The Donkey Is Sleeping Today

Eat The Rich

In 2010 Midterm Elections, Economics, Message/Framing, Plutocracy, Politics on August 31, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Karoli of Crooks and Liars has a good post up this morning about the frightening policies the Republicans are openly boasting about implementing should they take control of Congress after the 2010 elections.

To date, various Republican candidates have endorsed Ayn Rand Fanboy a.k.a. Paul Ryan’s plan to eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and health care reform – all while giving the “deficit savings” to the top 1% in the form of tax cuts. Republican leaders have embraced Michele “Mad Hatter of the Tea Party” Bachmann’s plan to blanket 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with subpoenas and motions to impeach. And just a couple of days ago, noted toe-sucker Dick Morris boasted that the Republicans will shut down the government over the next two years to block Obama at all costs. Here’s the video:

But these policies are not new. They have just become “mainstreamed” within the Republican ranks. And since they have been getting away with more and more reactionary and regressive policies over the past 30 years, they don’t feel they have to hide the true nature of them as much: they have already created a base that believes that these draconian policies are best for the country – even though they are not in the voters’ economic best interests.

So how did we get here?

Jane Mayer of The New Yorker has penned an excellent expose on the powerful forces behind both movement conservatism and the so-called Tea Party phenomenon. In the article, she pulls the mask off of billionaires David H. Koch and his brother, Charles, who are some of the most prominent behind-the-scenes sponsors of far-right doctrine – no taxes (on the wealthy), no government regulations, climate change denial, among many others.

In reading the article, it is clear that the Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to accomplish just one thing – protect their multi-billion dollar empire. But like most conservatives, they are at least smart enough to realize that these policies cannot be sold to the American public as is. They need to put lipstick on these pigs.

How else could they successfully sell the notion that global climate change is a farce or that smog was beneficial because it would help prevent more cases of skin cancer or that lower taxes on the wealthy and corporations will create jobs, among countless other canards?

They accomplish their selfish ends by whipping the masses into a frenzy about the evil government and its fascist communist socialist Clinton Hillary Obama Hitler Democratic leaders who want to steal your money in order to give it to your lazy neighbor down the street while forcing you to marry the gay man around the corner and throwing you out of work because the multi-billion corporations can’t possibly survive with any regulations.

The Republicans love to scream about “class warfare” in this country whenever anyone suggests leveling the economic playing field, raising taxes on the wealthy (so that they pay their fair share), or providing a social safety net for the unemployed, the elderly, or the infirm, but they are dead wrong about who is being laid siege.

It’s all of us, folks.

It is a war on the bottom 99-percent who have seen their standard of living continue to deteriorate over the last 30 years due to tax cuts for the wealthy that have drained the treasury; deregulation that has led to boom-bust laissez-faire capitalism; laws that have made it easier to ship jobs overseas; and a steady drumbeat of anti-government rhetoric solely designed to shred the social safety net and put that money back into the pockets of the richest 1%.  Here is a handy chart (h/t to Paul Rosenberg of Open Left). Pay particular attention to the pale yellow line.  It shows that the bottom 99 percent of all wage earners have seen almost no real growth in wages since 1973.

But this is nothing new.  As the masterful Frank Rich points out in his latest NY Times op-ed:

All three tycoons [David Koch, Charles Koch, and Rupert Murdoch] are the latest incarnation of what the historian Kim Phillips-Fein labeled “Invisible Hands” in her prescient 2009 book of that title: those corporate players who have financed the far right ever since the du Pont brothers spawned the American Liberty League in 1934 to bring down F.D.R. You can draw a straight line from the Liberty League’s crusade against the New Deal “socialism” of Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission and child labor laws to the John Birch Society-Barry Goldwater assault on J.F.K. and Medicare to the Koch-Murdoch-backed juggernaut against our “socialist” president.

Only the fat cats change — not their methods and not their pet bugaboos (taxes, corporate regulation, organized labor, and government “handouts” to the poor, unemployed, ill and elderly). Even the sources of their fortunes remain fairly constant. Koch Industries began with oil in the 1930s and now also spews an array of industrial products, from Dixie cups to Lycra, not unlike DuPont’s portfolio of paint and plastics. Sometimes the biological DNA persists as well. The Koch brothers’ father, Fred, was among the select group chosen to serve on the Birch Society’s top governing body. In a recorded 1963 speech that survives in a University of Michigan archive, he can be heard warning of “a takeover” of America in which Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the president is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.” That rant could be delivered as is at any Tea Party rally today.

