The year President Dwight Eisenhower ran for a second term against Adlai Stevenson, the Republican platform sang the praises of unions, and called for government to have a “heart as well as a head.”
But that was never satisfactory for the libertarian rich, who wanted government to be withered away to practically nothing, and which would be under their covert control in order to serve their own interests. They literally wanted to do away with most of the agencies of the federal government in order to “save money” and support “free enterprise”.
With the investment of billions the very rich gradually learned how to pretend to act in the public interest while contributing unlimited amounts of money solely to promote their own interests. (The full story is found in Jane Mayer’s profound new book: Dark Money.)
The very rich hated government because it had the audacity to limit their activities. The agencies that earn the wrath of the Koch family and the other super-rich are those that serve and protect the rest of us: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health, Education, and so on. They even hate the Internal Revenue Service, since they believe that the income tax is unconstitutional (it’s not). They want unrestricted power to do as they wish.
It’s not that they don’t sincerely believe in the libertarian faith. It’s that there is no evidence anywhere that libertarianism does anything other than hurt the people and the environment. The agencies of the federal government serve and protect the rest of us from the very rich. That’s why they want to get rid of them.
The arch-devils for decades have been the Koch brothers, Charles and David, unimaginably rich owners of Koch Industries, who have battled hundreds of federal and state lawsuits over their self-enrichment schemes, tax dodging, workplace safety, fraud, bribery, regulation avoidance, and egregious environmental assault.
Over a long period, the Koch boys learned how to build hidden political organizations whose real purpose is self-enrichment, while pretending to protect the public interest. Over the decades they have poured billions into these efforts, complex, money laundering, tax avoiding, endless shell organizations designed to hide their donors. In many cases they are only Post Office boxes in obscure little towns. Huge sums of money move in and then out, stripped of names. These organizations are always misleadingly titled with words like “prosperity” and “freedom” that make them sound like anything other than what they are: self-enrichment clubs for billionaires. In the rare cases where Jane Mayer could tease out the membership of these organizations, they usually consisted of one or two Koch brothers, another billionaire or two, a Koch manager, and no one else. These grass roots organizations for the people had no people.
Rich conservatives were enraged when the 2008 presidential election returned over 60% of votes for the democratic populist Barack Obama. Both they and their congressional puppets swore to resist him at every turn, rather than serve the people, and to return government to “the people”, meaning themselves.
Among those most enraged was Rick Santelli, a broadcaster who one night went on a particularly uncontrolled rant about taxes and called for a new Boston Tea Party. The term was not apt, but it caught on.
But again, the Tea Party is nothing more than another Astroturf organization with hidden Koch leadership and Koch-supported lackeys. No public was involved at first. A number of poorly educated white racists eventually jumped in to avow their hatred of the black guy who somehow cheated his way into the White House, flaunting their ignorant pronouncements with misspelled signs, and displaying their lack of dental care. The Koch pseudo-populist propaganda machine then sprang into action, spending hundreds of millions on misleading or completely bogus claims that convinced a lot of people who should have known better.
Virtually nothing about the Tea Party operation is honest or actually true, as usual, but the Koch boys and their many millions have succeeded in convincing some people it is. Their investments have convinced a lot of people, including elected officials, that doing away with the protection of government and such things as minimum wage will be good for everyone. They preach about how they succeeded because of how hard they worked, and how low wage workers would learn the satisfaction of success with honest work. Sure, but it helps if you inherit a hundred million and daddy makes you president of the new branch. Supporting a family by working full time for minimum wage?—maybe not so much.
There are very few authentic Republicans right now. The extreme right, under the thumb of the Koch’s, and radical Tea Party folk, don’t seem to know that there was a time when the party did present a rational platform designed to benefit ordinary people. That platform vaporized when the very rich redesigned it to serve only themselves, while claiming that the poor would be ennobled by not being “given things”—such as a living wage, one assumes. The few remaining real Republicans are dismayed at what the party has become, but if they speak out they will be attacked by the Tea Party, and lose the next election to a radical.
The party has devolved into a sleazy parody promoting the twin pillars of plutocracy: the very rich must control everything, and the ideal government is no government. The Republican Party is absolutely beholden to the interests of Charles and David Koch and other multi-billionaires.
Meantime, the party itself is also in denial over the huge success of a very popular president they opposed at every turn, but who nonetheless became arguably the most successful president we’ve had. They rage that Obama and Democrats are bad for business, but during the past eight years of mismanagement the Koch fortune became three times larger.
It is very clear that all of the talking points of Republicans that grew out of the early Koch belief in libertarianism and minimal government are bad for the country. Clear to everyone but the Koch boys, their multi-billionaire buddies, and those captured by their recent billion-dollar soft sell. Their most recent buzzword is “well-being”. No matter how many of their plans include such soothing words, everything they promote benefits only the very rich, and prevents ordinary workers from achieving “well-being”. There is no democracy in their plans. It will be a hard landing when followers discover they’ve been had.
The important programs of the federal government—taxation, environment, safety, education, bank regulation—and so on, are good for the people, their only real defense against the gross excesses and purchase of politicians by the very rich. The Koch goal of dismantling government can only be bad for everyone, even the very rich, only their vision is too limited to see that.