The Deep Problem: Behind the Chaos
by Rebecca Ralston
As we deal with our lives in that face of the corona virus crisis, it is hard to focus on the deeper problems that face us. We may be used to the chaos, corruption, and criminality in the Trump administration. They are but a reflection of an underlying problem.
Since the 1970’s, right wing billionaires, including the Koch brothers but comprised of many more like minded billionaires, have been working diligently and behind the scenes, to engineer a transformation of the way we Americans see the world and to, essentially, undo the agencies established during the great depression to protect ordinary Americans from various forms of economic devastation.
**They have established and funded the Federalist Society, which carefully vets deeply right wing judges, and passes on their names when judicial appointments come up. Trump has installed many more judges than Obama, and they are all from the list approved for the right wing ideological commitments. This of course includes his two Supreme Court nominees, currently being rammed through the Senate by the newly ruthless Republican Party, the party of my family for generations. Look out Roe v Wade. The Supreme Court has been taken over by this group: John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Sam Alito, and Clarence Thomas are all members. So is Kavanaugh.
**They have established ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of lawyers who are paid to devise right wing legislation for Republican states to enact. States do not have the resources to craft workable legislation, so they use ALEC’s suggestions. “ Taking a page from the ALEC corporate playbook, in May 2011 Wisconsin Governor and ALEC alumni Scott Walker signed into law one of the most restrictive Voter ID restrictions in the country. Wisconsin’s bill would allow a narrow list of IDs for voting, including driver’s licenses and state issued ID cards.
According to a University of Wisconsin Milwaukee study, about 177,000 Wisconsinites aged 65 and older do not have state issued IDs. Statewide, only 45 percent of African American males and 51 percent of females have a valid driver’s license. The bill makes it particularly burdensome for college students to vote, a group who overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008. The Wisconsin bill is a more detailed version of ALEC’s Voter ID Act of 2009. To pay for the Voter ID bill, the Wisconsin Joint Finance committee raided the money set aside for the public financing of campaigns, ending a 34 year tradition of public financing for elections in Wisconsin –in conformity with ALEC’s Resolution Opposing Taxpayer Financing of Political Campaigns.” (Center for Media and Democracy-ALEC project) The CMD website has extensive information on ALEC’s activities.
** The Tea Party was just a fringe political group until it was funded and staffed by the Dark Money folks. Americans for Progress, funded by the Koch brothers, worked to make the Tea Party a serious political power. They took over congress and began enacting legislation sought by the Kochs, whose fortune stems from oil, coal and chemicals f various sorts. The Kochs are single minded in wanting to get rid of environmental regulations and taxes on the wealthy. The current congress has ruthlessly pursued the agenda of their billionaire sponsors and we have gotten the evisceration of environmental health protections, and a trillion dollar tax cut largely for the billionaire class.
**Climate change was almost universally seen as a serious problem facing humanity and other life on the planet 40 years ago. For example, Exxon warned its own management about the problem of human caused climate impacts “In 1957, scientists working at Humble Oil (now ExxonMobil) publish a paper resulted from the combustion of fossil fuels”–indicating company scientists understood the link between fossil fuel use and rising CO2. (Source: Center for International Environmental Law) In a report produced for the American Petroleum Institute, scientists Elmer Robinson and R.C. Robbins warn that significant rises in CO2 could melt icecaps, increase sea levels, change fish distributions and increase plant photosynthesis. (Source: Center for International Environmental Law)
In 1978 James Black, working under Exxon’s Products Research Division, writes an internal briefing paper called “The Greenhouse Effect” following from a 1977 presentation to Exxon’s management committee. The paper warns that human-caused emissions could raise global temperatures and result in serious consequences. “Present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical,” Black writes. (InsideClimate News) Similar reports were filed in the 1970 and 1980s, and Shell at one point in that time raised its oil platforms to accommodate a 3 foot sea rise.
All this changed when “a campaign to undermine public trust in climate science, described as a “denial machine” organized by industrial, political and ideological interests, and supported by conservative media and skeptical bloggers to manufacture uncertainty about global warming. In the public debate, phrases such as climate skepticism have frequently been used with the same meaning as climate denialism.” (Wikipedia, but for details see Dark Money by Jane Mayer). Just as with big tobacco, the oil industry found scientists willing to question the impacts of global warming. The Koch brothers desire to keep carbon at the center of energy production has prevailed, despite the clear and seriously damaging impacts we are already feeling.
** Taxes. The right wing billionaire class wants to cut their own taxes to the bone, and so they want to get rid of government agencies that either regulate their industries or fund programs they do not like. They are pleased as punch at the evisceration of the EPA, the elimination of most of our diplomatic corps, and want the elimination of the social safety net, including Medicare and Medicaid. The swamp Trump was to clean up was not corruption in government, but government itself, and his administration has being doing a great job at this.
**They have supported multiple strategies of voter suppression. “If it’s voter ID, it’s ALEC,” observed Doug Clopp, deputy director of programs at Common Cause. “If it’s anti-immigration bills written hand-in-glove with private prison corporations, it’s ALEC. If it’s working with the N.R.A. on ‘Shoot to Kill’ laws, it’s ALEC. When you start peeling back state efforts to opt out of the regional greenhouse gas initiative, it’s ALEC.” Adopted first in the states, by the time these laws bubble up to the national level, they’re the conventional wisdom on policy. (See ALEC exposed for the extensive details of their role in all sorts of legislation at the state level, and especially voter suppression and hence the undermining of democracy.
They have succeeded in shaping the country to their liking, at the expense of that vast majority of citizens, not to mention the environment. Our immediate agenda must be to support all efforts to overcome voter suppression. FairFight, Stacy Abrams organization against voter suppression is in need of funding, for example. Only if we can win back congress and the presidency for democrats will we have even a fighting chance against the hidden power of our right wing plutocrats.