Monday, February 22, 2010


16 February 2010

The great majority of Americans support a bold progressive agenda for our country, and Obama claims he "hopes" to fund a transition to a sustainable economy. So of all the Federal ear-marks, subsidies, bail-outs, and investment tax credits, why is the lion's share still going to banksters and corporate giants? And why is more than half the Federal budget spent on military protection of those corporate assets? - Federal Budget Pie Chart

Jim Hightower, the populist muckraker editor of The Hightower Lowdown, explains that it's not caused by fickle and spineless politicians, but rather by their corporate handlers. He asks "Who, specifically, are these plotters, and how do they impose their narrow agenda of self-interest over the public interest? Most Americans are totally unaware of these interests which have . . . quietly embedded themselves . . . in our society's governing institutions."

It may come as a surprise that Kansas is central to this scheme. For although the folks at Radio Free Kansas have probably probed this matter, how many Kansans have ever heard of the multi-billionaire Koch brothers (pronounced "coke")?

Koch Industries of Wichita Kansas is one of the key players in the shift to government "of, by, and for the corporations". Koch is a major producer of oil, gas, timber, coal, and cattle. It's a petroleum refiner, controls some 4000 miles of pipeline including a piece of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, manufactures asphalt, chemicals, polyethylene, nitrogen fertilizers, concrete, lumber products, and myriad consumer goods. It has 700,000 employees in 60 countries. Why do you know so little of this giant? Because it is purposefully a "closely held company", which means there is no stock ownership for sale, all financing being family controlled. And that means there are few public disclosure requirements. But with it's sales topping $100 billion a year, it is bigger than corporate giants like Verizon and Morgan Stanley.

Charles and David Koch, who control this family-owned business, are tied as the 19th richest billionaires in the world, just below the four heirs of the WalMart fortune. They also have a burning right-wing ideology, following their daddy Fred, who co-founded the John Birch Society. Since 1973, they have strategically funneled more than $1 billion to right-wing groups through their three Koch Family Foundations. Hightower writes "These "charitable" foundations are dedicated to achieving the brother's anti-government, corporate-controlled vision for America. This stealth force includes national and state-level think tanks, Astroturf front groups, academic shills, university centers, political-training programs, fundraising clearinghouses, publications, and lobbyists. Their extremist ideas have never had strong public support, yet they've moved from the back burner in the 1970's to the front burner in the Bush years."

"The Kochs are not the only right-wing funders, of course, for other far-right family foundations as Bradley, Coors, Olin, and Scaife are also major players. But the size, scope, strategic purpose, and secrecy of the Koch investments make the brothers worthy of special attention." And beyond the dollars, the brothers take an active role in running many groups. David is board chair of Americans for Prosperity who bankrolled the Tea Bagger "revolution". He's also on the board of the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation. While Charles is chair of the Institute for Humane Studies and a director of the Mercatus Center. Read more at - The Corporate Money That Took Over Washington. And to learn more affiliations, go to Koch Industries financial-political connections.

This analysis is fully in keeping with Democracy Incorporated: by Sheldon Wolin. Wolin states that in the U.S. ". . .the government is now governed through the anonymous and largely remote hand of corporate power and finance capital. That is, political sovereignty is largely replaced by economic sovereignty as corporate power takes over the reigns of governance." Apparently "The Hidden Hand of the Market" is a double entendre. And Hightower's report further explains the famous quote by Grover Norquist, that he wants to shrink government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub".

To join efforts to counteract this undemocratic trend, go to Source Watch, where they deconstruct corporate PR spin. And check three excellent sites working to undue corporate "personhood": Move to Amend, Center for Media and Democracy, and POCLAD - Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy.

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