Saturday, September 4, 2010

Koch Brothers, Oil Magnates, Use Right Wing Populism As Cover For Corporate Interests


How do conservatives convince ordinary people to vote against their interests? Paul Krugman defined the shell game that is right-wing populism:

...it’s the same formula the right has been using for a generation. Use identity politics to whip up the base; then, when the election is over, give priority to the concerns of your corporate donors. Run as the candidate of “real Americans,” not those soft-on-terror East coast liberals; then, once you’ve won, declare that you have a mandate to privatize Social Security.

In the New Yorker, Jane Mayer exposed the use of this shell game by Charles and David Koch, billionaire oil magnates who inherited Koch Industries. The brothers have funded, often surreptitiously, supposedly grass-roots (i.e., "astroturf") groups who provide a populist cover for policies that benefit the wealthiest:

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...

...the advocacy wing of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation—an organization that David Koch started, in 2004—held a...gathering. Over the July 4th weekend, a summit called Texas Defending the American Dream took place...

...the summit...served, in part, as a training session for Tea Party activists in Texas. An advertisement cast the event as a populist uprising against vested corporate power... The pitch made no mention of its corporate funders. ...David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, said, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

...The anti-government fervor infusing the 2010 elections represents a political triumph for the Kochs. By giving money to “educate,” fund, and organize Tea Party protesters, they have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement. Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist and a historian, who once worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank that the Kochs fund, said, ... "[The Kochs are] trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.”

...[A] former Koch adviser said, “They’re smart. This right-wing, redneck stuff works for them. They see this as a way to get things done without getting dirty themselves.”

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