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“The Time-Loop Party”: The ‘Foxification’ Of The GOP, Saying And Doing The Same Things Over And Over And Over Again

By now everyone who follows politics knows about Marco Rubio’s software-glitch performance in Saturday’s Republican debate. (I’d say broken-record performance, but that would be showing my age.) Not only did he respond to a challenge from Chris Christie about his lack of achievements by repeating, verbatim, the same line from his stump speech he had used a moment earlier; when Mr. Christie mocked his canned delivery, he repeated the same line yet again.

In other news, last week — on Groundhog Day, to be precise — Republicans in the House of Representatives cast what everyone knew was a purely symbolic, substance-free vote to repeal Obamacare. It was the 63rd time they’ve done so.

These are related stories.

Mr. Rubio’s inability to do anything besides repeat canned talking points was startling. Worse, it was funny, which means that it has gone viral. And it reinforced the narrative that he is nothing but an empty suit. But really, isn’t everyone in his party doing pretty much the same thing, if not so conspicuously?

The truth is that the whole G.O.P. seems stuck in a time loop, saying and doing the same things over and over. And unlike Bill Murray’s character in the movie “Groundhog Day,” Republicans show no sign of learning anything from experience.

Think about the doctrines every Republican politician now needs to endorse, on pain of excommunication.

First, there’s the ritual denunciation of Obamacare as a terrible, very bad, no good, job-killing law. Did I mention that it kills jobs? Strange to say, this line hasn’t changed at all despite the fact that we’ve gained 5.7 million private-sector jobs since January 2014, which is when the Affordable Care Act went into full effect.

Then there’s the assertion that taxing the rich has terrible effects on economic growth, and conversely that tax cuts at the top can be counted on to produce an economic miracle.

This doctrine was tested more than two decades ago, when Bill Clinton raised tax rates on high incomes; Republicans predicted disaster, but what we got was the economy’s best run since the 1960s. It was tested again when George W. Bush cut taxes on the wealthy; Republicans predicted a “Bush boom,” but actually got a lackluster expansion followed by the worst slump since the Great Depression. And it got tested a third time after President Obama won re-election, and tax rates at the top went up substantially; since then we’ve gained eight million private-sector jobs.

Oh, and there’s also the spectacular failure of the Kansas experiment, where huge tax cuts have created a budget crisis without delivering any hint of the promised economic miracle.

But Republican faith in tax cuts as a universal economic elixir has, if anything, grown stronger, with Mr. Rubio, in particular, going even further than the other candidates by promising to eliminate all taxes on capital gains.

Meanwhile, on foreign policy the required G.O.P. position has become one of utter confidence in the effectiveness of military force. How did that work in Iraq? Never mind: The only reason anybody in the world fails to do exactly what America wants must be because our leadership is lily-livered if not treasonous. And diplomacy, no matter how successful, is denounced as appeasement.

Not incidentally, the shared Republican stance on foreign policy is basically the same view Richard Hofstadter famously described in his essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”: Whenever America fails to impose its will on the rest of the world, it must be because it has been betrayed. The John Birch Society has won the war for the party’s soul.

But don’t all politicians spout canned answers that bear little relationship to reality? No.

Like her or not, Hillary Clinton is a genuine policy wonk, who can think on her feet and clearly knows what she is talking about on many issues. Bernie Sanders is much more of a one-note candidate, but at least his signature issue — rising inequality and the effects of money on politics — reflects real concerns. When you revisit Democratic debates after what went down Saturday, it doesn’t feel as if you’re watching a different party, it feels as if you’ve entered a different intellectual and moral universe.

So how did this happen to the G.O.P.? In a direct sense, I suspect that it has a lot to do with Foxification, the way Republican primary voters live in a media bubble into which awkward facts can’t penetrate. But there must be deeper causes behind the creation of that bubble.

