Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Koch brothers buying U.S. government?

By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, August 10, 2011
With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. The company has grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge. The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.
In a statement, Koch Industries said that the Greenpeace report “distorts the environmental record of our companies.” And David Koch, in a recent, admiring article about him in New York, protested that the “radical press” had turned his family into “whipping boys,” and had exaggerated its influence on American politics. But Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said, “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”
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Little wonder that some of the comments following Tom Ashbrook's On Point yesterday morning (February 8, 2011) include observations like:
American is nothing more or less than a bannana republic, now that our political leaders are being bought and sold....
While listening to the On Point discussion, I could not help wondering when the U.S. would/might/could wake up to the reality that their own Supreme Court (remember those right-wing appointees Roberts and Alito) had unleashed the monster of free-flowing money into the future of elections in the U.S.
There is a right-wing rejection of anything smelling of government financed  and capped election spending, reducing, if not eliminating the potential of individuals like the Koch brothers from literally buying the American government.
They have already contributed millions to the election of a majority of the current members of the House Energy Committee in a blatant and unapologetic assault on the Environmental Protection Agency. It could be decades, if ever, before the U.S. signs on to any move designed to reduce global warming and climate change. Once these oil barons are finished demolishing the EPA, you can be sure that Roe v Wade is not far behind, in their political sights.
And then, the tax cuts for the rich will be made permanent, and any restrictions on off-shore drilling will become museum pieces to a dead era of social arousal immediately following the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last summer. (You probably think I'm catastrophizing...well just wait!)
Listed by Forbes magazine as fifth wealthiest of U.S. citizens and corporations and, at a time when the U.S. government owes some $X trillion to the Chinese government, it is not hard to envison the U.S. government going to the Koch brothers for bail-out bridge financing, especially with the Tea Party and increased numbers of Republicans and Libertarians in Congress who have been and will be elected, using "Kochcash" as a large portion of their campaign financing.
It is also not surprising, given this overt assault on the policies and philosophy of the Obama administration, that Obama has dispatched both Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod from the White House to start work on the 2012 campaign. They will have to raise at least $1billion to wage a campaign able to compete with the financial heft of the Koch's who will be pouring cash into the election of the Republican candidate's campaign. They could, if they chose, probably moungutt their own candidate, as a third party option, in 2011, if they were not convinced the Republican did not conform sufficiently to their views, in other words was not far enough "right", conservative and libertarian.
They will help fund all attempts to dismantle the Health Reform Act passed just last year. They will seek to strip all entitlement programs of long-term funding, and they will, if successful, pave the way for the meanest government in U.S. history.
Can Obama and the Democrats radiate this tumour? Time will tell. They could start by developing a fool-proof, iron-clad case and method for campaign financing from public coffers. That in itself, would be a substantial move in the right direction.

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