion. Nevertheless, according to the onetime employee, Mercer, who is a proponent of nuclear power, ‘was very excited about the idea, and felt that it meant nuclear accidents weren’t such a big deal.’”
Or this on Mercer’s racial views: “Mercer strongly supported the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Trump’s Attorney General. Many civil-rights groups opposed the nomination, pointing out that Sessions has in the past expressed racist views. Mercer, for his part, has argued that the Civil Rights Act, in 1964, was a major mistake. According to the onetime Renaissance employee, Mercer has asserted repeatedly that African-Americans were better off economically before the civil-rights movement. (Few scholars agree.) He has also said that the problem of racism in America is exaggerated. The source said that, not long ago, he heard Mercer proclaim that there are no white racists in America today, only black racists.”
Or this: “Another former high-level Renaissance employee said, ‘Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the President’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it to all fall down.’”
Mayer goes on at length to detail the rise of Mercer’s political influence, his part in the funding and creation of Breitbart, his use of computer algorithms for political purposes, and his de facto take over of the Trump campaign through Steve Bannon when Trump Chief of Staff Paul Manafort was forced to resign because of his activities in the Ukraine.
All fascinating not-to-miss information, a critical base if we are to take on the new American oligarchs and restore a pluralistic democracy.