For your consideration: Anyone who remembers 8th grade US History might recall the progressive journalist Ida Tarbell as among the first and most influential of the “muckrakers.” What you might not recall, however—what your teacher might have neglected to impart—is that the chief offender for whose shame Tarbell diligently raked muck had come close to—but decided against—buying out her father’s struggling oil company.
All Koch’d Up – “Prosperity”
The Great Gatsby and the efforts of Charles and David Koch to libertarian-ize America present eerily similar pictures of what we all know as “The American Dream.” My favorite thing about the Tea Party, if I have to pick one, is that its hosts like to play Jay Gatsby. They would stay always in panoptical confinement relative to the fruits of their funds if they could, but alas—print media! In August 23rd’s New Yorker Jane Mayer profiled Charles and David Koch and revealed, seemingly to the brothers’ bitter disappointment, that they essentially funded the Tea Party movement by way of Americans For Prosperity (AFP). AFP is an epic political action committee (PAC), one of the largest in Washington, and is largely funded by Koch Industries—a giant private energy (oil) company based in Wichita—and by the out-lying Koch Foundations.
These bros, known in Washington as “the Kochtopus,” have had their tentacles in everything for decades. Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist and historian (who once worked at a Dallas-based think tank that the Kochs fund) told The New Yorker, regarding the Tea Party movement, that the Kochs are “Trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.” For what it’s worth, they have personally denied any involvement in the Tea Party movement. In response to The New Yorker article, Koch Industries immediately published “Koch Facts,” which outlined the alleged truth about Koch Industries’ and Koch Foundations’ philosophy and initiatives.
Charles and David Koch want—as their political “philanthropy” choices suggest—most of all to reshape American politics in accordance with their far right ideals. According to Jane Mayer’s article in The New Yorker, their political values were drilled into them first by their father. Later, these values were fine-tuned by exposure to Robert LeFevre’s radical libertarian philosophy. Since their mainstream political failure in 1980, when David Koch ran on the Libertarian ticket with Ed Clark (opposing Reagan from the right), they have used their personal wealth to actively accrue underground political influence wherever possible. Self-interest, possible “daddy” issues, power-madness and deep-seated misconceptions, which allow them to mistake money for freedom, help explain the last few decades’ Koch initiatives. Nothing, however, excuses them.
For one thing, oil—Koch Industries’ next favorite thing after “anarcho-totalitarianism” (William F. Buckley’s name for Ed Clark’s far, far right brand of libertarianism)—is bad news, as are AFP initiatives to “rein in” the EPA. It’s no surprise that the Cato Institute, the first Libertarian think tank in America—initially funded by the Kochs and friends in 1977—has for years now succeeded in curtailing Americans’ belief in global warming. Cato—like Koch Industries—puts commerce before climate change, and the Institute has funded dozens of studies that dispute global warming. It even took out a full-page anti-global warming ad in the New York Times in 2008, and has fought the Clean Air Act tooth and nail. And now that the Kochs, through the AFP, principally fund the House Energy and Commerce Committee, committee members intend to reverse restrictions on greenhouse gases and actively fight the Clean Air Act, according to a recent LA Times article.
The Kochs’ Gastby-esque behaviors persist, considering the Kochs’ subtly lawbreaking, tax-evasive and generally slippery power-gaining tactics. And hey: let’s say the American people are Daisy Buchanan; any given incumbent administration is Tom; the Kochs’ dream of an anarcho-totalitarian, populist America is Gatsby, and what’s this? Gatsby’s finally got some game? The Tea Party movement is his party mansion on West Egg. Be wary, Daisy. Be wise: stay hip to their tricks, if you can!
Balm for the Hopeful Soul – “Progress”
Republicans fear and often craft their own elaborate conspiracy theories about Hungarian-born moneyman and philanthropist George Soros’ “secret plots” to take over the nation. There’s no denying that George Soros is pretty scary: he’s basically a philanthropic version of Gordon Gekko. He is—thank God—also on our side.
Soros’ philanthropy, unlike the Kochs’, has never been much of a secret. In 2010, a record low year for charitable giving, he capped Slate’s Top Sixty Donors list as the number one philanthropist of the year, having given $332 million to his own Open Society Foundations, which fund democratic initiatives in the United States and more than 70 countries across the globe. A little more covertly, Soros provided the seed funds for the Center for American Progress (CAP), another large-scale PAC, whose latest and most effective initiatives include the renowned global warming blog ClimateProgress.org and the progressive site MoveOn.org.
Soros broke the British pound and predicted the ’08 bubble-burst, but perhaps the scariest thing about him, for people like Glenn Beck, is that he’s foreign. The actual unlikelihood of Soros’ trying to do in America what he did in revolutionary Yugoslavia is not so obvious to everyone. George Soros is the last guy right wing conspiracy theorists want playing the little man behind the curtain and overturning our government because (who knows?) he just might be able to pull it off, and there’s no guarantee we could stop him if he tried—unless we sic the Koch brothers on him.