Frank Rich writes about “The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party,” meaning Rupert Murdoch and the Koch boys.
All three tycoons are the latest incarnation of what the historian Kim Phillips-Fein labeled “Invisible Hands” in her prescient 2009 book of that title: those corporate players who have financed the far right ever since the du Pont brothers spawned the American Liberty League in 1934 to bring down F.D.R. You can draw a straight line from the Liberty League’s crusade against the New Deal “socialism” of Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission and child labor laws to the John Birch Society-Barry Goldwater assault on J.F.K. and Medicare to the Koch-Murdoch-backed juggernaut against our “socialist” president.
Frank doesn’t mention this, but ultra-conservative Christianity has been part of this mix all along, also. Fundamentalist preachers railed against child labor laws, for example. I think they misread the part where Jesus said “Suffer the little children …”
Anyway, the Koch boys’ daddy was crazy, too, and warned of a Communist takeover of the government back in the day. Frank says you could dig up Koch Senior’s opinions from 50 years ago and read them verbatim to any tea party gathering today, and they’d fit right in.
I’ve got some quibbles with some of what Rich writes, though. He says that Jane Meyer’s recent portrait of the Koch brothers in the New Yorker caused a stir among “Manhattan’s liberal elite,” who associated the Koch family with cultural philanthropy and didn’t know about their political activities. If that’s true, then “Manhattan’s liberal elite” have had their heads up their asses for the past several years. Rank and file progressive activists were not surprised at all.
But the people who really have no clue about the puppet masters are the puppets themselves, such as the fools who clogged up Washington today to see Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. If you try to explain to them they’re being manipulated to work against their own best interests by a small cadre of mega-billionaires (more than just those three, of course) they start sputtering about George Soros. But, as Rich says, “Soros is a publicity hound who is transparent about where he shovels his money.” The Koch boys stand behind the scenery, pulling the strings. And, unlike the Koch boys, Soros’s causes are not tied to how he makes his money.
When David Koch ran to the right of Reagan as vice president on the 1980 Libertarian ticket (it polled 1 percent), his campaign called for the abolition not just of Social Security, federal regulatory agencies and welfare but also of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and public schools — in other words, any government enterprise that would either inhibit his business profits or increase his taxes. He hasn’t changed. As Mayer details, Koch-supported lobbyists, foundations and political operatives are at the center of climate-science denial — a cause that forestalls threats to Koch Industries’ vast fossil fuel business. While Koch foundations donate to cancer hospitals like Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York, Koch Industries has been lobbying to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from classifying another product important to its bottom line, formaldehyde, as a “known carcinogen” in humans (which it is).
Rich shows he is still a couple of steps behind when he says there is still a difference between “mainstream conservatism” and the Koch’s “fringe” agenda. There is no “mainstream” conservatism; just a few fossils left over from the Time Before Glenn Beck who haven’t realized they are dead yet. The fringe is the only potent “conservatism” active at the moment. “The Koch agenda is morphing into the G.O.P. agenda,” Rich writes. Make that past tense, Rich; “morphed.”
But the real issue, as Rich says, is that working “Americans are aiding and abetting their [Koch, Koch and Murdoch] selfish interests.” Those rubes on the Washington mall today know that something is very wrong, which is true, but they don’t see how they are enabling the very forces that are making America more and more dysfunctional. They wear T-shirts proclaiming “liberty” and “don’t tread on me” even as they chain themselves to their corporate lords. Pathetic.
Update: A crowd estimate commissioned by CBSNews put the size of the crowd at Beck-a-looza at 87,000. See also Dave Niewert, “Snoring Honor: Beck’s big rally just a long-winded and boring sermon. And boy, was the crowd white.”
Update update: Scenes From a Glenn Beck Festival