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Tucker Vs. Vulture Capitalists

Tucker defends a small Nebraska town. Why doesn't Sen. Sasse?

Watch that 11-minute segment from Tucker Carlson, ripping the spine right out of the back of billionaire hedge fund leader (and major GOP donor) Paul Singer. Carlson begins by talking about “vulture capitalism,” an aggressive strategy in which hedge fund managers buy up debt, or a stake in a company, then demand repayment, or force it to sell. Greg Palast wrote back in 2012 about how Mitt Romney’s hedge fund did that; Singer is also mentioned in Palast’s piece as a leader in this kind of capitalism. Carlson says this is not the free enterprise that we all learned about. It’s so bad that the UK banned it. Carlson says:

It couldn’t be uglier or more destructive. So why is it still allowed in the United States? The short answer: Because people like Paul Singer have tremendous influence over our political process. Singer himself was the second largest donor to the Republican Party in 2016. He’s given millions to a super-PAC that supports Republican senators. You may never have heard of Paul Singer — which tells you a lot in itself — but in Washington, he’s rock-star famous. And that is why he is almost certainly paying a lower effective tax rate than your average fireman, just in case you were still wondering if our system is rigged. Oh yeah, it is.

Carlson sent producers to the small town of Sidney, Nebraska, which was headquarters of the sporting goods giant Cabela’s. Cabela’s was doing well economically

Sidney, Nebraska. Headquarters of Cabela’s. Cabela was quite profitable, but Paul Singer’s hedge fund saw a potential for profit. Singer bought a stake in Cabela’s, and forced it to merge with Bass Pro Shops. Singer doubled his money in one week, making about $100 million.  Cabela’s closed its Sidney headquarters. It was the town’s main employer, and lost nearly 2,000 jobs. Property values collapsed. People who could leave, did. Those who couldn’t are now living in the ruins of what was once a good town.

Cabela’s was profitable. It was not a distressed business. But Paul Singer, a billionaire three times over, saw money to be made there, and swooped in for his fortune. To hell with the people of Sidney, Nebraska.

At the end of the segment, Carlson says he reached out to Ben Sasse, one of Nebraska’s Republican senators, asking for a comment about what happened to Sidney. Sasse said nothing. Carlson said in researching the story, he found not one public word from Sasse about the fate of Sidney. But he did find that Sasse got the maximum contribution possible from Singer for his 2014 Senate run.

Here is a piece from a CNBC story in May, about a speech Singer gave to a Republican audience:

Republican megadonor and hedge fund executive Paul Singer went into attack mode at a dinner honoring Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this week, targeting what he described as a rising threat of socialism within the Democratic Party.

The comments offered a glimpse into the mentality of a powerful GOP donor as he decides how he’s going to contribute to the 2020 election. Singer is a billionaire and the founder of Elliott Management.

Singer, speaking at the Manhattan Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award Dinner on Wednesday, warned conservatives that policies pushed by Democratic presidential candidates pose a risk to U.S. economic growth under President Donald Trump.

“Yet despite all this, socialism is on the march again,” said Singer, who is chairman of the conservative think tank.

“They call it socialism, but it is more accurately described as left-wing statism lubricated by showers of free stuff promised by politicians who believe that money comes from a printing press rather than the productive efforts of businesspeople and workers,” he added.

“The productive efforts of businesspeople and workers”? The gall of that man, after what he did to the people of Sidney.

More from the CNBC story:

During the 2016 presidential election, Singer was a vocal opponent of then-candidate Trump and, a year earlier, was the financier of a conservative website that hired Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on the business executive-turned-Republican nominee for president.

Since Trump became president, Singer has donated to super PACs and committees that back the commander in chief. In October 2018, he spent $1 million on Future45, a super PAC dedicated to helping Trump, according to Federal Election Commission records. He also gave more than $500,000 to the Republican National Committee last cycle, which has put its resources into helping members of congress and reelecting the president.

Let me tell you something else about Republican megadonor Paul Singer. Here’s a clip from a 2016 story about how he took over candidate Marco Rubio’s finance operation in an effort to stop Trump:

Singer, who has a gay son, is part of a group of conservative Wall Street hedge fund managers who are vocal supporters of gay rights. In 2011, Singer and other donors urged Republican state senators in New York to support the passage of same-sex marriage legislation, raising vast sums money for their re-election. In 2012, he launched the American Unity super PAC for pro-gay rights Republican donors, and in 2013, the adjacent American Unity Fund, an advocacy and lobbying non-profit. The group aimed to spend $40 million this election cycle. “The Republican Party can be more of a big tent and this issue is part of that,” Singer told the New York Times in 2013.

