Koch Brothers Agenda: Turning Americans Against Americans
UPDATE: FEBRUARY 28, 2011: The Washington Post caught up with my views today with their headline: Ohio, Wisconsin shine spotlight on new union battle: Government workers vs. taxpayers — click here to read their take on this sad and maddening situation.
UPDATE: FEBRUARY 25, 2011:
The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside. For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.
And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”
What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”
UPDATE: FEBRUARY 23, 2011:
Scott Walker Gets Punked By Journalist Pretending To Be David Koch.
SEE OUR SPECIAL POST TODAY ON THIS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE MOMENT FOR AMERICAN POLITICS!
We are going to bring fiscal sanity back to this great nation.
– Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity
What we are witnessing in Wisconsin and Ohio is a classic divide and conquer strategy by very powerful wealthy interests who wish to destroy our country’s unions and advance corporatism. These interests have convinced certain groups of people that public employees created the severe fiscal problems underlying many states budgets and that those workers should not only receive reduced pay and pay more into their pension retirement fund, but also lose their collective bargaining rights in the process.
What is the bill in question?
Wisconsin SB 11: state finances, collective bargaining for public employees, compensation and fringe benefits of public employees, the state civil service system, the Medical Assistance program, sale of certain facilities, granting bonding authority, and making an appropriation.
Who is backing these efforts?
The largest stakeholders bankrolling Gov.Walker and TEA PARTYISTs are the billionaire Koch brothers: David and Charles Koch
State records also show that Koch Industries, their energy and consumer products conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., was one of the biggest contributors to the election campaign of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican who has championed the proposed cuts.
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with Walker receiving campaign funds from the Kochs. What is highly suspect, is that influence peddling seems to be involved. Gov. Walker is advancing the Koch agenda. What is it they want? To bust the unions and strip workers of their rights to collectively bargain for decent wages and benefits which would allow them to pay their workers less in their conglomerate of businesses. The Kochs are the third wealthiest family in the country who have been advancing not only a personal corporate agenda, but a politically conservative one as well. They have all but reinvented the John Birch Society, which their father helped co-found, under the guise of the Tea Party.
“The Koch brothers are the poster children of the effort by multinational corporate America to try to redefine the rights and values of American citizens,” said Representative Gwen Moore, Democrat of Wisconsin, who joined with others in the union protests.
Who are Americans for Prosperity?
They are a powerful Koch supported lobbying group. Click here for more.
Mr. Phillips did not mention was that his Virginia-based nonprofit group, whose budget surged to $40 million in 2010 from $7 million three years ago, was created and financed in part by the secretive billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch.
What are the Koch brothers goals?
“If not us, who? If not now, when?” said the letter, which invited other conservatives to a retreat in January in Rancho Mirage, Calif. “It is up to us to combat what is now the greatest assault on American freedom and prosperity in our lifetimes.”
Campaign finance records in Washington show that donations by Koch Industries and its employees climbed to a total of $2 million in the last election cycle, twice as much as a decade ago, with 92 percent of that money going to Republicans. Donations in state government races — like in Wisconsin — have also surged in recent years, records show.
Financial Collapse Real Reason for State’s Budget Problems
The real assault is actually the effects of the 2008 financial collapse driven by massive fraud in Wall Street investment banking, global trading of risky mortgage backed securities (sub-prime mortgages), credit default swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. Many states tied their pension funds to the financial markets and when the collapse occurred, they like many Americans, lost upwards to 40% of their value. So, with depleted funds public employees were targeted to offset the losses. They were victims of the financial collapse, not because they were the perpetrators and their union pay was exorbitant or benefits too generous. To compound the problem, Wisconsin, as many states, borrowed pension fund monies to run fill gaps in their state budget! With mass unemployment, the tax revenue stream to the state coffers, as with many states, has been dramatically reduced further exasperating the problem. The reported unemployment rate as of December 2010 was hovering at 7 percent.
Americans for Prosperity Ruse
So, in rushes the Koch brothers to take advantage of the situation, promote lies about how state budgets were upended by public employees, and then sit back and watch while Americans turn against other Americans. Do you see how this works? This is classic manipulation. The stakes are very high here.
By creating lobbying groups and marketing them as grass roots organization, the Kochs appear to be supporting “people’s rights” but in fact, are doing the opposite, they are attempting to strip people of their rights to collectively bargain with large corporations (collective by definition).
“This is a dangerous moment in America history,” Bob Edgar, a former House Democrat said. “It is not that these folks don’t have a right to participate in politics. But they are moving democracy into the control of more wealthy corporate hands.”
And we find Americans for Prosperity are against things that actually would support Americans prosperity like healthcare, fair taxes, and financial regulation that would rein in the banks and credit card companies.
The grass-roots-activists wing of the organization today has chapters in 32 states, including Wisconsin, and an e-mail list of 1.6 million supporters, said Mary Ellen Burke, a spokeswoman. She would not say how much of last year’s $40 million budget came from the Koch family, but nationwide donations have come in from 70,000 members, she said, offering it as proof that it has wide support.
The organization has taken up a range of topics, including combating the health care law, environmental regulations and spending by state and federal governments. The effort to impose limits on public labor unions has been a particular focus in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all states with Republican governors, Mr. Phillips said, adding that he expects new proposals to emerge soon in some of those states to limit union power.
It would behoove my readers to spread the word about the Koch brothers and what corporatism and oligarchy means for our democracy. Make no mistake, American democracy is under siege. It is democracy, not corporatism, or capitalism, or oligarchy that protects our freedom and our rights. The right to self-determination through making a decent living, free from the oppression of wealthy interests is fundamental to American democracy. It was a founding principal of our nation and one we must fight to protect from those who would usurp our rights.