So, here we have two brothers, raised in privilege by Frederick Koch, Sr., a man who was at first accepted, then apparently shunned by Joseph Stalin while living in Russia. Koch became an advocate of the Ludwig Von Mies and Hayek ultra-conservative schools of economics and the Joseph McCarthy brand of politics because they both suited his purpose. He was well educated as a chemical engineer, married well, and made hundreds of millions on the oil boom of the first half of the 20th Century.
By the time his sons, David and Charles, were heading into management of his company, it was already established and providing a huge bounty in oil production, pipe lines and other related ventures. Petroleum fueled the military, the expansion of cities into suburbs and the transportation of goods throughout the nation, the growth of the airline industry and international shipping. It was almost impossible not to grow and become exceptionally wealthy in oil and gas, which, once discovered, kept coming and coming and coming out of the ground.
For most Americans, our worst nightmare would not be some rabble rousing, charismatic White Supremacist creating civil unrest. We have laws and the kinds of controls on the military, the National Guard and state-wide law enforcement to put down that kind of rebellion quickly and permanently. What has happened, below the level of most people’s vision, is a real nightmare, one that may lead many Americans into poverty, lack of health care, loss of the right to vote and a society in turmoil where anyone may carry a gun, anywhere, anytime. We are talking about the purchase of elections to install greedy, corporate-obligated Senators, House members, Governors and state legislatures.
It has already happened in states like Wisconsin, the sinister purchase and election of greedy, corporate-obligated state legislators. With several million dollars and with an alliance of corporations, the Koch Brothers have greatly advanced their version of corporate Fascism. Let’s be clear. We are not merely calling people Nazis. We are stating a fact about a political movement. One political party, the Republican Party (although there are a handful, literally, of Democrats, too) have been purchased by an organization called ALEC, a group of billionaires and global corporations a 50-state invasive organization, dedicated to taking the focus of state legislators away from the people who elected them and giving their votes to corporations.
It is an alignment of corporations and authorities (in this case, the 31 Republican governors now under the influence of ALEC, the Koch brothers founded organization of large corporations) with majorities of Republican state legislatures. In all 50 states, the Koch Brothers have established at least one state representative. At this time, one out of every five state legislators works for the Koch Brothers, for Boeing, for Kraft Foods, for Pfizer Chemical, for EXXON and other global corporations.
Take Scott Walker for example, a former fledgling state legislator in Wisconsin until he discovered ALEC. The state of Wisconsin had long been Populist territory. Their governors, Senators and legislators had all been Progressive Democrats, Progressive Republicans or Moderate Republicans. The idea of simply banning unions from negotiating wages, or setting public unions against workers in the private sector would have disgusted most Wisconsin citizens in an earlier era. But in this age of Rush Limbaugh types, who are paid to insult women who feel it is fair to ask their employers to have health insurance cover contraception, the Right Wing had gained a foothold in Wisconsin. And why not? Why not sell out your fellow citizens, as Limbaugh does, lying about Clinton and Carter and Gore and anyone who wants to work on behalf of the average citizen, which would cost the wealthy more in taxes? Well, that is exactly what Scott Walker started to do in Wisconsin, and the teachers fought back.
They held a recall election. The people of Wisconsin, however, were persuaded to vote for Scott Walker. They were largely persuaded by television ads at which competition, Scott Walker defeated Tom Barrett, 30 to 4. In other words, $30 million to $4 million in funds bought 30 television commercials to Barrett’s 4. Seventeen billionaires (17) spent $30 million to give Walker 7 times more television commercials than the $4 million that Tom Barrett could use to buy commercials. Under our current system of media responsibility, the laughing stock of the world, you can lie and then lie about your lies, and then lie about the fact that you lied about your lies…and no one can stop you.
So Scott Walker won, lying about his record and about his intentions, again and again–$30 millon worth of lies. And now Wisconsin, instead of having a Populist governor, has a Fascist governor. His entire agenda is a reaction to what others do, claiming that they are doing what he is doing. For example, he claims that outside money from unions is what underpinned Tom Barrett’s campaign. Barrett raised $4 million. Obviously, none of the same people who gave $30 million to Walker were giving, or giving in remotely similar amounts, to Barrett, including unions. Why? Because billionaires have more money, and billionaires often use money to buy elections. Who are these fine people, these billionaires giving to Walker? Well, the Koch Brothers through their subsidiary affiliated groups, it goes without saying, are prime candidates. Walker figured out long ago that buttering the bread for Koch-sponsored ALEC and its network of corporations was the way for a college dropout (or college student expelled for cheating…it is still not clear) to get ahead.
