In many ways, Trump's presidency is the culmination of Mrs. May’s vision
August 19, 2019 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Federation for American Immigration Reform (Southern Poverty Law Center), NumbersUSA (Right Wing Watch) and the Center for Immigration Studies (SPLC) are three major Washington, D.C.-based immigration-restriction organizations stand at the nexus of the American nativist movement. Although on the surface they appear quite different, they are fruits of the same poisonous tree, founded and funded by John Tanton, a retired ophthalmologist who operates a racist publishing company (SPLC). Cordelia Scaife May, an heiress to the Mellon banking and industrial fortune with a half-billion dollars at her disposal, had a passion for birds and was environmental-minded, but also provided funding to help Tanton push his racist policies and get national traction. Why an heiress spent her fortune trying to keep immigrants out (NYT).
The New York Times, through dozens of interviews and searches of court records, government filings and archives across the country, has unearthed the most complete record of her thinking. Mrs. May’s unpublished writings reveal her evolution from an environmental-minded Theodore Roosevelt Republican — in 1972 she was the nation’s largest single donor to mainstream congressional candidates — to an ardent nativist. Her ideological transformation presaged the Republican Party’s own shift from blue-blooded, traditional conservatism toward hard-right populism.
posted by filthy light thief (38 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Mellon Scaife family is a cancer on American Politics. May's brother was Richard Mellon Scaife, publisher of the right-wing news paper The Pittsburgh Tribune Review, founder of News Max and the Arkansas Project and financial contributer to almost every horrible right-wing organization you can think of.
posted by octothorpe at 8:23 AM on August 19, 2019 [22 favorites]


This story is exhibit A in why we should confiscate wealth. No one person should have this much influence.
posted by Automocar at 8:24 AM on August 19, 2019 [54 favorites]


Exhibit B, which I've posted before: The World’s Wealthiest Family Gets $4 Million Richer Every Hour -- The 25 wealthiest dynasties on the planet control $1.4 trillion (Bloomberg, August 10, 2019)
The numbers are mind-boggling: $70,000 per minute, $4 million per hour, $100 million per day.

That’s how quickly the fortune of the Waltons, the clan behind Walmart Inc., has been growing since last year’s Bloomberg ranking of the world’s richest families.

At that rate, their wealth would’ve expanded about $23,000 since you began reading this. A new Walmart associate in the U.S. would’ve made about 6 cents in that time, on the way to an $11 hourly minimum.
While I recognize that there are billionaires, like Bill and Melinda Gates, who are doing real and marked good with their wealth, and that private funding has fluidity that isn't available to government funds (everything is allocated for something, and some funding categories are very narrowly confined to specific goals), this wealth is coming from amassing a significant benefit from others.

Hoping that the oligarchs are benevolent and not racist, or that the benevolent oligarchs can do more good than the tyrannical, deplorable oligarchs, is not how I want modern society to operate.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:46 AM on August 19, 2019 [53 favorites]


Eat the rich.
posted by spitbull at 9:54 AM on August 19, 2019 [19 favorites]


Mrs. May’s unpublished writings reveal her evolution from an environmental-minded Theodore Roosevelt Republican...to an ardent nativist.

Do your homework New York Times, these things are not very far apart. Nativism, eugenics, and scientific racism permeated the early conservation movement in the US. Some of that history is covered by Jedediah Purdy in The New Yorker, Environmentalism’s Racist History.

Also covered with more to an eye on the contemporary environmental argument for nativism, see Gaby Del Valle in The Nation, When Environmentalism Meets Xenophobia or Matthew Phelan in The New York Review of Books, The Menace of Eco-Fascism.

