Tag Archives: Koch Brothers

What Hath Business Wrought?

Or perhaps more precisely, what hath the Business Elite of the US wrought, specifically in the melt-down, (or is that conflagration?) of its political arm, the Republican Party, a.k.a the party of Business?

It is too early to write the obituary of the Republican Party. Remember, that has been done before; after the flame-out of Barry Goldwater, and the humiliation of Richard Nixon’s demise.  But what the Business Elite has unleashed through its political arm is more devastating to our national well-being than the collapse of a political party which can and likely will regenerate in a variety of ways.

It was supposed to be so simple.  After three decades of whittling away at government at all levels through various manipulations of elective and lobbying processes, covered by the benign visage of Ronald Reagan and Bush the Elder, and finding that economic power alone was not sufficient to complete the task, the Business Elite decided to go to asymmetric guerrilla warfare.  Agents such as Dick Armey and Karl Rove incubated and unleashed what became the corporate arm of the Tea Party.

It was supposed to BE the Tea Party, except, as with the Stuxnet  computer virus, it metastasized beyond intent…and control.  It sought to rouse the deepening dissatisfaction and cynicism of the white middle class and vector it like an explosive shaped charge against The Government. The anger that was building over a system that was failing the Tea Partiers on all fronts was supposed to deliver the final ‘democratic’ blow to ‘take back the government’ by destroying the government.

Kind of reminds one of that famous line delivered by a military officer in the aftermath of the Tet offensive: “We had to destroy the city in order to save it”.  It is worth noting that that did not work either.  Nor will the act of destroying our governments at all levels and denuding our Constitution of its spirit and intent by straight-jacketing it with brittle meaning of a bygone era that doesn’t comport with today’s reality. (May Justice Scalia rest in peace, and the rest of us with his passing.)

But, back to Business. There is a double ruse at work here.  The Republican Party has mastered the meme of ‘perp as victim’, pretending to defend the Constitution against the ghost of the Warren court, while systematically disemboweling the very notion of a democratic society, aided and abetted by the Roberts court which, despite the best efforts of its liberal wing, has exceeded the alleged abuses of the Warren Court  in its interpretive manipulation of the spirit of that document.

It takes more than a flag lapel pin to be a patriot.  Eroding voter rights while championing Citizens United and Corporate participation are among the gems of their deceit.  Their rejoinder that Citizens United merely puts business influence on a level playing field with union influence ignores the success of the Business Elite in bludgeoning the union movement into irrelevance.  (In fairness, it must be noted that the union movement has done itself no favors in convincingly arguing its relevance, which should be self-evident in the asymmetrical warfare perpetrated by the Business Elite against workers at all levels of the food chain, but that’s a subject for another time.)

And so the Repugnantlan Party finds itself with a choice:

‘Do we play by the rules (a novel concept, don’t you think?) and let the ‘democratic’ primary process choose the nominee; or

do we trump Trump in the convention and engineer the coronation of a ‘true’ conservative;

or do we ditch this rusting hulk of a party and run a third-party candidate who is a true ‘conservative’.’

Note that in any case we’re talking about the vestiges of a party that is defined only in terms of which brand of ‘take-no-prisoners, no-compromise, Christian caliphate’ flavor of conservatism that The Force might choose.  It’s Trump (wing-nut conservatism); Cruz (Christian Caliphate Conservatism-Dark), Kasich (Christian Caliphate Conservatism Light with a smily face), or god only knows whom else can be dredged up.  The Huckster? Jeb, the Repugnantlan equivalent to Hillary’s political ineptitude and entitlement?  Marco, the flame-out hope of the Establishment that couldn’t sell the electorate on youthful Kennedyesque charm alone? (fill in the blank).

And who is the Force?  It is the widely reported groups of ‘Big Donors’ who have been meeting this past week to determine the Repugnantlan Party’s fate. And who are The Big Donors?  Well, they ain’t Joe and Jane Six-Pack of Union Local 13.  Safe bet?

They are the Adelsons, and the Koch Brothers  and Big Oil, and Big Hedge Funds, and Big Banks and other Big Corpocracies through various intermediaries to conceal their identity from the Little People where disclosure might be bad for the ‘Business Model’.

In one sense,  nothing has changed.  As in Watergate, Deep Throat’s advice still holds: ‘Follow the money‘.  But today, the stakes are so much greater; and the mechanisms so much more blatant; and the arrogance, insufferable, as evidenced in Trump who merely distinguishes himself from the rest of the Republican clown circus in his galactic audacity (because Earth alone could not possibly contain his ego).