There were others involved with Walker who were significant. Diane Hendricks, the billionaire aluminum siding saleswoman, gave over $500.000 to Walker’s campaign and asked for the small favor (which somehow got onto videotape…which should have been plenty to get him recalled) of turning Wisconsin into a Red State, like Alabama, Mississippi and Texas….with the Right-to-Work (for any wage the employer dictates) and with the lowest educational, health and employment….plus the lowest wage rates…among all the states. Walker agreed, on tape. Apparently that went over well with the rich Right Wing Republicans. His other backers want, men like Sheldon Adelson, the Casino king responded with ($250,000), Christy Walton, of the Walmart Waltons, ($50,000), Richard DeVos, of Amway ($250,000), Bernard Marcus, Home Depot ($50,000), Joseph Ricketts of the Chicago Cubs ($100,000) (Buy that season ticket to Wrigley. It will help put some union teacher back where she belongs, in poverty.) Patrick Ryan, the owner of AON Insurance, also of Chicago, gave $100,000 and not to be outdone by baseball, Robert McNair, the owner of the Houston Texans, (he really needs to focus on that shitty team) kicked in $25,000.
This is the way the Super-rich work. Being a deca-millionaire or a billionaire is a very social scene. Everyone wants to meet you when you’re a billionaire. So it isn’t difficult to find other greedy, racist, reactionary sociopaths with the money to join in an effort to rid the country of politicians who can’t be bought. The people involved in the Scott Walker escapade, used television commercials to lie about Walker’s record, to lie about his intentions, and to hide from the public what benefits these billionaires expect from their very large contributions. They expect an effort to disband unions and create a state in which the workers have to negotiate their job security individually, not as part of a group, where they will have more clout. What they want is to pay workers any damn thing they please and to keep them from organizing a collective group with the real power to negotiate. They expect to dispatch anyone immediately to the sidewalk who might dare to challenge them. This is what WalMart has done repeatedly and so is it any surprise that one of the Walton family gave a very large donation to Walker? The union “toughs” or “thugs” that Walker fought happened to be teachers who, in Wisconsin, make an average of $49,000 a year. These disgustingly rich teachers, thugs, make not as much as some of the amounts that were kicked into Walker’s campaign by the billionaires, but still they are clearly enormously affluent and should therefore, and are now required to subtract from that amount, not only taxes but an additional $4,000 per year into their health care plan. Of course you may remember that Senator Rand Paul, the Republican from Kentucky, said that Wisconsin teachers make an annual average income of $89,000, and then Fox News, so-called, never an organization to miss an opportunity to stick it to the Middle Class, repeated the error. So it may be little wonder with these supposedly ethical people around on television that the public in Wisconsin and elsewhere were confused about why the wealthy Wisconsin teachers were being so greedy.
Breaking unions is one of the key goals of the Right Wing Rich. If you keep the hoi polloi poor and disorganized you can virtually do anything with them that you wish. It is better than slavery. They work for less than the owner makes on them, and so the owner really doesn’t have to worry about feeding and clothing them. They are like serfs. They work for next to nothing, get no benefits and the federal government actually chips in to see that they get some minimal health care, food stamps and roads and streets good enough to get them to the factory or store. Strikes can be a problem, but until the owner of the business can get rid of the union completely, or until the state can prohibit the organizing of unions, threats of closing down a facility or a plant still works well to toss things into arbitration, where the workers always get less.
In considering these matters, remember that these days the owners of corporations have no morals. That is, when it comes to employees. You see, except for the Chinese capitalist who owns Ali Baba, who was raised under Communism, there is no corporate owner who considers either the customers or the employees first. In the United States it is always the stockholders. In most corporations in the United States, the majority of stockholders, the ones who own most of the stock and who elect the board of directors, comprise no more than 5% of all stockholders. Further, those people are the sons and daughters of the founders or the bank that bought them out. The idea that pension funds are the recipients of corporate bounty is simply not true. They are minority owners in any corporation, even the largest pension funds.
As you can see, the Koch Brothers have enormous influence. But what do they want in return for their money? It is right there in the open. Peter Roskam is a big recipient of Koch Brothers money. He hypocritically parades himself as the man of the people, but the people he serves all have 10-digit incomes. And what did he say, upon his re-election to the House of Representatives from the 6th District of Illinois? He says that the agenda will be three things. “Tax reform.” That means lowering corporate taxes. The Republicans will now enter legislation to lower corporate taxes while pretending to eliminate corporate tax breaks. It simply means a return to the higher deficits of the Bush era, which cost all of us $7 trillion…and that was before the crash of 2008. The second thing that Roskam says the House will do, is…regulatory reform. Too many regulations. That’s right. A blatant payoff to the Koch Brothers. Why not? They own him and they have since 2006.
