Part I – Looming disaster and how we got here
The Tea Party Movement is neither a movement nor has it anything to do with the traditions of freedom represented by the American Revolution. It is in fact, ironically, about the impulse of an uneducated and badly led society to permit the restriction of its own freedoms. It is about handing the reins of government to a tiny minority of hugely wealthy Americans.
The Tea Party Movement is a farcical, phony, billionaire-funded series of publicity stunts and anti-Middle Class parades. They are designed by corporate America to capture the imagination of hundreds of millions of largely ignorant citizens, prompting them to vote for their own personal biases and prejudices and superstitions.
The goal of these billionaires is to reduce the size of government by dramatically reducing social services. They do so by persuading the so-called Tea Party to create disruptions in society against the current Progressive legislative agenda. These are actions by a segment of the super-rich who fund organizations to prevent the increase or continuance of such things as affordable health, true security, job opportunities, wage increases, and the ability of children and grandchildren for an obtainable college education.
In the age of total media control by the Neoconservatives, the Tea Party Movement could help bring about a tragic end to representative Democracy, and the beginnings of a new era of oligarchy, thus ending 300 years of opportunity for upward mobility. This could end one of the greatest experiments and successes the world has ever seen, the great American Middle Class…unique among all the countries of the world.
We need a little history lesson to proceed. This sinister plan…and sinister is not to stringent an indictment…has a long record in this country. In fact, this elitist attitude has existed throughout our history. But this version began with Ronald Reagan.
The reason that Ronald Reagan is so vilified, or at least his policies, among Liberals is that he ended a set of progressive programs that were educating Americans, ending our great national wound, the treatment of African-Americans, and bringing about a much more egalitarian society. And in doing so, he set a pattern for future Conservatives that led them to a soulless, greedy, doctrinaire movement that is antithetical to our best and noblest motives.
Ronald Reagan began as a strong Democrat. So popular was he personally that he became head of the actors’ union. He faltered in the 1950s during the McCarthy era in the eyes of many, and at about that same time, he married Nancy Davis, daughter of Dr. Loyal Davis, a brilliant surgeon, but also one of the country’s great racists and an archconservative.
She persuaded Reagan to take a job on television with GE. Some say that she actually intervened through her father (actually her stepfather) with GE to get him that job as his acting career was waning. GE is to industry what Dr. Davis, surgeon of the year, was to medicine, a wonderful management organization—not necessarily racist—but definitely in the foremost arch-conservatives. Reagan would never have been given the job unless he expressed very conservative views.
Reagan was a complex man, moderately intelligent but immensely attractive, both personally and publicly. He decided or persuaded himself that the Democratic Party had now left him and left the principles of his old hero, FDR. (FDR was no hero to GE.)
He did so despite the fact that he had approved of and supported JFK and despite the fact that LBJ continued and expanded the New Deal with even more protection for the aged, the underprivileged and the often persecuted in society. Democrats were still Liberal.
So Reagan entered politics with the approval and support of GE, and became governor of California. He ran for and became President in 1980 by telling Americans, who were besieged at that time with inflation, as we now are with what is virtually a Depression, that he would restore America to its former greatness. We have seen that word “restore” a lot lately by similar, if considerably lesser, individuals.
He wisely took the advice of a truly brilliant and eminently practical economist by the name of Dr. Paul Volcker, to take strict measures to end inflation. Those measures caused a recession but brought down interest rates and inflation. Reagan, in his finest hour and the finest exhibition of the qualities that many of all political stripes saw in him, faced down the opposition and the country was saved from runaway inflation.
The recession passed. But Reagan did other things that have proved to be catastrophic. After his fortitude in facing down inflation, and sticking to his positions during the recession that followed, a huge segment of the population admired him and believed him. But he did two things in particular that were very damaging and which have created our currently very precarious situation.
He cut taxes by 50% and quadrupled the military budget, even though the military knew that the Russians were on their last legs. He said that his 50% cut in revenues would be restored through expanded economic activity, but it never was and huge budget deficits began to surface, year after year.
The tax cuts never did stimulate industry enough to come close to paying for them. Fifteen years after Reagan took office, the first President Bush’s CBO chief did a study that proved, quietly but publicly, that tax cuts stimulate the economy between 1.1% and 20% of the cost of the tax cuts themselves! The tax cuts did, however, make Reagan’s Republican millionaire and billionaire friends and his corporate associates incredibly rich. The country went into debt. When Reagan left office, the national debt was four times what it had been when he took office…four times what the country had spent since its beginning.
And it was a serious problem. The deficits continued to grow under George H.W. Bush, a little under Clinton, who put the budget back in balance, or close to it, and then it grew monumentally under Bush Junior. There is every evidence that the Bush-Cheney plan was simply an attempt to bankrupt American citizens. Even before the $2 trillion cost of the economic collapse (and it still goes on) they had spent $5.5 trillion more than was taken in! Then their mismanagement…or deliberate mismanagement kicked in and we had a near-Depression. Bush-Cheney encouraged deficit spending, not thrift.
They spent huge amounts on foreign wars, let Republican legislators loot the Treasury with huge deficits every year. Those funds went to spending in Republican districts in amounts never seen before. The money flowed so freely that some, like Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham didn’t know when to stop and went to jail.
