Dividing America

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Scaife owned a newspaper, the “Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,” and entered the fray both as a principal funder of the magazine, the “The American Spectator,” which conducted a high powered several-year investigation of the Clintons. Later on, Scaife helped to found one of the original on-line news blogs, “Newsmax” which was funded heavily on the Right and developed a large enough Right Wing subscriber base to become self-sustaining. Like Breitbart and a few other heavily subsidized Right Wing on-line propaganda blogs,

  1. Newsmax has become a source for much of the misleading items that appear in other blogs on the Internet. Like Fox News, they have pretended to maintain their objectivity while spreading false “birther” information, while calling legal abortion physicians “baby killers” and while actively campaigning for people like Trump—at his rallies! These “fake news” organizations (a term which Trump uses ironically, knowing that 4 out of 10 Americans are largely illiterate) have developed the word   “Socialism” which almost no one understands into a semi-Anti-American word, even though most Americans live in a moderated form of Socialism, and large U.S. corporations live almost exclusively within a corporate welfare system.   

In the 1970s, when almost a third of jobs were union, workers had pensions, and the children of assembly line workers, even with only one paycheck could afford almost any state university, gathering conservative citizens to support the idea  that corporations need only be concerned for the welfare of stockholders (67% of which stock is held by the top 1% by the way) was not easy. The vast majority of Americans believed that Roosevelt’s New Deal had spread income around to more people, providing collective benefits. Workers could live on their incomes. And, before, corporate tax breaks for health insurance gave corporations control of your health care, doctors actually made house calls.  

Conservatives today would say that life has improved. Medicine has improved. Homes are bigger and more comfortable. More kids go to college. Blacks have more rights and better incomes than ever before. But life always improves. Slavery ended. We developed jet aircraft. We have open heart surgery and people can eat hamburgers and French fries and live longer thanks to medical science. But the door is closing on American society. Your chance of being killed by a stray bullet or a madman with an automatic weapon is infinitesimally greater. Your colleg kids’ indebtedness may last them into their mid-50s. If Republicans are re-elected, you could die on the doorstep of a hospital in full view of a great medical institution…depending on how many days ro months prior you had been laid off from your job.

So in the mid-1970s, along came  another enormously rich family, the Koch Family. They had already been spending large amounts of money on Libertarian causes.  The owners of the second-largest private corporation in the United States, with income in the tens of billions, David and Charles Koch began to spend in earnest.  By 1977, Charles and David Koch (who died in 2019)  had re-named and converted the Charles Koch Foundation into the Cato Institute. Extremely well-funded, the Cato Institute became the principal distributor of proselytizing information on smaller government and lower taxes, both of which suited billionaires just as well as Libertarians. All was not economic theory. Some was pure self-sustaining, hard-core politics.  

The Kochs started numerous Right Wing organizations in addition to the Cato Institute. They founded Americans for Prosperity, which was the principal opponent of the Affordable Care Act, traveling the country, holding hundreds of meetings, spreading lies about it. They reinforced the Republican Amendments that weakened it. They invented numerous lies, like the fact that there would be “death panels” incorporated into the system. The Kochs had contributed heavily to the founding of the Heritage Foundation, the Reason Institute, the Mercatus Center and the Manhattan Institute, all Right Wing organizations dedicated to breaking down government and putting more control in the hands of major figures in private industry and the financial sector. In addition to Americans for Prosperity, they also created another organization to attack Obamacare, (one was not enough) called FreedomWorks, and heavily supported Newt Gingrich’s organization that was all things “anti-healthcare” in the early 2000s.

Without question, the strongest and most penetrating effort of the Koch Brothers was their support of the American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) with paid offices in all 50 states. Long funded by corporate interests, this group of Right Wing corporations hired Republican legislators in each of the 50 states to create actual legislation against climate change, against unions, against better health care—against any legislation that might have been helpful or sometimes, essential, to the American people. ALEC creates suggested pro-corporate legislation—some legislation is introduced exactly as written by people like Comcast and AT&T and others—and then tries to get it passed. In return, as members of ALEC they are wined and dined twice a year at luxurious resorts, where they rub elbows with rich Republican campaign donors—a slick operation.

 ALEC had been around for over 20 years when the Koch Brothers became involved. But the Koch money machine got to work creating a supporting organization for these “on-the-take” state legislators. They then created the State Policy Network, with member groups like the Illinois Policy Institute, Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Policy Studies, and Arizona’s Goldwater Institute, all Koch-underwritten “think tanks” that would contact local and state media outlets with their own corporate slant on legislation. Other companies like Comcast, Facebook, Verizon and Time-Warner also chipped in, big-time, and many still do. If you pay twice as much for half the Internet speed you should get from Comcast, AT&T or Spectrum…that’s why.

What you basically have is a 50-state, semi-clandestine group of Republican state legislators (only 1 in the entire country when we last looked was Democratic) working for the Kochs and big corporations instead of those who elected them. Some corporations, like Coca-Cola and the Gates foundation and Microsoft, have backed away after bad publicity. But the whole system still exists. These people are still elected. And your water is polluted, energy costs higher, phone bills and Internet speeds slower and more costly—all because of this lobbyist based, pay-to-play system that the billionaires own.   

But that’s not the end of it, not by a long shot. Media backup—their own media—for the ALEC corporations and the Kochs and others is now in place in many, if not most states. It is called Center Square..It is funded, in the millions by the way, by Donors Trust, which is the new name designed to keep quiet the fact that it is the Koch Family Trust. These Internet newspapers are supporting Donald Trump in his anti-Covid promotions—no masks, no social distancing—all over the country. Center Square has supported all the press releases, for example, from the Republican controlled House and Senate and Supreme Court in Wisconsin that urged people to violate Governor Evers’ controls on the spread of Covid-19, encouraging them to come together in bars and restaurants, without masks. The Covid-19 cases skyrocketed and there is no telling how many people have died because of this kind of irresponsible, sinister attitude by Wisconsin Republicans.