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The Koch Brothers, Superstorm Sandy, and the Teabaggers

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I used to think that the Teabaggers were a wholly-owned subsidiary of the GOP. They were very convenient to the not-so-grand, but very old in its ways, party. From the time they were first organized by old Republican hands like Dick Armey in 2009 to when they marched into the House of Representatives in 2011, their political agenda was in fact little different from that of "mainstream" (that is, since the "Gingrich revolution" highly reactionary) Republicanism: tax-cuts forever (for Grover; in fact zero taxes would be nice except that the parts of the government they like, like the military- and prison-industrial complexes, do need to be paid for somehow), "small government" (except that getting into people's beds and drug-use patterns and women's vaginas and wombs is absolutely mandatory); guns are sacred (ever wonder what the proportion of Viagra/Cialis sales among male gun-owners is vs. that of male non-gun-owners); separation of church and state means keeping atheists like me out of the public square and certainly out of elected office; and so-on and so-forth.

But the Teabaggers were rather louder about the regular GOP agenda, and could be quite shrill about it even to the point of embarrassment (see Cong. Akin and Bachmann).   Thus the so-called "mainstreamers," like Mitch (our-no.-1-goal-is-to-keep-Obama-from-getting-a-second-term) McConnell, and John (Nice Tan) Boehner could claim that "well, at least we're not like them." Yes, while they were really true Republicans, at the same time they offered an excuse that the leadership could trot out for their NO compromise positions --- "after all, folks, they've got lots of votes." A nice foil, if you will, and one that is even more powerful at many of the state levels than at the national.

However, the horrible episode that is unfolding around Superstorm Sandy Relief and the resistance of the Teabagger-controlled House of Representatives is now indicating that the they are really a wholly-owned (yes, bought and paid-for) subsidiary of the Koch Brothers, their own political action committee, Americans for Prosperity [of the Ultra-Rich] (AfP), and their brothers-in-arms at the Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation (funded in part by the Koch Brothers), the Cato Institute (founded in part by the Koch brothers), and so on and so forth.  

Consider the following statement that came from the AfP in New Jersey about the proposed Sandy-reconstruction aid bill in the Congress (1; see also 2):

"New Jersey's Americans for Prosperity State Director [Steve] Lonegan called on legislators to reject the bill, saying that aid would be a burden on the country's taxpayers and would be misspent at all levels of government by officials glomming for every last nickel. The bill, he said, would lead to a spending free-for-all and is merely an attempt to secure funding for wasteful endeavors by appealing to emotion. "Tragic things happen every day to people -- worse things than having your house flood -- and we don't hand them a check,' he said. "Having your shore house flood doesn't rank. This is not a federal government responsibility. We need to suck it up and be responsible for taking care of ourselves.' New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's disaster estimate of nearly $37 billion is tantamount to a $119.51 tax increase for every single American, should the U.S. have to foot the bill, Lonegan said, adding that he doubted that much aid would even reach affected residents. With the country facing a fiscal cliff, Lonegan said Sandy aid shouldn't be a priority now."

So suddenly Republicans like Gov. Chris (everything-that's-wrong-in-this-state-can-be- blamed-on-the-teachers) Christie become "mainstream" and are actually fighting the Koch/Teabaggers over getting Federal aid to his state. This is, of course, because if he doesn't get it, he is toast in the next election.

But the position the Teabaggers are taking is right out of the Koch Brothers playbook and since the Kochs and their ultra-rich colleagues put these folks in the Congress, there is no reason to believe that they are going to back down. For they reflect the Koch's political- economic philosophy, which goes back to that of their father Fred, one of the founders in the 1950s of the virulently anti-communist, anti-Soviet, John Birch society. It is well summed up in a few sentences from an article Charles Koch published in Newsmax last August which, funnily enough, focuses on comparisons with the Soviet Union in its last throes in the early 1990s (3):

"My experiences in the Soviet Union [in 1990] underscore why economic freedom is so important for all of us. Nations with the greatest degree of economic freedom tend to have citizens who are much better off in every way. No centralized government, no matter how big, how smart or how powerful, can effectively and efficiently control much of society in a beneficial way. On the contrary, big governments are inherently inefficient and harmful. And yet, the tendency of our own government here in the U.S. has been to grow bigger and bigger, controlling more and more. This is why America keeps dropping in the annual ranking of economic freedom. Citizens who over-rely on their government to do everything not only become dependent on their government, they end up having to do whatever the government demands. In the meantime, their initiative and self-respect are destroyed."

Parallel to this is of course the Koch Brothers' desperate fight against government regulation of industry, especially their primary one, petroleum, which underlies their constant campaign against the science of global warming (e.g., 4). How ironic that this fake "study" is coming out just around the time when the reports are coming out (5, 6) that 2012 was the hottest year on record, and directly linked by multiple rapporteurs to human-caused global warming.   (That the Koch Brothers are certainly smart and well-educated enough to know that human-caused global warming is real, unlike folks like Limbaugh and Hannity who are stupid and ill-educated enough to probably really believe it when they preach, over-and-over again that "it is a leftist-hoax," make what the Kochs are doing on global warming/climate change even more reprehensible, indeed villainous.)

Now the Teabaggers may eventually cave on this one, although one of their leaders, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, has said that every dollar for Sandy Aid, if it is indeed to be appropriated, must be matched by a dollar cut elsewhere (except on the military, agribusiness, and etc. of course). But the Teabaggers are now openly marching to the beat  of the Koch Brothers Band. If the American people in general, and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in particular, don't wake up to this reality soon and begin to take it on aggressively and directly, global warming and its progeny like Superstorm Sandy are only going to make life miserable for an ever-increasing number of Americans. There are indeed some authorities who believe that we may already have passed the point of irreversibility (7).

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1. "David Koch Wants to Stop Funding Relief to Hurricane Sandy Victims," click here

2. "Lonegan Urges Congress to Reject Ridiculous Sandy Aid,' http://americansforprosperity.org/new-jersey/newsroom/pr-lonegan-urges-congress-to-reject-ridiculous-60-b-sandy-aid-request/

3. "Charles Koch: Why We Fight for Economic Freedom," http://www.newsmax.com/Headline/charles-koch-economy-freedom/2012/08/15/id/448700?s=al&promo_code=FC45-1 .

4. Gibson, C., "Koch Brothers Produce Counterfeit Climate Report to Deceive Congress," http://www.nationofchange.org/koch-brothers-produce-counterfeit-climate-report-deceive-congress-1350999952 .

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5. Cole, Juan, "Frankenyear, 2012," http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/271-38/15469-focus--frankenyear-2012-hottest-on-record .

6. Gillis, J., "Not Even Close, 2012 Was Hottest Ever in U.S.," http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/science/earth/2012-was-hottest-year-ever-in-us.html?_r=0

7. McKibben, B., "Time is Not on Our Side," click here=TomDispatch&utm_campaign=a35d3052b6-TD_McKibben1_6_2013&utm_medium=email#more

 

http://thepoliticaljunkies.org/

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS, is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the School of Medicine, Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books on health policy, health and wellness, and sports and regular exercise. In (more...)
 

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