The Koch Brothers are the largest polluters in the country. Larger than EXXON, GE, and larger, believe it or not, than BP Oil. We know that their negligence has killed people. They are the largest advocates of the wasteful, dangerous, dirty and valuable-only-to-them Keystone pipeline that could—based on their history, will likely—contaminate the water supply of the Western plains for decades to come, perhaps permanently. Roskam knows this. He’s a crook. Finally what was the third thing we heard from Roskam? (And by the way, from several others including Senator McConnell, the new majority leader….almost word for word.) It is an independent energy policy. More correctly framed, what he means (and what McConnell said more clearly) is a policy of energy independence. That means more drilling and fracking. North Dakota, for example, is a sign of the times. They will, if they can, scrape the top soil off every agrarian acre and leave it for the local citizens to clean up. (You and me. We are the local citizens…of the U.S.A., the group who will get the bill for the cleanup.) Unemployment is non-existent in North Dakota. Real estate values are sky high. People with companies in the oil business are getting rich on dirty oil. The oil boom from the Bakken is helping to fuel a recovery.
We’ve had this before. In Oklahoma boomed in the 1920s. Then it busted. It happened in Colorado. Then the gold went away. That left ghost towns, some of which still exist. Boom and bust. That is the Republican mantra. And now they want energy independence. That does not mean wind and solar, even though the big energy companies are using their riches to slowly take over that industry before anyone else can get in. The Republicans in Congress allowed Chinese solar panels to flood the country over the last several years, undercutting U.S. solar manufacturers and bankrupting many of them. Why would they do that? Well, when your chief financial supporters want coal and oil and not solar and wind….what does someone like Peter Roskam do? He’s a Quisling. He’s weak, a coward. He obviously gives in to his baser instincts—not that he has any other kind. The same is true for most of the other Republicans that he and John Boehner lead in the House. Energy independence, reduction of regulations, lower taxes on corporations—this should surprise no one. Everyone will get some kind of surprise, however, when the Republicans send legislation to cut Social Security. Because that is how you pay for lower taxes on corporations. Not with higher taxes on the Middle Class. You cut services to the Middle Class and the poor. The rich don’t need Social Security or Medicare.
And some say, how could the Kochs be bad guys when they give money to cancer research and to PBS? You must understand what it means to be super-rich. Let’s take the example of Fred Koch, the little known, older but poorer brother of the infamous Kochs. He opted out of business his entire life. He has been accused of being homosexual, if the word “accused” can be used any longer—it has about the same impact as being accused of writing left handed.
He went to Harvard to get a real education, then to Yale for even further fine tuning. He moved to Europe and he began to collect fine art. To say that he is a collector is like saying that Attila the Hun was a member of the military. How many people have a townhouse just off Fifth Avenue near the Metropolitan Museum in New York merely to house their collections? Eh? So Fred has given away a lot of money, too. He has donated to the Pierpont Mogran Library, the Frick Collection, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Harvard’s Houghton Library, and Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Mansucript Library. He completely restored the Swan Theater in Stratford-on-Avon, replicating it perfectly. (Shakespeare would be—and the Queen was—proud.) He bought Sutton Place palace in England, a former residence of Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn, restored it, filled it with rare antiques and period pieces and opened it to the public for 25 years, paying the tab himself. Undoubtedly, Koch has given much more to many other foundations and needy organizations. But if it were only these donations to fine art, it would be a substantial sum for a man whose income stabilized with a $330 million family settlement in the early 1980s. So giving away all this money to organizations might have depleted his fortune, one would think. Not quite. He appeared on the Forbes list of wealthy individuals this year with the tidy sum of $4 billion.
Yes, the rich are very different from you and me. They have more money—these days, one hell of a lot more. And money, as someone once said, makes money.
Should we worry about Fred Koch Jr’s fortune, whether it depletes or grows? Not really. Life goes on with or without Fred Koch. But it does demonstrate a point that should be made. Unless someone makes a concerted effort, commits a crime, spends or invests recklessly, the rich person grows richer. And more power to them. But how much is enough money?
