Billion Dollars

So you’re a politician in the 21st century. Yes. You. The one wearing a three piece suit in the blazing tropical sun. You are slippery. You are sly. You are what they call a streetwise sonofabitch. And you’ve just stolen a billion dollars. Or two.

Look at all of those zeroes. Look how far you’ve come. Who would have thought that a lowly errand boy would rise through the party ranks to become this extraordinarily powerful political operative. And all it took was your open embrace of profligacy, patronage, and intimidation. You may have never worked a day in your life but just look at you now. The wheeler-dealer. The conniver. The ultimate middleman.

 

Misappropriating vast sums of money has always been the easy part.

Misappropriating vast sums of money has always been the easy part. It is a process that is tried and true. It is a process that hasn’t changed in over a hundred years. Like all of those political giants before you – like Joseph Paine, like Willie Stark – you’ve set up charitable foundations as fronts for political slush funds, you’ve pushed through massive pork barrel legislation, you’ve laundered money through cronies and infrastructure projects. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars washed clean and channeled back into the party machinery, to those chieftains, to those lobbyists, to all those hundreds of little napoleons upon whose shoulders you stand.

You’re living the dream.

But this modern age is a cruel one. Full of jealous and resentful individuals who are actively working toward your political demise. It has, after all, become all too easy to spread rumours and lies, to build these false narratives, and to orchestrate their rampant proliferation.

So what do you do? How do you cope in these thankless times?

The first step is all about how you manage your money. In this age of sousveillance, the key to keeping yourself out of prison lies in the basic principle of sharing the wealth. It isn’t about implicating those around you in criminal activity but rather about making them entirely dependent on your generosity. Make them rich, keep them that way, and they will likely never betray your trust.

The second step is all about how you manage information. It is becoming increasingly difficult to control the flow of information. Twitter. Facebook. Unlicensed news portals. Citizen journalists.

It’s a free for all. It’s the wild west out there and all of your carefully crafted propaganda, your kidology and misinformation, is drowned out by so much noise. So why bother? Suppression will only get you so far. Confusion is what will eventually win the war. Forget the same old same old. This new world demands an uninterrupted deluge of sound and fury. Of diversions and distractions. Each one slowly manipulating the masses in different individual directions.

The third, and possibly most important, step is all about how you manage any public inquiry (should it ever arise). It is absolutely crucial to insert yourself into every aspect of the process. Independent commissions should report to you. So should the police and the judiciary. Executive privilege must be exercised for the sake of national security. And remember, that you have the full force of the law on your side (should you ever need it).

At the end of the day, however, all of these measures are only effective if you have a yielding electorate; one that is timid, amoral, and browbeaten. And for that, you need to be thankful to your predecessors, who have, over many political generations, engendered a population that is both pliant and deferential; that is fearful.

As for you, it’s business as usual. It’s not like you’ve taken any of that money for yourself. It was all in service of king and country. So keep shaking those babies and kissing those hands. You are slippery. You are sly. You are what they call a streetwise sonofabitch. You are a survivor.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental.