Guest editorial by Ernest A. Canning
"This is not a budget issue," the policeman speaking to the cheering protesters jammed inside of the capital rotunda in Madison, WI, shouted this weekend, "This is a civil rights issue!"
"Mr. Walker, if you are listening to me, let me tell you something," he continued through the bullhorn as the crowd rallied, "We know pretty well now who you work for. Let me tell you who we work for. We work for all of these people!"
"We're not here, Mr. Walker, to do your bidding. We're here to do their bidding!" he told the crowd in a remarkable video-taped moment posted by RAW STORY on Sunday.
While a wide swath of Wisconsin society, entailing not only both public and private union members, but students, doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers (like the one mentioned above), and fire fighters have swarmed the streets and public buildings of Madison as part of a mass movement rivaling those we've recently seen on the streets of Cairo, there is one sector of our society who should be especially angry with the Wisconsin branch of Corporate America's wholly-owned, public subsidiary, GOP, Inc.
It is the uninformed and misinformed working class stiffs, aka "Tea Partiers," who should be most disturbed by the scam they've been subjected to over the past two years (and many more). It is they who were taken in by the lies and deceptions of billionaire sociopaths, like oil-baron David Koch of the infamous Koch Industries. Koch's aim is not liberty, freedom, and jobs but American fascism, corporatocracy, and the "eternal subjugation of the common man"...
American fascism cloaked as 'patriotism'
On April 9, 1944, while our nation was engaged in a life-and-death struggle with fascism in Europe, an op-ed written by Vice President Henry Wallace appeared in The New York Times:
They claim to be superpatriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjugation.
There is perhaps no more apt example of "the American fascist" than billionaire David Koch. His libertarian rhetoric, as observed by Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy (see video below), masks a radical-right agenda that includes opposition to Social Security, egalitarian democracy, the minimum wage, and the right of ordinary Americans to organize into an effective check against dictatorial corporate power through collective bargaining --- an agenda fully embraced by Governor Scott Walker (R-WI). It is also an agenda which David inherited from his father, Fred C. Koch, a co-founder of the John Birch Society, a whack organization that was so absurdly radical-right that its members accused the former Republican President and Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II Dwight D. Eisenhower of being a Communist agent.
David, along with his brother Charles, owns Koch Industries, whose conglomerated holdings include "oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline." Koch Industries produces an estimated $100 billion in annual revenues and so much pollution that it has been listed as one of the nation's ten worst.
The Koch brothers do more than pollute the planet. As revealed by Jane Mayer in Covert Operations, they have funneled so much money into "organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups," that Greenpeace has described Koch as "the kingpins of climate science denial."
During a Nov. 27, 2000 episode of 60 Minutes, "Blood and Oil," their brother Bill Koch gave voice to a statement that has, perhaps inaccurately, been ascribed to Honoré de Balzac: "Behind every great fortune there is a great crime."
Bill Koch described David and Charles as "autocratic." Bill said he feared the legacy of Koch Industries would be comparable to that of "organized crime." He alleged that Koch Industries "made millions by stealing oil from the government." According to Bill, the company falsified measurements of the amount of oil Koch was actually acquiring on its run sheets in order to "skim off the top," if you will, just as the mafia is well known to do.
As revealed by 60 Minutes updates, while Koch Industries dismissed Bill Koch as a disgruntled former executive, Bill's 60 Minutes account was supported by the testimony of some 50 former Koch employees in a federal lawsuit. In May, 2001, a settlement was reached which required "Koch Industries to pay $25 million in penalties to the U.S. government for improperly taking more oil than it paid for from federal and Indian lands."
Bill Koch's reference to "organized crime" may understate the problem of impunity that comes with the symbiotic relationship between corporate wealth and political power.
It is difficult to speak of "corporate crime" when it is the criminals who are in charge. As Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) observed in Wall Street 2, "Someone reminded me I once said 'Greed is good.' Now it seems it's legal."
During an Aug. 25, 2010 appearance on Democracy Now! Charles Lewis provided a classic example of how these corporate miscreants strive for impunity:
Last Thursday, the Green News Report described how the symbiotic relationship between Koch Industries and the WI GOP, Inc., had not only netted Governor Walker's union-busting effort, but a plan buried in his controversial legislation that would sell off "state-owned heating, cooling and power plants" to private entities "without solicitation of bids, for any amount" that the WI GOP, Inc., "determines to be in the best interest of the state."
Given the symbiotic relationship between Koch Industries and the WI GOP, Inc., one does not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that the WI GOP, Inc., sees Koch Industries' greed to be "in the best interest of the state."