These topics are coming up in relation to the mass shootings in El Paso and Christchurch and the environmental message in the shooters' manifestos, see White Nationalists Discover the Environment, What Is Eco-Fascism, the Ideology Behind Attacks in El Paso and Christchurch? or Eco-Fascism: the Racist Theory That Inspired the El Paso and Christchurch Shooters.
posted by peeedro at 10:10 AM on August 19, 2019 [37 favorites]


FUCK! These are the people behind the whole "the Clintons have people killed" bullshit? It makes me very angry.
posted by vrakatar at 10:56 AM on August 19, 2019


Go right ahead and gather as many green pieces of paper as you can in your lifetime. But the Mellon Spawn and their many clones are the unintentional proof that dynastic wealth needs to be taxed substantially. Or even just burned. Enabling trust-fund kiddies to "fix the world" because cash on hand = fuck you quantities is shown (repeatedly) to be toxic for all, and for a long time now.
posted by BentPenguin at 11:00 AM on August 19, 2019 [12 favorites]


I'm in favor of a 100% tax above $10M in inherited wealth, indexed to inflation. And I say this as a mostly-capitalist believer that in most sectors of the economy market-based solutions are highly effective (see my previous comments in other threads about my thoughts on exceptions to this and how to deal with externalities).

I say this because I believe in the power of individual enterprise, and because a $10 million inheritance is more than enough to stand a person in a high standard of living for the rest of their lives.

I say this to every scion to wealth: EARN YOUR OWN DAMN MONEY.
posted by tclark at 11:18 AM on August 19, 2019 [19 favorites]


vrakatar: "FUCK! These are the people behind the whole "the Clintons have people killed" bullshit? It makes me very angry."

Brother and sister but I don't know if Cordelia Scaife May actually ever talked to her brother. From what I know about the family, they all seem to hate each other.
posted by octothorpe at 11:19 AM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


there are billionaires, like Bill and Melinda Gates, who are doing real and marked good with their wealth

Even that does not sway me much.

You take Mackenzie Bezos, for instance. She has $36 billion and has signed a pledge to give half to charity. I still say: so fucking what? She still has a positively insane, offensive amount of wealth... many, many more times than she could possibly spend. If it was obnoxious for one human being to have $36 billion, halving that does not halve the offensiveness. $18 billion is still way too much fucking money. So is $1 billion. So is $500 million. So is...
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:37 AM on August 19, 2019 [30 favorites]


This story is exhibit A in why we should confiscate wealth. No one person should have this much influence.

100% estate tax > 1M/child. If you're kids aren't worthless, they'll earn their OWN fortune.
posted by mikelieman at 11:53 AM on August 19, 2019 [7 favorites]


there are billionaires, like Bill and Melinda Gates, who are doing real and marked good with their wealth

For every trillion dollars in aid sent to poor countries, three trillion is extracted by rich countries.

Billionaires are bad, folks.
posted by Reyturner at 12:04 PM on August 19, 2019 [28 favorites]


there are billionaires, like Bill and Melinda Gates, who are doing real and marked good with their wealth

For every trillion dollars in aid sent to poor countries, three trillion is extracted by rich countries.


Illegal capital flight is not Gates's fault, and his activities are building a middle class in developing countries, which helps reduce capital flight.
posted by ocschwar at 12:15 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


Yes, name a billionaire who has done more for other people than the Gates.

Microsoft was evil, but the Gates have at least been using their gains to help those without those gains.
posted by Windopaene at 12:23 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


The point of bringing up the disparity between charity in and capital flight out isn't to disparage the people donating that charity. It's that believing generosity from some wealthy people alleviates the damage the wealth system does on the whole is laughably naive. Even if some of those wealthy people also believe it.

You can't get credit for bailing water out of the boat if you continue to make new holes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:34 PM on August 19, 2019 [19 favorites]


>Yes, name a billionaire who has done more for other people than the Gates.

it is not reasonable to compare bill gates to the cohort of billionaires, because it is inherently a moral bad to be a billionaire. what you are doing is like declaring your favorite murderer a good person because his actions have yielded more positive effects than the actions of other murderers.

should you compare bill gates to a person who has not made the irrevocably unethical decision to be a billionaire, you can expect that other person to be better, ceteris paribus, than bill gates.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:03 PM on August 19, 2019 [17 favorites]


Even if you take Bill Gates as a rare exception, he's a ... well, rare exception*. There's one Bill Gates doing some good, but does that justify leaving the system as-is when there are so many doing so much harm?

Every day I am more convinced in heavy taxation of wealth above a certain amount.