Whatever the ultimate reason, however, the point is that while Mr. Rubio did indeed make a fool of himself on Saturday, he wasn’t the only person on that stage spouting canned talking points that are divorced from reality. They all were, even if the other candidates managed to avoid repeating themselves word for word.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 8, 2016

February 8, 2016 Posted by | GOP, GOP Primary Debates, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Charles Koch’s Affront To MLK”: How A Right-Wing Tycoon Got Horribly Confused

You’ve got to hand it to Charles Koch: The man doesn’t want for self-confidence. The Kochs and their allies are taking a page from Sen. Rand Paul and trying to dress up their free-market, anti-union, welfare-slashing 21st century feudalism as the answer to persistent African-American unemployment even as the economy recovers under President Obama.

Unbelievably, Koch invokes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an ally in a stunning USA Today Op-Ed, “How to really turn the economy around,” which is essentially an argument for deregulating business, slashing welfare programs and forcing low-wage work on the poor in the name of the ennobling power of employment.

With laughable Koch paternalism, he shares life lessons from his father, Fred, an oil industry magnate and John Birch Society founder: “When I was growing up, my father had me spend my free time working at unpleasant jobs,” Koch tells us. “Most Americans understand that taking a job and sticking with it, no matter how unpleasant or low-paying, is a vital step toward the American dream.”

Not only does Koch fail to mention that he was the son of a very wealthy man when he worked those “unpleasant jobs,” he cites Dr. King as someone who agrees with him that “there are no dead end jobs.” (The Kochs, by the way, also fund “educational” groups that oppose the minimum wage.)

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper,” Koch quotes King, “he should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

This from a man who himself joined the John Birch Society in the mid-1960s, while it was targeting King as a “communist.”

Koch is right about one thing: King was indeed a great admirer of street sweepers. In fact, he was murdered visiting Memphis to fight for the right of city sanitation workers to join a union. Invoking King on behalf of his low-wage, union-busting, anti-minimum wage agenda is despicable, but Koch apparently thinks his money can buy him anything, including the right to claim King’s legacy.

He’s wrong. King died, by the way, while supporting AFSCME, the union representing the Memphis sanitation workers. AFSCME honored Dr. King by making the painful yet correct decision to end a partnership with the United Negro College Fund after UNCF accepted $25 million from the Kochs to establish a “Koch Scholars” program for black students. UNCF head Dr. Michael Lomax also dignified the annual Koch Summit, which plots its right-wing, free-market strategy, in June, alongside Republican senators and right-wing think tankers.

Along with their UNCF donation, which the Kochs widely publicized, Charles Koch’s Op-Ed represents a new front in their public relations battle. Neither their billions in wealth nor their trademark political stealth have served to insulate them from criticism and scorn. When asked about the Koch brothers, a recent George Washington University poll found that most people surveyed hadn’t heard of them, but 25 percent had negative feelings vs. 13 percent who had positive feelings. That’s bad news for a duo who have tried to keep their political activities undercover.

They apparently believe that funding African-American Koch scholars and invoking Dr. King can convince black voters they’re not the enemy. But quoting King on the dignity of street sweepers while forgetting – or never knowing – that he died while fighting for their right to unionize is at best boneheaded, at worst disrespectful. It won’t convince many Koch doubters.

Charles Koch’s billions can’t buy King’s legacy or King’s blessing for his radical far-right agenda, which opposes everything King stood for. But he probably can afford better ghostwriters.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor in Chief, Salon, August 7, 2014

August 8, 2014 Posted by | Jobs, Koch Brothers, Martin Luther King Jr | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Koch Brothers”: The Extremist Roots Run Deep

Some women and men spend their lives rebelling against their father or mother, but others follow in their footsteps or yearn for their approval. Some become friends.

A few spend millions to make their parents’ vision a reality.

Charles and David Koch are among those few.

Raw ideas that were once at the fringes have been carved into ‘mainstream’ policy through their wealth and will.

According to the lore, a lawsuit against his company by big oil companies forced their dad, Fred Koch, into helping Stalin build refineries, fueling his anti-communist/anti-government views.

The truth is less tidy.

A company called Universal Oil Products sued Fred Koch’s company for patent infringement in 1929.

