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Destructive Politics

by on October 28, 2010

Thanks to the wonderful Deborah Geffner (the one who reminds us “You get to vote! You don’t even have to fight anyone to do it”) I once again have something I’d like to share with all of you about politics.  I’d really suggest you read the whole article, but it’s a bit lengthy so I’ll do some of your work for you.  The politics I’m writing about might be considered destructive politics – or, if you agree with them, you might consider it constructive and good politics.  Who?

With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars….The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products.

Well! there’s nothing wrong with that, in terms of good, successful Capitalists.  If you’re not a Tea Partyer (I’ve never figured out the correct suffix) you might be worried though, because

Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

That’s not enough to generate any strong feeling about the Kochs’ politics, perhaps.  But,

Rob Stein, a Democratic political strategist who has studied the conservative movement’s finances, said that the Kochs are “at the epicenter of the anti-Obama movement. But it’s not just about Obama. They would have done the same to Hillary Clinton. They did the same with Bill Clinton. They are out to destroy progressivism.”

I don’t know if it matters what party you’re from – I imagine it does (and that’s part of the point) – but that doesn’t sound like good politics to me.  It does sound like politics, but it sure isn’t constructive, compromise politics.  And these people funding the Tea Party (that’s what the Kochs do) should be smart enough to realize that progressivism can’t be destroyed more than fascism can be destroyed, or libertarianism, or anger or hope.  Progress, and it’s counterpart, conservatism, are both inherent natural qualities, in the same person, at the same time.

However, all hope-and-changey Buddha politics aside,

In 1958, Fred Koch [father of the Koch’ who own the current conglomerate] became one of the original members of the John Birch Society, the arch-conservative group known, in part, for a highly skeptical view of governance and for spreading fears of a Communist takeover. Members considered President Dwight D. Eisenhower to be a Communist agent. In a self-published broadside, Koch claimed that “the Communists have infiltrated both the Democrat and Republican Parties.” He wrote admiringly of Benito Mussolini’s suppression of Communists in Italy, and disparagingly of the American civil-rights movement. “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America,” he warned. Welfare was a secret plot to attract rural blacks to cities, where they would foment “a vicious race war.” In a 1963 speech that prefigures the Tea Party’s talk of a secret socialist plot, Koch predicted that 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 might sound somewhat familiar.  That’s the point, of course. The Communist Scare is returning, being brought back by a few dedicated individuals who find fear advantageous. The Koch family is not closed off to the outside world; not quite. A friend and age-group peer who was inspired to study politics by the family and became a professor said,

that the Koch brothers have followed a wayward intellectual trajectory, transferring their father’s paranoia about Soviet Communism to a distrust of the U.S. government, and seeing its expansion, beginning with the New Deal, as a tyrannical threat to freedom.

Which could be considered an isolated fear-ridden family but for their money with which they are able to -and obviously do – fund the Tea Party.  As David Axelrod said, “what they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”  Or, as the article describes it,

[by 1979 the brothers] had become supporters of the Libertarian Party, and were backing its Presidential candidate, Ed Clark, who was running against Ronald Reagan from the right. Frustrated by the legal limits on campaign donations, they contrived to place David on the ticket, in the Vice-Presidential slot; upon becoming a candidate, he could lavish as much of his personal fortune as he wished on the campaign. The ticket’s slogan was “The Libertarian Party has only one source of funds: You.”  In fact, its primary source of funds was David Koch, who spent more than two million dollars on the effort.

…The Party wanted to end Social Security, minimum-wage laws, gun control, and all personal and corporate income taxes; it proposed the legalization of prostitution, recreational drugs, and suicide. Government should be reduced to only one function: the protection of individual rights.

I’ll leave it up to you to figure out whether they’re talking about 1980 or now.  My guess is 1980; and things haven’t changed.  No party has only bad ideas.  If you go far right you end up left, and then center again.  Ideas like ending war (in Afghanistan), less dependence on brute strength of arms, legalization of drugs or prostitution, and ending Social Security are not bad ideas.  I am inherently for some of those ideas, and inherently against others. It still seems bad to me to eliminate government.  Have the Koch’s convinced you?  …They hadn’t convinced voters in 1980.  “That November, the Libertarian ticket received only one per cent of the vote.”  Let’s skip to modern times:

Tax records indicate that in 2008 the three main Koch family foundations gave money to thirty-four political and policy organizations, three of which they founded, and several of which they direct. The Kochs and their company have given additional millions to political campaigns, advocacy groups, and lobbyists. The family’s subterranean financial role has fuelled suspicion on the left; Lee Fang, of the liberal blog ThinkProgress, has called the Kochs “the billionaires behind the hate.”

…[T]he company’s political-action committee, KochPAC, has donated some eight million dollars to political campaigns, more than eighty per cent of it to Republicans. So far in 2010, Koch Industries leads all other energy companies in political contributions, as it has since 2006.

The Koch family is not alone in spending on politics, of course.  And both sides of the political spectrum spend.  But I want to continue to give you something to chew on, so to speak.

In 1977, the Kochs provided the funds to launch the nation’s first libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. According to the Center for Public Integrity, between 1986 and 1993 the Koch family gave eleven million dollars to the institute.

And in terms of global warming,

[The] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently issued a report concluding that the evidence for global warming is unequivocal, more Americans are convinced than at any time since 1997 that scientists have exaggerated the seriousness of global warming. The Kochs promote this statistic on their company’s Web site but do not mention the role that their funding has played in fostering such doubt.

…The key for opponents of environmental reform, [a Republican political consultant said], was to question the science—a public-relations strategy that the tobacco industry used effectively for years to forestall regulation.

The rest of the lengthy New Yorker article talks about climate change and influencing TeaPartyGanza (as The Daily Show calls it).  I hope I’ve given you an idea of who is behind this ‘grassrooty’ movement.
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