Piercing the 'Tea Party's' "ecstatic escape of unreason"
It is ironic that Madison, WI, would serve as the backdrop for a genuine democratic uprising against the abuse of power occasioned by the symbiotic relationship between its new governor and unbridled corporate wealth.
It was just last April when the scholarly Noam Chomsky addressed some 1,000 people inside Madison's Orpheum Theater, warning of the ominous features of the Koch-funded and controlled "Tea Party" movement:
In an extended piece, Remembering Fascism: Learning from the Past, Chomsky informed us that it is a serious error to ridicule "Tea Party" antics. "It would be far more appropriate to understand what lies behind them and to ask...why justly angry people are being mobilized by the extreme right."
Referring to the deluded followers of the Koch-funded and manipulated "Tea Party" movement, Chomsky observed:
Both in his April 2010 address and in the article, Chomsky observed that the "level of anger and fear in the country is like nothing [he could] recall in [his] lifetime. And since the Democrats are in power, the revulsion over the current social-economic-political world attaches to them."
Chomsky saw a parallel to what Fritz Stern, a scholar of German history, described as "an historic process in which resentment against a disenchanted secular world found deliverance in the ecstatic escape of unreason."
Any doubts one may have about the applicability of the "Tea Party's" ecstatic escape of unreason will instantly be eliminated by watching Brad Friedman's 'Tea Party Express II: Rise of the Tea Bags,' an hilarious short video documentary in which Friedman plays the straight man by asking simple questions. The comedy is furnished by spontaneous answers of the Tea Partiers called to gather in Los Angeles at an event sponsored by one of the Koch Industries front groups, the Tea Party Express.
This "ecstatic escape of unreason," aided in no small measure by the 24/7 propaganda emerging from Fox "News" and the rest of the predictable and unavoidable right-wing echo chamber which has taken over our public airwaves, not to mention the systemic failure of the corporate media to speak truth to power, suggests that the heads of most of the Tea Party's rank-and-file are so deeply embedded in the disinformation bubble as to render them impervious to facts and reason. However, the gap between the hard-right's recent rhetoric of "jobs" and "liberty" and the harsh reality of their anti-democratic, union-busting project is so stark that even the rank-and-file "Tea Bagger" may come to understand that their justified anger and revulsion was misdirected.
Infuriated by "Big Government" ruthlessly stealing away freedom from American citizens, Tea Partiers? You need look no further than what Walker and the Republicans are attempting to do in Wisconsin. It is the very definition of what you were (inaccurately) told was happening last year during the health care insurance reform debate.
'The Great American Jobs Scam'
"I’ve known Scott Walker for more than 20 years. His dad pastored my in-laws’ church, and Scott was in my office within three or four months ago, sitting and talking about his whole program. We did hours of discussions about it. He never mentioned going after collective bargaining." – Nation journalist and WI resident, John Nichols
It should come as no surprise that neither Walker nor any of the other members of corporate America's wholly-owned, public subsidiary, GOP, Inc., openly spoke of destroying the right of working class Americans to organize and engage in collective bargaining before reaching office. It is also no surprise that, after acquiring power, the duplicitous GOP, Inc., would have the temerity to claim a mandate to carry out a radical, union-busting agenda that they'd hidden from the electorate.
The hard-right practices tight message control. Irrespective of mumblings in the corporate media about a "recovery," Koch and friends well understood that U.S. manufacturing, unemployment, and poverty are mired at levels not seen since the Great Depression. They also understood that it was the average citizens, not the corporations, feeling the only real pain, as corporate profits were at a record high last year, even as ordinary Americans struggled to survive in ways they haven't had to since the 1930s.
The 2010 hard-right public message was "jobs, jobs, jobs." It was a message delivered in the carefully scripted ads of all Republican candidates. It was even included in the effort, bankrolled by Koch Industries and two other Texas-based oil industry polluters, Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp., that went so far as to deceptively label a California ballot measure designed to destroy both jobs and the environment as the "California Jobs Initiative."
But then, the 2010 "jobs" message has been a core staple of what Greg LeRoy has described as The Great American Jobs Scam. LeRoy's is a must-read book which documents how, over the past fifty years, corporations have obtained massive subsidies, outright gifts of land and property and enormous tax breaks from city, county, state, and regional governmental entities by enticing bidding wars between them through empty promises of job creation that are most often never fulfilled.
From a national perspective, the scam does not create jobs. It merely shifts them from one region to another, at least until they are later shipped overseas.