There is no dearth of money, no great breakdown in family riches among the elite that should cause the kind of economic-terrorist attacks the Kochs are besetting upon the American people. The Kochs will not suddenly lose all their money. Take the Rockefellers for example, also a very wealthy family. Senator Jay Rockefeller’s real name is John Davison Rockefeller IV. In other words, he is the great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, who died in 1937, though he lived to be just shy of 100. Despite the fact that the Rockefeller estate was shared by five children and 15 grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren, and despite the fact that the family began to give away vast, huge amounts beginning in the period essentially after the First World War, Jay Rockefeller’s personal net worth….a man who was a Peace Corps volunteer, a government bureaucrat, a philanthropist, a worker on non-profit, service based organizations and a U.S. Senator…no high-income-producing occupations….just inheritance…even as only one of a multitude of great-grandchildren is worth approximately $101 million. Like Fred Koch, he is a man who has served the public, yes, but has done nothing else to create income, yet he is worth—as are all the other grandchildren we surmise—over 100 million dollars. He is exactly like Fred Koch, Jr., (although Koch never apparently did any social service work for anyone.)
Unless they give it all away, the rich, generally speaking, get richer. Would we prefer that Jay Rockefeller had inherited less money, done less, been less of a force for labor, for women, for health care and for strong but sensible national security? Of course not. On the other hand, would the Koch Brothers be just as happy and just as affluent if they were not trying to destroy minimum wages, unions, public education, clean water and fresh air, health care for the poor and trying at every turn to reduce their taxes and bankrupt Social Security, Medicare and the entire federal government? They are already worth 20 times what Jay Rockefeller is worth. So their great-grandchildren presumably already are worth what Jay Rockefeller is worth, and they are not even born yet. Perhaps in the Koch’s distorted view of the world they would not be as happy just sitting on 20 billion dollars apiece. But one thing is clear, the degradation of society to make themselves more affluent compared to the rest of us is not necessary if the facts about wealth are any guide.
The 2014 elections prove once and for all that, if left to unrestricted capital infusion, the political framework of the United States of America can be bought. It isn’t bought by telling people the truth, because what the people want is not what the elected Republican politicians are doing. They are doing the opposite. But ownership of the media by the rich allows them to install people like Joe Scarborough on otherwise Liberal MSNBC in the morning to tell half-truths to mitigate the knowledge of most people that the disguised groups buying commercials, in a $4 billion spending frenzy this year were primarily Right Wing organizations. How do we know? We don’t know yet from this year because it takes time to untangle the sponsors and organizers of these groups who like to hide their identities because of the destructive messages they are eventually seen to have spread among the public.
But here is one thing we can know for sure. These same groups in the year 2012, same people, spent $407 million from just 17 groups to not only try, but to succeed, in electing what we would call Neo-Fascist members of national and state governments. And this was followed closely on by Karl Rove’s hyper-Right Wing organization, called the Crossroads Group, which spent $325 million. Who were these people who funded the Right Wing’s $407 millon? They were primarily people whose money was aggregated by the Koch Brothers so that they could stay out of the spotlight. Money went into and was spent by Americans for Prosperity, the 60-plus Association (a Right-Wing, rich seniors group dedicated to doing away with Social Security), The American Energy Alliance, an oil, gas and coal lobbying group, The Futures Fund, defending “free market principles” from “attack,” Concerned Women for America, an anti-abortion, control women’s bodies, group, Concerned Veterans of America, a Right Wing group that says it is concerned about unemployment among veterans but whose elected officials in the GOP vote against money for veterans, Center for Shared Services, a particularly deviate and Fascist organization that finds jobs within selected Right Wing organizations for people who are either Right Wing or willing to sell their integrity for a job, Evangchr4Trust, an oddly named Right Wing Christian Fundamentalist religious-political organization, Generation Opportunity, an attempt to fool the twenty-somethings into voting against their best interests, The Libre Initiative Trust, aiming at knocking off the portion of the Hispanic market that isn’t…for some reason…aware of the overwhelming Republican anti-Hispanic policies, The Public Engagement Group Trust, basically a catchall, a Right Wing Washington D.C. group, anti-everything, used to locate any funds from lobbyists that aren’t already allocated, Public Notice, a Right Wing think tank which runs advertising and published pieces almost exclusively in favor of cutting government, reducing debt and eliminating social programs and Themis Trust, a Right Wing data processing and mining group that helps raise money for candidates and also raises money, which it contributes to the Republican campaign.
The Koch Brothers, it is clear, have decided to spend their money to create a society of “haves” and “have nots.” Those who go along, will obviously find jobs among that ever increasing group of believers that Jesus wants women to be mistake-free or die, that asking for better wages is forbidden, that roads, streets, bridges and tunnels, as well as the education of children, should be turned over to private enterprise, which itself run by the oligarchs who control elections and therefore public policy, will decide who gets what and when and at what cost. How are your chances of success and happiness in such a society? Well, many Germans were happy in Germany in the 1930s. Jews were murdered, as were Communists, Catholics, and eventually anyone who spoke out against the ruling elite. We picture the Nazis today as monsters. But were they really?