The Business Elite have, as a group, succeeded in corrupting both parties so as to appear ‘impartial’ and politically neutral.  But the flow of money, to the extent that it can be determined, tells the truth.   It would be both unfair and myopic to suggest that the Democratic Party is less corrupt.  It is less dangerous merely because it is less organized and focused in its intent.  Democrats in Congress seem more concerned with saving their own individual hides than with submitting to a party discipline.  This is as much the cause of Obama’s troubles, post-2010, as is the treasonous Mitch McConnell and his minions in the opposition party.

But, perhaps this rant is missing the fundamental point.  What’s really bad in all of this?  Isn’t what’s good for business good for America?  Don’t our job creators know what’s best?  Aren’t we safer than we’ve ever been, thanks to the very same Military Industrial Complex that Eisenhower warned us about?  Don’t we have the best health care that money can buy in the world, thanks to the Medical Industrial Complex?  Don’t we have the safest food in the world thanks to the Agricultural-Industrial Complex that also gives hope to so many undocumented workers? Aren’t our pensions and other investments secure in the best free market system known to mankind? And wouldn’t all of this be so much better if business were just taxed and regulated less so that it could invest more in turning West Virginia coal miners into high-tech coders (which it would surely want to do because full employment makes for more robust consumer markets for cheap Chinese stuff sold at everyday high prices and lowest possible cost and quality (because quality is unnecessary cost))?

And besides, who’s really complaining about the role of business, besides some spoiled little brats who are too incompetent to find a good job and don’t want to pay off their college loans accumulated while taking gender studies and lit classes?   Most people are happy.  They’ve got the newest technology.  They can  watch Hunger Games and Game of Thrones on a big screen at home or in their car, or on a mobile device.

Access to Hunger Games and Game of Thrones and House of Cards on mobile devices is particularly useful in the migration from foreclosed McMansion to homeless shelters.  It maintains continuity of distraction from the real hunger games and games of thrones and house of cards going on around us as our infrastructure crumbles, our rule of law crumbles, our way of life crumbles, our civic institutions and sense of shared destiny crumble, our self-esteem disintegrates.

I suspect that at some point, Tea Partiers and Occupiers will converge by necessity if not by desire, in homeless shelters and other venues of need.  Circumstances will force them to look at each other as people, and not caricatures of The Opposition.  They will discover that they have more in common than they ever imagined; that is, they’ve both been screwed by the same forces.  And when The Government has been reduced to a point of institutional incompetence and impotence as to be rendered irrelevant and no longer a plausible ‘enemy of the people’, they will begin to ask the questions that should have been asked thirty years earlier: Who is the real enemy of the people? And why?

And when they begin to ask those questions, the Business Elite will learn belatedly that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were the least of their concerns.  It will be a bad day for Business. It will reap what it has sewn.

*     *     *

There will be voices in the business community who will object to this rant and protest that its observations are not reflective of all people in ‘business’.  That is of course true.  No generalization is ever universally applicable.

But it is also true as in many movements that an assertive minority that presumes to speak for the majority, in effect speaks for all in the majority’s silence (remember Nixon’s Great Silent Majority?) .  In a majority’s silence, the majority has made a decision, be it subliminal or conscious; be it for agreement or fear of consequences or apathy.

If the Business Majority chooses to remain silent to the actions of the Business Elite for whatever reasons, it is an endorsement.  If significant members of the business community or the Republican party are troubled by the course of their institutions toward regressive and repressive government in  the perverted guise of ‘conservatism’, and choose not to speak and act in opposition, then they are accomplices to the consequences.

Or to borrow a line from the Sixties protests, ‘if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem’.

Onward.

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Where’s the SWAT Team when you need it?

The current standoff on the debt ceiling and continuing resolution defies comprehension.

Let me see if I understand this with the available information.

A Tea Party minority of Republicans within the Republican majority of the House, a.k.a. Al Qaeda in the Republican Party,  is holding the Republican majority hostage to voting on a clean CR, and presumably the debt ceiling increase.  Among the hostages is House Speaker John Boehner. Presumably, not all of the 180 or so Republicans are as crazy as the 40 or so Tea Partiers in their midst.  Mr. Boehner? Not so sure. Maybe it’s the UV radiation poisoning.

Mr. Boehner refuses to bring a clean CR forward for an up-or-down vote, the same kind of vote he has demanded of the Senate in other circumstances . He appears to be the primary obstacle at the moment to a vote that could resolve the issue.

Two things strike me about this situation:

1)  The non-Tea Party majority within the Republican Party is clearly more afraid of the malignancy in their core than they are of their so-called competing party, the Democrats.

2)  The reason for Item 1) is that the Democrats are as incompetent in opposition today as they were leading up to the 2010 elections, when they remained hung-over from the glory of the 2008 election victory, and assumed that Obama would be the designated driver to chauffeur them to the Promised Land while they partied on.

