Friday, July 24, 2009

Charitable Villainy

In Batman: Streets of Gotham #2, released this month, the villainous Hush escapes from his confinement in Wayne Tower and puts into effect a very unique plan.

Warning: SPOILERS Below

In the aftermath of the "Heart of Hush" story in Detective Comics, Hush has altered his physical appearance to resemble Bruce Wayne. This puts the new Batman, Dick Grayson, in an awkward position because the real Bruce is gone. This allows Hush to pretend to be Bruce Wayne and the only way to prove that he is an impostor is to reveal Bruce's secret identity as Batman and his apparent death in the battle against Darkseid.

That simply can't be done. So Hush has free reign over Bruce's assets and wealth. And what devious plan does he enact with all those resources? Does he build a cannon to shatter the Earth's crust? Does he disrupt the Earth's orbit around the sun? Does he consolidate Gotham's drug trade under his control?

No, he donates 1 billion dollars to the city. That's right, Hush diabolically gives the money to charity. And he promises to donate 1 billion more dollars each month until Gotham's criminal activities are under control. This causes Dick, Damian (the new Robin), and Alfred to react like this is the worst possible outcome.

Now let's stop and think about this for a second. This is, no doubt, one of the more unique supervillain plans. By giving away Bruce Wayne's money, Hush is damaging the foundations of his greatest enemy's wealth, thereby blunting his ability to fight crime. If Bruce Wayne (and now Dick Grayson) didn't have an unlimited well of money to draw from there would be no batarangs, no grappling hooks and no Batmobile for Batman to use.

Removing money from Wayne Industries also will likely create unemployment. If $1 billion is removed from the company every month, the infrastructure of Wayne Industries will be irreperrably damaged immediately. Employees will need to be laid off, benefits and wages will be reduced, and valuable public and private services provided by Wayne and its subsidiaries will drop in quality. There are few better ways to cause economic crisis than by throwing Gotham's biggest corporation into chaos.

The sudden influx of money into Gotham City will also breed corruption and squandering of funds. The infrastructure of Gotham City is not set up to deal with an addition billion dollars each month. The money could be used to hire more police officers, improve public services, and at least put up more lights in the historically dark city. But in all likelihood, the additional money flowing into the city will be abused by corrupt political officials and wasted by the politicians who have the best intentions. That much money requires massive restructuring of a city's economic plan. And during the time of that restructuring, Gotham City will not get as much benefit from the money they are receiving.

The problem is (as my colleague ShadowBanker and even Hush himself will admit) this plan is very hard to execute. Bruce Wayne, though majority shareholder in his company, likely does not have access to the amount of liquid capital to continue his plan beyond a few months. The easy way in which Hush donates his first billion to Gotham is rather strange. Though Bruce Wayne does burn through money at a rapid pace, he likely does not have a balance of $6 billion in his bank account that he can easily access without filling out hundreds of forms and getting approval from others in his company.

So, assuming Hush's plan is foiled (these are superhero comics we're talking about, it will be foiled), does Hush's plan do more harm than good? Or is it the other way around? If Hush only donates the first billion dollars to the city, will this help Gotham? I've listed some of reasons Hush's plan is damaging, but if his evil charity is controlled and regulated could Hush be helping the city he holds in such contempt?


Unknown said...

Wheter the helps or harms depends in large part on the city government's preparedness rebuilding the infrastructure. If they have plans drawn up and all tey're lacking is money, then I think the net effect will be positive. This being Gotham, however, one could assume that they do not have any sort of recovery plan or strategu, and the pliticians will wind up squandering the money in some form or another, since they are not being held accountable . . .

Will said...

I am not sure how big Gotham is supposed to be. I know New York is often what it is compared to, but it doesn't appear to me that big. I view it more on the scale of a Chicago, which has an annual operating budget of around $3 billion and recent shortfalls of $420 million. It is possible that the first billion could be helpful in shoring up pension, paying off municipal bonds, ensuring no workers need forced days off, and then assist with general services, so I think, assuming it is like many U.S. cities suffering from tremendous budget shortfalls, the first billion would actually be used relatively well. After that, I just don't think the money would serve any purpose and, even if we ignore the graft, could result in horrendous long-term decisions like massive tax cuts, increased city wages, etc. When the billion a month fount dries up, the city could be left with no revenue stream and lots of liabilities.

Anonymous said...

I think helping Gotham is only a side effect. Hush is giving billions of Bruce Wayne's money, however many billions he can acccess, to charity for two big reasons:
1) so Bruce Wayne can't get it back if he ever does come back. this is a comic book, after all, and superheroes have a way of not staying dead.

2) remove resources from Dick Grayson, Alfred, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, Damian Wayne, and anyone else who might be using Wayne's money to fund their costumed crimefighting. Damian Wayne may not be as severely impacted since he may have access to the Al Ghul money.

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