* You can assume a large chunk of his wealth was at the expense of government programs that might benefit others in the form of the Microsoft tax. And he did education no favors when at the helm of Microsoft, either... But if he can really eradicate four diseases like Guinea worm, I'd be inclined to forgive him.
posted by jzb at 1:12 PM on August 19, 2019


Let's say there is a massive Easter Egg Hunt. 3000 children participate. There are 15,000 eggs. 3 children collect 2,000 eggs each. 300 kids get 20 or 25 each. The other remaining children (2697) share 2,250 eggs.

Let's say one of the three big winners opts to give half of his 2000 eggs away to kids who got a fraction of an egg. Is your follow-up question:

1) What kind of medal do we pin on this kid who gave away 1000 eggs? (Bear in mind that they have 1000 left, which is still more than they could possibly eat.)
2) How do we get the other two big winners to give away half their eggs?
OR
3) WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS GAME?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:23 PM on August 19, 2019 [31 favorites]


What do we do if we want to become landlords who charge reasonable rents, keep the place up, and only implement reasonable inflation-tied increases? Or is this already too altruistic to be possible in this country without having made a bunch of money in another field first?
posted by davejay at 1:37 PM on August 19, 2019


my question is a serious one; I would like nothing more than to own a multi-unit property with stable long-term tenants, that generates just enough income to sustain the building long-term so I can live in one of the units when I get too old to work
posted by davejay at 1:42 PM on August 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


Davejay: Do what we do? Charge enough rent to cover all the associated costs (plus whatever amount of profit you decide you need to make for it to be worth it for you), and then leave it be. It's possible to make a profit without wringing every possible penny out of a tenant. It's not even that complicated.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:08 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


davejay still has to come up with the principle to begin to own a property.
posted by porpoise at 2:22 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


It's funny to see people bring up Gates as the Good Philanthropist Billionaire, since the subject of this post is the scion of just such a man. Men acquiring vast fortunes through ruthless exploitation then becoming mega-philanthropists with their ill-gotten gains later in life was the SOP of the Gilded Age. Sometimes it's hard to tell if it's 2019 or 1919.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:36 PM on August 19, 2019 [14 favorites]




I have a working theory that investor gains are directly correlated to externalized costs that are real. Profits aren't created. They're taken. They think they've circumvented the first law of thermodynamics. They think they pulled a rabbit out of a hat. It doesn't work that way. Nothing works that way.

Generally the cost to the people and ecosystems most impacted by corporate "profits" far outweigh the benefits to the state-sanctioned fiefdoms that steal to exist. Any oil spill shows this. Any walmart shows this. Any health insurance company shows this. Microsoft's flavor of litigious monopolizing, permatemping, forced retaining, benefits cutting, authoritarian collaborating, data merchanting, slave mineral pushing, and and their general love of how the U.S. lets business do business doesn't help it skirt this fact. Bill Gates didn't pull money out of a hat. He took it. With his pilfered funds he did an amount of good that has offset some amount of the devastation wrought by the global forces that allowed him to thieve his wealth. This is why Bill will only ever be a net negative for biological life and why he will only net further down as his passive investments grow. Don't get me wrong. I still hope he tries to do some good. Some good is better than no good. I just wish he hadn't done all the bad. I wish all the bad wasn't allowed.

So that's bad. Companies steal. They would not exist if they did not. So then they reinvest their theft in other schemes (ala nikoniko's above) which creates a multiplicative effect for those investment vehicles and is why Fortune 500 companies are becoming the largest holders of publicly traded securities of other companies. This is business as usual.

Show me evidence to the contrary of these assertions, and I and my mental health will thank you and make a donation to your corporate charity of choice. Please.
posted by avalonian at 3:45 PM on August 19, 2019 [13 favorites]


I have a working theory that investor gains are directly correlated to externalized costs that are real. Profits aren't created. They're taken.

No, you pretty much nailed it. Just include "underpaying for the value of labor" and you've basically understood capitalism.
posted by mrgoat at 3:51 PM on August 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


Apparently the Gates Foundation dumped a bunch of its known fossil fuel investments - 85% of them, including all investments in BP and ExxonMobil - shortly after that initial Guardian article came out:

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation divests entire holding in BP

I haven't found info on how many, if any, fossil fuel investments they hold now. That being said, I can see the argument that keeping those investments up through this decade is still something to be held accountable for.
posted by mistersix at 3:57 PM on August 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


Avalonian - I think there is some actual creation of value that goes on through, yknow, work; Earth is after all an energetically open system in the long run, and time passes.