It is a dubious accomplishment of the Tea Party that its modest numbers within the Congress has terrorized, yes, terrorized the Republican majority as much as it has.  No doubt this is because of the prospect that they impose on the majority Republicans that they too will be replaced by other Klingon warriors of the Rabid Right in the next election.  And of course, these American Flag wearing self-proclaimed patriots of the Republican majority who support our troops do not themselves have the testicular fortitude to put their principles on the line, and their country before party, and their constituents before their own personal fortunes.  Their conduct does disservice to the old and honorable profession of prostitution, a label they frequently share, but without the same level of dignity as its true practitioners.

Then there are the Democrats.  If they were a true party that shared more than a party symbol and letterhead, they would make their colleagues on the other side of the aisle fear them more than the Crazies.  But that is apparently not the case.  They probably see it beneath their dignity to be as crazy as the Crazies.  But they don’t have to be.  They simply have to use philosophical judo; use their opponents’ force against them, by clearly communicating to their constituency the idiocy of so many of the Republican Party’s positions and tactics, and the consequences of that idiocy to their constituents.  How many of these so-called leaders actually have the capacity to communicate effectively with their constituents beyond the usual vacuous campaign drivel?

But that assumes that the electorate in some critical mass of Democrats, independents and Republicans, is open to information and reason, and capable of distinguishing information from disinformation before applying reason.  I suspect that many congressmen of both houses seriously doubt the existence of such a critical mass, or would know how to communicate with it effectively if it existed.  Pontification is not communication. And part of that doubt must come from the appearance, if not reality, that there are as many Crazies in the electorate ready to pounce on them as on The Hill.  But I suspect that is more an appearance than a reality.  Let me correct that: I pray that it is more appearance than reality. Don’t know.

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Nine months ago, I posted a blog entitled: “Does Business Still Own the Republican Party?” Businessweek recently answered that question.  A relatively small group of the economic elite have unleashed a political virus in the Tea Party as an illusory populist expression of the desire for small government and ‘freedom’. What is really being attacked in Big Government is those institutions that are perceived as constraining the rightful entrepreneurial freedoms of the economic elite. But the Tea Party has mutated from its intended focus. Like the cyber-virus Stuxnet, it has gotten out of the cage, and beyond the grasp of the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey, and now threatens to do a whole hunk of damage in its own delusional exercise of Take-No-Prisoners reform.

Now ‘Business’ is beginning to get concerned. Those risk-taking, strategizing Masters of the Universe have finally figured out that this all could go very badly. What to do? What would McKinsey do?

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Since my billing rate is much, much lower than McKinsey’s, I’ll offer a crazy thought with my usual money back guarantee if not completely satisfied within 30 days.

If Boehner is the obstacle for bringing the clean bill to a vote, the House Democrats should call for a new vote for the speakership if Mr. Boehner does not immediately allow a clean CR to come forward. Given that they are the minority, that would seemingly go nowhere, unless they hold the feet of the 180 non-Tea Party Republicans to the fire, and force them to own the current speaker for their next congressional election (which, incidentally is just a year away),  or ditch him so we can get on with the Country’s business.  This could do one of two things in the immediate term: it could clarify Boehner’ personal calculus of relative risk, or it could force enough moderate Republicans to re-define their individual self-interest and let the Speaker go on his kamikaze joy ride on his own.

*  *  *

This may neutralize the Tea Party for the moment, but does not irradiate its cancer from the body.

We’ve heard a lot about bullying in recent years. It is generally recognized that bullying tolerated is bullying encouraged.  We as a nation have tolerated the bullying of the Tea Party and its assorted variations of idiocy and paranoia for too long.  Too many citizens, too many business leaders, too many politicians have tolerated or trembled at its antics. It is time to confront the bullies before they gain more power and destroy what they claim to want to reform. That less than 10% of the Congress can paralyze the entire body and government processes beyond its chambers is utterly insane.  But the greater insanity is that the broader public remains largely silent.  We may not be able to reach the ten percent, but we should be able to send a clear message to the other 90% to take control, or begin scouting for a lobbying position in their next life.

Occupy Wall Street, and Occupy Everything Else did far less damage to the public good, and was treated far more harshly by the authorities, than the thugs mugging Congress, and by extension the rest of us. No SWAT Team is going to remove these gang-bangers from the Hill. It is up to you and me.

We look at Egypt and Syria as distant places and distant realities.  But as we stand on the precipice of October 17 and look into the abyss, we might consider that the only thing that separates us from Egypt and Syria…is time.

Onward

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