Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tea and Koch

Get ready, my fellow Americans, to see a bit more of your freedom slip away. Corporate money, which already dominates our political and economic landscapes, is preparing to dominate it further, and to do so with the help of the Tea Party.

Tea Party activists tell us that the democracy established by the founding fathers and strengthened by presidents like Lincoln and FDR, is the enemy of freedom. But our democratic government is not our enemy (at least not when it is relatively free of corporate influence).

The real threat to our freedom comes from the concentrated wealth of big corporations, those elitist bastions that are governed by the principle of “one dollar, one vote.” And the Tea Party is an extension of these bastions.

The leaders of the TP, of course, claim to be ordinary Americans, representative of grass roots anger aimed at unresponsive politicians in Washington. But the fiction of the TP’s grass roots has been thoroughly debunked, not once, but over and over.

Jane Mayer’s August 30 New Yorker article, for example, revealed the influence of the billionaire Koch (sounds like Coke) brothers on the TP movement, a measure of influence that they tried to keep concealed. Mayer writes that "By giving money to 'educate,' fund and organize Tea Party protesters, [the Koch brothers] have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement."

I imagine that most of the ordinary Tea Party foot soldiers are not aware that corporate money is behind their activities or that this money is designed to serve its own particular economic interests. They seem to have simply bought the right-wing ideology that portrays democratic government as the enemy of freedom, and so they march against "Washington" unaware of the moneyed interests that fund and help organize their activities while scheming to -- literally -- profit from them.

More evidence for the Tea Party's special interest funding comes from Frank Rich’s telling October 3 article in the New York Times, where he writes, “Big money rains down on the ‘bottom up’ Tea Party insurgency through phantom front organizations (Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Job Security) that exploit legal loopholes to keep their sugar daddies’ names secret.”

Rich points out that most of these wealthy donors have succeeded in hiding their identities, but he then goes on to list those whose names have been recently uncovered by reporters. He also notes that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, in addition to directly funding the TP with $2 million, provides it with what amount to free advertisements on the Fox Network and in the Wall Street Journal.

Fox News is to the Tea Party what Pravda was to the Soviet Communist Party: a public relations operation pretending to be a news source. If it weren’t for Fox News and the billions of special interest money that fuels the TP, it would most likely amount to no more than a scattering of conservative voters upset that they lost the last election.

In fact the TP follows the conservative Republican (and Fox News) line slavishly even when this line contradicts itself. Start with the initial TP complaint about the deficit. If the deficit were the real motivation of TP leaders, they would have vilified Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush (whose economic policies created the bulk of our current national debt) and then heaped praise on Bill Clinton for balancing the budget and creating a surplus.

Why don’t they? Apparently because Fox News and the other corporate interests behind the TP have other interests.

Currently the Bush tax cuts that helped create our huge deficits are scheduled to expire. The Tea Party and conservative GOP line says that we must not let any of them expire, but keep all of them in place, even those for the very wealthiest Americans. These tax cuts for the wealthy -- who do not face the stresses of unemployment and foreclosure -- would increase the national debt by more than a trillion dollars in the coming decade. But no matter, the TP wants to hand this money over to America’s corporate elite even though it will fall on the rest of us -- and our children -- to cover the debt these tax cuts create.

So, is the TP really concerned about the deficit? Or is it simply a well-organized and funded front for the same Wall Street tycoons and corporate millionaires who have dominated American politics since the 1980s? And who, by the way, through their domination of American politics over the past thirty years, have managed to siphon most of America’s accumulated wealth into their own coffers while holding middle class incomes down.

When conservatives say they favor “small government,” what they are really saying is that they favor a government so weak that corporate and Wall Street money can continue to have their way in screwing the American middle class. And the Tea Party is here to help them, while hiding the debt this movement owes to its behind-the-scenes benefactors.

We have seen what the domination of moneyed interests does to us all as recently as 2007 and 2008 when our inadequately regulated economy took a nosedive that we only pulled out of through the effects of the 2009 stimulus. Well, brace yourselves, amigos, and get ready for more of the same, as the pro-corporate special interests lick their chops in anticipation of a November takeover of a big chunk of Congress. Those of us who trust George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and FDR more than we do Charles and David Koch will do what we can to hold off the attack, but if I had to choose a word to describe our prospects, I don't think it would be "optimistic."