As to whether the coordinative efforts of capital owners is a net boost or drag on overall human productivity - especially when the externalities of modern economies are considered - well, that's the question we're all trying to figure out an answer for, isn't it?
posted by Fraxas at 6:14 PM on August 19, 2019


Winners Take All: How Philanthropists Hoard Progress - "Today's elites are some of the more socially concerned individuals in history. But do their philanthropic missions really make a difference, or do they perpetuate the system of inequality they've profited from? Anand Giridharadas, author of 'Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,' talks with Markos Kounalakis, visiting fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, about how philanthropists are preserving the very structures at the root of societal inequity."

Nativism, eugenics, and scientific racism permeated the early conservation movement in the US.

also btw...
posted by kliuless at 12:48 AM on August 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm in favor of a 100% tax above $10M in inherited wealth, indexed to inflation.

I'd had the thought recently that inventing the propaganda term Death Taxes means that Republicans aren't republicans.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 5:06 AM on August 20, 2019


It's always been a mind bender for me that the ultra wealthy have gamed the system so that they can give their kids every conceivable advantage for their careers--prep schools, tutors, prestigious college educations, internships--and still insist it's critical the system allow them to bequeath their kids enough wealth for them to never actually need to work.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:59 AM on August 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


my question is a serious one; I would like nothing more than to own a multi-unit property with stable long-term tenants, that generates just enough income to sustain the building long-term so I can live in one of the units when I get too old to work

Will you be evicting all your neighbors when they are too old to work?
posted by srboisvert at 6:40 AM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


If you don't want to wade through the NYTimes article, the Pittsburgh CityPaper provides Five takeaways from New York Times report on Cordelia Scaife May and the Colcom Foundation.

The story about how Cordelia Scaife May met John Tanton reminded me of this:
Formerly, billionaires were so plentiful in Western trout streams that, it was said, you could walk from bank to bank on their hats and never wet your feet. And once, historians claim, the endless flights of billionaires darkened the skies above Long Island until their cackling drowned out ordinary conversation. Fortunately, those bygone days are still here. Thanks to increased public awareness, billionaires remain plentiful and provide a vital resource. Today the fate of global ecosystems often depends on nature’s own life preserver, the billionaire.

Here is how the healing process works. Say you are a nonprofit out to save the oceans. First, you find a billionaire. Using due diligence, you search out exactly the right billionaire—one who, as you discover, loves netsuke. To help nature along, you get some netsuke and put it on a trail where the billionaire is likely to jog by. Soon the billionaire appears; he sniffs the netsuke, and absorbs it into his private collection. Then, and only then, do you emerge from the brush to tell him about your deep and long-held admiration for him. From this point your presentation is carried out carefully, until, suddenly, the plight of the oceans clicks with the billionaire! Now that crucial part of the planet can be saved.
But instead of netsuke, it was birdwatching. And instead of saving the oceans, it was saving the master race.
posted by peeedro at 7:14 AM on August 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


This all makes me think of John Burroughs, the early conservationist, who was famously good friends with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone.
posted by octothorpe at 7:45 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


It's a seller's market for anti-immigrant rhetoric these days, so of course Pat Buchanan is emerging from his underground bunker to bring his schtick to television on a regular basis. And who's buying? Why, that would be PBS, of course.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:56 AM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


(It took me a very, very long time to figure out that you didn't mean Theresa May. Like, reading the the whole thread all the comments and going 'oh wait, no mention of the U.K. here.' Apparently it's just not an auspicious last name!)
posted by librarylis at 10:44 AM on August 20, 2019


It's always been a mind bender for me that the ultra wealthy have gamed the system so that they can give their kids every conceivable advantage for their careers

Instead of "careers", try "social standing".
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:45 AM on August 20, 2019


librarylis: It took me a very, very long time to figure out that you didn't mean Theresa May. Like, reading the the whole thread all the comments and going 'oh wait, no mention of the U.K. here.'

Sorry about that. I was considering different titles, but this seemed mostly suitable and workable, but I recognized it could be confusing. I didn't link or bold Cordelia Scaife May's name in the OP, so I can see how that could get overlooked.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:03 PM on August 20, 2019


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