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Rick Steelhammer: Billionaires to the rescue in 2020 election? Don't bank on it

Another billionaire has thrown his top hat in the ring for a bid at becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, leaving me wondering three things:

1. Don’t billionaires already control the country?

2. Do we really need more candidates in the Democratic presidential primary?

3. Isn’t Michael Bloomberg a Republican?

As to the first question, the richest 400 of the nation’s 607 billionaires now own more of the nation’s wealth than the combined net worth of the 150 million American adults representing the bottom 60 percent on the wealth chain.

While the Top 400’s share of America’s wealth has tripled since the 1980s and shows no sign of tapering off, those of us on the other side of the income gap watch traditional pension plans disappear, health care costs soar and college loan debts pile up.

Meanwhile, billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen spends time admiring his $8 million, 14-foot pickled tiger shark; billionaire Oracle founder Larry Ellison relaxes on his own 90,000-acre Hawaiian island; and billionaire SpaceX co-founder Elon Musk tinkers with his $1 billion Lotus submarine car, driven by James Bond in “The Spy Who Loved Me.”

To me, it’s apparent the uber-rich are in the driver’s seat when it comes to steering public policy favoring them through Congress.

As to the second question, once a week I need to consult my wife’s sticky note display of the current field of Democratic candidates attached to our living room’s sliding glass door to see who remains in contention. I still come across names I don’t recognize, even though the roster has been shrinking until recently, when Bloomberg and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, a mere millionaire, let their egos run wild and joined the fray.

While I would like to see the list of Democratic contenders pared to single digits as soon as possible, I fear the reverse may happen. Billionaires Mark Cuban of Dallas Mavericks and “Shark Tank” fame, banking CEO Jamie Dimon, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, everything guru Oprah Winfrey, and Disney CEO Bob Iger have all been floated as possible Democratic presidential candidates. It’s possible one or more of them could sense an opportunity and opt to join fellow billionaires Bloomberg and impeachment instigator Tom Steyer for the home stretch of the primary race.

Counting the Republican incumbent, eight of America’s 607 billionaires have at least considered entering the 2020 presidential race so far. That works out to 1.32 percent of all American billionaires seriously eyeing a bid for the White House.

As to Question 3, Bloomberg was a Republican from 2001 to 2007, when he switched to Independent before winning a third term as New York City mayor. He switched back to Democrat in October of last year.

I don’t have a clue about what new items Democratic billionaires would bring to the table, other than following the lead of America’s first billionaire president and being clueless when it comes to understanding how wage earners, considered “unsuccessful” to them, manage to live. So, in the absence of good news to this point, I’ll leave you with this sweet item:

A cereal form of Hostess Twinkies snack cakes will hit supermarket shelves in late December. Tiny, oblong-shaped, gold-colored Hostess Twinkies bits will be packed with “delightful sweetness in every bite,” according to a press release from the cereal-maker Post.

Before I commit to the product, I think I’ll wait for the release of an inevitable deep-fried version.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

Funerals for Sunday, January 19, 2020

Atkins Sr., Dennis - 2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Crislip, Edna - 2 p.m., Roach Funeral Home, Gassaway.

Driggs Sr., Phillip - 4 p.m., St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Charleston.

Sigmon, Steven - 4 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.