So how do we combat this? Unfortunately, it will take a sustained effort over decades (and without end) from progressive think-tanks, academia, and grassroots pressure to force our side of the aisle to toughen up and fight back against these powerful interests. And it won’t be easy due to the massive amounts of money and corporate infrastructure at their disposal. But the very future of our country is at stake. Do we give back all of the progressive gains we have made over the past century, or do we stop the forces of evil in their tracks, no matter what the cost?

But more important, we need an entirely new way of engaging with voters. It isn’t enough to point to the Republicans and say how evil and wrong-headed they are. We need to convince voters that our policies and ideas aren’t just right for the country but will benefit them personally.

One way to start is to say loudly and often that the corporations, bankers, Wall Street denizens, crony capitalists, and the wealthy billionaires who finance these right-wing think tanks and Astroturf movements are stealing from us.

They steal our jobs when they ship them overseas.

They steal our wages when they hoard profits and give huge bonuses to their CEOs.

They steal our money when they gamble with it at the Wall Street casinos.

They steal our power when they constantly foster deregulation and cater to corporate interests.

They steal our standard of living when they cut benefits (health care insurance, retirement plans, et al) and promise to slash Medicare, Medicaid, and privatize Social Security.

They steal our health and sometimes our lives when they gut government regulations on food, water, drugs, and workplace safety.

They steal the future of our planet when they deny global climate change and kill environmental policies – all in the name of more profits.

And they steal our dignity when they whip up xenophobic, racist, or homophobic sentiment in an effort to distract from their real agenda by dividing and marginalizing us.

Of course, not all corporations or wealthy individuals are evil, but those billionaires who manipulate the masses to force their selfish agenda on America are no better than thieves and robber barons. It’s not about what’s good for the country with them: it’s about what’s good for their corporate profits and their ability to amass wealth. Noted economist Dean Baker says it best in his recent article on The Huffington Post.

No progressive movement will make any progress until we understand the battle we are fighting. Our income is a cost to the rich. They will look to cut it wherever they can, whether this is wages for private sector workers, pensions for public employees, or Social Security for retirees. That is their target.

We have to fight back using the same logic. Their income is our cost — the multimillion dollar bonuses for the Wall Street wizards is a direct drain on the economy. So are the bloated paychecks of top executives and their lackey boards. Progressives must be prepared to use all the same tactics to bring down the income of the rich and powerful that they have used to reduce the income of everyone else.

If it’s a class war they want, then let’s storm the gates and eat the rich for a change.


UPDATE (09/02): I received an email today from progressive hero, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), that openly attacks David Koch for his crackpot views and his insidious attempts to use his outrageous fortune and dirty political tricks to fool the electorate into supporting candidates who do not have their best interests at heart. Thank goodness for The New Yorker expose: it has put a face on the right-wing movement, making it easier for people to understand the villainy behind their wealthy, corporate, elitist agenda. It’s heartening to see our side using it to their advantage for a change. More of this, please!

Here is the text from Rep. Grayson’s email:

A couple of weeks ago, we suggested that Republican Dan Webster isn’t the real opponent in this campaign. He hasn’t been on the ballot in a quarter of a century. Dan Webster couldn’t beat a pair of fives with a full house.

I said that someone else would be the real opponent. Now we know who that is.

His name is David Koch. He has $17 billion. And he is spending $250,000 of that in attack ads against me this week.

Will you help us fight back against David Koch, by contributing $25 or $50 to our campaign? Every dollar counts.

David Koch is the owner of the second largest private company in America. He made his money the old-fashioned way: he inherited it. Incredibly, his father got rich helping to industrialize and arm the Soviet Union.

Koch lives in New York. He often attends the theater. As far as we know, he has never been to Orlando. But he wants to choose who represents Orlando in Congress. And it isn’t Alan Grayson.

For many years, David Koch was a member of the Libertarian Party. He serves on the board of directors of the right-wing Cato Institute. He is a reclusive billionaire whose political dirty tricks are exposed in the current issue of the New Yorker Magazine. The title of that New Yorker article is “Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging war against Obama.”

Why does David Koch support Dan Webster? Because Koch wants to cut Social Security. And so does Dan Webster.

David Koch is waging war on President Obama and on us. Will you help to launch our counterattack?

What it comes down to is this: who is going to choose our leaders? Us, or a crackpot billionaire like David Koch?

More on this tomorrow. In the meantime, if you can help, please do. Because if we don’t, then David Koch will buy the House, the Senate and, in 2012, the White House.


Alan Grayson

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