The Gilded Age of America in the late nineteenth century embodied ownership of politicians.
While political bosses like Boss Tweed and Jim Fisk controlled and owned politicians, these representatives knew what their corporate sponsors expected. It was a period when the United States Senate was called The Millionaires Club. The corporate owners pulling the strings on their bought political puppets saw that they were sufficiently enriched as they did their bidding.
Similarities abound on what is occurring now and what happened in that corporate dominated post-Civil War period. While reformers such as William Jennings Bryan and the populist movement called for the direct election of United States Senators, corporate string pullers denounced such "radical" notions and preferred the then current system of state legislatures selecting them. Guess who pulled the strings on state legislators and observe what is happening currently.
A current idea gaining traction in certain Tea Party think tanks is that more local control is needed in selecting U.S. Senators. In that vein certain corporatists are floating the idea, using the faux issue of local control and that perpetually abused word of the corporate right of "freedom" to suggest that going back to the old way of selecting U.S. Senators was a good idea.
It took a book by Upton Sinclair, then considered a radical reformer, called "The Jungle" to push the idea ultimately adopted of government regulated food inspection. Sinclair monitored the tragic activities of meat processing in Chicago's Stockyards and reform was ultimately achieved in that vital area.
So what is happening now? Inspectors are being laid off because a tough decision had to be made about the vital corporatist issue of more tax cuts for corporations and wealthy citizens so guess which interest won out? Say goodbye to inspectors and hello to more tax cuts for the wealthy.
During a bloody period of the thirties Henry Ford greeted the effort of Walter and Victor Reuther to organize a United Auto Workers branch at his company. Ford hired goon squads to physically attack workers.
A reformer named President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stepped up to the plate in that instance and protected the UAW and other labor organizers elsewhere from goon squads as federal troops were marched in to restore order and allow unions an opportunity to be accepted in the corporate workplace.
So that brings us to current activities in Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker, in the tradition of the Gilded Age, is a bought and paid for representative of the Koch Brothers. This ownership is so conspicuous that Walker might as well wear a Koch Brothers sweatshirt advertising his devotion to their cause.
The Koch Brothers donated handsomely to Walker's campaign, but this is just the beginning. Among their holdings are six timber plants and a large network of pipelines in Wisconsin. They own a coal company with facilities in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan.
At a time when Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch awarded themselves an extra $11 billion of income from the company, they reportedly slashed jobs at their Green Bay plant.
According to the website Think Progress, "Officials at Georgia-Pacific said the company is laying off 158 workers at its Day Street plant because out-of-date equipment at the facility is being replaced with newer, more-efficient equipment. The company said much of the new, papermaking equipment will be automated."
These are reportedly not layoffs stemming from a normally accepted economic response resulting from a drop in demand. In fact, demand is said to remain high for the bath tissue and napkins manufactured at the plant.
There is more, significantly more, regarding Walker as loyal vassal to Koch Industries. Andrew Leonard reports in the February 22, 2011 issue of Salon.com that Wisconsin's Budget Repair Bill contains the following smoking gun provisions: "16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b)."
The result would be no bid contracts within Wisconsin for Koch Industries since they operate within the state in numerous energy-related fields.
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