It is a scam that has long been in play in Wisconsin, where, according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, "two-thirds of corporations in the state pay no taxes, and the share of corporate tax revenue funding the state government has fallen by half since 1981."
The notion that deregulation, corporate tax breaks, "enterprise zones," and a so-called "business-friendly environment" are needed to create jobs is a lie. So is the Republican suggestion that public sector jobs do not amount to employment.
The cause of the current high level of unemployment lies in the fact that the billionaire class, utilizing so-called "free trade" agreements, starting with NAFTA, have been permitted to outsource the U.S. manufacturing base in search of the $2/day foreign laborer.
The illusion of prosperity was maintained by an unsustainable model of borrowing. That model crashed with the 2008 burst of the housing bubble and the collapse of a credit default swap market that was little more than a giant Ponzi scheme.
So long as we cede control of our government and our economy to the privileged few, there will be high unemployment, and, if collective bargaining ends, no defense against dictatorial corporate wealth and power.
Shouldn't those angry Tea Partiers, so manipulated to be "outraged" by the results of these very shenanigans, be marching side-by-side right now with the protesters in Wisconsin, where the actual results of this Big Government/Big Corporate partnership-against-the people have finally taken full bloom?
The beginning of a second American revolution?
Perhaps the greatest benefit that flows from the prank call from the Buffalo Beast's Ian Murphy, posing as "David Koch," is that it exposed the truth about right-wing duplicity and the severe threat it poses to liberty, equality, and democratic governance.
Former VP Henry Wallace was right. "They claim to be superpatriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution."
The problem we, the American people, now face, is that while we still possess the technical remnants of democracy in the form of the vote, the game, especially in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's outrageous Citizens United decision, not to mention easily hacked and 100% unverifiable e-voting systems, is heavily weighted in favor of corporate wealth and power.
Corporations own mass media which produce 95% of what we see, hear, and read, forcing the leadership of the two major political parties to troll for corporate campaign dollars in order to compete on a corporate media playing field. Candidates like Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who do not toe the corporate line are marginalized as "not viable" and excluded from debates as the corporate media police the range of "acceptable" public discourse --- "acceptable," that is, to corporate America.
Yet, recent events in Egypt and elsewhere substantiate the late Howard Zinn's observation in A Power Governments Cannot Suppress that governmental power becomes "futile against the power of an aroused citizenry."
Our own Declaration of Independence informs us that when government becomes destructive of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it."
Our increasingly plutocratic and authoritarian government has become destructive of those ends. It has squandered trillions on weaponry and endless war. It has committed unspeakable atrocities and torture abroad. It threatens humanity's very survival by way of global climate change denial while permitting corporations to poison our water, our food, our public discourse, and the very air we breathe. It panders to the whims of the privileged few, all the while implementing "austerity" measures that will deprive future generations of Americans of a quality of life that includes freedom from want, freedom from fear, and basic levels of education and health care.
It is too soon to tell whether the formerly duped "Tea Baggers" will awaken to reality. We don't know whether the genuinely democratic uprising in Wisconsin will continue to spread; whether it will lead to the type of mass movement, including general strikes, such as those we witnessed on the streets of Cairo --- a movement that can succeed only if growing numbers of Americans abandon the corporate media, turning instead to alternative and foreign media, such as, among the many reliable sources, Democracy Now!, The BRAD BLOG, and al Jazeera English as their primary source of information.
Meaningful democracy and a better tomorrow can be achieved only when the great masses of ordinary U.S. citizens come to appreciate a basic truth that is to be found in the erudition produced by Frederick Douglas after he escaped the clutches of slavery:
UPDATE 2/28/11: News from the front lines of the cyber revolution.
Anonymous, the internet activist group which recently exposed a plot hatched by Hunton & Williams, a law firm that represents the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Bank of America, to employ “three well-connected, government-contracted cyber-security/intelligence firms (HBGary Federal, Berico Technologies and Palantir Technologies --- calling themselves "Team Themis" collectively) to use nefarious and likely illegal schemes in hopes of discrediting [Velvet Revolution, Brad Friedman] and other progressive citizens, journalists and organizations who had opposed the Chamber's extremist corporate agenda,” has entered the fray in Wisconsin, announcing:
Exploiting vulnerabilities in a matter of minutes, Anonymous took down a web site of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch Industries front group.
On its website, Koch, which acquired Georgia-Pacific Corp. in 2004, states:
Video of Lisa Graves appearance on Democracy Now follows...
Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).