In 2014, a few months after the Obergefell ruling, I attended a meeting with key GOP staffers from both the House and Senate side. I asked them what the Republicans in Congress were planning to do to protect religious liberty in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. The answer: nothing. It wasn’t on their agenda.

Why aren’t Congressional Republicans talking about religious liberty now, when it has come under fierce attack by liberals? I bet it has a lot to do with why Ben Sasse won’t say boo about what happened to his constituents in Sidney.

We should’t say that the GOP has done nothing. It’s just not true. It’s important that they are killing bad bills, like the Equality Act. And, my sources who pay attention to this stuff tell me that the party has done good things on much smaller bills. Plus, the Trump administration has been solid at the agency level. It’s neither fair nor correct to say that the GOP doesn’t care. If they weren’t in charge of the Senate, things would look much worse for religious liberty. That’s not nothing.

But religious liberty is not a priority for the Republicans, and they won’t expend real political capital to defend it. Consider this in light of the fact that the Republican Party has done nothing to restrain this kind of exploitative capitalism. To the contrary, it empowers vultures like Paul Singer who prey on defenseless people like the people of Sidney, while giving speeches about the dangers of socialism to conservative elites back on the East Coast. No wonder ordinary Republican voters were happy to see Trump upend the party’s establishment. The sad thing is, Trump won’t do anything to rein in the Paul Singers either. He just doesn’t have it in him, or the focus to get it done.

At some point though — sooner rather than later, I think — socially and religiously conservative folks are going to wonder if the economic cost of supporting the Party of Paul Singer outweighs any benefit from keeping the anti-Christian Democrats away from power. How important is religious liberty to the people of Sidney, who saw their town destroyed by the greed of a Republican Party megadonor? Maybe a lot — I don’t know them, obviously, but I’m betting that they’re church people — but to keep voting for the Paul Singer Republicans is a big damn ask. Tucker Carlson reports that the town went 80 percent for Trump in 2016. Will it in 2020? This is conservative, heartland America. And let’s face it: it has been betrayed.

This morning I’m finishing the chapter in my forthcoming book on the coming soft totalitarianism. This particular chapter has to do with the importance of watching what elites, intellectual and otherwise, say and do. It is jaw-dropping to read about how deaf and blind the Russian elites — in the state, in the aristocracy, and in the church — were to the suffering of the Russian people in the late imperial era. Some voices arose from inside elite circles, urging reform for the sake of saving the system. They were ignored. The Tsar and his closest advisers believed that doubling down on autocracy, and the Way We’ve Always Done Things, was the path forward. You see where that got him, and Russia. The revolution swept Russia’s conservative elites away — and turned the country into a prison camp for 70 years.

In this chapter, I discuss how Russian radicalism was confined to the intellectuals for the longest time, but the failures of the system — especially in response to a catastrophic 1891 famine — made more and more people start to think that the Marxists might have a point. In her great book The Origins Of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, explaining how conditions in both Germany and Russia paved the way for one-party rule, says that when people quit believing in institutions and traditional hierarchies, the road to totalitarianism becomes a lot clearer. When the leaders of those institutions and hierarchies — including the leadership class of capitalist institutions — reveal themselves to be untrustworthy, ordinary people won’t defend them when they come under attack, and may even join the attack themselves.

Again, Donald Trump is not going to take on the vulture capitalists. But the Republican Party had better find some candidates who will, while there is still time. The other day I wrote here about the parallels between the culture of pre-revolutionary Russia, and our own. Something is coming. And if it arrives, people like Paul Singer, and the party that does his bidding, will be wondering how on earth it happened to them. But the people out in Sidney, Nebraska, whose town was destroyed for the sake of filling Paul Singer’s pockets, and all those people in the heartland who have been devastated by the opioid epidemic, and the despair that fuels it — they won’t wonder. They won’t wonder at all.

It should not be the case that with the exception of Josh Hawley — who is off to a good start, but who needs to begin speaking in specifics — the only national politicians talking seriously about this stuff are Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and the party of open borders, abortion-is-a-sacrament, Drag Queen Story Hour, and transgenders in your kids’ locker room. Why is that? What is it going to take to wake up the Republican mandarins and make them see what’s happening in the country, before it’s too late for them, and for the rest of us?

I hope Tucker Carlson runs for president in 2024.

UPDATE:Tucker Carlson has an update, featuring a statement from Sen. Ben Sasse. Please watch it, if only to hear Carlson’s response to the response. He says that Republicans had better wake up and realize that the excesses of capitalism are going to end up getting socialists elected, and they (Republicans) are going to bear a big part of the blame. Hard to believe that this kind of hard, clear talk is airing on Fox. Go, Tucker, go!

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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