Four years earlier, in 1925, the 25-year old Koch formed the Winkler-Koch Engineering Company, with Lewis Winkler. After studying at Rice and MIT, the Texan-born Koch joined Winkler and another man in launching the company in Wichita.

Before that, Winkler had worked as the chief engineer at Universal Oil Products, a firm that held patents on the fuel processing methods developed by Jesse Dubbs. Before joining up with Koch, Winkler had helped Dubbs’ son Carbon install one of the first thermal “cracking” stills that used the pressure and heat process that Koch’s firm would later deploy with slight modification, according to the expert testimony of the chairman of MIT’s chemical engineering department, as noted in Dan Schulman’s “Sons of Wichita.” Ultimately, though, after a bribery scandal involving an appellate judge the verdict against the Koch firm would be overturned and Universal Oil Products’ successor firms would pay the company damages.

But back in 1929 – before the sudden stock market crash and nearly three years before the patent case went to trial — Koch’s firm signed contracts to build cracking stills in the U.S.S.R.

The communist regime didn’t recognize intellectual property rights, but it did pay well.

America had broken diplomatic ties with Russia nearly twelve years earlier, after the bloody Bolshevik revolution. Koch’s firm was not the only U.S. company doing business there. Henry Ford inked a deal, too.

Koch spent a few months in the Soviet Union to help fulfill the terms of the $5 million contract. He claimed the experience made him deeply anti-communist, but that didn’t stop him from cashing in on Stalin’s rubles.

Five million in revenue in today’s dollars would put an American small business — like Koch’s firm was back then — in the top 1%, after the stock market crashed.

The average American’s net income in 1930 was $4,887 and one penny, according to the IRS. That was back when five cents could buy a Rocky Ford cigar and 500 bucks could buy a basic Model A Ford. The average gross revenue of companies that year was about $177,000. Koch’s soviet contract was worth millions more than that.

Flush with riches, in 1932 Koch was playing polo at the Kansas City Country Club when he met Mary Robinson whom he wooed and married, according to Fortune magazine. Four sons soon followed. Over the years, they imbibed many doses of their adamant father’s rightwing political and economic diatribes.

Koch expressed deep antipathy toward the New Deal policies that helped pull the country out of the Great Depression.

He was not alone. By 1950, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy began accusing workers at the State Department, veterans, playwrights, actors, and others of being communist sympathizers dedicated to the overthrow of the U.S. government. McCarthy even accused President Harry S. Truman and Democrats of being in league with communists.

The Progressive repeatedly wrote against McCarthyism and published a special issue in April 1954 entitled “McCarthy: A Documented Record,” helping to expose him for the fraud he was. A month later journalist Edward R. Murrow criticized McCarthy on national TV, noting “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.”

His fellow Senators censured McCarthy later that year.

Disgraced, by 1957 he was dead.

But McCarthy’s paranoid worldview was not.

In 1958, Robert Welch invited Fred Koch and a handful of other businessmen to his home to create the John Birch Society, as Schulman noted.

At that secret meeting, Welch practically channeled McCarthy on communism:

“This octopus is so large that its tentacles now reach into all the legislative halls, all of the union labor meetings, a majority of religious gatherings, and most of the schools of the whole world.”

Koch quickly signed up for the national council of the new John Birch Society.

That year, according to archives, Koch worked with fellow Kansan Robert Love, of the Love Box Company, to help amend the Kansas Constitution to limit the rights of workers and unions, making it a so-called right to work state.

In 1960, Koch published a pamphlet based on his speeches called “A Businessman Looks at Communism.” The booklet, which was reprinted in 1961, ranted and raved that the National Education Association was a communist group and public-school books were filled with “communist propaganda,” paranoia that extended to all unions, and the “pro-communist” Supreme Court. Fred Koch also claimed that African Americans would engage in a “vicious race war,” echoing the words of white supremacists–including Birchers–who opposed desegregating public schools.

Koch also claimed that President Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the U.S. and allied forces in World War II, was soft on communism.

Such red-baiting might be ancient history if fifty years later Fred’s son David were not calling President Obama a “scary” “hard-core socialist” and spending millions on groups trying to defeat him.

