I have never before encountered a more evil force in American politics than the Kochs and their ilk. Never.
Since March 2009 I have been researching the funding patterns of the right wing and their activity with regard to the tea party movements, how they move money through Republican establishment organizations, and the impact of their investment in organizations and publications intended to legitimize ideas that work against the interests of 99% of the citizens of this country. I'm not alone. Many others are also digging deep. AlterNet. Think Progress.
My reasons for searching and paying attention go beyond ideology. Regardless of what their views are, emergency sirens sound when I consider exactly how much control two people and one corporation have over right-wing politics. It transcends ideology. It's anti-democracy. In my travels I've found the same information that many others have found but which always seems to languish in the shadows of the Internet.
Influence is held in the hands of the very few, and right now the Koch brothers hold the reins. Consider this list, created in 2004. It lists every organization that has received funding from the Koch Family Foundations. Then it was $120 million. Fast forward to 2010, where they spent millions we know about, and more millions we don't. For 2012, they've pledged $49 million toward a goal of $88 million.
All of this to say one thing: The Koch threat isn't just to liberal politics. It is a threat to the very democracy we treasure in this country. And like Glenn Greenwald, I view them as the most dangerous type of ideologue: the True Believer. True Believers are dangerous because they don't have any goal other than to make all of us True Believers. They proselytize free markets the way evangelicals preach Jesus. And when those same free markets fail? They facepalm and admit shock that perhaps there is a flaw in their flawless philosophy, then go right back to preaching and selling the free market gospel like it's God's word in the flesh.
News flash for the Koch devotees: Markets are not people. Not yet. They don't breathe, eat, cry, love, hate. They do, however, determine the future of people who are at their mercy. It's one thing to control markets like Koch and a few others do. It's entirely another to be at their mercy.
I would still have a job that I adored, but for capricious markets and their puppetmasters. Which is why when I read nonsense like this Weekly Standard Koch Brothers Rehab Piece by Matthew Continetti, I get angry. Really angry. And when I read self-pitying, whinging comments like the one I'm about to quote from a man who wouldn't know what it's like to have your livelihood and your self-respect ripped away in ten minutes' time, I get angrier.
Forget the facts, folks. Charles and David Koch are just bewildered and overwhelmed rich men who cannot for the life of them understand how the left can be so oblivious to the good free markets can do for the world and every individual in the United States who has a set of bootstraps and a pair of arms to use to yank on them.
The left’s inability to understand where the Kochs were coming from puzzled Charles and David. Wasn’t it obvious that small government and free markets resulted in a better world? “Why don’t we teach in schools things that make society more prosperous, and more peaceful, and people will respect each other more? It’s a strange thing, isn’t it?” said Charles. “It’s unbelievable how they distort what your message is!” said David. The Kochs thought their aim was to increase the standard of living for everyone. The way to do this, they believed, was by applying to society the same methods that had grown their company.
Small governments and free markets resulted in a better world? Really? Was it big government that allowed Wall Street to run amok and gamble away people's retirement savings in markets they knew were doomed to fail? What society does David Koch mean when he says "teach in schools things that make society more prosperous"? Surely he doesn't mean this one, because the facts speak otherwise. This society is NOT more prosperous, though Mr. Koch certainly has prospered. What the Kochs do is corrupt government, then blame it for screwing the rest of us.
This world is not better because Koch pollutes it while denying there might be even an iota of truth in climate change science.
This world is not better because our children's educations are being raped and sold to the "free markets" so we can create yet another "market" which will put "prosperity" ahead of education.
This world is not better because Koch Industries put millions into propaganda campaigns to convince people to act against their own interests in order to further Charles and David's "prosperity".
This world is not better because the faith in "free markets" brought the entire world economy to the brink of ruin.
This world is not better because David and Charles Koch think it's better for people to die after losing everything because they were unfortunate enough to be uninsured and sick at the same time.
So what "better world" is it that Mr. Koch sees? I want to see that world too. Instead what I see are people like me, who are educated, motivated, intelligent and have a strong work ethic unable to find work. Why can't we find work? Well, the 'markets' are flooded right now with lots of young people looking for work, and when the markets write the rules, they're written to maximize profits. That means people like me won't find a job until the "market" has eaten its fill of the younger generation.
