$1.6 million paid to historian: Nice work if you can get it
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From the NYT:

“The report from Bloomberg News, which said Mr. Gingrich received at least $1.6 million [from Freddie Mac], is significantly higher than previous estimates of Mr. Gingrich’s compensation for what he has described as his work as “a historian” for the troubled mortgage lender.”

Gingrich was out of power at the time, so this wasn't a direct bribe, it was more an attempt to mold opinion to keep Freddie respectable by buying the friendship of a voluble famous guy, with maybe some big payoff down the road if Gingrich made a political comeback. Moreover, paying Gingrich a lot after he was out of office serves to encourage the others in office to be nice to Freddie now in the hopes that they too can get what's coming to them down the road. 

In modern America, it's crucial for rich institutions like Fannie and Freddie to control what ideas are respectable and thus thinkable. 

For example, after Bill Gates got in trouble over anti-trust, he started the vastly wealthy Gates Foundation, which then, in Bill's own disillusioned 2009 words, wasted $2 billion on the New Left concept of turning high schools into "small learning communities." Why didn't anybody make clear to him at the time that this was a boondoggle?

Because Bill gave $57 million to education think tanks, so that practically every "expert" that reporters called was on the Bill Dole or hoped to be. To thinktankers, $57 million is huge money, but to Bill Gates it's about as important as the change lost in his sofa cushions. So, Bill's dopey Ayers Brothers-inspired brainstorm was the height of respectability, until Bill himself got sick of it.

In contrast, one obvious way to help America's public schools over the next generation — don't let in so many unintelligent foreigners with high fertility rates — is simply unmentionable. There are lots of highly respectable ideas about school reform backed by huge amounts of money, but the single most sure-fire way to help the schools never even registers on the mental map of respectable opinion. Where's the money in it?

Similarly, being alarmed about carbon emissions causing global warming is extremely respectable. Not being alarmed about carbon emissions causing global warming is semi-respectable because the energy companies put a lot of money into keeping doubt alive. But to point out the tautologically obvious lesson that mass immigration from poor countries to rich countries causes increased carbon emissions isn't even not respectable, it's just unheard of. There's practically no money backing skepticism about immigration, so it's not respectable, and very little at all on the immigration leads to increased carbon emissions idea, so it's just unthinkable. 

This is just my self-interested bias, but my counter-intuitive take is that rather than go all blue in the face trying to crack down on Newt Gingrich and Michelle Obama getting paid off by rich institutions, the more valuable service to America would be to develop larger alternative sources of funding for ideas that aren't respectable at present. As you so often hear, there are a lot of rich guys in America. What's the point of being a rich guy, however, if not occasionally spending money on something that you find fun but that respectable opinion finds baffling or shocking?


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