Koch’s fanaticism echoed claims of his Bircher buddy Welch, who had written: “Could Eisenhower really be simply a smart politician, entirely without principles and hungry for glory, who is only the tool of the Communists? The answer is yes . . . it is difficult to avoid raising the question of deliberate treason.”

Treason? (That charge has a familiar hollow ring, as rightwing pundits and Tea Party pals fling it at President Obama and Birchers also flung it a President Kennedy, before he was assassinated.)

Eisenhower’s face is now engraved on every American dime.

After the CIA’s invasion of Cuba spectacularly foundered, David Koch and his twin brother, William, led a “May Day” party at their MIT frat house that hanged Fidel Castro in effigy. A riot broke out and thirty people were arrested, as noted by Brian Doherty in Radicals for Capitalism. (There’s no record the Koch boys were among those booked.)

That was the year that Charles had moved home to Kansas to be groomed to take over the family firm, after finishing engineering degrees at MIT and a short gig designing cigarette filters.

Charles was not only his dad’s choice to succeed him at the company.

He was also the heir to his extreme anti-government politics. By the time Charles stepped in as CEO in 1966, he’d been steeped in Fred’s Bircher outlook and enthralled with the Austrian economics books lining his dad’s library walls, providing an academic rationale for the free market fundamentalism he’s peddled with millions of dollars ever since.

That year, his father Fred helped form and fund another Birch front group, the “1776 Committee,” to try to recruit Eza Taft Benson, one of the leaders of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, to run for president as an independent, along with U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, the racist segregationist politician from South Carolina, to run for vice president. (This fact was discovered in the national archive review of the Center for Media and Democracy, but also discovered by other researchers like Ernie Lazar.)

Both Benson and Thurmond had routinely echoed Bircher attacks on the civil rights movement. The effort was ultimately rebuffed, although it underscores how central to the John Birch Society was its animus toward government efforts to challenge racial segregation and anti-discrimination laws.

Month after month in publications to its members and promoted in its bookstores, attacking the civil rights movement and lauding its opponents were the Birchers’ top domestic agenda items throughout the 1960s. Challenging the United Nations and opposing communism abroad were its foreign policy focal points.

Although years later Fred’s wife Mary claimed to the press that Fred had abandoned the John Birch Society as too extreme, archived letters show that Fred Koch continued to support it and its mission until he met his end, although his failing health made it harder for him to keep up the pace of its executive committee. His family also asked that memorials (donations) be given in his name to only a handful of organizations, including the John Birch Society bookstore in Wichita.

Archived documents also show that Charles continued his role in the John BIrch Society into the year after his father’s death.

Decades later, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Charles and his brother David have fueled operations that attack progressive policies and those who defend them as “communists,” “collectivists,” or “socialists.”

Such smears are not new, but with the Kochs’ doubling of their personal fortune during the Obama administration while most Americans’ wages have stagnated, such claims seem like grand misdirection. The volume of the revival of these attacks has grown dramatically, and will soon grow louder still, fueled by Koch cash and U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have unleashed billionaires to spend unlimited funds influencing American elections.

 

By: Lisa Graves, The Center for Media and Democracy, July 10, 2014

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Koch Brothers, Plutocrats | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s A Sad State Of Affairs”: Is This Who We Want Driving Our Democracy?

On Tuesday, the Center for Media and Democracy released documents showing that mega-donor Charles Koch was a member of the far-right John Birch Society from 1961 to 1968, when the organization’s work opposing the civil rights movement was reaching a fever pitch.

From publishing materials calling the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King the “biggest” “liar in the country” and the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery a “sham and farce” to promoting pieces railing against the racial integration of schools, the 1960s saw the John Birch Society leading abhorrent attacks on the civil rights movement. According to The Progressive, Charles Koch was not simply a member of the society in name. He funded the organization’s campaigns, helped it promote right-wing radio programs, and supported its bookstore in Wichita.

