Monday, March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016--The Koch Brothers

For a deeper understanding of our current political culture, I cannot recommend anything more revealing than Jane Mayer's Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

Much of it focuses on the Koch Brothers, whose combined wealth equals $84 billion, and the organizations that they have stealthily founded and funded. Including the innocuously-named Americans for Prosperity, the Cato and Manhattan Institutes, the Heritage Foundation, and dozens of others off almost everybody's radar screens. And of course, from its inception they provide all kinds of support for the many activities of the Tea Party.

In all of this, they follow in the footsteps of their father, Fred, one of the half dozen or so founders of the ultraconservative John Birch Society, who began to amass his fortune by building oil refineries in Germany for Hitler's Third Reich. He so admired the Fuhrer and Mein Kampf that Father Fred visited with him at least 11 times and spoke effusively about him in the years leading up to World War II.

Of course, this "episode" is not included in official histories of Koch Industries. The timeline for those half dozen years is blank.

What is most interesting and less well known are the things the Kochs would like to see happen to America and our government. The reasons they have spent hundreds of million dollars on these organizations.

To summarize their political agenda in a few words--they would like to see the end of government altogether. Literally.

Not scaled back, not pruned here and there, not just contracted in size with the Commerce Department, Environmental Protection Agency, and of course the Federal Reserve and IRS all eliminated. Kaput.

In their mostly private speeches and writings they call for the elimination of all manifestations of government. They would repeal all of the New Deal, including Social Security and unemployment insurance and all Great Society programs. This means, if they had their way, there would be no Medicare, Medicaid, much less any public accommodation or voting rights legislation.

They would eliminate all public funding for education. This means they would provide no governmental support whatsoever for any kind of schooling, from Head Start to college loans to funded research. They also would get the government out of efforts to reduce segregation or end abuses to voting rights. They not only would dismantle the IRS but would eliminate all forms of federal taxation. And they would strike out all regulations that limit corporate life and especially banking.

At the even further lunatic end of the scale, they would not have any public support for police or fire departments. I assume individuals would have to do their own policing and hire private firefighters.

They would also terminate the CIA and FBI. And unbelievably, even our standing army.

They would amend, actually eliminate the Bill of Rights with the Constitution protecting only one right--the right to own property.

They even call for ending the ban on slavery, claiming that it is an individual's right "to sell himself if he so chooses." They are that perversely, consistently Libertarian.

Like Grover Norquist (whose American's for Tax Reform the Koch's fund), they would like to see government so reduced in size that it could "be drowned in a bathtub."

I know you think I'm making this up. If you do, I urge you to pick up a copy of Dark Money. There's more there. And worse.

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