So here we are today. The President is taking some action, but the Republican Congress is blocking jobs in every way possible, with 290 filibusters on various job bills. Their strategy is to make the ignorant among us believe that somehow, President Obama irresponsible for the 15 million workers who became unemployed at the rate of several hundred thousand a month before his stimulus actions kicked in.
The Tea Party groups are not grass roots organizations. Think of this for a minute: you’re an average citizen, which means you have next to no savings for retirement and far less equity in your home than you had two years ago. Someone tells you that they are going to take away Social Security and Medicare when you retire, which, if you are the average Tea Party participant, seems to be about 7 or 8 years from now at most. Are you going to stand up and shout Hooray? Very doubtful.
But if you are, let’s say, a clodhopper, a Helot, a largely uneducated hillbilly—from any state between Duluth and El Paso—you might join in. But why? Why would you join a self-defeating campaign to take you into potential destitution? Because the emotions of your antagonisms, your religious fanaticism or your racial attitudes are stronger than your common sense.
The reason you would participate is that those who are organizing the rallies and marches are funded by one very strong family of billionaires. And why would they do what they are doing? It is pretty simple at its roots: greed. It is about money. As difficult to believe as it is for the average American, there are people who have so much money it would take them the rest of their lives, spending $200 million a year, to exhaust all of it…and yet they continue to try to deprive average citizens of things like doctor’s visits.
The Koch brothers own Koch Industries, a multi-billion-dollar firm based on oil refining. They inherited it from their father Fred Koch, who was also one of the founders of the John Birch Society, the organization that looked for Communists under every bush. It was interesting that many of them turned out to be union members, others African-Americans and yet others Hollywood types who happened to be very Liberal and supported Fred Koch’s special political target…Jack Kennedy.
They also inherited their father’s intense prejudices. They gave multi-million dollar grants to found the Conservative lobbying and legislative research organization, the Cato Institute. They have given large amounts to other Right Wing lobbying “think tanks” like the Hudson Institute. But most relevant to us is that they founded the two organizations that created the Tea Party movement, if it can be called a movement.
In the mid-1980s the Koch brothers founded Citizens for a Sound Economy, an organization dedicated to the self-serving idea (for an oil company) that there were no such things as acid rain or global warming. They spent more money than EXXON in advocating the denial of both. Citizens for a Sound Economy eventually split into two organizations. The first was FreedomWorks and the second was Americans for Prosperity.
FreedomWorks is headed by former Congressman and one time, small-time Texas college instructor Dick Armey. FreedomWorks received $12 million in funding from the Koch brothers. It organized hundreds of disruptions around the country, the planning for which has been caught on videotape and is still available on YouTube. It bussed in thousands and thousands of the Tea Party members into Washington for the recent Glenn Beck pseudo-religious event.
The other spin-off from Citizens for a Sound Economy, the anti-environmental group, was Americans for Prosperity. This is the other supposed grass roots organization, which has been referred to in the media as an “Astroturf front group” because it pretends to be an organization that sprang up from the enthusiasm of the people but which, in fact, sprang from the pocketbooks of Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries.
Americans for Prosperity engages hard-Right Wing activists to accomplish its goals. It worked hard for the health insurance industry to try to disrupt congressional town hall meetings, hiring Nancy Pfotenhauer, the former head of Washington lobbying for the Koch people on oil and gas, ranching, chemicals, minerals and securities—all Koch interests—to attack the health care proposals as she did in defeating Hillary Clinton’s legislation a decade earlier.
Americans for Prosperity, which, by the way, also lobbies on behalf of tobacco interests, spun off a special group just to fight health care reform for the Health Care Industry. This group, Patients United Now, generated over 300 incidents at meetings where health care reform was being explained, spreading disinformation and deliberately creating chaos so that the reform measures could not be explained.
This was all deliberate; certainly not “grass roots.” The furthest thing from it. Many may remember that Glenn Beck, far from the religious prophet he has somehow become in only one year, founded on his television program, the 912 Project.
The 912 Project was begun by Glenn Beck on Fox “News” Channel and incorporated by him and promoted as a “grass roots” movement, even though he was beginning it and a national media organization was promoting it. It never was a grass roots movement, but a deliberate disinformation program.
It was at these Health Care Industry sponsored rallies against health care reform for the People that signs were seen depicting President Obama with a Hitler-mustache, and with signs calling him a Nazi or depicting him as an African witch doctor. This was a year ago, in the summer after a previous fall when the Bush Administration had caused an economic collapse and the loss of 7 million jobs!
At this point, in the Summer of 2009, the only thing that President Obama had done was to create a stimulus program…which Beck, Limbaugh and every Republican in Congress had tried to stop…to stop the huge multiple hundred-thousand per month job losses that Bush had left and were still going on!
Apparently Glenn Beck’s rally at the mall in Washington was very benign and friendly and carried many religious overtones. This is an encouraging sign. If we had one truly Christian media personality on the Right…love thy neighbor as thyself…caste down the money changers from the Temple…then we might be able to…start…to turn this thing around.
End of Part I – Part II – How the corporations, the media and Republicans are crushing the Middle Class.