Sound familiar? Though Charles resigned from the John Birch Society in 1968, he and his brother David are still using their wealth to support right-wing efforts — now through a complicated and secretive web of conservative groups. Put together, the groups in the Koch-backed network raised over $400 million in 2012 and have dumped heaps of cash into campaigns and projects to promote an anti-government and anti-worker agenda.

Unfortunately, today’s campaign finance landscape makes it easy for billionaires, corporations, and special interests to try and bend our political system to their will. In 2010, the Supreme Court infamously ruled in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations can give unlimited sums of money to independently influence elections. This year, the High Court made things even worse when they ruled in McCutcheon v. FEC that wealthy individuals can give significantly more money directly to candidates, parties, and committees than they could before, upwards of $3.5 million per election cycle.

It’s a sad state of affairs. But as the leader of a national network of progressive African American ministers, many of whom are working hard to raise awareness about the dangers of money in politics, I often remind people: Democracy is for all of us. Though it can feel like democracy in America today is only for the few — the elite donor class who can bankroll the candidates of their choice — I have faith that this is not how things will always be.

There’s an important proposal moving forward across the country and in Congress that would help shift the power in our political system away from people like the Koch brothers and towards everyday Americans. This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is voting on a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizen United. Introduced by Sen. Tom Udall, the 28th Amendment would restore legislators’ ability to set commonsense limits on money in elections. While amending our nation’s guiding text is a weighty proposal, our country has a proud history of amending the Constitution, when necessary, to expand democracy and fix damaging Supreme Court decisions.

With the voices of everyday Americans increasingly being drowned out by the likes of the Koch brothers, fixing our democracy can’t wait.

 

By:Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, The Huffington Post Blog, July 9, 2014

 

 

July 10, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Tea Party, Now And Forever?: That Cosmopolitan, Multiracial Man In The White House Is The Embodiment Of Everything They Fear

People (including me, I’ll admit) have been predicting the demise of the Tea Party for a long time, yet it has managed to stick around, the tail wagging the Republican dog even unto the point of shutting down the government and bringing the country within hours of default. Yet at the same time, if you paid attention to this crisis, you would have seen the words “Tea Party” escaping only the lips of Democrats (and a few reporters). None of the Republicans holding out to destroy the Affordable Care Act started their sentences with “We in the Tea Party…” It has become a name—or an epithet—more than a movement, even as its perspective and its style have woven themselves deeply within the GOP. Not that there aren’t still Tea Party organizations in existence, but how many Republican politicians in the coming months are going to be eager to show up at a rally where everyone’s wearing tricorner hats?

What this moment may mark is the not so much the death of the Tea Party as the final stages of a transition. The silly costumes will get put away, and the angry rallies may draw no more than a handful of fist-shakers. But we should finally understand that the Tea Party has metastasized itself within its host, even if fewer people use its name. It would probably help to come up with a new name for it, since the word “party” misdirects us into thinking that if it isn’t doing practical things like endorsing candidates or putting forward a policy agenda, then it’s fading. But it isn’t, and defeats like this one don’t necessarily make it weaker.

The time has come to stop looking at the Tea Party as a political movement and understand it as a psychological, sociological, and religious phenomenon. That isn’t to say it’s unalterable, and I do think it’s going to be politically wounded in 2014. What is likely to happen is a geographical winnowing, with its politicians losing where they were weakest to begin with. In 2010, many Tea Partiers got elected even in places where they weren’t thick on the ground, since that’s what wave elections can produce. But in the next election we’ll probably see the defeat of people like Maine governor Paul LePage—in other words, those who come from anywhere other than the South and certain corners of the Midwest and interior West. Tea Partiers will still win in Alabama, but not in New England.

The ones who remain will not be chastened by what just happened, nor when their numbers decrease. As there is after every Republican defeat, there’s talk now amongst the base about the need for more “true conservatives.” But if you look at the people who decided to end the crisis, they aren’t that different in their policy beliefs from the Tea Partiers. Mitch McConnell would genuinely like to repeal the ACA, and outlaw abortion, and slash food stamps. This isn’t even a dispute about tactics, because that would mean the Tea Partiers have some kind of coherent set of tactics in mind, beyond “Fight, fight, fight!” It’s about the apocalyptic worldview that animates the Tea Partiers. Establishment Republicans like McConnell have the same policy agenda as the Tea Partiers, but they also know that if they lose this round, there will be another round, and another after that. They don’t think that America could literally come to an end if they don’t prevail in the next election.

