THE BLOG

Democrats Should Create a 'U.S. Common Wealth Fund' to Challenge Republican Business Hegemony

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET


The problem with the 'left' in America is that they don't want to play the game any more. They refuse to accept the fact that democracy in America has been co-opted by Big Business and it is now virtually impossible to get it back by simply pointing to the Constitution and jumping up and down screaming, "Unconstitutional! Unconstitutional!"

The game has changed and here's a way for America's left-out to get 'right' back into the game. Pool the financial resources of America's progressives into a 'U.S. Common Wealth Fund.' Very quickly this fund would have at least 7.2 billion in cash. Think about the net worths of America's activists as a subset of American households that hold something like $36 trillion in assets at the end of 2006 according to the WSJ. Let's say that only 10% of America is truly progressive and sincerely cares about the direction the country is heading; that's 10% of $36 trillion or $3.6 trillion. If the owners of this $3.6 trillion in assets were to give just 1% to such a fund it would have $36 billion to work with. To get started, let's say the fund raises just a 20% of the $36 billion available - that's still $7.2 billion dollars. What to do with that $7.2 billion?

This new fund would be modeled on the various Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF) that have sprung up in Norway, Kuwait, Singapore and elsewhere. The objective of these funds is to mobilize capital in strategic ways per a commonwealth agenda. Absolute returns are not the main objective of the fund; strategic returns are the goal. Norway's strategic SWF, derived from its North Sea oil fields is used to better health and education regardless of whether or not the fund returns absolute cash-on-cash returns. The theory is that bettering the commonwealth results in hard to monetize long term benefits but it is worth perhaps taking a short term risk for that benefit.

One of the goals of the left's new U.S. Common Wealth Fund (USCWF) could be election reform. The fund would be mobilized to achieve this end with the understanding that this might not produce cash-on-cash returns but rather, strategic long term goals-on-cash returns.

It's not hard to pinpoint the source of most of the alleged voter angst. Most of it centers around the primary marker of electronic voting machines, Diebold.

Diebold (DBD:NYSE) is a listed company that's worth about $2.8 billion company. This is not a large cap company. Starbucks is worth around $13 billion and Google is worth about $170 billion and Exxon Mobil about $500 billion.

To take a 20% position in Diebold - a position that certainly qualifies for board representation - is around $500 million in stock. On margin this would cost $250 million. Goosing the margin requirement using various derivative products means you could probably take a 20% position with less than $100 million in cash.

This would use up only a fraction of the fund's 7.2 billion dollar 'buying power' and leave billions left over for more strategic, pro-commonwealth investments.

How about this... the left doesn't like the way the phone companies are collaborating in destroying civil liberties in America. Verizon (VZ:NYSE) is a $100 billion company. $1 billion invested in their stock would buy a lot of influence. If need be, take the company over and shut it down.

What about the employees? Wouldn't that kill the jobs market?

Yes and no. If the employees are thinking purely as instruments of the corporation's pogrom of civility in America; automatons that will do whatever they are told without thinking about it than yes, they would lose their jobs. If the employees are concerned about the commonwealth and the welfare of their country and countrymen than the employees should pressure their employer to conform to the rule of law and the spirit of the Constitution and maybe make a little less this quarter (management cuts their salaries and stock options?) so that employees can keep their jobs.

Also keep in mind that by breaking up monopolies; whether in the telephone, drug, copyright or other cartels would have a net effect of increasing jobs and wages as more companies means more competition. Breaking up AT&T did exactly this. AT&T should have stayed broken up. Unfortunately the parts have been allowed to reassemble back into a monopoly and the results have been catastrophic for democracy and competition in America.

Another issue for progressives is the war in Iraq. More than half the soldiers are private contractors and various war profiteers. CACI and TITAN and Haliburton, too, are publicly listed companies whose stock can be bought up by the USCWF and changes can be made at the board level.

Obviously, cash preservation must be an objective of the fund to keep it viable so keeping 30 - 50% of the fund's assets in properties that offer good upside; like Clean Tech, or Al Gore's new fund, or micro-lending projects that offer high yield in developing countries; would provide high social benefits while keeping the net asset value of the fund constant.

Until 'the left' in America decides to get real and tackle the right's strangle hold of Big Business - by stepping up to the plate and mobilizing their substantial monetary resources and organizing a strategic fund there probably won't be much progress made by progressives.