Commentary like this makes my head explode:
The raw emotions and mindless smears left employees of Koch Industries hurt and befuddled. They kept searching for an answer. It was as if the universe had turned upside down. “All of us are given something, some more than others, and it’s up to us to build on it,” said Koch Minerals executive Steve Tatum. “Charles and David did. They built on what they inherited from their family. Hopefully, I have too. And I inherited nothing but a little help with college.
“What doesn’t seem right is when a person works to get through college, gets a degree, works for 25 years to become successful—and now you’re the bad guy,” Tatum said. “And I think, that’s the American dream, isn’t it?”
I'll leave you all to parse the first part about Charles and David building on their inherited money. But that second comment? The one about it not being right when a person works their way through college, gets a degree, yadayada? Yeah. Well, here's my counter-question: What doesn't seem right is when a person works to get through college, build a business, is a faithful employee for years and years, has a strong work ethic, pays their taxes, tries to raise their family and gets kicked in the teeth by those "free markets." That doesn't seem quite right either.
Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and now a blogger at Vanity Fair, made a documentary in 2006 about the differences between the very wealthy and the rest of us called The One Percent. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. You won't necessarily come away knowing more than you did before you watched it, but it's the attitude of that 1% -- the utter separation from the reality the rest of us live in -- that stands out. The resistance of his family and the financial advisers behind them is almost comical, but the attitudes are simply out of touch with what it's like for everyone else. One of the finest moments is when Milton Friedman rises up and calls the young heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune a socialist who's afraid to admit it.
It's easy to point to bootstraps when yours were inherited, after all.
To Charles, the call for bigger government was egalitarianism run amok. Liberals, he thought, fetishized equality of condition at the expense of personal liberty. “They cannot stand that some people are better off than others,” Charles said. “I think part of it fits Mencken’s definition of a Puritan: someone that’s miserable because he knows that someone, somewhere, is enjoying himself. He cannot stand that. And I think they all slept through Economics 101.”
He has this so wrong. Let me clear it up. I don't care that some have more than others. I care that some have more than others because they took it out of my bank account and my hard work. That's what I care about. I care about Wall Street moguls taking home big fat bonuses while the Dow Industrial-Military Complex sits on trillions and leaves people without work, without prospects, without hope, and without self-respect.
Here's a proposal for Charles and David. How about if they live for a year without their billions, just like the rest of us? How about they find out what it's like to be told over and over and over again that you're not hired even though you know you were as qualified as the guy who got the job? How about if they subject themselves to the whim of the markets, the uncertainty of not knowing whether they'll have a home tomorrow or food to eat? Perhaps they should try scratching out a living without any government in a world with no regulation where the food they dig out of the dumpster might be contaminated with chemical pollutants because the industrial customer who used that dumpster last didn't care to be careful about how they disposed of toxins. Perhaps they should try it before they condemn liberals as people who are miserable because someone else is enjoying themselves.
Perhaps Charles and David should put their grandchildren in public schools (along with the little DeVos children) and see how teachers struggle with no budget, no supplies, larger class sizes, more children with problems, and a test looming at the end of each year that stresses children to their breaking point while proving nothing other than that there's a market for test writers and scantron forms.
Until they've done these things, until they've shed their silver spoons and ideological turtle shells, Continetti can write apologetics all day long and it won't change a thing. They are an evil force in today's politics, feeding evil men with evil ambitions, and they should be called evil every single chance we get until they figure out how ignorant and out of touch they are. Which will be about the time hell freezes over and the cows come home, I'm sure.
Make no mistake. The Kochs are not the only billionaires who perpetrate this evil. Back in Clinton's day, it was Scaife and the Tobacco Puppets. They're all part of the same group, but the Kochs have chosen to put themselves at the front as the evangelists of the New Free Market Ayn Rand/John Birch Society. By that choice, they receive the bulk of my criticism, but no one is exempt. If you don't know how the other 99% lives, don't bother trying to tell us what's wrong with our thinking.
Now that I've ranted, one question lingers. How do we counter their message and their money before it's too late?