I often write about business models that I admire or ones that present unforeseen risks. You all know my opinion about the perfection of the Private Equity business model not only for its superior returns but also for its long term orientation and its alignment of manager and investor.
I regret to inform all the blog readers that I have found a business model that is far superior, pervasive and pretty easy to duplicate on a local, state or national level. It is called Find A Bigger Dope and here is how it works.
Light Bulbs Are Public Enemy # 1
Let’s say you are CEO of a public company that has a no growth operation that is challenged by foreign competition. Let’s say you are under massive pressure to show you can grow that business, but consumers like your high volume, low profit incandescent bulbs. You do not know how to innovate and your consultants are out of fresh ideas. What can you do?
If you are Jeff Immelt it was actually pretty easy to come up with a “Find A Bigger Dope” business model for his lighting group. Create a political action committee for a bunch of dopey politicians including two dopey Presidents to promote an environmental agenda that has light bulbs as public enemy #1. Because you also own NBC, you can make all the environmental politicians look smart and electable by re-polishing their image and can also reinforce the environmental science message with even dopier prime time media personalities (think Brian Williams). The next thing you know those absolutely wonderful 60 watt, 75 watt and 100 watt incandescent GE light bulbs that cost $1 and light up a room are gone. We are required to substitute energy efficient bulbs that cost $10 but are saving the green sea turtle… How could that happen?
They Found The Biggest Dopes
Well the dopey media guys and the dopey politicians were able to find a bigger dope. That would be the people who elect dopey politicians and watch the evening news. The biggest dopes actually think that by forcing new light bulb legislation they will stop the polar ice cap from melting, the oceans from rising and the green sea turtle from becoming extinct.
Working backwards from you and me -the electorate- let’s see why this bigger dope chain works. Well the citizens are largely uneducated and completely gullible. It makes sense that light bulbs created by Thomas Edison are inefficient and energy hogs. So why not get behind an energy saving technology that will also save the green sea turtle? Especially if Brian Williams says it is true. And why is Brian Williams saying it is true? Well for one thing Jeff Immelt owns his employer so he better say it is true. Also, the politicians have made Brian Williams a rock star. He thinks he is a taller version of Bono, but a Bono whose helicopter has been shot up a little. His handler, Immelt, and the politicians are giving him a script that makes him look smart and important – indeed a powerful drug for a guy that dropped out of college and began his broadcast career in Kansas.
The politicians just want to get elected but most of them are so unappealing that they need someone who looks like Brian Williams to polish their image by explaining why all the stupid things they do or say are actually good for the planet. When they actually are uncensored and do not have a cohort of Brian Williams media types to reinterpret their amazingly stupid statements -Kevin McCarthy’s problem- they crash and burn. As long as they are making a news anchor feel like Bono, however, that polishing act continues. It does not matter what the politicians say or do because some dopey media man or woman will explain it away, condone it or better yet-ignore it for the nightly news crowd. The Democrats own more nightly news stations than the Republicans so they are the favorite targets of the politicians.
The politicians are hooked on another drug-power. It is their heroin, crack and meth all wrapped into one. But in order to get that power they need a lot of money to buy TV ads. Very few of them have any money yet so they look around for guys like Immelt who can help them raise money to buy media time. Of course, the funding comes with a set of strings attached that can be pulled when a CEO needs a new product line masquerading as an environmental panacea.
This circle of co-dependency has continued for the last several decades and up until 2015 looked like the perfect business model. Everyone wins. CEOs get the money. Politicians get the power. Media people get to be rock stars.
The Great Disrupter
Now an even bigger dope has become a great disrupter. By going direct to the electorate, Donald Trump has bypassed both the politicians and the media. President Obama has already set a low bar for qualifications. Trump doesn’t need PAC funding and he is already a media star and does not need repackaging or reinterpretation help from the media. He has the freedom to act irresponsibly, just like the elected members of Congress, but with no accountability to or image modification from any handlers. He has become an unfiltered and unaccountable political candidate and he can go direct to the people and tell them that Washington will be “fired” on his watch.
Vin Diesel For President
Whether Trump is electable is not the issue. Trump is reforming politics by empowering middling wealthy media stars to win the Presidency by using their star power to launch “free” direct campaigns. Just think of the possibilities:
- Taylor Swift Has 64.7m Twitter Followers, 72.8 m Facebook Likes
- Vin Diesel has 95.6m Facebook Likes and better abs than Putin
- Kim Kardashian has 48.8m Instagram followers; married to Kanye West
- Oprah has her own TV network
- Pat Sajack Hosts Wheel of Fortune
- Michael Douglas is The American President
When you think about the implications on a state and local level for media personalities going direct to the electorate it becomes even more interesting. I am personally quite excited about a three way race for Senate among Rob Portman, Ted Strickland and Drew Carey. Drew will be more fun to listen to and by dividing the vote he can swing the election to whichever candidate he wants. Now that is a disruptive business model.
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