What it the difference between a Nazi judge who says that you no longer have the right to protest the fact that your job was given to a Nazi party member and a current day Bush-appointed judge who says that the right-to-work laws give your employer the right to toss you out on the street because another man comes ins and says he’ll work for a dollar an hour less? It was the law then and it is the new law now. The Nazis weren’t wrong. They were merely elected. They didn’t conquer Germany. They conquered Poland. They won a plurality of votes in 1933.
The public, just as in this recent election, said we are decent people but we want change. But they believed the German propaganda. It cost five million German lives out of a population the size of current day California. They were careless and selective in what they heard. Then, later, law enforcement did what our law enforcement is already doing–bringing men with guns and boots and tanks to disperse people who might protest. Because only the people, all the people together, can stop it by simply saying, we will do nothing until we get what we want—and that is not war or that is not economic oppression. Even then the propaganda will continue to say that the Fascist are the ones oppressed and the oppressed who revolt are the Fascists.
This current government, the winners in 2014, will be a majority of Tea Party/ALEC/Right Wing/politicians beholden to the 17 groups and others who funded their elections, and still more who are completely hidden from the public. Their job is to establish laws saying that employers can pay whatever they want—it’s called “right-to-work.” You are not allowed to organize, practically speaking, because you can be fired “at will.” In other words, you can be fired for any reason, union organizing being only one. So if you are willing to work for nothing, you might be able to find a job the same day.
None of it is difficult to understand. Under Fascism, if a large and organized group of wealthy people, corporations, and, if possible, the military and the principal churches decide to create a government of only one political party, they simply find a way to take control of the media. Then they set the message, telling people repeatedly, for example, that taxes are too high on the wealthy and that corporations, to exist, must have most of their jobs overseas, that government services are really only for the lazy and that retirement security is mainly for those who have wasted their money while earning it. By the time they are through, a large number of the really stupid and venal—or beholden–will agree with them, another large number of busy people will not be certain, and only a minority, although a very large minority, will know the truth. Those that remain can be controlled by enhanced law enforcement, and laws about assembling or holding meetings on street corners or secret meetings. But they will anticipate a lot of protests, so they will build a lot of prisons. And today many of those prisons will be private prisons, so that once you are in prison, a ward of the state, whatever happens to you is not done by the state, but by a private company. There is a big difference. After all, private prisons make money the same way a hotel or a retirement community does. So many occupants, per day. The more occupants the more they make. It is America’s unique little capitalist twist on totalitarianism.
Of course none of this happens immediately. Nor does it happen totally, except in the most severe cases, like a southern governor being framed, thrown out of office and imprisoned for seven years on the say-so of a convicted criminal looking for a better deal. Take heart. We still have a Democratic President, a large number of honest and courageous men in both the House and the Senate and in something like 20 of the 50 states. The anti-Middle Class laws are being enacted for the oil and coal and natural gas and insurance and military businesses in those 30 states, depriving people of the vote, persuading the hicks that somehow voting against all the services that they now receive will give them, perhaps they think, the moral courage to starve and die of disease without health care.
Sooner or later, conservative becomes Right Wing and Right Wing becomes Fascist and Fascist becomes lethal. Why? Because unless someone changes momentum, it continues to go in the same direction.
I think it is good to remember what we now know. In the early days of the Bush Administration, a wailing, conspiracy-bound group of national security analysts became authorities over night. You see, the White House ignored their “hair on fire” warnings that terrorists were about to make attacks somehow involving the hijacking of airliners within the U.S. Today, some of us are saying with similar intensity that the signs of a Fascist takeover are already here. The fact that the overwhelming number of Americans have one objective but politicians are being elected who will do exactly the opposite should be a fire bell in the night. Americans must now wake up. Save for the President, elected by all the people, Congress and 30 state legislators were just taken over by Right Wing politicians beholden to very rich people, who do not see you as human beings but as numbers on a chart. Billionaires have finally bought our government. You should be terrified or at the least afraid. And a little bit anxious is what you should have been after the 2010 election. It is happening.
Be prepared to do more than sit idly and comment on Facebook. The Barbarians are already within the gates. They already occupy the guard towers and they are firing down on us, the occupants inside the walls. We will be the outsiders, unless we organize and begin to act, starting today.