But the Tea Partiers do. In one recent poll, 20 percent of Republicans said they believe Barack Obama is the Antichrist. It’s easy to laugh, but try for a moment to imagine that you believed that. What kind of tactics would you favor? Would you be amenable to compromise? How would you look at even a small political defeat? As Andrew Sullivan argues, even for those who are a step back from imagining a literal apocalypse coming some time in the next few months, the root of the problem is modernity itself, and the stakes are impossibly high:

What the understandably beleaguered citizens of this new modern order want is a pristine variety of America that feels like the one they grew up in. They want truths that ring without any timbre of doubt. They want root-and-branch reform – to the days of the American Revolution. And they want all of this as a pre-packaged ideology, preferably aligned with re-written American history, and reiterated as a theater of comfort and nostalgia. They want their presidents white and their budget balanced now. That balancing it now would tip the whole world into a second depression sounds like elite cant to them; that America is, as a matter of fact, a coffee-colored country – and stronger for it – does not remove their desire for it not to be so; indeed it intensifies their futile effort to stop immigration reform. And given the apocalyptic nature of their view of what is going on, it is only natural that they would seek a totalist, radical, revolutionary halt to all of it, even if it creates economic chaos, even if it destroys millions of jobs, even though it keeps millions in immigration limbo, even if it means an unprecedented default on the debt.

It isn’t just that they sincerely believe that the most uncompromising tactics are the path to victory, it’s also that they believe that adopting anything short of the most uncompromising stance is itself a surrender, before the battle has even begun. You can’t let the devil just sit in the parlor for a while and hope you’ll be able to convince him to leave. You have to bar the door. And as Ed Kilgore notes, this isn’t just about very religious people bringing a religious worldview to their politics; it’s a circular process:

It’s not just that these culturally threatened folk embrace their politics like it’s a religion. The actual religious outlook many of them espouse—whether they are conservative fundamentalist Protestants or neo-ultramontane Catholics—has imported secular political perspectives into their faith. They’ve managed to identify obedience to God with the restoration of pre-mid-twentieth-century culture and economics, and consequently, tend to look at themselves as the contemporary equivalents of the Old Testament prophets calling a wicked society to account before all hell literally breaks loose. So their politics reinforces their religion and vice-versa, and yes, the Republican Party, like the squishy mainline Protestant Churches and lenient do-gooder Catholic priests, are generally within crisis-distance of being viewed as objectively belonging to enemy ranks.

It’s true that this phenomenon is the latest iteration of a pattern we’ve seen before, whether it was the Birchers during the Johnson years or the militia movement under Clinton. Some portion of American conservatives comes to believe that the country has been infected with the most diabolical of viruses, and the normal democratic means are no longer sufficient to confront the evil within our borders. But by now we have to conclude that it’s been worse this time, and not only because the Tea Party’s forebears never got a fraction of the influence within the GOP that it now has. The threat of modernity that Sullivan points to is, for these people, all too real. The world is leaving them behind. And that cosmopolitan, multiracial man in the White House became the embodiment of everything they fear. Every one of his policies, whether born in The Communist Manifesto or at the Heritage Foundation, they see clearly as a rapier thrust at their very hearts. There is no telling them to wait for a more opportune moment to strike, or that the battle of the moment is one they cannot win. To lose is to lose everything.

So when does the Tea Party end? In the simplest terms, it ends whenever the next Republican president takes office. When that happens, there will be no more government shutdowns, no more cries of Washington tyranny, no more debt ceiling standoffs, no more Republican obsession with deficits. The tricorner hats will be put away. But the fears and resentments that created and sustained the Tea Party will fester, waiting until the next Democratic presidency to burst out. And it will begin all over again.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 18, 2013

October 19, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Racism, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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